Design leadership: Blending practical strategies with emotional support

12 May 2023

The success of any project, design or otherwise, is dependent on effective leadership. It’ll drive those involved towards achieving project goals. Also important is recognising the need to offer support.  

For me, design leadership needs a two-dimensional approach – both practical and emotional. 

1 Practical  

  • Understanding the project goals and objectives
    To lead on a practical level, clarity’s your starting point – of project purpose, deliverables and desired outcomes. This’ll help in the building/aligning of the team and inform decision-making throughout the project.
  • Identifying the target audience
    We’ll very often have already taken a client through a Business & Brand Discovery Workshop to ensure that we’ve clarity as to their objectives, values, perception, purpose, ideal customers etc.  

    At the very least though, we’ll ask for specific target audience information at the outset of a  design project. Ensuring this clarity builds creative solutions that resonate and engage with that audience.
  • Understanding project parameters 
    Identifying and then working within the project’s constraints and limitations – such as timeline, budget, technological or material constraints – is critical when planning and managing a project efficiently.
  • Measuring success 
    Setting clear KPIs and keeping everyone accountable and focused is very much a driver for Yellowyoyo – it certainly helps us to deliver the best outcome. Client and target audience feedback also play a large part, often informing the tweaking design/digital delivery. It can be an iterative process.

2 Emotional/Supportive  

  • Fostering a collaborative environment
    There’s nothing like a safe space for enabling the open expression of thoughts and opinions. Creativity works so well when it’s a collaborative process – an environment where sharing concepts, pooling opinions, and pushing each other on to better, more creative ideas is powerful. It’s about being inclusive, communicating effectively and encouraging team members…

  • Being the champion for creativity
    As a leader, it’s crucial to inspire creativity within your team. Working alongside them certainly helps.  Brainstorming sessions, huddles, visiting exhibitions, and walks together to ‘loosen up’ thinking all boost morale and stimulate innovative and creative juices. 

  • Being empathetic and understanding
    Many of those who are leading design projects are/have been designers themselves.  This should certainly mean that they appreciate the pressure to ‘solve’ briefs, the fact that design is not just a tap to be turned on and that occasionally hours can go by without ‘cracking it’…  It’s a cerebral process.

    If a leader’s background isn’t a creative one, then to lead from a supportive and emotional standpoint it’s vital to understand (just ask!) the unique challenges faced by each team member. Listen actively and offer guidance, assistance or resources when needed.

  • Celebrating successes and learning from failures
    Recognising and celebrating the team’s accomplishments, no matter how small, visibly lifts those responsible, promoting confidence and growth. It’s a joy to witness.

    Of course, setbacks happen too – what matters is to learn from them.  Seeing obstacles in this way and encouraging a team to do so too builds resilience.  So if and when things go wrong, they’ll look to make things right.  This resilience also means – very importantly – that they’re not afraid to experiment and push ideas.

If you’d like to talk about your business design and branding needs in more detail and would like to understand how we can help you adapt your brand strategies, then contact us at, call 01908 980 400 or leave a message here.