December 11, 2020 Enhancing Design Skills Across Our Organization

Mayumi Endo
Art Direction Team, Executive Art Director

At Mitsue-Links, we’re currently implementing several initiatives to enhance internal design skills. In this Column, I would like to introduce one of these, our "Design Achievement Exchange".

About the Design Achievement Exchange

The Design Achievement Exchange, held since 2018, is a study session open to all our designers. Over a one-hour session, three designers each have 10 minutes to present their recent design achievements, fellow participants then comment and ask questions. So that we can listen to many inspiring stories, the Exchange is held about once every three months. As we have alternative internal channels for sharing project achievements, the Design Achievement Exchange is a forum where detailed discussions center on design phases only.

Background to the Exchange

The prime motive for setting up the Exchange was to deepen relationships between designers across departments as well as enhance design skills across our entire company.

In the past we had fewer designers and projects, this meant we could share project outlines and updates through daily conversation. However, as our company has grown, adding departments and designers, it has become increasingly difficult to ascertain “what other departments are creating”. Contrary to this trend, I believed that if we created a structure to strengthen collaboration, we could leverage the increased number of designers and run stimulating study sessions. It’s for this reason that we inaugurated the Exchanges, which gives all departments the opportunity to make presentations over the course of the year.

Objectives

  • to share “positive motivation” with each other
  • to facilitate exchanges and build relationships between designers
  • to improve skills in communicating design ideas

We consider the third goal very important – it’s an essential skill when sharing our design intent to clients.

Management Features

To maintain a high participation rate and ensure the holding of regular meetings, we focus on the following three aspects.

  • implementing a post-event survey
    • We seek to determine Exchange strengths and areas for improvement, so we collect feedback from participants at the end of the meeting.
    • For those who participated, writing down their impressions also provides an opportunity for them to organize what they’ve learned.
  • Allocating appropriate time so that the Exchange doesn’t burden both the presenter and participants
    • To prevent the study session disappearing due to the pressure of work, this is an important aspect for the Exchange’s continuation.
    • Setting appropriate dates is rather difficult and we vary them yearly to reflect internal circumstances (feedback from the participation survey is very useful for this). In the first year of holding the Exchange, we reduced the session time by 30 minutes, so they now last one hour. We simultaneously increased each speaker’s presentation time so they could tell more in-depth, audience-inspiring stories.
  • After each presentation, share comments from participants
    • If we share feedback as a group, the comments can lead to new insights.

New Measures for 2020

For this year, in addition to responding to last year’s feedback, it was also necessary to devise new measures due to the novel-coronavirus pandemic. As the event moved online, I was concerned that excitement would wane, however, in contrast, there were many aspects that improved. For example, as venue location, time, and occupation are less of an issue, the number of participants increased. Furthermore, by posting comments as the presenter spoke, as opposed to writing feedback on Post-it notes after the talk, we could view real-time reactions and then review the remarks later.

In addition, as the theme for 2020, Exchange organizers asked the presenters to focus on the sharing their thinking, specifically the what and how, of design production. Dealing with topics such as how to shape designs based on customer requests and how create new pages based on a better understanding of existing guidelines, etc., the Exchange has become a place where designers can get inspiration and acquire hints for resolving difficult issues.

Post-Exchange Survey and Comments

In participant comments, colleagues often remark that all the presentations, especially those by people who often have little opportunity to talk, are inspiring. Each presentation has its own characteristics – some are made impressive through their elaborate slides while others are well-delivered. Besides content, the Exchange allows interesting insights into each designer’s individuality. I believe, through mixing with other designers at the Exchange, designers will find it easier to communicate, and work together, if they are involved in the same project in the future.

Also, I have found great value in recognizing that many people have the same ideas and awareness of issues as each other.

For the Future

While individual know-how is valuable, I believe that, through the establishment of the Exchange, we can share that insight to further enhance the quality of design output company wide. Ascertaining what designers want to learn, as well as what is essential, I would like to continue running successful Exchange events.

For more information on our services, timeframes and estimates, as well as examples of our work, please feel free to be in touch.