Scaling Design as an Enterprise: 3 Ways to Accelerate to Warp Speeds

Piotr Smietana
Director of Brand & Marketing Creative
Published29 Jun, 2023
Scaling Design as an Enterprise: 3 Ways to Move at Warp Speeds

Design moving at glacial speeds? Though even mighty enterprises may not have the budget to hire in-house right now, there are other ways to accelerate design at scale, including maximizing the efficiency of your creative operations, outsourcing to a flexible creative partner and implementing agile, cross-functional squads.

There’s a law in marketing and design: The more people involved in a project, the slower it will get done.

At the enterprise level, this law is amplified tenfold. With dozens of marketers, designers and stakeholders involved in competing projects, execution can slow to glacial speeds. Under the immense pressure of an enterprise’s scope of work, teams creep along a few inches a day.

Today, creeping along doesn’t cut it.

Not only does the current market demand agility, modern marketing teams need increasing volumes of high-quality creative to feed their multi-channel flywheels and have any chance at driving growth. So, the challenge becomes scaling design to deliver on those needs.

Of course, between budget cuts, hiring freezes and widespread layoffs, the days of throwing bodies at a problem are over. Instead, consider the following solutions to accelerate design at scale:

1. Invest in DesignOps

In recent years, design operations (or DesignOps) has become an essential function for businesses amping up creative production. From Airbnb and Lyft to LinkedIn and Intercom, dedicated DesignOps drive greater efficiency at scale.

If you’re unfamiliar with the function, DesignOps is responsible for streamlining creative operations by planning projects, optimizing workflows, managing resourcing, fostering relationships and more. Basically, professionals in this role do their utmost to help design teams focus on creative work.

You can see how this function would be especially beneficial in times like these. By investing in DesignOps, marketing and creative teams can achieve:

  • Faster time-to-market for launching campaigns
  • Cost-efficient creative production and better ROI
  • Greater resilience to surprise asks and change orders
  • More creative capacity through increased efficiency

Melanie Brook, Principal of Creative Operations at LegalZoom and former Brand Producer at Intercom, considers DesignOps the key to effective collaboration between marketing and design. Back when she was at Intercom, Brook was one of four Brand Producers on a creative team of 14.

As you can see, Intercom’s brand team had an almost one-to-one ratio of producers to designers and this was their superpower! With such strong DesignOps, Intercom’s brand team could execute faster and with more accuracy than larger, but less well-operationalized teams.

Nonetheless, there are limits to what strong processes and project management can solve. Often, volume simply outstrips capacity, or internal teams don’t have the right skill sets for a project. In these instances, Brook and her fellow producers at Intercom turned to Superside. Which brings us to our next piece of advice: Outsource to achieve scale.

The Future of DesignOps
The Future of DesignOps

The Future of DesignOps

Learn how to implement DesignOps at scale and achieve greater efficiency in your creative operations.

2. Outsource to Achieve Scale

According to a recent report, nearly 86% of in-house design teams are already using external partners, while another third plan to increase the amount of work they outsource. It’s clear a hybrid model of insourcing and outsourcing is on the rise, and it’s no surprise given today’s hiring constraints paired with the ever-increasing need for high-quality creative.

The key to successful outsourcing? Finding a creative partner that can provide the speed, scale and flexibility needed to drive growth. Traditionally, your options were to hire freelancers or an agency, but we all know the downfalls of these approaches. From unreliability and slow turnaround times to inflexibility and obscene price tags, these options don’t cut it for mid-market businesses, let alone enterprises.

Thankfully, there’s a better way to get the creative you need nowadays. At Superside, we call it Creative-as-a-Service (CaaS). Just like SaaS, our CaaS model is subscription-based, hassle-free and infinitely scalable.

By leveraging CaaS, enterprise teams can move just as fast as startups, with more ability to scale—a big win, win in a volatile economic climate that demands adaptability and agility. (Plus, DesignOps is baked right in, so if you haven’t invested in this function yet, we have you covered!)

It all boils down to knowing what to insource vs. outsource. Early or growth-stage startups often outsource to supplement their lean internal teams. By taking a CaaS approach, a mid-market or enterprise-sized company could outsource and scale many more activities, while letting in-house teams stay laser-focused on key objectives.

