How is design structured in your organization?

over 6 years ago from , Experience Designer for the moving world

I'm doing some research trying to learn how design is structured in organisations, specifically questions like: - Where does design report into? - Are the teams embedded in engineering? - How do product managers and designers interact?

Any insight into your company? Do you know of any information out on the web already?


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

    Hahahaha structure!

    Nah, all jokes aside; many organisations I've worked with/for had setups for infrastructure. Unfortunately, my current one is so fast-pased that I find myself wearing ALL the hats, some of the time.

    • Generally a brief consists of "we need a website for X", or "we need to build product Y", or "we want to market service Z".
    • My next move is to find out more about the product, catalogue it.
    • Chase all stakeholders to help me write a description of the product (features, pricing, target audience, etc)
    • Solo whiteboard session for brainstorming the ideal solution
    • Talk to dev/CEO to identify what resources we have
    • See how close we can get to that ideal solution with the provided resources and available infrastructure
    • Hand-drawn/Photoshop/HMTL mockups, or straight-up implementation

    This includes a lot of copy-writing and coming up with slogans and any/all research I can do into the target audience.

    It's rough, but it's a real-world example that I want to share because a lot of organisations (even medium sized businesses) still work like this.

    Not ideal, but we achieve a fair bit!

    9 points
    • Aaron Wears Many HatsAaron Wears Many Hats, over 6 years ago

      I'm in the same boat as you... I get lumped with everything from storyboarding, to wireframing for apps, to product design, to UX/UI, to front end development, to devOps, to social media management, to... you get the picture.

      SME life I guess.

      3 points
  • Andrew C, over 6 years ago

    In my org design sits in product (product design). These designers work within engineering teams directly, and have regular sync ups with each other via 1 large standing review period, bi-weekly retrospectives and twice-per-week standups. The process here is well defined and highly collaborative. PM & design work on solutions together (2 designers + 1 PM per unit) and everyone reports to the Chief Product Officer.

    Marketing has a separate design team. We realize design should probably be its own sub-org but haven't yet made the investment to switch it to cross-functional.

    4 points
    • Daniel WearneDaniel Wearne, over 6 years ago

      Almost identical to where I've worked. It was a product team of about 60 people, with practices of engineering, design and product management. Marketing was a seperate problem with a slightly different make up (product and design personnel, but very limited engineering)

      0 points
    • Cody Iddings, over 6 years ago

      Sweet, thanks for sharing Andrew. Did you have a CTO in addition to the CPO?

      0 points
    • Suganth SSuganth S, over 6 years ago

      Similar. We have 1PM+1PD unit working with a Scrum team on a single objective each quarter. Both PD+PM report to the VP of product and all the designers have informal catch up every week

      0 points
  • Spencer HoltawaySpencer Holtaway, over 6 years ago

    The product designers report through me into the VP of Product.

    We work closely with product management on requirements, and engineering (both back and front end) on possibilities.

    Each designer is different, and each engineer is different. Sometimes a designer will go sit with an engineer to work on something, other times they won't: whatever works best for the pair and the project.

    We have a weekly design review on Wednesdays for the designers to get together, share work and solve problems together.

    On Fridays we have product design review, when we review work with product management. Naturally, we also share work in between these meetings, too, but that is more informal as meeting-heavy schedules aren't particularly productive, unless the meetings are productive. The Friday meeting is usually used for sign-off/buy-in between product management and product design, as well as talking status with our project manager.

    I should also mention that we "Work from Anywhere" on Tuesdays and Thursdays here at Dialpad. This creates a healthy, productive structure for the week: Monday, Wednesday and Fridays are great for meeting, fact-finding, etc. Tuesdays and Thursdays are great for making updates without distraction.

    0 points
    • Jennie BowersJennie Bowers, over 6 years ago

      Hi there! I'm wondering what your title is. I'm setting up the structure of the design team in my organization (they worked with agencies up until now, I was recently hired) and the role you describe for yourself sounds similar to how I'm placing myself. I come from the agency world where I was a senior designer and the roles/titles are very different when you're in house (as I'm discovering).

      0 points
      • Spencer HoltawaySpencer Holtaway, over 6 years ago

        Hi Jennie,

        My title is "Product Design Manager". You could also consider "Head of Product Design" or "Product Design Lead". I guess it depends on who will be above you in your org.

        0 points
  • Andrew ZimmermanAndrew Zimmerman, over 6 years ago

    Designers and organizations can mean many things. For example, at my employer, "Designer" is a job title that manages construction personnel, obtain permits and easements for facilities, and liaise between construction partners and the customers. These designers reside in an engineering department within other separate business units.

    Visual designers sit in Corporate Communications

    Product designers sit in Marketing

    The content designer and UX designer sit in Marketing (not in the same unit as product designers) and work on the corporate website.

    IT has no UI/UX/interactive designers

    Note: Corporate Communications, Marketing, and IT all report to different leadership. From my incomplete knowledge interaction between product management and visual designers only occur within a new product design/launch. IT-based design work is ad-hoc and may occur on projects.

    Context: 12,000 employees

    0 points
  • Tom WoodTom Wood, over 6 years ago

    3 Designers and 1 Dev.

    One of our Designers is also the Project Manager – she's got the granular understanding of who's doing what. She acts as kind of the on-field captain, asking if anyone needs help or if everyone is up to date on what they need to be doing.

    All 4 of us have direct contact with clients, and as such we all have to manage our own projects and clients.

    Above us we have a Director/Sales person who gets the work in, makes decisions re project costs and ultimately acts as the buffer between the Design Team and anything genuinely bureaucratic. Without him our jobs would be much harder.

    The reality is that all of us have to be very versatile as we wear multiple hats in a single day. Team work is the most important thing above all.

    0 points
  • Rhys MerrittRhys Merritt, over 6 years ago

    In addition to this: Should designers sit within the Tech team? The startup I'm currently at seems to have us designers sitting as a function of the tech team, under the management of the tech lead - and I don't think it's right.

    I'm waiting on seeing an org chart before suggesting changes though.

    0 points
    • Bruce Vang, over 6 years ago

      From my experience, sitting with the dev team is good for startups. You'll get feedback on your designs a lot quicker.

      0 points
      • Rhys MerrittRhys Merritt, over 6 years ago

        I think we should be physically sat with / near the tech team, absolutely. There is no question about that.

        Design is not a function of the tech team though, and should operate at a more abstracted level

        0 points
    • Cody Iddings, over 6 years ago

      Do you have any examples of larger organizations where design sits and reports to the same VP or Chief as the engineering team?

      0 points