Communication Between Design Teams is Essential

Talking to other design teams needs to happen more often. Here’s how we approach these discussions at Webflow — and how you can take part.

 

The Webflow Design team was busy arranging our first team retreat in New Orleans, Louisiana, early last year. However, after the epidemic struck, our plans, like everyone else’s, changed.

We didn’t want to feel constrained by a virtual format as we tried to transform our in-person retreat into a remote one. While we couldn’t replicate the beauty of in-person meetings, we pushed ourselves to think about what we could accomplish remotely that we couldn’t do in person.

We recognized we had the chance to interact with people we wouldn’t have met in New Orleans if we hadn’t used that lens. In fact, we could bring in a whole design team from outside our company. We asked the Figma design team to join us for a coffee break after that idea germinated, and the design fika was created.

An hour-long, casual meeting between two design teams is known as a design fika. The idea came from the Swedish fika, which is a daily social custom focused around a modest coffee break.

We’ve been using design fikas to communicate with several design teams, including Lattice and Loom, for the past three quarters. We’ve learned how to run a productive and enjoyable meeting along the road.

 

What are design fikas and how do they work?

Fikas are a low-effort, high-reward exercise that can be done with only a little forethought.

A Zoom (or other video conferencing platform), a time restriction, and an agenda are the only requirements. (Warm beverage not required, but greatly recommended!)


You’ll want to provide enough structure to help break the ice and start a conversation, but not so much that it seems like a meeting. This entails directing the group through introductions, assigning responsibilities, and offering a discussion subject — all while encouraging the group to gravitate toward issues that are important to them.

Our agenda has changed throughout time and now includes the following items:

  • Intros (10 minutes): Begin by saying hello and introducing yourself, including your name, location, and role. The discussion subject will also be given at this time, although the group should feel free to go on whichever path they like.
  • The host will then split everyone into groups of four or five for the breakout session (30 minutes). The first five minutes will be used for another round of introductions, as well as the assignment of a facilitator and a notetaker. The facilitator will lead the group through the discussion, while the notetaker will record ideas to share with the rest of the group.
  • Regroup and share (15 minutes): Everyone returns to the main room and shares some of their breakout discussion findings with the rest of the group.
    Goodbyes (5 minutes): Let’s get this party started, and we’ll see you later.

 

Predetermined themes relieve the burden of meeting new people while also allowing designers to reflect on and share their own experiences and lessons learned. The following are some of the issues we’ve discussed so far:

 

  • In a distant world, how do you foster intra-team collaboration?
  • Activities that can help you re-energize for remote work

  • Taking charge of your own professional development


However, we’ve discovered that we’re drawn to things like bread baking and Baby Yoda! The connection and similarity we uncover among teams is part of the fun of a fika.

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