Working as an in-house designer means you encounter a particular set of issues every day. I have attempted to summarize the five things that keep me on schedule. While I know I often fail to keep these principles sacred, it is important to spell them out.
1. Have an opinion.
Some of my most successful work has come from me holding my ground on a design choice. If I believe strongly about a particular visual course, I’ll make sure to use data and examples to back it up when explaining it to internal stakeholders. Be opinionated, speak your mind, your in-house coworkers will respect your digital opinion. It’s important to note that this is not a quick process- it takes time for your opinion and foresight to be validated.
2. Choose your allies quickly and carefully.
I've found that some people are natural facilitators, and they gravitate towards a role that allows them to watch over a project without becoming emotionally invested in it. Find them. It may be a developer, or a project manager, but find these people, and use their negotiation and management skill as a way to stick to your deadlines.
3. Guard your time jealously.
Block off whole days in your schedule. In house designers are often the go-to people for all sorts of needless web and graphic design projects. Ignore the urge to help when deadlines are looming. I have whole afternoons reserved for UX work. Turning off your email client and chat also means more time for you, and not others.
The most taxing events in a typical day for me are meetings. More often than not, they are simply a catch-up session, not a decision-making forum, so there is much more talk than action. Don’t be afraid to decline or ignore meetings that are not in the best interest of your schedule.
4. Be brutally honest about deadlines.
I routinely choose a deadline, then double or triple it when scheduling the project. Broken deadlines haunt me. I need to be on time, but being unrealistic about project deadlines means lots of grief down the road. When you see a deadline is going to come and go without being met, its imperative to speak up. It's better to speak up about a failure to meet a deadline a week before, rather than a night before.
5. Signpost ALL the things.
Show your sketches, your wireframes, your grids, your mood boards, anything and everything. This kind of oversharing at the beginning of your project is designed to appeal to the widest number of people possible, and gives you much more credibility later, as the UX and design decisions go to production.
Working as an inhouse designer has been a cornucopia of design and technology. I find that the above points keep me grounded and on track. While these tips are specific to my experience as an in-house designer, I hope they convey some of the challenges and opportunities we face. What are your thoughts? Do these techniques work, or are they too general for the everyday life of an in-house designer?