Grow as a Design Manager

You’re passionate about building teams and helping people realize their full potential. However, the waters of design management can be pretty choppy. Here are ways to approach these challenges!

31 contributors

Scale your team

7 goals · 17 action items

Hiring the right people is one of the most important things to get right. Here are some best practices for doing this effectively.

Show the value of design to justify hiring more designers

3 contributors · 9 action items

Thoughtfully onboard a new designer

2 contributors · 5 action items
  • Jeremy Goldberg

    Pair them up with another designer

    The new designer gains a dependable point of contact, building confidence and competence more quickly. Additionally, the more tenured designer has the opportunity to develop mentorship skills.

  • Jordan Koschei

    Document and collect important information in one place.

    Design research, customer interviews, process outlines — all this should be collected in Google Docs, Dropbox Paper, or something similarly accessible. If your team is very small, a lot of this information may not be documented consistently.... more

  • Jordan Koschei

    Walk the new designer through your team's process.

    Explain each step of your process, detailing both the what and the why. Describe which parts are set in stone and which are flexible, and ideally have your new teammate shadow an existing designer as they go through the process on a real... more

Decide what roles to hire for

1 contributor · 3 action items
  • Joshua Sortino

    Identify and hire to stengthen your team’s weaknesses.

    Each designer on your team brings skills to the table. By understanding your weakest points of the design process, you will have a better understanding of your team’s weaknesses. Hiring for the areas you are weakest is often a good strategy ... more

  • Joshua Sortino

    Make a list of each design practice your team is responsible for, and each practice you’d like your team to be responsible for.

    Understanding what you want your team to be accomplishing is the first step in determining what roles you will need to hire for.

  • Joshua Sortino

    Clearly understand the weakest points of your design process.

    Under each design practice falls a set of processes. For instance, UX design requires understanding the problem space, wire framing, and designing.

Grow your designers

5 goals · 30 action items

Part of your role is to help people do their best work. Well supported designers lead to better teams and products.

Know the signs of burnout

3 contributors · 10 action items
  • Briana Hokanson

    Research the signs of depression and anxiety

    Not only are the symptoms similar in burnout, but you may also be experiencing legitimate imbalance in your mental health and should try to figure out if the source of your burnout is bigger than just your job.

  • Briana Hokanson

    Go back to your roots

    Remind yourself why you went down the path of XYZ in the first place. Look at your old drawings from high school (Yes, your DeviantArt account is still out there on the internet, I promise), revisit a record you haven't heard in 10 years and... more

  • Patrick Johnson

    Say "No" to 90% of things.

Have an effective 1:1

2 contributors · 7 action items

Track and measure career growth

1 contributor · 6 action items
  • Jeremy Goldberg

    Identify the gap between each perception

    Now that you have a better understanding of how your co-workers perceive you and how you want them to, you'll have a better sense of where to focus your efforts. You may even find that certain gaps in perception end up being similar to your ... more

  • Jeremy Goldberg

    Define how you think your co-workers currently perceive you

    This exercise is even more helpful when it's done with your manager, as they have a unique lens on how you may be perceived. If not a manager, ask trusted co-workers. You're trying to seek honesty here, so lean in to both the good and bad.

  • Jeremy Goldberg

    Define how you want to be perceived

    The goal here is to define things that positively impact your company, team, product, and self.

Support a teammate having an emotional moment or experiencing hardship

1 contributor · 5 action items

Transition an individual contributor to a manager

1 contributor · 2 action items
  • Joshua Sortino

    Is the company or product growing?

    As a product scales so will the team. In this instance, transitioning from IC to manager might be needed to help the company continue to grow.

  • Joshua Sortino

    Are you already “managing” or influencing others without the title?

    Some of the strongest IC’s who have developed in-depth knowledge of the company they work at or the practice they work within often become the strongest influencers on others. In these cases, transitioning from IC to manager is very natural ... more

Resolve team conflict

3 goals · 21 action items

As teams grow, conflict and disagreement become inevitable. Treat them as opportunities for growth that can lead to stronger teams and work relationships.

