Am I trying to hire the wrong designer?

over 6 years ago from , Director at Pocketworks

I'm new to hiring designers and struggling a little. I've had some great conversations with some great people, but haven't quite found what I think the team needs.

It occurred to me that I might be looking for the wrong thing? Or focusing on the wrong skills?

Here's my list, would appreciate thoughts:

  • Someone who's run a few collaborative design workshops with clients or non-technical people (.e.g the "Google Ventures Learn" phase)

  • Tried some street user testing, or other validation techniques to improve designs

  • Experience designing native mobile apps (understands the Apple/Google design guidelines knows about Material Design)

  • Can produce polished designs if needed, and assess how much polish is right for the product



  • Gavin McFarlandGavin McFarland, over 6 years ago

    If I understand, you are looking for strategy, user research, technical and UI design skills in one person. I think you will find it hard to find someone to have a good spread across those skills, not impossible but generally from my experience working in many contracts the type of person you are trying to hire is like gold dust. I would personally axe the last requirement of producing designs and look for a strong strategic thinker and communicator, or ditch the first requirement and look for an interaction designer or researcher with some or a lot of visual design skills. There are quite a few all-rounder user experience designers out there but they may not match the standard you are looking for in any one of the skills you desire.

    6 points
    • João RamosJoão Ramos, over 6 years ago

      I fully agree with Gavin. You're looking at two different people here — even if you do find a person who fits most of those requirements, it would certainly be too much to handle and the outcome won't likely meet your expectations. I'd look for a UI or visual designer with experience in mobile (to tackle the last couple requirements) and a user experience designer to support that first role (and tackle the first couple requirements.)

      0 points
    • Tobin Harris, over 6 years ago

      Thanks Gavin

      I think it is actually more realistic to split the role out.

      From what you and many others have said, the expectations aren't unreasonable. It's just going to be harder to find.

      0 points
  • Shina Memud, over 6 years ago


    • Designers should code
    • Designers should talk to people on the street
    • Designers should know how to run a few collaborative design workshops

    ... and what does your glorious company offer this guy?

    BTW, I heard Jonathan Ive is open to offers but not sure if he has experience talking to people on the street.

    4 points
    • James Young, over 6 years ago

      Your reply seems really angry but I can't figure out why.

      6 points
    • Rhys MerrittRhys Merritt, over 6 years ago

      I think the job spec sounds completely reasonable.. They didn't mention code, but the other two things? Absolutely - design doesn't happen alone on the screen.. If you aren't open to the idea of some basic testing / validation, and workshops you may struggle to progress.

      No one is saying you must be testing expert, or workshop 'guru' (i hate that word) - but you should probably be open to it.

      3 points
      • Nicole AydëNicole Aydë, over 6 years ago

        I think if the expectation is for novice level experience then it is reasonable. If they want someone to be good enough to be mentoring and exploring strategic use of research, then I think this should definitely be multiple roles. User testing is more than just asking people what they think about designs as is creating polished designs. It seems implicit that being polished, interactions, branding, and style would be accounted for.

        0 points
  • Duke CavinskiDuke Cavinski, over 6 years ago

    Prioritize these? Maybe some designers really would like to do user testing or lead workshops, but haven't previously worked in an environment that supported it.

    That said, I don't think this list is unrealistic at all. I'd also consider if your company, the job listings, the perks, the culture, etc. is the kind of place that would actually attract the type of candidates you're looking for.

    3 points
    • Tobin Harris, over 6 years ago

      Thanks Steven

      I understand what you're saying about making sure we're able to attract the right people. I think we have a way to go there, but also there are a lot of perks. Need to make sure I'm communicating them clearly.


      0 points
    • Tobin Harris, over 6 years ago

      Thinking about this, recruiters say we're in a place where there's not a large talent pool matching our needs. However, Leeds is full of some awesome talent, and some large companies doing great work. Suspect we might need to focus on the "attraction" part as you say.

      Thanks again

      0 points
      • Rhys MerrittRhys Merritt, over 6 years ago

        You're in Leeds!? No way.. I was considering a move up that way with my girlfriend so we could look at buying a house (London is super expensive)... But our concern was the work situation.

        I fit the bill of what you're describing pretty accurately. Do you feel like there is a demand for this sort of employee in Leeds? Or is your company out of the ordinary for the area?

        0 points
        • Tobin Harris, over 6 years ago

          Sorry for the delay!

          Yes, there's a good growing scene here in Leeds. You have Sky doing a lot here, and many other larger companies.

          Then you also have the smaller ones like Pocketworks. If you seriously consider a move, please do get in touch.

          0 points
  • Jared CJared C, over 6 years ago

    In my opinion, Design is a spectrum with (roughly) strategy/research at one end and front end coding at the other. Lots in between of course. In the past, there was what I would call a lot of specialization/focus on one part of the spectrum in a typical design career path. Recently there has been a shift to design roles covering a much larger part of the spectrum. I would say your role is pretty broad covering client interactions, workshops, strategy, planning, user research, ux, visual design, and prototyping. The broader you go, the closer you get to that mythical "unicorn" zone and smaller your pool of potential prospects gets.

    Your role probably equates to what most would identify with as a "Product Design" role, but your descriptors kinda indicate more junior level experience ("run a few", "tried some", "if needed"). Do your expectations match this?

    1 point
    • Mike Wilson, over 6 years ago

      Have to agree about the use of junior level descriptors combined with senior/management level expectations (i.e. Like running client workshops). It's fairly confusing.

      I doubt you'll be able to fill that role with someone competent in all those areas without raising your salary offer significantly beyond standard industry offers.

