In the Studio With — Inside Dropbox Design, the virtual-first team prioritising joy at work

Posted 04 November 2020 Interview by Lecture in Progress

If you, like so many people across the globe, have found your work completely shifting to online in the past few months, the chances are you’ll have used Dropbox at some point. From keeping files secure to helping teams collaborate more efficiently, it’s the Dropbox Design team’s job to make that experience a great one. Inside this 170-person remote workforce, specialisms range from product design and design research to UX, with a strong culture of sharing and collaboration. Here, we find out what it’s like to work with this talented bunch from Head of Design Operations, Michelle Morrison, before getting to know some of the brilliant creative minds who work alongside her.

Dropbox Design

Based

Completely remote!

Founded

2007

Departments within Dropbox Design

Brand, Black Ops, Product Design, UX Writing, Design Research, Design Operations

Employees at Dropbox

2,800 (the Dropbox Design team is 170 people)

Website
Social

The Dropbox Design hub, where the team can share their learnings with the Dropbox community

How do you describe what Dropbox Design does?
We are building the world’s first smart workspace. Our job is to ensure the best experiences for our customers in an ethical and sustainable way. This means that design is at the core of everything we do.

Our team spans product design, brand, design research, and UX writing – we shape both how our company works and the products we deliver to our customers.

When and how did Dropbox Design come about?
Design has been an important part of Dropbox from the very beginning. The design team has grown from one to 170 multidisciplinary creatives. Our practice has matured over time and will continue to evolve with the company.

Does the team have something like a mantra or philosophy?
We believe joy is the engine that powers all the best ideas. We’re designing a more enlightened way of working, so you can love the way you work. This means that while we try to tackle tough challenges like building a smart workspace, we also look to infuse joy into the work.

“We believe joy is the engine that powers all the best ideas.”

Michelle Morrison

In terms of projects, what have been the highlights from the past year?
We have put a tonne of love into Dropbox.Design, our community resource centre. This is a space where all the creatives on our team can share their experience and wisdom with the community.

We also published Feminist Propaganda, a zine about equality for womxn and non-binary people. We shipped over 1,500 copies to over 20 countries. This kind of work helps us connect to the creative community, which inspires us on a daily basis.

If we’re on the Design Dropbox Instagram, what’s one post we should absolutely not miss?
We just started a new series about how creatives are navigating the pandemic. Check out product design lead Jarrett Ford’s interview for some deep inspiration and good style!

Tools and Kits available on dropbox.design

A selection of articles on dropbox.design

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Dropbox Design’s Feminist Propaganda zine

What would you say the culture is like at Dropbox Design?
We value humanity, trust, simplicity, ownership and customer-centricity. And on the design team, we are very close and collaborative, and really value individual perspectives as they make our collective culture better. We love what we do and we have fun doing it!

What’s the Dropbox office like IRL? And how has the team adjusted to working from home?
We’ve just announced that Dropbox is going virtual first. Our offices around the world will become studios for special gatherings and collaboration, while people will work from home most of the time.

We think the best way to design the smart workspace is to lead the future of work within our own organisation. To help our team make the shift, we designed a toolkit to help us redesign our approach, covering:

How to shift your mindset
How to communicate effectively
How to manage your time
How to support your team
How to stay well

“We are in the unique position of using our own platform, as a virtual-first company, to design for other teams.”

Work created by the team

Dropbox Design representing at the San Francisco Art Book Fair

What’s been your favourite WFH moment so far?
We love that everyone brings their babies and puppies to virtual meetings! We are all working from home, and effectively living at work. It’s one of the things that remind us that we are in it together.

When you think about Dropbox Design in 10 years’ time, what comes to mind?
Alastair Simpson, our VP of Design, likes to say that we’re designing a more human future. As we shift to new ways of working, human-centred design will be the approach that drives equity and empathy in our work. We have to become more diverse and inclusive.

As companies all over the world are betting on remote work as the future, we are in the unique position of using our own platform, as a virtual-first company, to design for other teams that will be using Dropbox to collaborate and get work done.

Dropbox Design host regular events for the creative community

Dropbox Design host regular events for the creative community

Dropbox Design host regular events for the creative community

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How often do you add to the team? And is there something you always look for in new applicants?
We are always growing! We look for people who are passionate about the opportunity to design the future of work. We encourage people from non-traditional and diverse backgrounds to apply. You can see open roles and learn about our philosophy here.

If you’re an emerging creative wanting to work with the Dropbox Design team, what advice would you give on how to reach out?
One way to get to know us is by engaging in community events. Then you can ask the team questions and learn what we’re all about. We always have something upcoming! We are here to connect and help.

“We look for people who are passionate about the opportunity to design the future of work.”

Do you ever take on interns?
We do! Applications for summer internships open up in January. The intern programme is amazing. We bring students on for a 12-week programme that exposes them to a range of challenges and experiences.

You are paired with a mentor and get to participate in Hack Week. Many interns get to ship new features directly to our customers, which is a special opportunity so early in your career. Keep an eye on our jobs board and be sure to apply!

When the team is in need of a bit of fun or inspiration, what do you do?
This may be unique to our team, but we love to get in touch with our feelings. We love group activities like the Personal Voice Workbook or Team Values Toolkit. These exercises bring us closer together and we learn so much from one another in the process.

