Over the past 9 years the focus on my work has been building and managing high performance design teams. This includes hiring, mentoring and aligning designers of various skill-sets and career stages to find satisfying problems to solve and to contribute to shared business goals.
The overall mission of design teams within a large enterprise can be organized around strategy, delivery, culture and craft.
Strategy aligns business goals with design. It’s the foundation upon which products are delivered to customers. In a triadic model comprising product design, product management and engineering, strategy aligns desirability (will the customer find value in the solution?), viability (is the solution net positive for the business?), and feasibility (can the solution be engineered within time/scope/budget?).
Design strategy expands the designers field of view from product specific solutions to organizational and product portfolio considerations. Systems thinking and the interplay between products in support of the long term business strategy is critical to successful design strategy.
The ability of designers to think strategically and apply design thinking to core business problems is a leading indicator of a mature design organization.
Product design delivery includes the iterative design process by which a solution is refined within the constraints of the problem to be solved.
The creation and curation of a design system language is critical to the smooth operation of high performance design teams. Documented patterns (and anti-patterns) allow new designers to onboard and contribute to design delivery more quickly than if designers each have a personal toolkit of components.
It’s critical for product design delivery to be aligned with front end engineering, and ideally have an embedded UX Engineer or Design Technologist on the design team serving as a conduit between design and engineering.
How a design team is perceived within an organization and the relationship between designers on a team defines design culture.
The strength of design culture varies within organizations but all strong design cultures have one thing in common – strong support from the C-suite.
Design culture can be bolstered within an organization by evangelizing design through education and outreach, ‘showing’ the value of design (qual and quant) and by strategic design leadership within the design team. Positive design culture elevates design to a core pillar of product (and ultimately) business success.
The individual skills of the members of the design team and the refinement of those skills across information architecture, interaction design, visual design, research and prototyping are all elements of the craft of product design. This is the ‘kaizen’ – or continuous improvement of craft within design teams.
Open communication, inclusiveness, collaboration, and design critique all foster trust and tangentially, up level craft, within the design team. The organization of the design team itself can be leveraged to refine craft through mentorship of more junior designers and knowledge sharing by ‘swarming’ product design to more efficiently skill share.