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Head of Design

Softwire is looking for an experienced design leader to scale and support our design capability

In brief:

We’re after someone with significant agency experience of everything from supporting a team to pitching for and delivering projects, including private sector experience. We are keen to grow our team and offering and are looking for someone keen to do so. We’re offering a package of £110,000 to £140,000 and strong opportunities for progression.

In detail:

Softwire is a leading digital agency with a strong record in execution and delivery. Since 2015, we have built our design capability substantively, and have developed a great reputation for user-centred design across the public sector, and into the private sector.

That has included:

  • Early-stage work to understand and design user journeys to simplify postal voting for the UK government
  • End-to-end ownership of mobile apps like LNER’s travel app
  • Information architecture, product design and UX / visual for Starling Bank
  • We are now looking to ensure that we have the leadership and vision in place to accelerate and scale our design capability. We want to build on our success to grow design at Softwire and are looking for someone who is excited about making that happen.

Grow our people

We are looking for someone who can be a multiplier – an experienced design leader who can ensure that our design team receives brilliant coaching and stretch-and-support to enable them to progress and develop.

We have great designers and user researchers with diverse and extensive experience. We are excited to see how we can help them unlock their additional potential – whether through improved DesignOps, or in-role coaching.

Grow our design offering

We’re keen to bring the benefits of design thinking to more of our work. We’re looking for someone excited about solving clients’ problems by combining design thinking and delivery excellence. Someone with an ability to communicate design approaches to clients in pitch meeting and presales proposals, and an understanding of the underpinning commercials to ensure that we can deliver great value while solving hard problems.

You’ll be a trusted advisor to our most important clients, and will need to build and maintain those relationships alongside our account teams. Building from our strong record in the public sector, you’re excited to embed design into more of our projects and bids and bring the benefits of multi-disciplinary thinking to new clients across the private sector.

Grow our design strategy

We have built up significant design experience through our projects. We believe that we can consolidate this experience into something more. We are keen to put in place the processes to share learnings more effectively across our teams and support our delivery with a body of knowledge and good practice.

We know that design isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, but we want to ensure that whatever approach we apply, we deliver it brilliantly. We want to shout about our successes through thought-leadership, and impactful presales material, that helps us open doors to new clients and opportunities.

About the role

Head of Design is an important function at Softwire, reporting to the Managing Director.

The key responsibilities of the role are:

  • Ensuring company success

This is a senior role. We would expect you to contribute to discussions about growth, commercial KPIs, and go-to-market approaches for design-led projects. As well as holding joint accountability for growing our design team, you will also be asked to contribute on the day-to-day decision making in Softwire.

  • Ensuring client success

Over 70% of our business is from existing clients – it is important to us that our clients have a great experience of Softwire and receive positive outcomes from their work with us.

You will be accountable for the overall quality of our design work across our portfolio of projects. For our most strategically important projects, you may be directly involved in setting design strategy, working with the client, landing the team and supporting design activities.

You will work alongside our Client Directors to agree the right approach to bids, setting pre-sales direction and pitching to demonstrate the value of our design abilities to stakeholders.

More generally, you’ll also work with the Client Directors and design team to establish and execute a design governance process.

You will direct our design thought-leadership and service offerings, which may include helping launch new design-based propositions or capabilities.

  •  Developing our high-performing design and research team

We have an existing design team of ten, made up of UI, UX, UR and Service Design. We also make use of a network of contractors and affiliates for additional capacity when needed. We’re keen to grow both our permanent team, and wider network, and aim to bring more specialist roles in-house around content, performance analytics, and other specialities.

This includes:

Ensuring the successful operation of a mentoring, coaching and training approach within the Design Team, in concert with our Head of People.

Directly managing and taking responsibility for the careers of our senior designers, preparing promotion cases and ensuring their retention.

Identifying skills gaps and driving the recruitment of new hires and contractors in response to business demands and growth strategy.

What we are looking for in a candidate

You are likely to be someone with prior experience as a design leader of a reasonable size team (10+). You are excited to use your experience to help an organisation scale design capability and maturity.

You have prior agency experience and be familiar with reconciling commercial and design drivers in a client-focused environment. You have lots of experience of bidding and pitching for work. You have excellent client management and relationship building skills. You are used to getting things done to external timetables and can balance competing demands to progress both the strategic and the tactical.

You are used to working alongside peers in a matrix organisation. You are comfortable effecting change transparently and collaboratively within an open, discursive environment. You enjoy working with a diverse range of backgrounds and views and have a strong skill set in coaching or mentoring.

You appreciate working autonomously within a supportive environment. We value the balance between life and work and want to provide the right conditions to enable you to be the best you can be. You are collaborative and want to create something enduring while having fun doing so.

In more detail, we are after someone with:

Experience and qualifications

  • Experience working in a design leadership role within an agency or design studio environment
  • Experience of both public-sector and commercial clients, ideally across a range of sectors
  • Practical experience managing a team of at least 10+ designer/researchers/etc
  • A demonstrable track record of  successfully delivering/enabling exciting and challenging design projects/programmes
  • References supporting your interest in, and experience of, coaching / mentoring other designers

Pre-sales / Presentation / Communication Skills

  • Communicate the value of design in new business activities: proposal writing; project scoping and presentations
  • Present articulately, and explain design concepts to clients (some of whom may be inexperienced in design, or sceptical of the value)
  • Have the empathy to engage and develop strong working relationships with all key stakeholders
  • Knowledge to provide estimates and plans for design activities, and work with the team to refine them

Design skills

  • In-depth knowledge of UCD techniques, understanding when and where to apply them
  • An expert in at least one design discipline who can lead from the front with large, complex projects when needed
  • Knowledge of the tools and processes underpinning strong design (e.g. sketches, task-flows, story-boards, site-maps, wireframes, blueprints, prototypes, hi-fi design, design-systems, etc)
  • Knowledge of frequent/impactful design-related issues (find-ability, usability, etc) and best-practices to tackle them
  • A commitment to, and knowledge of accessible, universal design theory and practice
  • Strong awareness/experience of the value of User Research within the design community

Design strategy/governance

  • Ability to lead us on DesignOps, with experience to support them
  • Experience in ensuring design quality on projects that you’re not directly working on. Knowledge on how to scale those processes
  • A strong advocate of design quality within a business setting, understanding where this gives the best value to clients
  • Understand aspects of product/business lifecycle and where/how design can deliver value

The package

  • Softwire practice transparent pay scales and a bonus based on a profit share scheme.
  • This role is initially offered as a band 10 (Senior Manager), although we welcome applications from candidates with additional relevant experience.
  • Salary: £91,000 – £100,000
  • Estimated bonus range (last 5 years): £18,000 to £38,000.
  • Additional Benefits: 25 days annual leave (option to buy and sell), Health Insurance, Cycle to work scheme, Payroll charity donations, Time off for charitable/CSR activities, Sabbaticals and a free annual eye test.