Melissa Ng, Founder & Product Designer, and Peach Nacion, Chief Operations Officer, spoke with me about their innovative agency and how they manage a worldwide design practice.
Tagline: The Traveling Design Studio
Services: Strategy, UX, Web, Mobile
- Works in the following sectors: technology, startups, engineering, software.
- Client list includes: Samsung, McDonald’s, Namecheap, and Citibank.
- Customers are primarily in the Asia Pacific region with a growing demand in other regions.
- Has performed work across 5 continents and more than 21 cities.
- Currently employs a diverse team of 9 people from Asia-Pacific, Europe and South America who are spread out across 7 countries: Singapore, Philippines, Thailand, Greece, India, United Kingdom, and Brazil.
- Performs very little marketing, only recently started with social media.
- Team meets at least once a year in person on a company trip somewhere fun (Bali in 2014, Singapore 2015, Japan 2016).
- Coordination with team member and clients happens via email, Slack, Google Hangouts and numerous other SaaS tools like Invision, Harvest, Trello and more.
- Operates on a Lean and Agile hybrid model running 2-week sprints to focus on shipping a feature.
- The company does not have their own office space. People work out of home, workshare spaces, or on the move. At the time of our conversation, Mel was in Hokkaido, Japan and Peach joined us from Bali, Indonesia on a Google Hangouts call
What drives you in this business?
Not having any limits.
This approach drives everything we do. We have an independent team that works where and how they want. This has enabled us to continually push the boundaries of what is possible.
We’ve also worked hard to build a strong culture that is aligned with our business. This alignment helps get our entire team working together, despite the physical separation, to push the company forward.
People often ask us how our team manages to work together spread across the planet. Our first response is to tell them that people generally overestimate the amount of time you need to see each other or communicate in person. This kind of thinking forces people to think for themselves and ultimately produce a better deliverable. We want people to make an everyday conscious effort on their work.
What is your greatest challenge?
How to scale.
Our business is growing fast and we are working to maintain our culture and independence. The design services that we provide are suited to the team being mobile and interacting with clients remotely, so this arrangement works well for us.
Our team communicates daily and as frequently needed (which is multiple times a day), but servicing more clients and having more employees may force us to rethink how we work or keep our studio at an optimum size.
How do you cope with the unknown?
We know our values.
Knowing who you are and what you stand for as an organization keeps the entire company focused on what we need to do. When you know your end goal and communicate it effectively, then people will unite to make it happen.
We are spread out and issues do pop up on occasion, but the key to handling this is good and healthy communication. Working remotely forces people to reach out with questions in order to move a project forward.
As a team, we strive to gather input from the entire project team before making a decision. This helps with us with seeing all sides of a problem and is what keeps us together—and effective.