Here are some of the possibilities that open up with CaaS:

3. Try Project-based Squads

In a study on redesigning the design department, McKinsey identified organizational integration as the hallmark of success. Simply put, design teams do best when they’re part of the greater business, not hidden away behind the walls of a design studio.

Specifically, McKinsey highlighted the benefits of cross-functional organizational structure at scale saying, “The best design teams had designers organized with dotted lines to their design departments but hard lines to their project team. All project team members—including designers, marketers, financiers, and project managers—had a common set of financial incentives around time, cost, revenue and customer satisfaction.”

There are two important points here:

  • Designers as part of cross-functional project squads.
  • Designers sharing goals with their squads.

By taking a project-based squad approach, design departments can stay flexible and contribute resources to projects as needed, all while exposing team members to different parts of the business. Meanwhile, shared goals create accountability and ensure everyone is pulling in the same direction.

At Superside, we’ve implemented these concepts using an “AstroPod” model. Basically, AstroPods are agile, cross-functional squads dedicated to specific problem areas. Each pod consists of an overall leader, a project manager (PM), a creative lead and supporting team members.

Regardless of whether your design organization is centralized or decentralized, hybrid or agile, a model like this can work. And for businesses designing at scale, this type of smaller, specialized squad model can be invaluable for maintaining velocity and quality. (Notice how it accounts for DesignOps, too!)

The Building Blocks of Resilient Marketing and Design Organizations
The Building Blocks of Resilient Marketing and Design Organizations

The Building Blocks of Resilient Marketing and Design Organizations

Discover more advice for building resilient, agile marketing and design teams in our guide to making smart bets.

Scale Design to Warp speeds

In the best of times, scaling design isn’t easy. In the current high-pressure, low-resource environment, this task has become even more challenging.

But like a glacier, given the right inputs, you can take your team from inching along to moving 30 meters a day.

Though even mighty enterprises may not have the budget to hire in-house right now, there are other ways to accelerate design at scale, including maximizing the efficiency of your creative operations, outsourcing to a flexible creative partner and implementing agile, cross-functional squads.

And even if you do have a hire or two in your budget, all of these steps are well worth taking. Just look at Intercom—they’re able to accomplish more with a team of six designers, four DesignOps professionals and Superside support than teams twice their size. 💪

Curious About Creative-as-a-Service?
Curious About Creative-as-a-Service?

Curious About Creative-as-a-Service?

Tell us what’s getting in the way of scaling design at your company, and we’ll explain how our CaaS model can help.

Piotr Smietana
Piotr SmietanaDirector of Brand & Marketing Creative
Piotr is a Director of Brand & Marketing Creative at Superside, based in Cracow, Poland. He's a video marketing expert with over 11 years of experience in digital marketing, advertising, gaming and the film industry. When not at work, you can find him flying his drone on an epic adventure, jamming on the electric guitar, or hitting up a nearby music festival.
Subscribe to our newsletter

Don’t miss anything!

Join our community of 50,000+ who receive the best in design and marketing content, weekly.


Why choose Creative-as-a-Service with Superside?

Book a demo
Improve your marketing performance

Improve your marketing performance

Get high-quality creative, ship campaigns faster and stand out from the competition.

Be more agile & responsive

Be more agile & responsive

Never say no to another project request. Get a hassle-free creative partner that can keep up.

Elevate your team

Elevate your team

Allow your in-house creatives to focus on more strategic projects. Get new ideas & continuous design inspiration.

Save time & be more cost-efficient

Save time & be more cost-efficient

Increase your design capacity without additional hiring and with fewer vendors to manage.

Superside is a revolutionary way for businesses to get good design done at scale.Trusted by 450+ ambitious companies, Superside makes design hassle-free for marketing and creative teams. By combining the top 1% of creative talent from around the world with purpose-built technology and the rigor of design ops, Superside helps ambitious brands grow faster. Since inception, Superside has been a fully remote company, with more than 700 team members working across 57 countries and 13 timezones.
© 2024 Superside. All rights reserved.