How to run a design studio, post-lockdown

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Around the world, we're all gradually coming out of lockdown. Hooray! But who wants to go back to a full-time, Monday-to-Friday nine-to-five, at the office? Not many.

Yes, we've all missed physically interacting in the studio. But we've also enjoyed some unexpected benefits from home-working. The lack of a commute. The chance to spend more quality time with our families. The opportunity to get our heads down and concentrate, without interruption or anyone looking over our shoulder.

Consequently, when lockdown ends, many agencies have told us they won't be going back to pre-lockdown ways of working. Instead, it'll be a mix of people working from home and working in the office, right into 2021.

That's partly because of the benefits outlined, but also because of the practical challenge of making workplaces Covid-safe at full capacity. Not to mention the possibility that your city or region might yet need to go into another lockdown anyway.

So how can we make our workflow smooth in this confusing and unpredictable times, and continue to keep clients happy? Here, we offer some tips to keep design teams productive and creative during phase two of the 'new normal'.

1. Speed up the feedback and approvals process

Most design studios have managed to convert to home working in the last few months, but that doesn't mean there isn't room for improvement in the way you manage tasks remotely. Take perhaps the most fundamental one: getting feedback and approvals on your design work.

It's a pivotal stage in every project, and so it's worth spending some time working out how to do it more efficiently. And what certainly isn't efficient is trying to carry out a Zoom call while flipping back and forth between multiple screens, and everyone getting muddle over which part of the design you're referring to. (You might have got away with that during the last few months of "we're all in this together" bonhomie, but clients are soon going to start getting sick of it.)

In short, whether you're getting feedback from clients, managers, stakeholders or fellow designers, it's worth investing in a dedicated tool that can bring together everything you need in a clear and uncluttered interface.

We like GoVisually, which does an excellent job of centralising client feedback, revision requests, and approvals in one place. It's effortless to use: just upload your work in a variety of image formats, including PNG, JPG, PSD and PDF. Then you or others can point to any part of your designs, mark them up, and leave comments for each other in just a few clicks.

You're allowed to invite unlimited reviewers, and it's free and easy for them to sign up. Usefully, the software also enables you to organise multiple revisions of your designs in one space, all categorised and labelled, so you’ll never mix up different versions. Overall, GoVisually simplifies online design collaboration so you can ship projects faster. And who wouldn't want a bit of that?

2. Create a daily check-in habit

One of the biggest challenges for remote teams is to keep communications flowing in the same way that they would if you were all physically sitting next to each other. Yes, formal work discussions can happen over email, but that's not the same as the more casual chat that happens more naturally in real life, and which often leads to the most innovative and imaginative ideas.

For this reason, many agencies have been careful during lockdown to organise regular check-ins over more informal channels, either face-to-face via a service like Zoom or Google Meet, or in text form using a tool like Slack, Flowdock or Discord. Anecdotally, these meet-ups have proved most successful when there's been some kind of real-life focus: an organised morning coffee break or after-work beers, or an activity like a quiz.

As we come out of lockdown, it will be tempting to let these habits slide. But with many continuing to work remotely for months to come, we'd suggest now's the time to double down on the daily check-in. So as new distractions emerge, start blocking out this time on group calendars and reminding everyone to continue joining in. It's a great way to ensure everyone at the firm continues to feel part of the team, wherever they happen to be working from on a particular day.

3. Collaborate on ideas virtually

Before the lockdown, were most of the creative ideas at your agency generated in face-to-face sessions? While there's a lot of value in getting everyone in a room together, during lockdown many firms have found that collaborating on ideas virtually, using a whiteboard app such as Freehand and Dropbox Paper, can be more fruitful.

After all, it's not only extroverts who are creative: introverts are too, and it's surprising how many great ideas can emerge when people aren't feeling intimidated or being shouted down by others. If your team hasn't tried this approach to idea generation yet, we'd heartily suggest you give it a try.

4. Work at different times

Global agencies will know this already, of course. But for many smaller firms, the lockdown has proved that it's entirely possible to work efficiently without the whole team working a strict 9-5.

With kids off school, and parents having to step in as teachers, many creatives have been forced to work some odd hours. But rather than being a negative, most have found it strangely liberating. After all, not everyone is at the best first thing in the morning; our bodily rhythms vary wildly, and many creative have found they're at their most productive outside of office hours.

Wouldn't it be great if we could keep up this flexibility when it comes to hours in the long term? There are many benefits to asynchronous working, not just for the individual but the team as a whole. For example, if everyone starts work at the same time, you tend to get a deluge of morning emails that it's difficult to emerge from. If start times are more varied, emails are more spread out and manageable.


Ready to simplify your design review process? GoVisually lets you speed up your work by bringing client feedback, revision requests, and approvals together in one place. Find out more at GoVisually.com.

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