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Design Director at Square
Design Director at Square, advisor, photographer. Previously Pivotus, Teespring and Disqus.
Being a manager is a lot of work, and being a good manager is hard work. Be responsible and empathetic and you can become a great manager.
How did you learn everything for your job today? Most likely, from others who have done it before. Finding a good mentor is essential.
Always be learning new ways you can approach problems.
Look to the best managers you had in your career and emulate their best traits and avoid their worst.
Nobody likes an irresponsible manager. Stay on top of your duties. Take notes. Make lists. Attend meetings. Give a heads up when you’re going to fall short.
Make sure everyone on your team is on the same page, and then make sure everyone else in the company is in agreement that the alignment is correct.
Keep the bad, annoying, or tedious stuff away from your team. Your job is to make their job easy, even if that makes your job harder.
Put yourself in your team’s shoes. Try to look at the world through their eyes when making decisions.
When conflict arises, it’s your job to resolve it. Break through barriers or mend bridges together. Always hear both sides before making a decision or calling something out.
Using the company’s business or financial goals is a very powerful tool for proving the value of a design system. Design systems offer some effective methods to optimize a design and engineering organization.
Without a design system, designers must re-create every (or most) elements in their designs. This is time consuming. By showing the amount of time that could be saved with a design system, you are able to prove the value in terms of hours given back to the organization.... See more
Engineers will often need the exact measurements of elements in a design. When no design system exists, they will need to re-ask these measurements every time. Additionally, other questions may frequently be repeated without a source of truth. Show how many hours would be saved if a design system existed.... See more
When new designers join, how long does it take for them to understand your design language? Show the value of a design system by explaining how much faster designers could be on boarded.
Transitioning from an IC to a manager should usually feel like a natural, or at least logical step rather than a forced occurrence.
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 because in many ways, they are “managing” already.... See more
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.
Building out a design organization can be thought of as building out a spectrum (or rainbow gradient). Each type of designer, whether visual, UI, UX, or research, brings a unique skill to the table. Each of those skills fill out a different “zone” in your gradient.
Understanding what you want your team to be accomplishing is the first step in determining what roles you will need to hire for.
Under each design practice falls a set of processes. For instance, UX design requires understanding the problem space, wire framing, and designing.
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 for building our your team’s spectrum. (I.e. Your team may be strong in UX but weak in research. Hiring a Design Researcher may help your team improve its research capabilities.)... See more
Before you prepare, put yourself in your audience's shoes. Who is critiquing the design? Is it product, design, engineering, business, or marketing? If you were in their role, what would you want to see addressed? Preface your presentation with the problem statement and personas effected, then demonstrate how the design solves the problem.
Show how the design drives value. Talk about the business needs which led to your design solution.
Include ways that your design positively affects the marketing plan of the organization.
If there's a product specifications document, walk through the original feature requirements and show how the design meets those needs.
Mention what areas of the design may be difficult to engineer. Walk through the components, how they fit into your design and engineering guides, and any nuances developers should be aware of.
Designers will be most concerned with the experience of the design. Show how the design solves for the user's needs and does so in an easy, usable manner. Talk about the process of the design and the conclusions you made along the way.
Hiring should be dictated by need, rather than the selfish desires of a manager. If growing the design team truly is best for the company (and not out of selfishness), showing the value of design can help you justify hiring more designers. Every design team should be hosting weekly or monthly critique sessions and "show and tell" events. At these events, tie the design back to impact. Show what problems were identified and demonstrate how design approached those problems. By linking design solutions to success, the value of design is clearly associated with value and arguing for more resources is easier.
Designing for designers is a common mistake. Make sure your design is actually making an impact.
After you've established the problem, evaluate the design is solving the problem. Use data to back up your original assumptions for the solution.
Always preface your design with the problem before the design was introduced and how it addressed the problem.
Once management sees design is generating value for the company, it becomes easier to present a strong argument for growing a design team.