Academy Xi Blog

Overcoming Design Challenges in Atlassian

By Academy Xi

Atlassian is Australia’s largest and most successful technology company — the startup golden child that went from small-scale startup to global leader. In the past five years, Atlassian has experienced high growth rates, from two co-founders working off a single credit card to now boasting over 2,500 employees in Australia and around the world. Out of these 2,500 employees, 150 of them make up the design team.

For a company at such a size and scale, coordinating a design team of this magnitude has its fair share of challenges. Alex Riegelman is a Lead Designer at Atlassian and is responsible for solving complex user problems. Alex discussed with us his main design challenges at Atlassian and how the company is overcoming them through communication and, of course design.

Lessons Learned from Overcoming Design Challenges

Overcoming complex design challenges is not an easy feat. One major challenge that Alex faces on a daily basis is designing for stakeholders, not the end-user. “It’s that one step removed from design that has always been one of my big challenges,” admits Alex.

That one step removed is tackling communication and aligning the company and project vision within teams. Designing for stakeholder’s requires a different communication set as Alex must align design projects with both the team and external people who also have strong opinions and investment into the vision.

“This very approach to design is about creating experiences that have products themselves as the stakeholders,” says Alex.

With strong investment comes strong opinions and for a design project and a product to be successful, the design lead must take into account different perspectives and try to align that with both the company and stakeholder vision.

The design of any product at Atlassian must abide by the decisions made by both the product and design teams. Alex’s role encompasses more than just problem framing and solving, it also involves a lot of writing and communicating ideas and progress to different people, who have different views.

Communication needs to be a big part of Alex’s role because of the necessity of ensuring that design quality is maintained and the vision of designing for stakeholder’s is aligned. The clear articulation of decisions is vital because any changes made to the Atlassian platform affects its entire product suite.

Sometimes new product concepts can be quite abstract. So, to not only communicate these ideas with his team, but also to himself, Alex uses sketchnoting.

“I use sketchnoting to create a visual representation of some very abstract concepts that I’m trying to communicate, reveals Alex. “Sometimes I’d try to do that with words and stories, but sometimes I do that visually with diagrams and drawn scenarios.”

Sketchnoting is an underlying skill set that many designers have within them and some have not yet unleashed. Studies have shown that people who create simple and quick drawings have higher retention levels than people who simply write down their thoughts on paper.

Visual note-taking blends the two approaches by using a combination of words and sketches. These visuals enable the note-taker to listen, digest, capture, and share the essence of what’s being said. Ultimately, the art of visual note-taking helps communicate abstract ideas to internal and external teams, aligning them on the same vision and scope of the product.


Excited to learn how you can visually communicate better? Come to Sketchnoting: The Power of Visual Note-Taking and let Alex Riegleman teach you the foundational drawing skills that you can use in your very own sketchnote.