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Many hands reaching in together as a sign of working together.

Starting a new design job and adjusting to remote collaboration

Charmaine Kemister-Sheppard

July 12th, 2020

Written by

Charmaine Kemister-Sheppard
Charmaine Kemister-Sheppard

Category

Design & UX

For a lot of people right now, the adjustment to working from home has been a difficult one, and there are many reasons for this - some being that an office environment provides social interactions, office hours and boundaries, and the constant noise of colleagues and keyboards clicking that somehow motivates you to work harder.

For myself, and other new hires at Tiny, it’s a little different - we haven’t had to reduce face-to-face time with our colleagues, we never had any to start with. I interviewed and started my role as the UI/UX Designer at Tiny through Zoom calls and remote work in the middle of the current pandemic. Coming from a freelance background, you’d think adjusting would be relatively easy, but I was actually looking forward to stepping away from freelance and into a full-time dedicated office role for the benefits that I knew came naturally when working in that environment.

It’s very easy for the boundaries between work and family life to become very blurred when working at home, so I was looking forward to dividing the two. I’m also one to thrive in a collaborative team environment and I had missed this working as a freelancer. In a team environment, getting a second set of eyes, or talking out your ideas and concepts is second nature.

So what does one do in this situation? One thing is for sure - I couldn’t have asked for a more supportive design team or company in these circumstances. As a team, we have gone to great lengths to identify the best ways for us to communicate and collaborate. This has kept us working at our happiest and most productive, while also making the onboarding experience the best it can be in the new remote environment.

Our first approach

Initially, our design team started with daily standups using Standuply in Slack, weekly “design syncs” via Zoom and monthly retros using Miro. Like most teams, Slack was the go-to app for communicating and sharing inspiration.

While this was quite effective, part of our team still felt isolated and missed the collaboration and feedback that we’d normally experience in an office environment.

What we’re exploring now

Product & Design “Candours” via Google Meets

To reduce the feelings of isolation and lack of collaboration, we now run an optional Candour every afternoon between 2pm-5pm. We have a dedicated meeting that runs between those hours that enables us to jump in and chat while working in parallel, or just work away “on our own” while being able to see each other and hear the clicking of each other’s keyboards. It’s almost as if we’re all in the same room! We’ve also found streaming a live music channel via Youtube helps add to the vibe. It helps us feel more like a team even when we can’t be in the same office.

For our Sweden based designer, not being in the office is normal, but these candour sessions have given us more opportunity to collaborate together, getting real-time feedback from one another.

We run them in Google Meet so they don’t conflict with our company Zoom meetings. There’s also the added benefit of a Snap filter or two which can make it fun.

Some of the Tiny design team during a Product

Paper

We’ve also been using apps such as Paper by We Transfer and Linea Sketch from IconFactory that enables us to sketch out our ideas, brainstorm, and produce low-fidelity wireframes that can be easily shared. It also makes documentation a breeze, not having to scan individual pieces of paper. I’m personally a fan of the Paper app as I can create new journals for specific projects and go back and add new pages at any time.

A low-fi wireframe for the Tiny website sketched up in the Paper app.

Notion

Notion is great for collecting and sharing our thought process, sketches, and research in the one place for documentation as well as collaboration. We also use Notion for notes when we do our design sync ups and for project briefs in both the discovery and delivery phases.

Abstract and Sketch

Since more than one designer may work on a project at one time, we use Abstract to integrate with Sketch. This provides us with version control, and allows multiple people to work together using branches that we can merge together later. This is a common approach for product design in the sense that one design file is refined over and over, but the file itself keeps track of changes for you. Transitioning from client and agency design work, this concept of working collaboratively on components is relatively new to me and has probably been one of the biggest adjustments into product design.

InVision

No design process is complete without the use of InVision. We use it to share prototypes with each other and key stakeholders within Tiny and to collect feedback all in one place. Invision Freehand is also on our list to explore further, especially for collaboration within the design team specifically.

Zeplin

Last but definitely not least is Zeplin, improving our collaboration with Tiny’s developer teams while automatically generating accurate specs and assets from our designs. Not only does it integrate seamlessly into Sketch for us designers, but it also integrates with Slack for change notifications and Jira issues to make the devs lives that little bit easier.

Tiny account design showcasing specs in Zeplin.

Final thoughts

By no means is our collaborative process perfect, but we’re working on it because it's important to our team. For me personally, I had really been looking forward to working in a collaborative team environment, and I was expecting to find that in an office. But to be honest, I think remote is what you make of it. Our team is doing everything we can to support one another and are always looking for new ways to collaborate remotely.

It might sound intimidating or seem impossible to start a new job right now, especially for roles that focus so much on collaboration. However, there are companies out there, just like Tiny, still hiring and doing a great job of adapting to the current situation.

If you’re interested in working for Tiny, we’ve got an awesome bunch of people here in Brisbane, Australia and across the world. Check out our careers page to see if we have any roles you think you’d be a great fit for. We’d love to hear from you.

DesignCareers
Charmaine Kemister-Sheppard
byCharmaine Kemister-Sheppard

A passionate UI/UX designer with an extensive background in branding and a curious mind for solving complex problems. Her focus is her obsession: creating beautiful user experiences that function with purpose and people love to use.

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