A new documentary by the BBC’s user experience and design team looks to explore how creativity can be stifled when designers are spread across teams in large organisations, and how it might be prevented. The short film interviews creative leads from Google, Co-op Digital, Ustwo and AKQA about the realities of being a designer – sometimes the only one – in a multidisciplinary team, and offers insights to how their organisation supports these creatives.
The BBC team behind the film says this is a challenge across its own design team, a “distributed community” which works in multi-disciplinary teams across the country, and has noted that it’s an issue that affects the wider design world. On making the film, the team says: “We wanted to find out if what works for us works for others too, and if there was anything else we could learn.”
One of the film’s interviewees is Katherine Wastell, head of design at Co-op Digital, who says that “When you have designers spread across different teams, they can become isolated from the rest of the design team, and I don’t think that’s good for anyone’s progression within design.” She believes that creating a wider studio culture is “the most important thing I can do” to counteract this.
Axel Nygårds, creative at AKQA, comments that “working with other designers definitely helps you get a new point of view. It’s about pushing people, in a friendly way. People can have different opinions, but it’s about knowing the context and improving that.”
Meanwhile Helen Fuchs, design director at Ustwo, offers a practical solution: “Often in product teams we might only have one designer working on a project, so sometimes it can be difficult to get that design feedback, so we’re always encouraging people to print stuff out and get it on walls, so people walk past they can comment, and give casual feedback.”
Later, Rachel Been, creative director of Material Design at Google, explains their approach to imbuing their creative team with a diverse perspective. “One of the most successful aspects of any organisation that has designers is not having homogeneity within the designers… so really bringing in, not only [different] discipline capabilities but people from a variety of different locations and from different backgrounds, because that multitude of capabilities leads to much more creativity in the workplace.” This was a topic covered in depth at the recent House of Lords inquiry into the future of broadcasting, which questioned the BBC, YouTube, Netflix and others.
The full film is available to watch here. The BBC UX&D team will be exploring the theme of design culture in further articles, out soon.