Documentation and the role of leadership

When I started at Emerald Media there had not been a Creative Director for years which meant that my small team was also lacking formalized expectations, workflows, and a department culture. During my time there, each of these drastically improved as a result of good documentation. The Designer’s Guidebook is the documentation I am most proud of from my time as Creative Director because I believe it represents my leadership ideals as well as my dedication to education and communication.

The Designer’s Guidebook is so powerful because I did not create it in a vacuum. Rather, the Guidebook was created as a collaboration and maintained by my team. This meant they had a say in workflows and operational requirements. By encouraging my students to own our design team’s Guidebook, we were also building our team culture.

Once the Guidebook became a central piece of the DesignShop, I noticed a shift in my team. As the graduation cycle rotated, new students were immediately introduced to the Guidebook, further establishing the culture of the design team .

The shared knowledge of the Designer’s Guidebook empowered students to be less dependent on me. Rather than answer the same questions repeatedly, I spent more time helping students address meaningful design challenges. Shared norms and expectations allowed students to collaborate more effectively. My team’s communication became very focused on improvement and creativity, rather than dwelling on mistakes or feeling hurt by critiques.

My Designer’s Guidebook greatly empowered my team and encouraged them to be more self-sufficient and more confident. As the Guidebook evolved and updated, it reflected the personality of that group and the aesthetics they were most excited about.

Good leaders empower their team by producing good documentation which offers opportunities for transparency, communication, and ongoing workflow refinement. The Designer’s Guidebook built loyalty, trust, and positive communication. I was able to lead my team confidently, knowing we were all on the same page.