Offboard as a designer

An empty desk with a monitor is what you will leave behind you most of the time.

An empty desk with a monitor is what you will leave behind you most of the time.


A few weeks ago, I was looking for resources to help me during my off-boarding process from Fairphone. Why? Because I believe that being critical and continuously striving to improve ourselves and our workflow is part of a designer’s core skill-set.
I found an extensive amount of content targeted for an HR’s point of view, but almost nothing that could help designers use this moment with their colleagues to introspect and improve themselves.

The reason I was looking into this is because designers have a particular place in organisations. Most of the time, we work with/for people from every team inside— and sometimes outside — our company.
Good design comes from collaboration. So it is essential to get feedback from non-designers to see how they value and understand your work.

Gathering feedback and notes on your work might take time, but is very useful in the long run. Once you finished your handover and cleaned your computer, setting aside one or two days to discuss with your colleagues and document your projects is definitely a must for me.

I have some tips and tricks that helped me collect valuable pieces of advice from your colleagues and to document your projects without stealing corporate data.

Learn from your closest colleagues

Planning exit talks with the right colleagues, at the right moment.

At Fairphone, I worked with almost every team from the value chain to the customer support. Asking for an exit talk with each and every person included in one of my projects was not realistic.

I initially planned for 30 minutes per person but I quickly learned that the rhythm of an exit talk can be very different depending on your guest. For some the conversation was done in 15 minutes, while for others it took almost 1 hour.

Because of this variability, you cannot plan a considerable amount of 1–1 meetings. And like user interviews, you cannot schedule too many discussions one after the other.

For all these reasons, I planned between 5 and 6 exit talks with various colleagues during my last day. This list did not include the mandatory HR exit talk that most companies implement at the end of your final day.

Outside of my team, I tried to select the person I worked with the most from each department of the company. Marketing, Design, Communication, Customer experience and Customer support were my main targets. This selection was the opportunity to discuss with people that have different experiences, backgrounds and also different levels of seniority. These talks provided a broad spectrum of really different bits of advice.

It’s time to learn how to say goodbye.

It’s never easy to say goodbye to the people you worked with every day for several months/years. To avoid being too emotional with some of my colleagues, the idea was to have an open and transparent exchange without focusing on specific projects.

One of the strategies can be to start with some words to describe how you would summarize the collaboration with this specific colleague and what you learned from this person. Beginning on this note will give a positive impulse to the conversation to avoid being stuck on frustrations or emotions.

Just follow the flow of the discussion. Again, just like during a user interview, you are here to hear what your colleagues have to say about your work and not to defend your work.

Understanding how the company sees your work.

As designers, it is often hard to define exactly what our job is. For example, my parents are still struggling to understand what I do all day at work.

Most of the time, design is only seen as making things pretty. These exit talks can be the opportunity for you to understand how the organisation perceived your contribution to the company.

It is especially interesting to hear the answer to this question from people who are not necessarily used to working with designers. For example, I learned a lot from my colleague working in the customer support team.

At the end, don’t forget one last thing…

Collaboration is one of the key components of the design work. So when I plan these discussions, I always have a specific goal in mind: I want to get some advice from my former colleagues for the next stages of my career.

To get these elements, I try to end each exit talks with this question:

Knowing the work we’ve done together, could you give me one or two pieces of advice to collaborate better with future team?

Most of the time, you will get highly valuable answers about who you are, your personality and how people perceive you in the organisation. That is why you need to give something in return to your colleagues.

For each person I meet, I am also preparing an answer to the same question with two bits of advice. The first one related to the current job position of my interlocutor and the second one — more personal — for the next steps in their life.

I was always surprised by the quality of the feedback I got, even if it was completely unprepared. For example — at Fairphone — I learned how people can sometimes be scared about the passion I can put in my work or how they learned from my workshops.

The danger of nostalgia and frustrations

After several months/years in a company, you can accumulate some frustrations. And sometimes, these frustrations are shared within a group of colleagues working on similar projects, for example. These frustrations can be at the heart of a numerous amount of conversations, but you need to avoid these topics during your exit talks. These frustrations can be toxic and time-consuming in this specific context.

