sxswi talk: How to Create a Kickass Design Team


How to Create a Kickass Design Team with: Jon Wiley- Google, Lisa Anderson Intuit, Irene Au Google, Edward Garana- Hoover’s Inc,Tjeerd HoekMicrosoft

How measure success?

  • Happy clients, designers, product success
  • Your designers sometimes make clients nervous (ask hard questions, push the envelope)
  • How often and early clients WANT to bring your team in

Desired skill set?

  • Ability to draw people in
  • People who “go all the way” and do what’s necessary, as opposed to just strictly what’s in their job description
  • People who can handle constraints
  • People who can accept feature cutting

How manage to “create” kick ass designers

  • Direct mentorship and coaching (don’t get too far from the product that you can’t give real and constant feedback)
  • Design reviews
  • Build a community- share best practices, makes sure teams work together

How deal with competing priorities of being tactical and strategic?

  • Must allocate part of your team to thinking ahead
  • One strategy is to put junior people on “production team” that deals with fast, less strategic projects that are still learning opportunities
  • Outsource

How communicate success & value of team to rest of company?

  • Bottoms up- “google tech talks”, toilet ads, build user-focused culture
  • Top down- product reviews, feed execs good UE questions to ask
  • Need inspirational UE leaders
  • Show execs users using the product
  • Create usability metrics and define what happens if you don’t meet them

What behaviors to avoid?

  • Telling people we “own” the design
  • Whining/ complaining
  • Never stop innovating & challenging

How attract & keep top talent?

  • First make sure you hire top designers AND employees
  • Identifying who you want is 50-60% of it
  • Learn to sell, understand what motivates someone and offer it
  • Share the glory- big/ good projects
  • Build a team from great junior people (hire from universities)
  • Get really good at interviewing- build a great interview team that is well trained at identifying the characteristics you’re looking for (and not looking for) & recruiting
  • Check references- people are usually quite honest about strengths and weaknesses
  • Know the behavioral skills you’re after-
  • Look for passion, intellect, relationship management skills

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