15 Jan 2024

How we improved our Design Culture.

Here’s a retrospective of the past year on how we tackled the age-old challenge of weekly meetings in order to improve our culture as a team. In this article, I’ll share the progress we've made and what strategies have been working for us in hopes that our experience can inspire you and your team to overcome similar hurdles!

Another meeting? Really?

Since day one of my journey at Significa, team meetings have been a part of our culture. We used to have a Monday morning meeting with everyone and a weekly Design department sync. It was a good chance to catch up with what everyone was up to, but while the intention was great, the reality didn't always match up, especially when project deadlines were looming. It was challenging to pause our work and attend yet another meeting where everyone looked like they would rather be doing something else.

This past year, we've come a long way, and I'm super excited to share how we're building an even stronger sense of team connectedness which exceeds the Design meetings themselves.

Feedback to back…

During the one-on-ones — meetings individually held by each head of department with every respective team member — it was clear that each taking turns saying what they did the previous week and what they would do the next one wasn’t cutting it. There wasn’t enough time to discuss anything in depth, and the meetings ended up feeling redundant, repetitive and boring…

So, to mix things up we tested different schedules and formats, tried to meet more regularly and assigned meetings to different team members each week. Naturally, time constraints and competing priorities always got in the way, but moreover, we noticed that people often didn't prioritise their assigned meetings, which resulted in frequent delays and rescheduling.

Even so, if we ended up not having these meetings at all, the team missed the sense of connection these provided. So we would end up back on the initial format, in an endless loop.

Brainstorms, ideas, and solutions.

When we set our Design department goals for 2023, we gathered to brainstorm ideas for revamping our Design meetings. We aimed to bring back a sense of excitement, keeping in mind that any strategy we developed needed to be light-hearted, easy to implement, and simple to maintain given people’s busy schedules.

So we got together in one room and came up with a wide range of suggestions, some more tangible than others…but here’s what has been working, to give you some ideas:

Design Challenges.

We've added a light sense of competition with Design challenges. These include mostly whiteboard challenges and UI redesign exercises to spark our team's creativity and problem-solving skills. These challenges not only improve our Design abilities beyond the time crunch of our projects, but also add some fun and friendly competition to our meetings. They’re an opportunity to open our minds to new approaches to include in our projects or internal processes.

Inspirational Strolls.

To inspire fresh perspectives and nurture our collective creativity, we started organising day trips outside of the office. These include visits to local museums, art exhibitions, cinemas… These feel like a breath of fresh air, allowing us to take advantage of the local art scene to broaden our horizons and infuse our design work with newfound inspiration.

Analog Projects.

As designers, we often spend a significant amount of time in the digital realm. To break away from screens and rest our tired eyes, we sometimes use these meetings as an opportunity to encourage the team to get their hands on. These can range from creating posters with collages, painting a mural, having a serigraphy workshop, or even a pottery class! These activities offer a refreshing break from the screens and we get to relax and explore different levels of creativity.

Sharing is Caring.

Transparency and collaboration are vital components of our Design process. And so, the original team-sync formats shouldn’t be discarded completely. We make sure to still have them, at least once a month, to celebrate achievements, discuss blockers, and showcase new project findings. It can be beneficial to not only stay aligned and create a sense of achievement but also to encourage a collaborative environment where we can share knowledge and offer constructive feedback to each other.

Cross-Team Learning.

Collaboration extends beyond our immediate Design team. There is an urgent need to minimize the gap between Designers and Developers, and we actively seek opportunities to collaborate with them in these meetings to optimize our processes all around. By inviting them to join us in workshops and knowledge-sharing sessions, we gain valuable insights into the technical aspects and constraints of the “dark side.”

For instance, our recent CSS workshop with the Development team allowed us to delve into the basics of coding by creating a simple component card.

And this presentation, Manuel and Filipe did as a project retrospective analysing all that could be improved in a designer vs. developer dynamic. (Spoiler alert: Communication is key)


Recently, the Design team has been working closer together with the Brand and Marketing department — not only in preparing Projects and Case Studies, but also by participating in events, both as part of the speakers panel and simply as audience. This was the case with Layers, a conference held by Friends of Figma Portugal and Ladies, Wine and Design (just to name a few). We can’t wait to see which surprises 2024 will bring on this end!

Team Presentations.

We’re still testing the waters on this one. But the goal is crystal clear: to dive deeper into the personalities of our team, beyond the confines of our office walls, by introducing quick and mostly Pecha-Kucha formatted presentations!

In these sessions, team members have the opportunity to share some slides about their passions, hobbies, hometowns or any other topic of their choice. It is a chance to showcase our individuality, talents, and interests beyond work-related discussions. These create a space for us to learn more from one another, and find funny and engaging ways to bring stuff that we care about to the (proverbial) table.

Here’s a peek into Estepheny’s presentation letting us all know how OFFF (it) went.

Here’s Elisa explaining her perspective of a conference she attended.

And as a BONUS, learn about Fogaça Francesinha.. and the Madeirense accent!

Bits of Eggspiration.

This idea was recently suggested by one of our designers, Inês. It is a space to share new findings, cool fonts, clever interactions, new products, useful tools, beautiful websites… anything that might spark our interest and serve as an inspiration for the team. I am eager to see how this initiative will develop and how everyone will contribute!

Planning ahead is key, planning too much is useless.

Our environment is in a constant state of flux, always changing, and — ideally — evolving. What worked yesterday may no longer be relevant today, and new needs surface regularly. So, our meetings adapt and essentially schedule themselves based on the team's current needs. Frequent adjustments are not only expected but also embraced as a part of our dynamic process.

Plus, we try to have them in person whenever possible. At Significa, we have a hybrid in-office/remote approach, and we all feel that these meetings are a crucial opportunity to get the whole team together at least once a week.

One issue that we still need to address is the need to involve other departments more deeply, sharing approaches with everyone and not just limiting them to the Design team. While looking inward was important, it is now necessary to expand our knowledge base with everyone. And this is a goal we hope to achieve by the end of this year!

Proactivity for the win!

It is worth noting that all of this wouldn't be achievable without the dedicated efforts of each and every team member. We're talking about showing up for meetings, tossing in fresh ideas as they pop up, and even preparing presentations when needed. Plus, we're all curious to find cool stuff to share and we take the challenges seriously!

As for updated feedback, the team seems to be loving these initiatives. Our meetings are now less boring, the challenges are a huge hit and it feels like we've all gotten a bit closer.

Moreover, these initiatives work as a creative breather. They let us relax, try new things, and get creative, especially for those working on less exciting project phases.

Other departments have also been noticing and commenting on our Design team dynamic, the meetings are not the only reason for it but they certainly help!

We hope this inspires you to test some of these ideas with your team — let us know how it went!

Teresa Araújo


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Teresa’s artistic sense can only be matched by her love of plants and animals. It won’t take you long to realise that she would go to extreme lengths to save even seagulls from any distress. She likes to seize the clay when working on her ceramics. Teresa is a Designer at Significa.

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