Tips for Building Effective Design Teams

Learn from Mike Townson how to lead a design team effectively by understanding individual needs and fostering a supportive environment.

Mike Townson, Director of Product Design at Order, discusses his methods in leading a team and supporting them by understanding individual work styles and needs. Mike emphasizes the importance of getting to know your team beyond the weekly syncs and brainstorming sessions to build an effective design team.


Playing the Role of Therapist as a Design Leader with Mike Townson | WandrFul Design Podcast Ep. #11

1. Set Priorities & Assess Needs

  • Take a look at what your priorities are for this team and assess what’s needed for the team and product.
  • Direct time and energy where necessary, and ensure pushing issues are addressed at the start.
  • Delegate responsibilities at the start and assess the team’s capabilities

2. Find the Right People

  • Finding people you can invest in, you want people who have the potential to be your successors and lead the team one day.
  • Ensure you are choosing personalities and skill sets that work well together and even complement each other.

3. Nurture a Supportive Environment

  • Nurturing an environment where creatives feel they can discuss their issues or concerns.
  • Listening and supporting your team through the ups and downs.
  • Build confidence in your team, allowing them to reach their full creative potential.

4. Set Clear Expectations

  • Be transparent about your expectations of your team from the start, especially when inheriting a team.
  • Set expectations of how things are to be done, the level of impact at which they should be done, and overall task completion specifics.

5. Practice Effective Communication

  • Share clarity on your vision;  when everyone’s on board working towards a single common goal, it is achievable.
  • Allow team to vent frustrations or discuss ideas freely.
  • Ensure there’s reliable communication between team members and different departments.
  • Leave little room for confusion and misunderstandings, this can later cost a project down the line.
Photo by Moe Magners


The best method in leading a team lies in how you support them, allowing them to work in their preferred ways for optimal output. However, leaders must know when to pivot into being a decision-maker and setting clear expectations for people and how things are to be done under their leadership. When a team can seamlessly work together, supporting each other with no issues, they can achieve their full potential together.

Check out our Podcast Ep. 12 Playing the Role of Therapist as a Design Leader with Mike Townson.

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