No ivory towers


Good ideas (and good feedback) can come from anywhere in your organization, and building strong cross-functional relationships is often the secret sauce to delivering the best user experiences. But how can folks see what Design is working on, and when is an appropriate time to give feedback? How can we bring folks outside EPD (Engineering, Product, Design) into the design process?

Enter: an experimental, low-key Slack channel: #design-lounge.
The pinned Slack message in the #design-lounge channel that describes the purpose and rules of engagement.
Setting the stage for #design-lounge
The lounge was a hit at Buffer — it gave designers a low-stakes opportunity to share early ideas, and folks outside of product (think Support, Marketing, People, etc.) a chance to weigh in on the product experience. It was great for socializing early concepts, gathering diverse perspectives, evangelizing design thinking, and getting buy-in across the organization.
A Slack message sharing design  work and asking for feedback with 23 replies
First design share saw great engagement — everyone from the CEO to our support staff jumped in with helpful feedback and ideas, which sparked great conversations around strategy and trade-offs.
Folks shared that it was fun and lightweight, and became a favorite work space to keep up with. Lowering the stakes and barrier to entry (see Rule of Engagement #3: This is a safe space for loose ideas) helped facilitate more cross-pollination between teammates that didn't regularly spend time together, and helped designers work through many ideas quickly when kicking off projects.
Screenshot of a Slack message saying "This #design-lounge is siiiiick."
:cat-jam: emoji = we're having fun
Team Ritual

Throw-up > Critique

Design critiques (commonly known as "crit") are great for helping design teams gain context on what's happening across product areas, and for individual designers to get candid feedback on their work. Crit can and should help you uplevel your craft, can also be an introvert's nightmare ("hi, here's this thing I've been pouring my heart into, please pick it apart"). It's a super vulnerable position to put yourself in, and so what often happens is designers hold back on sharing until they feel confident in their work, even when "share early and often" is dogma.
Individually, all the designers I spoke to at Buffer yearned for more collaboration, but as a group, when we got together each week (precious synchronous time for a team distributed across the globe), there was a tangible tension in the air when it came to raising a hand to volunteer. On the flip side, for those reviewing work, it can be hard to give thoughtful feedback on the spot (especially for folks who are naturally more quiet) — sometimes you just need a few minutes to mull it over!
Inspired by both the Figma and Lattice design teams, I proposed a hybrid review with synchronous and heads down time:
Screenshot of a FigJam board full of mockups and sticky notes
What a Throw-up file looks like: lots of thoughtful feedback, designers building on each other's ideas
Designers were encouraged to show early, messy, imperfect work (hence the intention behind the name "Throw-up"!). The structure allows for quiet time and thinking as well as live interaction and dialogue, so both extroverts and introverts have ample opportunity to contribute. Plus, the presenting designer is left with an artifact to reflect and build on! No more racking your brain to remember the feedback you got while you were trying to succinctly communicate all the things you’ve been thinking through.
Screenshot of a FigJam board full of sticky notes
We found a way to keep the upsides of crit while minimizing the downsides. Throw-up became the highlight of our week — we got to play (I mean, hello...FigJam makes this easy), collaborate, and learn together. Plus, we had an excuse to use lots of :face_vomiting: emojis and making barf jokes.
Sketch of an Argentinian food product called Barfy
You learn something new everyday! Having teammates around the globe is amazing.

Design Briefs

Coming soon!