Some of the Dropbox Design team – captured ahead of lockdown

Some of the Dropbox Design team – captured ahead of lockdown

Some of the Dropbox Design team – captured ahead of lockdown

Some of the Dropbox Design team

Some of the Dropbox Design team – captured ahead of lockdown

‘Gratitude Post’ – an initiative for the Dropbox Design office – captured ahead of lockdown

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Meet some of the team

Below we get to know some more of the brilliant creatives working behind-the-scenes at Dropbox Design.

Becca

Becca Wang, graphic designer

How would you describe what you do at Dropbox Design?
I help teams tell stories visually – whether it’s an All-Hands [Dropbox team meetings] deck, or an in-office branding campaign for Black History Month.

My job responsibilities are sort of split in half. Half of the time, I’m working with the communications team to bring life to internal communications, make them visually compelling, and most importantly, easy to comprehend. The other half of the time, I’m working on internal projects that celebrate, educate, or inspire the employees at Dropbox.

Because my work is internal (and sometimes confidential!), you’ll probably never see most of the work that I do, but it’s super-rewarding to design for the community around me.

If you could pick any emoji to describe what it’s like to work at Dropbox Design, what would they be?

👀 💦

These eyeballs are a perfect representation of me being in awe (and humbled!) by the work of the designers around me. I’ve always struggled with imposter syndrome and sometimes that makes me incredibly nervous when I’m facing a challenge that I don’t think that I can handle, but I’ve had the best mentorship and support from my teammates and manager and that has slowly given me more confidence over the years.

Kelly

Kelly Galeano Arce, designer

How would you describe what you do at Dropbox Design?
As a designer for Dropbox’s brand team, part of my job is to use graphic design to solve communication needs. That’s a high-level description. But really, for me, it’s to make beautiful and meaningful work within the parameters of our – very robust – brand system, and to push this system whenever the chance presents itself and it makes sense to do so.

If you could pick any emoji to describe what it’s like to work at Dropbox Design, what would they be?

🤯 🤩

It’s been so inspiring to see the amazing work everybody here is doing. There’s such thoughtfulness behind everything that goes out into the world, from brand to product. We get to work alongside very talented and amazing human beings. It’s very rewarding and often a mind-blowing experience.

Marian

Marian Oman, researcher

How would you describe what you do at Dropbox Design?
I help my teammates make smarter decisions by equipping them with knowledge about our customers. I’ve also worked at Dropbox for six years (aka forever) so I spend a lot of time just being the institutional memory of my team.

If you could pick any emoji to describe what it’s like to work at Dropbox Design, what would they be?

🌊 🏄🏻‍♀️

That’s me surfing the waves of change! This is a cliché, but change is the only constant. All you can do is stay flexible, adapt, keep a sense of humour, and breathe.

Chelsi

Chelsi Cocking, product designer

How would you describe what you do at Dropbox Design?
I’m a product designer leading design for the Previews Team at Dropbox. The Preview is essentially the place in Dropbox where our users can view (preview) and interact with their content and files that they store in the Dropbox. I’m responsible for executing and delivering the design of this surface.

In a nutshell I spend most of my time designing in Figma, writing in paper docs, and sitting on Zoom meetings… go figure!

If you could use a meme to describe what it’s like to work at Dropbox Design, what would it be?

I picked this @dinosandcomics meme because the culture at Dropbox and within the Dropbox Design team is very caring. That, for me, has been very refreshing, especially during these times.

While Dropbox Design has a culture of accountability, ownership, high quality design and making sure you get your s*** done, it also has a culture of humanity, care, and understanding. Taking the time to talk to your teammates about what’s happening in their lives or how their days are going is part of the culture here.

Hayley

Hayley Bramble, project manager

How would you describe what you do at Dropbox Design?
I work on Community Programmes and run events for Dropbox Design. We manage internal and external events, partnerships, sponsorships, speaking engagements, our Dropbox.Design website and blog, social media, and communications.

Our mini and mighty team of two is a part of a larger Design Ops (design operations) team of 12, and we define and refine our team traditions! Design Ops creates practices and workflows that allow our larger Design Team to do their best work.

If you could use a meme to describe what it’s like to work at Dropbox Design, what would it be?

Dropbox Design is all the things. I am so consistently impressed by all the things this team is doing: from programming, speaking, sponsorships and partnerships, products and research. We have such a talented group, and there is no limit to what we can do!

Alastair

Alastair Simpson, VP of Design

How would you describe what you do at Dropbox Design?
I lead the Design team – including design research, brand studio, writing, production, and product design – while enhancing our long-term design strategy and vision across the Dropbox product and brand.

If you could pick any emoji to describe what it’s like to work at Dropbox Design, what would it be?

🤩

For years I’ve been incredibly impressed with the care and attention the Dropbox Design team has put into design and product execution. From small details like thoughtfully-designed swag, all the way through to amazing interaction and visual design in shipped products. It’s a privilege to partner with and lead a very talented design team!


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Stay tuned to read full interviews with selected team members in the coming weeks.

Dropbox Design is a Lecture in Progress brand partner. Every year, Lecture in Progress partners with like-minded brands and agencies to support our initiative and keep Lecture in Progress a free resource for emerging creatives. To find out more about how you can work with us, email [email protected]

Posted 04 November 2020 Interview by Lecture in Progress
Collection: In the Studio With
Disciplines: Digital, Design, Technology
Mentions: Dropbox Design, Michelle Morrison, Hayley Bramble, Alastair Simpson, Chelsi Cocking, Marian Oman, Kelly Galeano Arce, Becca Wang

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