Symptoms of bad design work environment

In my short design career so far I had the opportunity to work for a few agencies. Looking back, I realized that most of the bad work places have some things in common. Here’s a short list of “symptoms” or signs that a firm doesn’t practice design properly and you’re probably going to have a tough time doing your work properly.

1. Lack of proper project management

I think any designer experienced at some point in their career some project feedback or briefing that spread across 10-15 e-mail threads and message streams. Unfortunately a lot of agencies still rely solely on email for communication with team members or clients. If their not using Slack, some sort of prototyping tool and a project management tool like Trello, Wrike, Jira or Producteev (almost entirely free), this should be a huge red flag.

2. No clear creative process

A clear creative process will help avoid a lot of pitfalls during production. If at anytime during a project any team member doesn’t know exactly what should be done, there’s a problem, which will very likely translate into delays, unnecessary stress and maybe increased production costs.

3. Poorly defined organizational roles

Who decides what gets built? Who is responsible for each aspect of a project? Who has the final say when team members have different opinions on what should be done? These are hard-to-answer but essential questions every company should clear up.

4. Unimpressive agency portoflio or company products

This is pretty obvious. If their portfolio sucks, it’s probably because management does not value design enough or their simply not capable. Either way, think twice before joining such a company.

5. Cramped, unconfortable workspace

This may not apply to you if you’re the type of person that can ignore your surroundings and focus only at your monitor / sketchpad but most designers need a pleasant workspace in order to stay inspired, focus and be productive. Before deciding if your going to join a company, make sure you you visit the exact place you’ll be working from and get a feel of your surroundings.

6. Little or no investment in professional development

Design, like development, is a fast paced industry. If you’re going to stay relevant, you need to keep up with the latest tools and keep developing your skill set. For example, for UI designers, knowledge of HTML, CSS and Javascript is a growing requirement. If you’re company is not going to invest in you, assuming you’re not spending weekends on learning, sooner or later, you’ll fall behind.

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