Design Team Education and a Culture of Learning

I came across this tweet from Bob Baxley recently. It was a poll to see what UI/UX Designers value most.

Just out in front, ahead of company mission and personal impact, was the opportunity to learn.

Ongoing education and learning is very important. While we have our day-to-day jobs — where most of the time we’re likely doing things we’re already good at or are very familiar with — we want to keep developing our personal careers and skill sets. We want our teams to keep developing their careers and skill sets. The web, design practices and tooling are constantly evolving. There is a lot to learn and we want to promote a culture of learning.

On the Design Team @ Mesosphere we recognize this and have a few different ways we try to keep educating the team and learn from each other.

Lunch & Learns

Each of us come from different backgrounds, different educations, different companies and experiences. So we all know different things and sharing that knowledge is great.

Every other week, in between our user testing weeks, someone on the team will lead a lunch and learn. An opportunity to talk about something they are good at or is important to them. It could be a talk on a specific topic, or maybe an over of a book they read recently, or run a design workshop (or challenge) for something they’re working on. It’s their call. The purpose is to share that knowledge across the team and to give everyone a turn at leading the room.

We started earlier this year and some topics to date have included Photography 101, User Research, Sewing, Travel Hacking and Things I Learned in Architecture School.

Jesse Lash leading a class on Photography Lighting
Myself leading a design studio workshop

Guest Speakers

The design community is a friendly community, and there are a lot of people with great knowledge and experience. If you just reach out to them, offer them some free lunch and beer, they’re often happy to come by and talk about the things they’re doing at their company. This is a great way to get some insight and cross-pollination of skills from other teams.

We’ve been fortunate to have some great speakers come by our headquarters in San Francisco, including Zac Halbert (Tradecraft) discussing product design workflow; Aaron Irizarry (Nasdaq) talking about his book “Discussing Design”; and Tim Van Damme (Abstract) showing us what design tools they’re building.

Zac Halbert (Tradecraft) leading a whiteboarding session
Tim Van Damme (Abstract) showing us what design tools they’re building

Design Inspiration

During our weekly design stand up, a member of the team will pick an inspiration topic. Over the next week each of us will find something to speak to and present it at the next stand up. We use Dropmark to keep track of these.

We try to not just stick to UI and pixels. Some interesting topics have included Inspirational People, Podcasts, and Package Design which helps us get out of the day to day of UI design.

The Mesosphere design team “Designspiration” Dropmark board

Code School

This is an informal occasional meeting. Some of us know more about coding than others. Those of us who have a bit more experience walk through some simple tutorials and educate the rest of the team e.g. clone a repo from GitHub and get it running, create a branch and make a pull request, how Grunt/Gulp/Sass/Less works.

If you’re a developer these examples may sound basic but bringing the Design Team up to this level is very powerful for future projects, our workflow and collaborating with Engineering.

Kaleb White leading a class on Javascript

What Does Your Team Do?

Just a few things we do at Mesosphere to keep the culture of continuous learning alive. We’ve also seen great ideas from Foursquare where they get together once a week and play “Creative Games” and at Tradecraft where they do weekly whiteboard challenges. What does your team do?

Follow @MesosphereDsgn on Twitter for more design team education inspiration. This post was originally published on

Designer Developer in San Francisco. Director of Design @ OneSignal.

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