Deliver hard news to someone

3 contributors · 12 action items
  • Jack Altman

    It shouldn't be a total surprise.

    By the time you are delivering bad news to someone, the topic shouldn't be completely fresh. If it is, start by apologizing for that, and make sure you do better next time. But then go ahead and deliver the news clearly and directly.

  • Chad Engle


    Not everyone deals with change or bad news the same. Following-up after your initial conversation allows you to see how they're dealing with the situation. Key in on changes in behavior from their normal traits and see if they need some time... more

  • Bobby Ghoshal

    DEFCON 2

    Great managers deliver this kind of news early and often. When done well it helps grow the other person. Bad managers let this kind of news linger, they take no action, and they surprise the other person when this situation reaches "DEFCON 1... more

Get through to someone who’s hard to work with

1 contributor · 9 action items
  • Elliot Dahl

    Expectations for myself are...

    Learn about the internal standards you have for yourself and how that changes your behavior.

  • Elliot Dahl

    My role is...

    Defining your own roles from your perspective can help shed light on why a team member may be behaving in a certain way. This may be a good time to agree on the key characteristics of your respective roles.

  • Elliot Dahl

    What I want to learn is...

    This is your opportunity to connect with someone who has something to teach you or has the ability to support your learning. Commend each other on your drive to improve. Also good to be aware of too many/unrealistic learning goals. It is not... more

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Promote design in your company

2 goals · 35 action items

Design is more powerful when it’s principles, processes, and vocabulary are not kept to just the designers.

Elevate the perception of design within your company

7 contributors · 30 action items

Establish transparency for design within your company

3 contributors · 5 action items
  • Jordan Koschei

    Share your work before it's ready.

    Don't be afraid to showcase works-in-progress, wireframes, and even napkin sketches. Just make sure you make it clear whether you're looking for feedback yet, or just showing your work.

  • Jordan Koschei

    Provide a venue for sharing.

    Make sure there's a consistent time and place to share your work — maybe it's a weekly design review open to everyone, or maybe it's a tool like Wake that lets anyone peek into a stream of work that designers are uploading.

  • Matthew Ström

    Lead the way.

    Designers may feel uncomfortable with transparency because there's no precedent and lots of unknowns. Find a safe opportunity to demonstrate the value of transparency by volunteering to open up your own work, process, plan, or experiences.

Build a healthy culture and process

9 goals · 69 action items

Culture and process require dedicated time, intentionality, and empathy. They’re also things you shouldn’t be shaping alone.

Maintain the quality of design work as your team grows

7 contributors · 33 action items

Build a proactive team culture that doesn’t wait for directions

3 contributors · 7 action items
  • Jason Mayden

    Schedule "Design Days" with process step owners.

    Design Days are where you allow the process step owners to lead and go deep in their respective owners. At Jordan/Nike, I called this "The 5 areas of Distinction". Each of these areas were intended to create a distinct product offering vs. a... more

  • Jason Mayden

    Show + Tell

    By constantly inviting your audience or consumer into your process you are encouraging visual communication over verbal communication. Who doesn't like show and tell?

  • Jason Mayden

    Investigate your teams gifts, talents, learning styles and outside interest.

    A great tool for this is Strength Finders 2.0

Conduct a successful project debrief

3 contributors · 8 action items

Create a great remote work culture

2 contributors · 4 action items

Get teammates to buy-in to sharing work early

1 contributor · 4 action items

Get teammates to adopt a new process

1 contributor · 4 action items

Standardize the use of design tools across your team

1 contributor · 4 action items

Keep track of past work and learnings

1 contributor · 4 action items
  • Christophe Tauziet

    Give people a template. Templates are so much easier to fill in than starting off with a blank page

  • Christophe Tauziet

    Consider learning notes impactful and celebrate them. Share them widely, and make them part of people’s contribution when comes performance reviews, etc.

  • Christophe Tauziet

    Make it a crucial part of the process. Consider a project unfinished until one of those notes is written.

Give helpful design feedback

1 contributor · 1 action item
  • Josh Silverman

    Make it actionable, not personal.

    Divorce your ego & preferences from the work, and focus on the user’s needs.