We spoke to Leander Lenzing — Hamburg based, Digital Product Designer — about starting his own studio, feedback loops, and collaboration in design.
1. Tell us a bit about your journey — have you always wanted to be a designer?
I always was the “creative” kid. Later, I was thinking about going into architecture or digital design, and finally ended up in digital product design.
2. How would you say your work has evolved over the last year?
In the last year I transitioned from being employed to starting my own design studio full-time. This changed a lot of my perception of design work and how to think about development time, costs, business value, etc… It became less about crafting pixels but more about business thinking, and how to consistently deliver value to our partners.
3. How do you meaningfully incorporate collaboration into your design process?
It really depends on the project. For example: right now we are helping a start-up launch and scale their app. It’s important to have a good relationship with their developers, so I spend 1-3 days a week at their office working closely with the development team and project managers. When working with other freelancers (e.g. copywriters) we make sure to have good kick-offs and easy feedback loops. Tools really evolved over the last years and it’s really easy to have a quick online session or have asynchronous feedback loops.
4. What is minimal design to you?
As less design as possible, I guess.
5. How do you structure your design critiques and feedback sessions? What is the most common challenge you see designers facing?
We try different things. I personally like weekly critique sessions in “show and tell” format so everybody can have a look and be in sync. Whiteboard sessions in between or design sprints are more appropriate for larger tasks. Weekly 1:1s are super important to grow soft skills besides pixel-pushing. Common challenges are falling in love with one solution. It’s easy to get attached to one path if you already put a lot of effort into that direction. Or the misconception of knowing your users.
6. When did you know it was the right time to start your own studio?
I was not happy with my personal development at my last gig and had the dream of a Design Studio for the last years. Also, the market is really good for designers at the moment. Freelance clients were always asking for more hours. That gave me a confidence boost to just jump ahead, quit my day job and grow my studio.
7. Favourite thing in your studio right now?
In general I am really in love with our new Office. We just moved in 3 weeks ago. If I had to name one thing it would be the couch. It’s a great spot for quick feedback-sessions, take a break or hop on a call.
8. What are you reading at the moment?
Right now I am reading “Run Studio Run” by Eli Altman and “Creativity Inc” by Amy Wallace and Edwin Catmull. Both really great and inspiring books.