How brilliant businesses create a strong studio culture

As one of five agencies on the BBC’s design roster, we work closely with the BBC’s UX&D (user experience and design) team, which sits under the BBC GEL framework.

We share a belief that a positive ‘studio culture’ gets the best out of diverse groups of designers. This is challenging in a modern organisation though as designers often work in multi-disciplinary teams, spread across different locations.

Our Studio Culture films

We wanted to learn how other organisations dealt with the challenge of creating a strong studio culture and so Tom Bradley, our Design Director, and Andrew Nott, Creative Director for the BBC Global Experience Language (GEL), teamed up. They asked creative leaders from AKQA, Co-op Digital, Google and Ustwo for their methods and insights.

The result is a film by Andy Davies, which can be viewed here and is soon to be followed by a series of six shorter films on some of the themes that emerged.

We’ve picked our top 10 highlights from the film below.

Top ten takeouts

  1. “Instead of looking at just evolving your craft, it's about understanding a multitude of other skill sets and having empathy for other people in order to make a more holistic better product.” (Google’s Rachel Been)

  2. “Making sure that people are continually learning from one another and new practises are being influenced into the way they work… if I couldn’t do anything else, this would be the one thing I’d do.” (Katherine Wastell, Co-op Digital)

  3. “Its really interesting because as we work within product teams, you’re balancing lots of different disciplines, tech leadership, design leadership, product leadership all happening within a project team but it feels like there’s always important moments when you come together as a discipline and critique each others work, feel inspired, talk about those things that are specific to your discipline.” (Helen Fuchs, ustwo)

  4. “In order to build a successful studio culture probably one of the most important things is that the leadership exercises themselves as a player coach and they’re not this floating figure head that pops up for important meetings and then vanishes.” (Ian Wharton, AKQA)

  5. “…we always critique each other in a way that is improving the work, you know people can have different opinions and like different things but it’s always about knowing the context and improving that.” (Axel Nygårds, AKQA)

  6. “an important thing (too) is to put stuff out there and get it critiqued by your peers.” (Helen Fuchs, ustwo)

  7. “…there's always going to be tension between central design team and individual product teams. That tension can be really helpful and healthy. We are trying as much as possible to standardise patterns we're seeing or using the benefit of not having an individual product need to make sure that the patterns we use are resilient across multiple use cases. But we rely a lot on the product teams to come back to us with feedback about what's working and what isn't working.” (Kunal Patel, Google)

  8. “I think one of the most successful things we do collectively as a team are Friday share outs as an entire organisation. It’s multidisciplinary and all of the material design comes together, research, design, engineering, project management, product management. It’s that important moment of empathy for other disciplines also where you can learn about what’s going on with engineering from a design perspective and vice versa.” (Rachel Been, Google)

  9. “What I thinks important is looking at the skills people have and building a team off that and not their job title. It means everyone can work together more effectively. It’s about choosing what outcomes we want to get to and what skills we need to get to them.” (Katherine Wastell, Co-op Digital)

  10. “one thing I’m seeing now is that software is becoming more collaborative, so we can now work together in the same file in different locations …. Which gives everyone on the team a holistic view of what we’re doing.
    And “I think the things that will change how we work are automation or certain tasks or the advancement of design tools to be more assistive.” (Kunal Patel, Google)

Huge thanks to all of our interviewees:

Rachel Been - Creative Director - Material Design, Google

Kunal Patel - Senior Interaction Designer - Material Design, Google

Katherine Wastell - Head of Design, Co-op Digital

Helen Fuchs - Design Director, ustwo

Greig Robinson - Design Lead, ustwo

Axel Nygårds - Creative, AKQA

Ian Wharton - Group Creative Director, AKQA

Want to discover one way we help to build our UX design studio culture at Code? There are 10 rules we always follow when it comes to our design reviews.


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