These 1–1 meetings may be the last conversation you will have with your colleagues in the office. So like in a project retrospective, the goal is not to change the past, but to identify ways to improve your workflows and collaboration skills. Focus on the bright side and let go of as many emotions as possible!

You can always find the time to unload your frustration in the first weeks after the end of your contract. But finding the time to have a real retrospective about your job is more difficult, and you need to have a neutral and honest look on what did work and what didn’t work as much.

Gather knowledge about your work

Once you managed to get feedback from your colleagues on your work and your personality, it’s time to gather knowledge on the project you worked on.

This knowledge is essential for your future. It will help you to understand the impact of your work, to build your portfolio and to strengthen your processes.

Building a knowledge base without stealing information

Let’s be clear: I am not advising you to steal information from your current company. When I talked about this with fellow designers from other companies, I realised that this part of the off-boarding is always a bit complicated. What to take? What to leave? What to copy and how?

The best advice I have for you: be transparent with your team. More and more, our work is split between different platforms and services. It is not always possible to save/export our content or the data we worked with (e.g. Google Analytics).

In my opinion, that’s why we need to rethink the way we gather data about our work. Do we really need those source files? Do we really need those heatmaps and recordings? Do we really need those notes about interviews made 10 months ago?

My answer is no.

Focusing on the most valuable information

Let’s be honest: how many times are you consulting the source files of your old projects? Even in interviews, nobody is asking you to open your old files to show your work. The source files will not help you to learn, to progress and to become a better designer.

When it comes down to it, the most valuable information for your portfolio and for your career are your takeaways from these projects. In fact, do you really need more than the information you would put in a case study?

So, for each project I worked on, I try to document:

  1. The project and its context.
    What were we trying to achieve and why? 
    Which teams and team members were involved? 
    A timeline of the project with some information about when we started and when we shipped the project?

  2. A quick summary of the initial research phase.
    What kind of research was made? 
    What were the goals and the methodology of this research phase? 
    How many users were contacted and what were their profiles? 
    What were the main takeaways from the research/benchmark?
    Did I animate some ideation/mapping sessions and what were the main learnings?

  3. A description of the solution crafted by the team.
    Which solution was chosen and why? 
    What were the requirements for this solution? 
    What were the main metrics the team chose to watch to measure the success of this solution?

  4. A prototype or a video showing the prototype being used.

  5. The final shipped solution.
    This can be archived thanks to high-fidelity screenshots, the link to access it and/or some recordings of your work.

  6. A summary of the results.
    What is the evolution of the selected KPIs?
    What are the main user behaviours?
    What are the main learnings from the results?
    Are there some identified fixes to do?
    What are the next steps for this project?

  7. Some feedback from your colleagues about this project.

  8. Your personal thoughts about this project.
    What are your personal learnings and takeaways from this project?
    How do you see this project evolving?
    What went well or wrong during the project?

Taking a closer look at the impact of your work

Most of the time, we don’t have the time during our workdays to really stop what we are doing to reflect on our work. Your last days in a job can be the perfect opportunity to take a step back to see what you accomplished.

At some point, we can lose track of the projects we accomplished and the impact of our work. Doing this documentation exercise can be the best way to gain confidence in your work and to see — sometimes several months after it — the impact you made for your users.

Re-evaluate your goals

Most of the time, when you started your job, you had a specific idea of what you wanted to achieve/learn/try with your new colleagues.

In every company, we are working with different cultures, different colleagues and we are learning from the diversity of profiles and projects we meet every day. Thanks to this diversity in our work life, we often can redefine the shape of our career path.

Your off-boarding period is a crucial moment to take a closer look at your goals. Did you fulfil these goals? Did you develop the skills you wanted or did you shift your targets to some entirely new ones?

All these elements and exchanges can bring you a lot of feedback about your work, your personality and your life. Taking the time to learn from these inputs is essential for you to understand what will be the best environment for you.

This is not only important for you, but also for your former company. All these inputs can help them identify what design environment they could offer to the next designer they will hire and how to fix some potential issues you faced.

And now, it’s your turn. I believe in the power of collaboration and exchange so: what are your tips and tricks to offboard efficiently from a design job?