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Practice Design Methods with Distributed Teams

Written by 
Mark Tippin
July 24, 2017

By now we don’t need to tell you that Design Thinking methods are becoming increasingly prevalent across industries. Companies, teams and individuals of all backgrounds are implementing new frameworks to help develop their creative ideas. And as digital technology simultaneously improves, people are implementing new tools, too.

At MURAL, we refer to this practice as Serious Play, because as designers, developers, product managers or researchers, we all face serious deadlines and customer needs; however, the way we collaborate to overcome those challenges can be fun and playful. Using collaboration tools like MURAL with communication tools like Zoom and Slack, we can create a workspace where serious work gets done in an engaging way.

As a LUMA-certified Lead Instructor and Head of Content Design at MURAL, I recently shared the basics of Lean, Agile and Human-Centered Design frameworks along with digital collaboration tips for using them among distributed teams.

Together with our Customer Success Manager, Emilia Astrom, we offered a few real-life examples of how teams are using design methods in MURAL, and our Head of Product, Agustin Soler, gave a behind-the-scenes look at how our own product design team operates.

(Above: The process MURAL product teams follow to stay aligned to company goals and customers.)

(Above: Webinar in 8 chapters. For more details, watch the full session with Q&A or download the presentation.)

What do you need for effective digital design collaboration?

In general, there are a handful of essentials required to make it as effective as possible. At Intuit, for example, Erik Flowers has designed a well-tested setup for collaborating on service design with distributed teams. Their tools include:

  • Good audio and video capabilities
  • An experience facilitator
  • A virtual, interactive workspace
  • The use of multiple devices
  • A clear, actionable agenda

You can read more about Service Blueprinting at Intuit here.

Three Common Digital Design Collaboration Challenges… and Solutions

According to our research, most teams work in one of three team configurations:

  1. Split, where teams are onsite in multiple office locations
  2. Mixed, where one or more teams is onsite at an office and others work remotely
  3. Remote, where all team members work from different locations

In fact, a live poll of our webinar attendees revealed that 55% worked in a mixed team environment, while 18% worked remotely and 16% worked on a split team. The remaining 14% worked on a co-located team, with everyone in the same physical location.


But whatever the setting, there are common challenges any team faces when implementing digital design collaboration. Here are the three most persistent:

  1. Alignment within the team and organization, and to the customer
  2. Effective digital collaboration, onsite or remote
  3. Maintaining momentum throughout projects

(Above: The tools most commonly used within MURAL product teams.)

Luckily, we have suggestions for remedying each digital collaboration challenge.

  • To better align teams, he suggests using not one but a variety of methods. Not every project will require the same framework, so make sure you use the right tools for each scenario.
  • For more effective collaboration, incorporate tools that will set you up for success, even if you’re not onsite. Pay attention to logistics, like high-quality audio and video connections, as well as interactive workspaces.
  • To maintain project momentum, optimize your methods for sharing and maintain your digital workspace. Use tools that facilitate collaboration, like MURAL templates, file storage and chat channels.

Ready to get started? Check out some of the templates available on MURAL here.

Have more questions? Take a look at the Q&A from our session here.

Learn More:

About the author

About the authors

Mark Tippin

Head of Services
Mark Tippin is a published author, internationally-recognized keynote speaker and instructor in remote collaboration, human-centered design and visual facilitation. He is currently the Director, Strategic Next Practices at MURAL and a certified Lead Instructor at LUMA Institute.