Bakken & Bæck, a design agency based out of Oslo, is more than just your standard agency. With a focus in design and digital products, one of their top priorities is also fostering openness and transparency with both their internal team and their clients.
The company is divided into three offices in Bonn, Amsterdam and Oslo. They’re home to everyone including polished visual and interaction designers, prototyping experts, and innovative machine learning and AI experts. The whole company is on Wake and uses it to see what’s happening across the agency.
How does working with clients through Wake look like?
Johan: When we first started using Wake with clients, it was before Spaces was implemented, so we were creating a new account every time. But then once Spaces launched, we’ve brought on a few more clients who love using Wake. We have mostly private spaces for just their team and assigned designers, but we also have situations where the whole company can have a look – our team as well as the client.
Was there ever any concern as far as the amount of transparency you were having with clients?
Johan: I think we’ve learned to overcome that fear of transparency and sharing because we are so used to using Wake. It’s also important to know when Wake works best with clients. Wake is best for bigger projects rather than a quick one-off because of that in-depth relationship it requires. It all comes down to mindset and whether they’re willing to be involved in the discussions on a day-to-day basis.
What’s the benefit of integrating Wake into your team early on within the agency?
Johan: The first thing that comes to mind was when one of our designers recently joined our team and he commented after just a few weeks that Wake makes it so easy to get up to speed and understand the culture. He can better understand how we discuss design and what level of details were important to us within design.
It made it so much easier for him to quickly get integrated and also to start giving feedback to other designers. That’s a big deal.
How does that change the quality of the work you are producing?
Johan: First of all, it makes designers less afraid of sharing the work. And it gets them familiar with receiving feedback. What I’ve seen in the past couple years is that our culture has changed a lot into designers trying to make each other better, giving each other feedback and pushing one another in the right direction. Wake is a big part of that – not just because it’s a good tool itself, but also because it encourages that kind of mentality.
Espen: The design team itself gets much tighter. They learn quicker. They evolve much faster. They iterate on the work. Overall, the design work gets more effective and the end result is better.
“It’s hard to say what it would be like without Wake now because it’s so integrated in our work.”
How has Wake changed the culture?
Johan: It fits really well with the same idea as Slack – everything is iterative and quick. It takes design feedback away from a lengthy critique session or feedback document and puts it into something that’s really fast. This allows designers to quickly change their rhythm and the way they think about feedback or specific things that affect the product.
Espen: We have a non-hierarchical, open culture and Wake fits in well with that. It’s very inclusive and everyone can see what’s going on and everyone can give feedback or comment on things.
“Wake just fits right into the way we want to be inclusive and democratic for everyone. It checks all the boxes.”
How has that helped with having offices in different cities?
Johan: Again, it’s very similar to what Slack is doing for us. Without Slack and Wake, we’d feel like three different companies. But with them, it feels so integrated. It’s like you’re sitting right next to people, talking to them instead of sending something off. I feel like if you were to do this in a different tool, it wouldn’t work. The fact that Wake is so focused makes the feedback much better and makes the mindset around it much more productive.
How has Wake changed the relationship with your clients?
Johan: Wake allows our clients to give a lot of detailed feedback through the tool. And we’re able to share so many things with them early on, small details, half-done things, or big re-designs.
Espen: Wake has streamlined the cycle in which we work with clients. Every two weeks, we have a workshop with a client and go through bigger design elements. But the time in between, now clients are able to see what’s going on and give feedback along the way.
How do you build trust with the designers to share in progress work with the designers?
Johan: Partially, I guess we’re lucky. Also, not all of our designers share everything with all clients – we’re good about figuring out the best communication channel with clients and designers. But I think the fact that we’re doing it on a day-to-day basis internally, our designers have become more open to sharing work on Wake because that’s always been our process. I don’t ever remember there being an issue that someone shouldn’t have shared on Wake. That in itself builds trust with clients – our openness. The process is faster and they’re able to see all of the activity.
How do you manage the client feedback? How do you train designers on how to take client feedback?
Johan: I connect with our designers on the side, just to remind them of what’s important. As far as the small stuff, I think it comes naturally to a lot of our designers.
Espen: The designers are involved with the client from the beginning, so they know the client from a very early stage and they communicate with them before they start sharing work on Wake, so it’s not like it’s from someone they don’t know. They’re prepared and we are here as a team. They’re never getting hit with massive amounts of feedback alone.
Johan: When I look back at projects when we weren’t using Wake, there were times that we’d get some overwhelming emails and it felt impossible to figure out how to reply in a way that it was informal enough to where it didn’t turn into a conflict. Communication has become so much smoother with Wake.
What advice would you give other agencies who want to incorporate a culture of sharing?
Johan: I think they should be prepared to have to overcome the hurdle of the first few months before it feels valuable. Developing this type of culture takes time and can be a struggle for some. You’ll also need to spend a lot of time in the beginning encouraging designers to actually upload a lot more than what they are comfortable with. That’s something I remember being critical in the beginning.
Espen: One thing is uploading and the other is getting the dialogue and feedback going. But that comes when you push designers to upload stuff and ask specifically for feedback. Honestly, I don’t remember how it was without Wake – it’s always been there for me!
Johan: You grew up with it! Also, the fact that it’s so democratic and chronological also makes it a great place to discover the random experiments designers are doing. One of our designers is doing an emoji of every employee and it’s such a nice way of sprinkling something there without it being a project of its own. It encourages a lot of people to just spend more time experimenting and doing fun things.
Thank you to Johan and Espen for sharing their agency experience with us and giving us a peek into how they use Wake every day. Be sure to follow Johan and Espen on Twitter, and check out their website for more information.
If you’re working for an agency who could benefit from a more open, transparent communication channel with designers and clients, check out Wake. Wake is a design collaboration platform that provides your entire team with a super quick way to get and give feedback. Learn more today!