613 days of Pixel Warriors
A Recap of the Visual Design Challenge At Ergosign
At the beginning of 2017, we launched Ergosign’s internal “Pixel Warriors” platform. This offers our designers (and of course, any employees from other departments with a flair for design) the chance to flex their design muscles outside their everyday projects.
„As a Project Manager, my everyday work rarely lets me work on a visual design. Pixel Warriors gives me the chance to “stay on the ball” design-wise and to freely design without any attachment to customer projects.“ – Martina, Lead UX Designer at Ergosign
When the mood takes us, we come up with new and exciting tasks - “Pixel Warriors challenges”. These are purposefully very open and often target one certain aspect of visual design. They can range from creating detailed logos and icons to designing complex data visualizations and coming up with a user-friendly mobile application from scratch.
Regardless of how extensive the task is, participants have one to four weeks for their designs. There is then an open vote, in which all Ergosign employees vote and comment on all submitted designs.
The challenge winner earns a place on the “Wall of Heroes” and, if it was a productive challenge, their design is then developed and implemented.
This was the process behind the design for our Meeting room displays - our first IoT project at Ergosign. Further productive examples include the new Antetype logo and - most recently - the design for our parking app, which lets our staff in Saarbrücken find and reserve free parking spots at the office.
„Taking part in Pixel Warriors has definitely improved my visual design skills. You always learn something new in the challenges: whether it’s how to use new design tools and their functions, your own ability to learn different styles and their features or how to improve your design skills through practical applications.“ – Bento, UX Designer at Ergosign
The reasons for taking part in the Pixel Warriors challenges vary a lot: while one person may focus on learning and practicing new software, others see it more as an opportunity to put their creativity to the test and get feedback about their work.
Ergosign offers internal training for its staff several times a year. We also carry out the “Visual Design Kickstarter”, which introduces the basics of visual design and explains the Ergosign visual design process to new employees.
From the beginning of 2018, Focus Time has complemented internal training. This one is easy to explain: during one half-day per month, staff are relieved from their customer project to work on anything they like, or work on an innovation project either alone or in groups.
We have also recently started offering tutorials during Focus Time, which always relate to the latest challenge. This isn’t teacher-centered teaching, rather a short introduction to a topic followed by independent work. Open exchange among participants should be further encouraged to achieve even more learning impact. Of course, we are also available for questions and support.
User experience in software isn’t just about detailed concepts, rather excellent visual design that supports functionality in various ways:
Correctly using tried and tested design rules and principles is essential but it also takes a good eye and plenty of practice to really nail visual design. This is where Pixel Warriors comes in: the challenges focus on one aspect of visual design that staff can really get to grips with. A space has been created for exploration and learning.
„The importance of exploration and experimentation for the success of a digital service provider cannot be underestimated. Pixel Warriors has created this playing field. The team’s willingness to get involved is overwhelming, and the results are impressive in terms of experimentation, quality and range. The aim was to let creativity run wild... Pixel Warriors, you nailed it!“ — Marcus Plach, Managing Director
The team’s participation in this growing routine is also paying off in customer projects and has become evident in many end results. In our obligatory quality gateways, we are seeing that UX Designers are more routinely and more confidently taking on visual design and trusting themselves to design more boldly and bravely.
Even our executive management has had a keen eye on the Pixel Warriors platform and seen a positive impact after two years and 18 completed challenges. Manager and company co-founder Marcus Plach had this to say: “I believe, alongside the immediate successive improvement in quality, one of the most significant benefits of Pixel Warriors is that we now know the versatility of innovative solutions. Our end-to-end project work is by its very nature often unavoidably focused. Pixel Warriors offers a good contrast here by broadening the horizon, highlighting previously unconsidered approaches and letting us try out other tools and media. This sparks “eureka” moments, and plenty of learning that each individual can use in their ongoing project work. Thanks to the informal atmosphere and the aim of pursuing even far-fetched ideas, that don’t necessarily have to be successful, Pixel Warriors also encourages a culture of mistakes where mutual learning is the key focus.“
In less than two years, we have seen a huge number of top notch designs and it’s clear to see from the submissions that so much passion has gone into them.
The Pixel Warriors format itself has absolutely proven its worth to us Field Leads. The addition of Focus Time means we can also bring the idea of a battle and the underlying design aspects closer to our colleagues. In future, we would like to offer this opportunity to our colleagues in other areas such as animation and icon design to drive the transfer of knowledge across all facets of visual design.
Nina Meier and Sascha Strass have been heading up visual design at Ergosign for almost two years now. They are responsible for the regular implementation of Pixel Warriors, organizing internal training, overseeing internal quality assurance measures and acting as spontaneous points of contact for staff. They have also taken on the cause of topping our concepts’ exceptionally good UX with the cherry of visual design.
Both see this as their chance to drive the company forwards through their work as well as teach their colleagues.