Operating our remote studio in 2020
When starting Mindly Studio in early 2020, we always intended to be a remote studio. From early on we embraced using software and digital tools that will maximise our efficiency. A few weeks after starting, COVID-19 hit the world and a lot of business became accustomed to working from home.
Collaborating remotely has become second nature to us. We can’t wait to meet up with people face-to-face again once it is safe to so, but in terms of our workflow, there’s no way back to the “usual way” of doing things.
We’ve listed our favourite tools for operating our studio remotely:
Ahh, the creativity and innovation you get from collective thinking in workshops. These workshops might not seem possible now with COVID-19 restrictions. We’ve found ways to do it remotely, digitally and, in our opinion, better.
Miro is a great tool to run a workshop with digital sticky notes. Miro is an online collaborative whiteboard. It’s really fast, simple to use and intuitive. There is a range of templates, which helps getting started easy. Team video conferences can be integrated into Miro, which is awesome.
We’ve found that Miro workshops are even more effective than traditional sticky note workshops, as you can stick ‘notes’ on Miro quicker than physically writing on paper and sticking it on a whiteboard or wall. This speed allows us to get more ideas quicker without forgetting any. The added bonus is saving trees from being cut down for sticky notes.
Research and Testing
A big part of our work is doing research. More traditional methods of research include focus groups and surveys. These are still possible for us using tools like Zoom for focus group sessions and Typeform for surveys. We especially love Typeform as it is a really interactive and user-friendly way of doing surveys. You can make it as fun and interactive as you can imagine, which helps in getting more survey responses.
Traditionally designers test prototypes with users in person by observing behaviour. Thankfully we can continue this work using tools like Adobe XD and Figma for prototyping and Useberry for testing, which we just love.
Zoom. Yes, Zoom. We’re all familiar with it. A lot of us are probably sick of it. We just love it for collective design thinking. In a traditional large workshop, you’d normally break off into teams to focus on a certain topic. Well, you can do the same on Zoom. We’ve been creating break out rooms with small groups to ideate on certain topics or themes.
We also love using Slack when working on projects. We’re still a bit new to Slack. So far, it’s proven to be really effective in chatting, asking questions, sharing updates and just staying in the loop when collaborating.
Internally we use a few tools for project management making our lives more organised and efficient.
We previously used Trello but quickly began to dislike the interface. We switched to Monday, which we love. Monday contains workspaces and boards. Your imagination can go wild with managing work on Monday. We also love additional features making work management easier like status, inbox notifications, due date, priority, leaving comments and assigning work to your team.
We’ve also been using Airtable to manage data. Airtable is something between a spreadsheet and a database that is easy to use and customise. There are so many templates for almost anything you can imagine. It is great as you can leave comments, collaborate in real-time and integrate it with many other tools.
Most of our storage, documents and communication is done through Google Suite. Once you get into the Google Suite world, it’s hard to get out as there’s a lot of value for the money. Here are 4 of our favourite G-Suite tools:
- Drive: Easy to use file management/cloud storage.
- Calendar: We schedule and journal our whole lives on this. Easy to invite and schedule meetings.
- Gmail: Hard to get used to if you come from Outlook. After getting used to it, we wouldn’t want to go back to Outlook
- Docs: Similar to Microsoft Word except you can collaborate remotely, leave comments and see version history
We use Google Calendar for all our meetings and managing our time. But by far our favourite tool for scheduling time with others is Calendly. Calendly is an online appointment scheduling tool, which makes finding the perfect time to meet with someone super easy. Say goodbye to going back and forth in emails finding the right time to meet. We love Calendly as it integrates with Google Calendar and Zoom automatically.
Creativity and innovation
We’ve found that creativity is more effective from home. This could vary from person to person. But for us, we’ve identified that when we’re at the comfort of home, we tend to be more creative. Stresses like transport, traffic and running late for a meeting typically hinder creativity in our previous “normal” world. We’ve found eliminating these things all together help us be more creative.
We’ve also realised that adapting to new scenarios and using new things helps eliminate bias and “usual ways” of thinking. Fewer assumptions help spark new ideas and innovation. We’re constantly on the lookout for new tools and ways to bring out the best in collaboration. Every time we find a new tool, we get a spark for thinking in new ways. We often purposely switch to a new tool, even if the one we’re using is great, as it makes us think in different ways.