Less faff, more capybaras: how we keep our work visible

Thriva’s design team wanted to work more transparently. So we introduced a simple, visual Trello board, featuring the world’s largest rodent.

Tom Hiskey
4 min readMar 13, 2023

What are you working on?

Thriva’s CRD (Content Research Design) team is pretty lean —there are 7 of us at the moment. We have a few weekly rituals — two design crits, a collab session and a check-in.

Surely it was easy to keep track of everything? Sadly not. We work on multiple projects simultaneously, across different squads, and things move at speed.

We had a Trello board with our work, but it was rather neglected — cards were inconsistent and lacked helpful content. Many were out of date.

This was a problem — without visibility, it’s harder to stay aligned. Inconsistencies start creeping into the product, and we miss opportunities for support and collaboration.

Screenshot of our old CRD Trello board
Our old, neglected CRD Trello board

Applying design to the problem

We all wanted to align better and support each other more. Nick Hayes, one of our senior product designers, dedicated a monthly CRD team meet-up to the issue.

With Nick’s guidance, we dug into the problem, aired our thoughts and shared potential solutions. We looked at other teams’ approaches — we particularly liked the informality of Deliveroo’s WAYWO.

FigJam board with stickies and screenshots
Nick’s workshop

Nick synthesised the results, and we landed on a solution. We agreed we’d revamp the Trello board.

I had the fun task of putting it into action.

Here are the key elements…

(1) Align around a purpose

Knowing why we’re doing it helps us do it. So we gave the Trello board a purpose:

For CRD folk to have visibility of our active projects, so we can work more transparently and consistently, and support each other.

We turned this into an image and used it as a card cover, so it’s always visible on the board.

(2) A simple process

Any process adds time and cognitive load, so we wanted something clear and lightweight. Like the purpose, the guidance is always visible.

Screenshot of Trello board with guidance highlighted
A simple process, clearly visible

We have one column per person. For consistency, each new card is based on a template with a simple ‘What, Why, How’ format, suggested by our senior designer Storm:

  • Sum up the work in a sentence or two (‘What’)
  • Say which OKR / user story it contributes to (‘Why’)
  • Link out to designs and docs (‘How’)

(3) Keep it visual

When we create a card we add a cover image to represent the project. It helps us navigate the board at a glance and brings pieces of work to life. GIFs and stickers add a little sparkle.

Part of the CRD trello board showing stickies and gifs
Gifs and stickers

We use Trello’s stickers feature to drop ‘30’, ‘60’, or ‘90’ onto cards — the system we use to describe the readiness of work. It helps us quickly see how ‘done’ a piece of work is, which helps us understand what kind of support the person may need. It’s the same system we use for our crits.

(4) Add capybaras (optional)

Our content designer Andrea introduced an animal theme to her column, in the shape of everyone’s favourite giant rodent, the capybara.

Owls, cats and red pandas quickly followed.

Arguably, capybaras aren’t essential, but these touches help with engagement and keeping things visual. And as Andrea says:

Don’t take away my capybaras

Here’s the board:

Screenshot of our CRD Trello board
The Thriva CRD Trello board

Better engagement and visibility

There are limitations — there’s no roadmap view or clear indication of size or resource risks, for example. And it doesn’t feel super scalable in its current form.

But, a couple of months in, we’re all using the new Trello board and finding it much easier to keep work visible. The cards are so much more consistent and helpful, meaning anyone can jump into the board during the week for context, links and updates.

The secret: less faff, more capybaras.



Tom Hiskey

Design manager / lead. I care about supporting people, elevating teams, shaping strategy and putting insights at the heart of design.