Innovation rarely happens in a vacuum. It usually starts with an individual brave enough to contribute an idea and a team inspired enough to make it great. This blog provides a forum for all Centrons to contribute ideas, make suggestions, ask questions and inspire others. There are no boundaries. To participate, all you need is the desire to build great products.

Some Thoughts on Designing at Centro

At Centro, the success of our design team depends on open communication, respectful disagreement, incessant collaboration and our team members’ constant pursuit of opportunities for personal and professional growth. We are fortunate to work for a company that makes it all possible.

As a follow up to my recent blog posts about Centro Design’s recent retreat at Camp Wandawega (here and here), I wanted to take some time to reflect on what it’s like to work on our team from day to day.

In the past year, Centro’s product design team has quadrupled in size from 4 to 16 full-time designers. With an infusion of new talent—and with it a mix of personalities, specialties, experiences and backgrounds—the dynamic of the team has changed significantly (along with the expectations placed upon it). The size of the team today reflects the continued importance placed upon design thinking at Centro. This is evidenced by the many tasks our designers do on a daily basis:

  • Carry out domain research
  • Conduct usability tests
  • Observe user behavior
  • Gather customer feedback
  • Aid analysis of business problems
  • Think through complex workflows
  • Design interactions
  • Produce high fidelity mockups
  • Write code

A Culture of Communication

Our designers are distributed across various feature teams each working on a different part of our software platform. Even though we work in design pairs (UX/UI), it can be challenging to maintain camaraderie and togetherness across our larger functional team. Communication is very important us. Throughout the day we use HipChat to discuss design ideas, offer feedback on each other’s work, share status updates or simply to determine where to have lunch. We also goof off a bit too!

We make a point to spend meaningful, in-person time with each other by attending weekly design “sprints” and monthly retrospectives. For example, every Friday team members are invited to share something they’ve been working on during a meeting affectionately know as the “Showcase.” It’s a great learning opportunity for everyone involved and these meetings often spawn lively discussions/debates on a range of topics both near and far from the design field.

As our team has grown, we’ve also come to recognize the importance of documenting and sharing things like internal processes, tools, naming conventions, style guides, usability test results and research findings. Tools like Dropbox, Confluence and JIRA have allowed us to solve problems more efficiently and in turn, scale our efforts to meet the demands of Centro’s growing product development organization.

Institutional Support

Centro supports and encourages the constant growth of its employees. On the design team, funds are made available for team members to attend yearly conferences, enroll in continuing education courses, purchase books for the Centro Lending Library, buy necessary equipment and go on annual retreats.

Our designers are trusted to innovate, explore/share new ideas, level up their skills and do the best work of their careers to date. The trust placed in our team fosters a sense of responsibility, accountability and drive. It’s rare to find a collection of individuals so passionate about their work.

I am thankful that Centro understands and appreciates the role design plays in product development and that the company actively supports the growth of the practice. And while there are many technology organizations to work for in the city of Chicago, it’s quite rare to find a work environment and a team of peers that are equally extraordinary.

At Centro, I’ve found both.