Working with a Distributed Design Team

When I first declared my intention to become a designer, my concerned uncle wanted me to have a plan. What were my goals as a designer? What would be the pinnacle of my career? Would I be moving in with my parents? 

So I told him my wildest, starry-eyed fantasy — that maybe someday I could *gulp* own my own design studio. The minute I said it, I could hear the heels clacking down the hallway, feel the soft leather on the Barcelona chair as I poured over a stack of proofs with my loupe and smelt brewing coffee after a madcap, all-night brainstorming session. 

This is not our office. But this is a Barcelona chair. Gorgeous, right?

This is not our office. But this is a Barcelona chair. Gorgeous, right?

That idea stayed with me and last year, I realized “if not now — then when?” so I started to make it a reality. However I found some of the pieces no longer fit my goals. And not just because I still can’t walk gracefully in heels.

Now most days I spend staring at pixels on a screen that will never exist in a physical format, I can send files to someone in California as fast as I can send them to someone at the next desk, and I discovered taking a taxi home from work at 4am just to return at 8am isn’t quite as glamorous as it sounds.

First off, work-life balance has become increasingly important to me. I feel that everyone does their best work when they are well-rested, comfortable and have space to enjoy life beyond their job. Plus I have two adorable sweet-peas I want to see while they still like hanging out with me. 

Secondly, technology happened. I’ve been working remotely for clients for the last ten years and use a bevy of software tools that make collaboration simple and efficient, regardless of location. In fact, we’d probably use the same systems if we were in an office so I don’t feel that the quality of the work changes based on location.   

...and sometimes even the phone!

...and sometimes even the phone!

The next thing I discovered is quite a few other designers have also come to these conclusions. They’ve had great educations and work experience but now they have kids and want more flexible working hours, or to fulfill their dream of travelling, or are just seeking a more balanced life.

So the design studio of my starry-eyed youth has been renovated. It’s still got the top-notch, passionate designers who love their craft but we turn off the computers at 6pm and wear a lot more jeans than heels.

I’m still holding out for my Barcelona chair though.