Tips for Leading a Design Team

  1. Do Not Try and Do All of the Work Yourself

One of the reasons that game development can be a slow-going process is that it is a highly collaborative effort. You will want to assign different tasks to different people and limit the amount of work that you do even though you can do it. Let the programmers program, the writers write, and the designers design – otherwise you’re going to end up biting off more than you can chew. As team leader, your focus should be on effectively managing the team, keeping up with deadlines and the different stages of development, and assisting in edits and revisions of their work.

  1. Set Up a Virtual Workspace

You are going to need to set guidelines for the tools and software that your team is using especially if some members are working remotely. The easiest way to enforce uniformity between programmers, writers, and designers is to set up a virtual workspace. Desktop virtualization allows the members of your team to access their various projects and collaborations from multiple devices and also serves as an additional layer of security for everything that you’re working on. iGoogle is an option, as is Amazon workspaces. Before production begins, draft a master production plan that can be accessed at any time from the workspace and a timeline that is updated regularly.

  1. Do Not be Overly Critical

In addition to being a highly collaborative effort, the successful creation of a game or simulation is largely the result of a lot of trial and error, and correcting mistakes. It will not serve you or your team to be overly critical during development. Cuts and revisions should be seen as a healthy practice, and all members of the team should believe that their work is valuable as it goes through the revision process. In the words of lead designer Ken Wong of Monument Valley, “you need to make a game wrong at least two or three times before you find the right path.” Set goals for individuals and for the team as a whole and meet both privately and as a group to discuss progress and areas that need improvement, or a complete redo. If you must be blunt, make sure that you’re addressing the responsible party and that you can give guidance in addition to pointing out shortcomings.

  1. Give Constructive Feedback

As team leader, you act as a barrier between the members of your team who provide feedback to one another. It’s your job to soften the blow of harsh criticism and to turn it into something that a writer or designer can use, and to provide feedback on the specific things that could be improved upon. This tip applies to the game or simulation testers as well, who are likely going to be harsher. Think of the interactions between team members as practice for when the project is in its final stages of development.

Good leadership is about more than just helping others do their best. Along with encouragement, there may be times when the design team leader has to bite the bullet and take the blame for someone else’s mistakes. A good lead developer is humble and willing to put themselves in the line of fire to protect their team, along with offering constructive feedback both good and bad. It can be a thankless job but good team leaders will recognize that the largest payoff is the overall success of their team.