I’ve facilitated over 100 roundtable discussions with senior design leaders from high-profile brands–many of which occurred during the pandemic that forced their teams to work remotely. As you can imagine, our topics have been variations on the “virtual world of work” theme. So it’s no surprise that as the world begins to open back up, leaders everywhere are trying to figure out what “Return to Work” will look like.

There are hundreds of articles on the topic, from very tactical ones that provide checklists for physical space considerations to endless survey results that generally end with “Hey, people want to…


Consider this scenario: Rebecca is Head of Design at a global organization. Over the past year, her company has gone through a radical business transformation, forced to seek creative ways to reach customers and launch services that deliver new revenue streams. It’s hard enough to keep up with changing business priorities, but she has another problem: She leads a team of 48 people who have to keep up, too.

Every day the team is being asked to do things they’ve never done before. Yet they’re all at different places in their careers and dealing with widely varying personal situations. And…


Taupe background with single line drawing in black of two people pushing a large ball forward together.
Taupe background with single line drawing in black of two people pushing a large ball forward together.

The culture of a design team is its heartbeat. In the best groups, it’s reliable, palpable, and energizing. In troubled ones, it’s inconsistent, weak, and debilitating. This pandemic has challenged even the heartiest of workplace cultures, with the demands of remote collaboration taking their toll. Now that all the effort spent recreating organic social connections through incessant happy hours has slowed, many leaders find themselves wondering what to do next to keep teams connected.

But there’s hope! The fearless leaders in our InsideOut Design Leader Community gathered to explore ways to breathe new life into their work environments and press…


Orange background, single line drawing in white of lightbulb filled with gears
Orange background, single line drawing in white of lightbulb filled with gears

Though the concept of design thinking has been around for decades, not every organization has embraced the value of design in solving complex business problems. Meanwhile, every design leader knows that when companies embrace design concepts, they develop strategies that outproduce those of their peers.

Not convinced? Trusted sources like McKinsey and InVision have published highly regarded white papers on the topic; yet, leaders today still face the challenge of convincing partners throughout their organizations that design plays a critical role in the success of the business itself.

So it’s no surprise that our InsideOut Design Leader Community chose to…


line drawing in orange on cream background with worker at desk, head in hand, in front of computer
line drawing in orange on cream background with worker at desk, head in hand, in front of computer

Near the end of this summer, while everyone was interested in finding the “New Normal,” our Chicago InsideOut Design Leader Community had the brilliant idea of exploring the dark side of remote work. Much has happened since then–and the New Normal remains a mystery–but their insights are too good not to share.

At this point, design teams are getting used to a virtual world, and most are interested in a future that includes a remote component and flexible work arrangements. No one seems to agree on exactly what that looks like, but as long as asynchronous schedules are around, the…


black background with orange line drawing of 4 light bulbs hanging from strings with the 4th one lit up to represent idea
black background with orange line drawing of 4 light bulbs hanging from strings with the 4th one lit up to represent idea

It’s true. Collaborating online is just NOT the same. During the pandemic, design leaders have been working hard to cobble together ways to recreate the magic, many hoping that collaboration will be back in person soon. Given our current state, that future seems bright but certainly not immediate. In the meantime, 2021 planning sessions are underway, design sprints continue, and unifying teams to deliver great work is paramount to success.

Not to worry, our InsideOut Design Leader Community is on the case! Over the past few months we’ve hosted three roundtables to share creative ways to make remote workshops work…


Given the challenges of this extraordinary year, you can be certain that your creative team wants to be recognized for their extraordinary efforts. While they may not be expecting huge raises and promotions in the midst of a continuing pandemic, they most certainly are watching to see if their hard work was valued.

Our InsideOut Design Leader Community gathered over the past few weeks to share how they are getting creative to make sure their teams feel recognized, despite the challenges of screen fatigue, incredible economic uncertainty, and a heck of a lot to get done. Since budgets and team…


Long before there was a pandemic, lots of articles were published with statistics directly linking a positive onboarding experience to employee success, engagement and retention. Then along came that pandemic, with a fully remote workforce that broke most new hire processes immediately.

Companies with robust programs have gone back to the drawing board to rework their best practices, and firms without strong systems have had to start from behind. That’s why our InsideOut Design Leader Community got together to explore and share ways for creative leaders to set new hires up for success, remotely.

Rethink the Ramp-up Plan

Whatever your typical ramp-up time was…


Single line drawing in orange on black background of person in front of computer with 2 video participants on a laptop screen
Single line drawing in orange on black background of person in front of computer with 2 video participants on a laptop screen

With the renewed and heightened anxiety caused by a resurgence of COVID-19 cases, remote workers enter a new — and possibly worse — phase of working from home. Already facing burnout caused by isolation or the overwhelming responsibility of caring for kids and loved ones, the uncertainty of this next wave seems unfathomable.

Leaders of design teams face the challenge of reassuring staff, while simultaneously keeping them engaged amid predictions of more economic pressures on the way. The prospect of more homeschooling ahead adds yet another layer of complexity.

Notoriously collaborative problem-solvers, design leaders are coming together to find solutions…


Single line drawing in black marker of an arrow with lots of squiggles in the middle and a point on the righthand side
Single line drawing in black marker of an arrow with lots of squiggles in the middle and a point on the righthand side

Though the concept of leading through change is not new, no one can argue that 2020 has brought about tremendous challenges for design leaders that require drastic transformation. From economic uncertainty to a global pandemic to concerted efforts for social justice, major forces have disrupted every aspect of our lives.

For most companies, design is at the center of this disruption as leaders search for effective ways to stand out in an increasingly crowded communication stream. Meanwhile remote workers continue to struggle with the intersection of work life and home life, and simply keeping staff connected is difficult enough. …

Susie Hall

I connect design, experience & ops leaders through live roundtables that build networks & solve real-world problems faster. Join us: aquent.com/insideout

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