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How to Facilitate Digital Design with Co-Located and Distributed Teams

Written by 
Annelise Schoups
December 7, 2017


People are inherently creative, but all too often fail to embrace it. They need to develop what IDEO’s Tim Brown refers to as creative confidence. The same holds true for working together, especially in distributed settings. It’s critical to build collaborative confidence to overcome the many challenges involved in building productive distributed teams.

Regardless of whether you’re a designer, developer, marketer or an executive, if something you’re working on with a team isn’t well received, you might be inclined to shy away from it instead of improving upon it.

But with the right tools, you and your team can develop more acute collaborative confidence.

Mark Tippin, a LUMA-certified instructor and Head of Content Design at MURAL, and Nuha Masri, Head of Marketing at MURAL, recently shared best practices for planning and executing effective remote design sessions to help teams collaborate more creatively in-person and offsite.

For more details, watch the full session or view the mural.

How to Facilitate Remote Design with Distributed Teams

In reality, remote design sessions have the potential to be more productive than co-located workshops. Their effectiveness, though, hinges on the approach. Mark Tippin, as well as many IBM Design experts, strongly recommend appointing a neutral facilitator to keep teams on track.


As a facilitator, it’s important to know that a digital approach will vary from one in person. Mark recommends considering all facets of the teams, tools and tasks that will be involved in the planning phase. Here are some of his suggestions for what to do before, during and after a remote session.

  • Before a remote design session, make sure everyone is familiar with the tools and information. Consider assigning pre-work that lets the team get familiar with the digital environment.
  • During the session, use your pre-work prompt as a warm up exercise to get everyone comfortable sharing. As time goes on, call on people to keep sharing and assign both small-group and individual activities to keep them engaged.
  • Afterwards, give your participants a place to connect. This could be a Slack channel or shared workspace, where they can share feedback, resources and takeaways. Having a digital artifact will help guide your next session.

Remember that to be successful, tools, tasks and teams will vary across scenarios. For example, Nuha shared how MURAL’s distributed marketing team uses tools like GitHub, Zenhub, Zoom, Slack and MURAL to align on and reach quarterly goals.


And if you’re new to digital design, you can take advantage of pre-built frameworks and templates in MURAL that can guide your sessions. Gradually introduce your team to digital collaboration with a combined workshop, and don’t shy away if it doesn’t go smoothly the first time– your collaboration confidence will undoubtedly improve every time.

Ready to get started? Plan your next remote design session in MURAL.

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About the author

About the authors

Annelise Schoups

Annelise is a writer and wanderer, passionate about storytelling and the spread of honest information.