Wednesday, April 14, 2021

How I Build Effective Design Teams

When more technology companies prioritize designs, leaders get permission and pressure to employ an effective design team quickly. The way they do it can make or break a culture that allows positive design results. I often get questions like:

  • What type of designer do you hire?
  • How do you get the CEO approval to build the team you want - especially the big ones, or one with a design specialist?
  • How do you divide the roles and responsibilities between designers and managers?
  • How do you get a team like engineering and marketing on a ship with a design team's vision and effort?

With this in mind, I will share the five tactics that I use to build an effective design team.

Design your ideal team, and get an approval of your recruitment plan.

Think about your dream team and pay attention to what type of designer and skills will be possessed. This is the type of designer I want to hire, each with a different function:

  • Product designers: general product designers that partner with one-to-one product managers
  • Comms / Marketing designer: general marketing designers that focus on metrics and have a strong understanding of brands
  • Specialists: illustrators, motion experts, engineers, researchers, writers, and brand designers who see on all products to make the whole experience great user
  • Manager: for a larger team, managers who maintain individual designers and create room for team productivity and collaboration

When I shared this disorder with other design leaders, I got a reaction like, "Wow, Illustrator and Motion Graphics expert. I don't know if I will get approval for it in my company. How do you get a green light?"

Here's how. First, I asked for my founder of the products and experiences they appreciated and admired. If they say Squarespace, Airbnb, and Pinterest, for example, I consider them as an aspirational company to model my team afterward. Then I went to the companies and asked how great their design organization was and what kind of designer and skill he had. Next, I will ask the same question in another company that is the same as us to get data from peers too.

Based on what I found, I collected organizational plans for my own company that described the number of ideal employees and skills. Benchmark helps the founder put their hopes for design into context.

For example, in asanas, we have around 25 people responsible for the design. With the size of the company 275, it's approximately 1:10 ratio throughout the company. Team includes:

  • Product designer: 7
  • Comms / Marketing designer: 3
  • Illustrator: 2.
  • Motion graphic artist: 1
  • UI engineer: 1 dedicated to the design
  • Manager: 3.
  • Researcher: 4.
  • Author: 3.

Then it's time to fill the headcount. The team culture comes from the people you rent, so when I bring a new designer, I look for three quality (besides evaluating other standard criteria):

  • Empathy - they show off empathy for customers, but also for their co-workers. This comes with certain egoless.
  • Passion and scrappiness - they are dying to solve problems. They make love and will find any solution that happens.
  • Diverse background - they can contribute to a variety of teams that bring different ideas to the table.


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