Industry Info

Debate & Discuss: Building, Supporting and Managing Creative Teams

Posted: July 22, 2015 by
Linda Casey

In the July issue, Package Design begins an exploration on how businesses can create environments that encourage and foster sustainable creativity and innovation that positively impacts the bottom line. Read the next installment of this Debate & Discuss topic focus in the August issue, where we interview Victor Ermoli, dean of the School of Design at Savannah College of Art and Design.


Mina Patel

Associate director, human resources, IA Collaborative


How do you make space for creative rhythm in a high-cadence business environment? 

You build creative rhythm into your culture and brand. At IA, we are a culture of critique where not one individual is responsible for design, where multi-disciplinary project teams work in unity with clients towards a common goal and purpose, and where we all believe in the “why” that has been instilled in us by our Founders. As a community, we work in collaboration and play for discovery. Ideas can come from anywhere or anyone. Creativity is not only encouraged it is desired. Each week, we hold an organization-wide meeting. This is a platform for individuals to share out inspirational designs found in the world, best practices and/or tools that can be leveraged by others, and it also serves as a forum for teams to share out in progress work. In this meeting, individuals and teams gain builds and recommendations, which ultimately raise the bar around our thinking and the overall design that we put forth into the world.


How can design and marketing leaders prevent employee burnout?

Start with wellness. Create an atmosphere focused around health and wellbeing for your staff. Offer benefits that support healthy life choices and connectedness within your team such as allowances for sanctioned race participation/sports league and reimbursement programs for gym enrollment.

Create a healthy and effective work environment for your team. Our space is fluid and caters to the many modes of work that occur in a day. There are project rooms for team collaboration, work stations for independent work, environments for play, a shop for our creative makers and a communal dining area for all to come together. The space itself is quite serene with white walls and high ceilings, clear glass rooms, an abundance of light peering through a 60 ft. skylight, terrariums, long views which support healthy vision and fresh fruit for all. The space was designed with the intent to have people feel healthier leaving the space than when they came in. Ask yourself if there are ways you can adopt these design tenants within your existing work space.

Switch it up. If an employee is feeling like they have been working on too much of the same, proactively provide opportunities for them to work on a side project that is driven by their passions. Questions to ask yourself include: Are there ways to think differently about the activities/tasks/deliverables associated with the project? Could you explore different ways to concept solutions with clients or try out a new research method in the field? And could your employee spearhead this initiative?

Be a culture of celebration! At IA, we seek out moments/opportunities to applaud our people and publically acknowledge their achievements via email, announcements, team dinners, excursions/fieldtrips, additional paid time off, etc. Here is a list of potential things to celebrate: the successful delivery of key milestones and projects, commemorating employee anniversaries and individual accolades such as completing an MBA, life changes such as buying your first home or starting a family.


How can business leaders help employees suffering from burnout?

Encourage reflection. Ask your employees to take an introspective look at their burnout experience. What were the factors that caused or fueled the burnout? Empower the individual to identify one potential solution for each factor. Meet with the employee and collectively determine how to take action based on the recommendations/solutions provided. Determine ways to monitor the progress over time.

Communicate. As a leader, it is important to maintain a pulse on your people but equally important to provide employees with opportunities to communicate their needs. With members of my team, I meet with them once a week and ask them the following questions: What brought you the most happiness in your role this week? What made this so memorable? Who contributed to this? Is there anything you are struggling with? If so, how can I help you or what can I do to support your success? Do you have any needs?

Based on your workload for next week, is there anything that feels ambiguous or unclear?

Provide healthy tenants for balance. When recovering from burn out, it is imperative that individuals maintain positive routines such as eating well, consistent exercise, sleep, established schedules for breaks throughout a day, working norms with project teams, and dedicated personal time meant for individual interests or refueling tactics.

The next installment of this Debate & Discuss topic focus on sustainable work environments for creatives will be published in the Front Panel section of our August issue. Be sure not to miss our interview with the thought-provoking and insightful Victor Ermoli, dean of the School of Design at Savannah College of Art and Design. If you would like to participate in future editions of Debate & Discuss, please email with the words “Debate & Discuss participant application” in the subject line.