Question Page

How do you make design more strategic so they are not just making what engineers build look good, but are more involve up front in the product development process?

3 Answers
Rosa Villegas
Rosa Villegas
Zynga Senior Director of Product, Central TechnologyAugust 3

This is a really interesting question! I think one really great way of doing this is to engage design in understanding the problem you are trying to solve, not just the solution. Oftentimes, we jump straight to execution without always understanding the full customer journey or the vision for the future. In doing this it's easy to treat design as just a step in the process rather than as a thought partner who can help inject customer empathy throughout the product lifecycle. 

A few things you can do to get Design more involved upfront is in the ideation, discovery and exploration phase where they can more fully understand the problem we are trying to solve. This is things like participating in customer interviews or consumer insights testing. Engage them early and create opportunities to discuss and reflect with them what you learned and potential next steps. Another thing we do is engage them as a stakeholder alongside disciplines such as engineering throughout the process - review product 1-pagers with them to gauge their thoughts and collect early feedback, and continue working with them throughout the process, including iteration and optimization. Many times they see things that I might not have even thought of, or challenge assumptions I am making. I have regular 1:1s with the Design leaders in the org and make sure I am hearing feedback on what we can be doing better for our customers. 

763 Views
Rodrigo Davies
Rodrigo Davies
Asana Director of Product Management, AIApril 5

I think this starts with making sure that your design counterparts understand the business strategy and have deep empathy for the customers you're serving. Without those two ingredients, it's hard for anyone to think strategically. As a PM you should invest time in helping design understand the business and customers by sharing what you know – that's a prerequisite – and then regularly invite designers to co-create strategy with you. For instance, share a strategic problem you're struggling to solve, and ask for advice.

355 Views
Aleks Bass
Aleks Bass
Typeform Chief Product OfficerMarch 20

Elevating design to a more strategic role within the product development process is essential for creating products that not only meet the functional needs of users but also deliver exceptional experiences. I advocate for integrating design early and deeply into the product strategy, ensuring that design is not an afterthought but a fundamental aspect of product conception and development. Here’s how we can achieve this:

Establish Clear, Distinct Goals for the Design Team

The design team’s goals should be distinct from those of engineering and product management but aligned with the overall product vision. These goals should emphasize the design team’s unique contributions across multiple dimensions, such as user experience, product aesthetics, interaction design, discoverability, and the integration of design-oriented capabilities. By setting these clear, distinct goals, we empower the design team to take a leadership role in shaping the product.

Allocate Space and Resources for Design Initiatives

Empowering the design team with a broader remit means ensuring they have the necessary resources and bandwidth within the development team to bring their proposals to life. This might involve reserving a percentage of development capacity specifically for projects initiated by the design team. It’s about creating an environment where design-led initiatives are not only encouraged but are also feasible to implement. This approach fosters a culture of innovation and respects the strategic value of design.

Position Design as Stewards of the User Experience

Design teams should be recognized as the primary stewards of the user experience, tasked with measuring, evaluating, optimizing, and ensuring coherence across the entire user journey. This role entails a broader view of the product, one that transcends individual features or capabilities to encompass the overall experience. In this capacity, design teams are uniquely positioned to identify areas for improvement, propose enhancements, and advocate for the user in a way that complements the insights from product management and engineering.

Foster Cross-Functional Collaboration

Encourage a collaborative culture where design, engineering, and product management teams work closely from the outset. Design should have a seat at the table during the initial stages of product strategy and planning, ensuring that user experience considerations influence product decisions from the beginning. This collaborative approach helps break down silos and ensures that all teams are aligned on the product vision and user needs.

Implement Design-Led Initiatives

Support initiatives that allow customers to engage with the product through design-oriented capabilities. This might include customizable interfaces, intuitive navigation patterns, or innovative interaction models that distinguish our product in the market. These initiatives should be guided by the design team's vision and expertise, underscoring the strategic role of design in product development.

Conclusion

Making design a more strategic component of the product development process is about much more than aesthetics; it’s about fostering a culture that values creativity, user-centricity, and innovation. By establishing distinct goals for the design team, providing the necessary resources for implementation, and ensuring close collaboration with engineering and product management, we can create products that are not only functional but also delightful to use. This approach recognizes the design team as integral to our strategic vision, capable of driving significant impact on the product and the overall user experience.

358 Views
Top Product Management Mentors
Sheila Hara
Sheila Hara
Barracuda Sr. Director, Product Management
Sirisha m
Sirisha m
Uber Director of Product
Natalia Baryshnikova
Natalia Baryshnikova
Atlassian Head of Product, Enterprise Agility
Deepak Mukunthu
Deepak Mukunthu
Salesforce Senior Director of Product, Generative AI Platform (Einstein GPT)
Pavan Kumar
Pavan Kumar
Gainsight Director, Product Management
Mike Arcuri
Mike Arcuri
Meta Director of Product - Horizon Worlds Platform
Abhiroop Basu
Abhiroop Basu
Square Product Manager
Hiral Shah
Hiral Shah
DocuSign Director of Product Management
Marvin Green
Marvin Green
Splunk Director, Product Management
Mckenzie Lock
Mckenzie Lock
Netflix Director of Product