Paddle’s design culture
In my last blog, I talked about how the Paddle leadership team support design culture. Our team has doubled since then, but to maintain a healthy design culture, we need more than leadership support, as support from across all departments is essential for design to thrive.
To further our design awareness and culture at Paddle, Joel, our designer, and I took on the following challenge:
How might we help Paddlers to feel empowered to think, talk & do design?
Inspired by Mark, one of our engineering team leads (who created a poster to communicate our terms we use more visually), we decided to host a poster design workshop and get everyone involved in creating posters. The workshop was centered on the two groups we interact most with at Paddle - our software Buyers (software users who buy their products via Paddle) and Sellers (businesses that sell their software products via Paddle).
What is design?
The goal of the workshop was to help Paddlers from various departments become more aware and confident about designing. So before we designed anything, we kicked off by defining what “design” actually is.
There’s no shortage of great definitions of “design” out there and conscious that no one loves a design theory lecture, we kept things simple:
- Design is purposeful. It needs to solve specific problems.
- You’re always designing for a user.
- Design is about how it works as well as how it makes the user feel.
The building blocks of design
A good way to demystify design is to break it down into its fundamental components. For the poster workshop, Joel and I covered the basic building blocks of visual design: shape, colour, typography and layout.
The building blocks of visual design: shape and typography
The best way of learning about anything is by doing. After each design topic, we asked our attendees to communicate a simple message, through a building block. E.g. use only shapes to communicate the words “hangry”, or “savage”.
Learning by doing: using the basic elements of visual design to communicate a simple message
The buyer and seller poster
Now that our attendees had learnt about the fundamentals of visual design, we put their new skills to the test. We asked them to create a poster to illustrate the idea of Buyers and Sellers, using all the building blocks they’d learnt along the way.
We guided them through the design process by asking them to pair-up and spend 15 minutes sketching out as many ideas as possible. After sketching, they had to present their ideas to each other discussing what they liked and disliked about them. Joel and I joined different groups to facilitate discussion, giving them a taste of design critique and taking into consideration their approach to creating.
Finally, everyone was asked to agree on one idea to move forward and create a final poster.
Once they’d picked an idea, we asked them to flesh-out this design. We shared a Google Slide template with instructions on how to use tools like shapes and font-pickers. This allowed our workshop attendees easy access to a wide range of visual design elements for rendering their ideas in high fidelity. With a bit of help from Joel and I, we got some pretty amazing poster designs.
Making it real
After the workshop, Joel followed up with different groups to refine their posters. By working hand-in-hand to polish their ideas to a professional level, Joel reinforced what they’d learned from the workshop; creating posters that made use of shape, colour, typography and layout.
We then got these posters printed out and hung around the office, celebrating Paddle’s design creativity as well as our buyers and sellers.
To build products with a great user-experience, we need to forge an environment that empowers good design. For this to happen design awareness and support is essential on a company-wide level.
The poster design workshop was a good first step in engaging others in the business about design. Joel and myself had a lot of fun sharing what we know about design, creating a couple of posters to brighten up our office along the way!
We’ve received a lot of requests to do another design workshop (particularly from those who missed out). Next time, perhaps we can focus on the third thing that we care and love the most - our products.