Joining an Established Agency to Build Workflow & Culture, with Nick Spriggs — The Busy Creator Podcast 91

The Busy Creator 91 w/Nick Spriggs

Nick Spriggs (@ncsfoo) is a partner at Vector Media Group in New York City. Though he wasn’t one of the original founders, Nick’s role at Vector has been to grow the design and branding offerings to complement the development and marketing capabilities previously in place.

In this conversation, we discuss cultural differences among designers and developers, office rituals used at Vector, how to keep your remote colleagues in the daily mix, and best practices to keep an entire team communicating clearly and working productively.

Catch up with Nick on the website for Vector Media Group.

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Show Notes & Links

"Somehow a year in New York turned into 14."

—Nick Spriggs

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  • Prescott ran afoul of the Visa situation when he graduated from a UK university
  • E-3 Visa for Australians, TN NAFTA for Canadians, et al.
  • Christina Canters, a past guest on The Busy Creator
  • The Museum of Mathematics
  • Vector’s output is mainly websites & apps
  • Their studio is rooted in branding, typography, traditional graphic design
  • Nick likes the term “Product Designer” in the rare cases when it actually applies (thought beyond the page or the pixel, to the inter-connected parts and a bit of the “how”)

"Clients sometimes don't understand what the term 'Design' means."

—Nick Spriggs

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  • The “explosion of explanation” can be exciting for a client
  • Designers are trained to observe, critique, discuss our work; clients, not so much
  • Vector was created around 2008 by Matt Weinberg & Lee Goldberg
  • Vector is staffed with “Creative Developers”, not just code monkeys
  • Nick was invited to join as a partner after working together as a collaborator previously
  • Vector [still] takes on pure development projects, as well as a few pure design projects. Most stuff is collaborative, though.

"You really have to be on your game when explaining something (to remote teammates.)"

—Nick Spriggs

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"A big part of building the business is just time management."

—Nick Spriggs

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Tools

Techniques

  • Keep clients excited & enthusiastic beyond the project itself (if they can’t stay energised, it’s hard for you).
  • Bring clients “in” to the process (wireframes, sketches, etc.)
  • Have clients describe “found objects” in early phases; let the client use their own language so we can use it later
  • Allow designers & developers to cross-involve each other
  • Learn to hold quick, informal meetings internally
  • Involve developers into design-led processes; they too can participate
  • Formalise kick-off meetings to involve the whole team, when possible
  • Use retainers with clients; set aside blocks of hours ahead of time to ease minds and control workflows
  • Schedule “reverse meetings”, time where you’re actually at your desk working and no one can distract you
  • Take a screenshot at a random time during the day; see what everyone in the shop is working on

Habits

  • Use collaboration to inspire ourselves
  • Observe the politics of your client’s company
  • Bring your remote employees to headquarters for occasional workshops/retreats
  • Explain with clarity when sharing with clients or remote colleagues
  • Hold daily Standups, even with remote staff (via video call)
  • Celebrate the project conclusion (close-out, hand-off, etc.); create office rituals around milestones along the way
  • Track your time internally — as individuals and as teams — for your own learnings, regardless of how you bill the client
  • Visit the quirky coffee shops in your neighbourhood
  • Take the time to walk home (even if it’s 1 hour or more)
  • Take a 10-15 minute walk when you feel “stuck” or distracted

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About Prescott Perez-Fox

Prescott Perez-Fox is a New York-based graphic designer and brand developer with 15+ years experience in branding, packaging, graphic design, and web design. He runs The Busy Creator.