VMLY&R and Atlassian: 3 rules for leading design and development teams

User Stories
For anyone in tech, it’s well known that design and development work side-by-side as two sides of the same coin. Most projects can’t be done without both teams, yet they tend to work in silos. Siloed design and development often slows down work for both teams, so it’s natural that those leading design and development consistently search for ways to break down those barriers and help their teams work faster, more efficiently, and in harmony.
We invited leadership from VMLY&R and Atlassian, two companies that are known for their collaborative work environments, to speak at Harmony, the Zeplin user summit. Adam Jones, Group Director at VMLY&R, and John Resman, Sr. Design Manager at Atlassian, joined us to share their insights on leading design and development
“We both care about nurturing a collaborative environment where creation is a shared responsibility and not owned by a team or person,” notes John. The pair shared their three rules for leading design and development teams and how they use Zeplin to accomplish them.
Creating an environment that allows team members to work together seamlessly for a high-quality final product is one of the biggest keys to leading design and development. See how Adam and John do it with the help of Zeplin.

Separate the process from the tools

Adam and John value the process and the people over the tools. Anyone leading design and development knows that processes and tools are constantly changing and evolving. The beauty of working in tech is the dynamic environment, but this also presents a unique challenge: in order to stay relevant and on the cutting edge, you have to continue shifting to accommodate these changes.
Adam and John prefer to view the tools available as separate from the process. Designers often have varied preferences for tools, but changing tools preferences shouldn’t hinder healthy collaboration within the team. For example, the design team may love working in Figma, while the engineers in development find the platform overwhelming. When it comes to handoff, you’ve got to meet in the middle on a platform that works for everyone. Just think of how different your day-to-day work life looks compared to 10 years ago! Setting up a consistent handoff process for design delivery separate from your tools allows your team to continue adapting as the technology changes.

Maintain an organized workflow

John and Adam stress the importance of maintaining digital hygiene within all workspaces. By using Zeplin, they are able to ensure that all departments keep their work organized and in sync with one another so that collaboration is easy and seamless.
“When they [the designers] feel that they’re about 80% towards achieving their goal, we want them to go ahead and push designs into Zeplin,” says Adam, “We use integrations with Slack, Teams, and JIRA, to have those feed into a channel for the mobile developers. And what that allows us to do is feed that content to the developers, and allow them to be engaged in the design process.”
Zeplin not only maintains their teams’ digital hygiene, but it also creates a safe space in which developers can comfortably provide feedback early and often in the design process.

Create a process that works for everyone

While extreme, John points out that if everyone slightly hates the process, then you’ve got it right. Building processes and handoff around one team only ignores the challenges it may present to another team.
“If it’s optimized for one, it’s actually optimized for none,” John notes, “If your product management team is loving it, then your engineering team and your design teams might not appreciate the tool, therefore they might not use it, and now you’re starting to lose continuity between the teams.”
Choosing to bring everyone together on Zeplin offers a platform built for both teams. By housing design systems, integrated codebases, and user flows, Zeplin brings everyone together in one space that works for all.

Top three rules for leading design and development

As leaders of teams that require strong collaboration and communication, throughout their careers, Adam and John have discovered three rules they stick to when leading design and development:
1.Separate processes from tools
2.Practice design and development hygiene
3.If everyone slightly hates it, you’ve got it right
With Zeplin, VMLY&R and Atlassian can adhere to all three of these rules easily. Designers and developers are able to work in a shared space that accommodates their preferred tools. Designs are easily delivered to the development team with clear intentions and ways for development to provide feedback. Both teams are able to work independently while maintaining transparency into what the other needs. This fosters stronger collaboration and makes everyone’s job easier.
Leading design and development and need an effective process that works for both teams? Zeplin provides everything you need to get both teams on the same page in one space. Get started today!