      I know things like "training" and "mentorship" are bad words in today's business culture, but....I'd recommend hiring a more 'visual' designer and training them in the UX oriented tasks and the client workshopping.

      If you hire a UX/research person hoping they'll come through on the visual work I think you'll be disappointed. Research process can be taught but taste can't as it's tied to things like culture and personality.

      4 points
    • Tobin Harris, over 6 years ago

      Thanks, good thoughts.

      Yes, I was hoping for someone who's thinking and experience was going in that direction, even if they hadn't accumulated tons of experience.

      0 points
  • Bill Addison, over 6 years ago

    If it's difficult to find someone with all of these skills and professional experience, I would look for someone that's an outstanding communicator and designer. I'd check their design work and discuss it deeply with the designer to better understand his/her thinking, communication skills and properly evaluate his/her overall design skills.

    The communication and design skills are the fundamentals and in a nascent team the right person should be able to take the lead from there. Also make sure the renumeration is congruent with current market values.

    Overall I think you'll find someone with the skills, but to find someone with the array of experience required might be more difficult.

    0 points
  • Nicole AydëNicole Aydë, over 6 years ago

    I see 2-3 individuals who would fill in what you're asking for. I feel like you are asking for a researcher as well as either a UI designer or a visual designer for the last two bullet points. I know that there is a giant generalist vs specialist debate going on, but if you find specialists they won't do all 4 well, or at least it's more unlikely. For instance a user researcher should comfortably be able to do the first two bullet points, and if need be the third. The fourth is pretty time consuming though.

    If this is your first design hire, what prompts the first two bullets? If you don't mind me asking.

    0 points
    • Tobin Harris, over 6 years ago

      Thanks. You agree this could also be multiple people.

      No problem at all about the question.

      We have a designer already who's keen to have someone to join them to help learn more about those two things. We want to use GV practices because we think it would help us produce better products.

      The user testing point was a way of saying "do you care about user testing, and are you open to getting out and about to do it?"

      0 points
      • Nicole AydëNicole Aydë, over 6 years ago

        I see. Well goodluck in your search. I think the most important part about getting researchers on board is highlighting whether or not the company will back the results. I know a handful of companies who are asking for research but don't want to hear how their product fares in testing besides getting that tick on their product chart of engaging their users.

        0 points
  • Cory MalnarickCory Malnarick, over 6 years ago

    These are reasonable asks for a well-rounded UX designer. It depends on how high you set the bar for each of these skills, however. If you are looking for someone that is an expert in all of the above, you will have trouble – the longer designers are in the industry, the more they are likely to specialize in one area of design: research, strategy, visual design, etc.

    May we see the posting for this position?

    0 points
  • Adam Hopwood, over 6 years ago

    As others have said, I don't think finding this range of skills in unreasonable. Hard to find, especially in the North, but not unreasonable.

    I know a lot of product orientated agencies have Design Leads in place who have a really broad knowledge of everything you're talking about but then have specialists (UX, Visual and Research/Testing orientated) underneath them to provide depths in knowledge where they're not as strong.

    The skill which will be hardest to find is the innovation workshop skills. Running a collaborative workshop is a skill all in itself and doesn't usually go hand in hand with the 'craft' of design. I've solved this in the past by having the design lead (me) planning the activities then having a facilitator help lead the workshop.

    As with anything like this you'll get specialists and generalists. There will always be people with a strength or interest in a particular area of the process. Much like back end/front end development.

    0 points
  • Bevan StephensBevan Stephens, over 6 years ago

    Hey Tobin

    I think this is a very reasonable set of skills to ask for.

    Although I can't tell you if its the right set of skills for your team, without knowing what their strengths are, but if you are only going to have one designer for a while, then these are probably the best things to focus on.

    In fact I feel I would be a pretty good fit for this role and I'm currently looking for jobs, are you open to remote working? as I'm in Brighton and Leeds would be quite a commute :-)

    0 points
    • Tobin Harris, over 6 years ago

      Haha, yes quite a commute. Believe it or not, I know someone that did Cornwall to Leeds twice a week.

      Nice portfolio on your site, the Create and FontForge designs are tres cool.

      We're seriously considering remote work again, although we've tried and failed a few times. I've made a note to see where you're at next time it's on my radar.

      0 points
  • Diego LafuenteDiego Lafuente, over 6 years ago

    From my point of view. You need a PM with UX background. Someone like me, for example, who had strong background from UX/UI and evolved in that. I've meet a few guys like me, and usually, either you will find lot of people specialized in the fun things (produce, not research or manage) or people only specialized in the UX part.

    0 points
  • Dirk HCM van BoxtelDirk HCM van Boxtel, over 6 years ago

    I'ma go and say something wild.

    My approach to design varies vastly depending on who I'm helping and what my resources are. What you're asking for there can be done at so many different levels, with such variation in budgets and other resources...

    Unless you have a process in place for the rest of the organisation, I'd get someone in there that will use his/her own approach.

    Like I mentioned, I don't have personally have a standard approach. I do what I can with the resources I'm given. Sometimes that means I'm designing and copy-writing straight into the series of WordPress sites we're about to launch, and other times that means I'm mood boards off of what I see the competition doing, so that we may capture the feel of the brand before we even touch functionality.

    Sometimes I'm new to the processes I use, sometimes I've done 'm 100x before. Regardless, it's best to do what's right, over "what you know".

    TLDR: See if the process really matters for your hire, or if you just want someone that can get the results you want.

    0 points
  • Account deleted over 6 years ago

    Sounds like what you are looking for is a designer who can lead and have experience doing Design Sprints.

    0 points