Designers work with multiple teams and have different roles. We have graphic designers (creating still graphics) and motion designers (Video animations) working with the Marketing team. Product designers and UI/UX designers are part of the product team.

I have been a graphic designer, a product designer, Art-director and now work as a Product Manager. Having worked as a designer and now working with them, I see many challenges that designers face regularly. Startups and product companies work in a fast-changing environment. The manifesto of agile further complicates things. Not that designers don't understand the team dynamics and ever-changing needs, the processes in most product and marketing functions are not aligned for the best output from them.

Many startups have team structures such that the designer is either reporting to a Marketer, Content lead, Business lead or Product Manager. This generally happens when the company does not have a dedicated design lead. This is also a signal to identify the design philosophy of the company. Do designers have a seat at the table? Is there a director or VP of design in the company? Strong product-led companies have an experienced design leader. If there are only junior designers working in different teams, it's most likely that the process is broken.

Let's dive in:

Treating Designers as Operators 🛠️

Designers use tools like illustrator, photoshop, Figma and more. We need to understand that designers are not just tool operators who will do exactly what we say in the tool. Yes, designers work with clients, art directors, and other stakeholders to create their vision. However, this should never happen:



Not only designers, no one will like working in this manner, be it developer, writer or any other role. Working while someone is watching you is very painful and frustrating. This sounds very basic but is more common than you think.

Designers are involved late 🕛

Most designers are roped in later in the product development cycle. By doing this, the product manager is missing inputs for better solutions and keeping the context away from the designers. If designers are involved early, they have more time to come up with solutions, and the best solutions come with designers doing multiple iterations and rejecting their own solutions.

Design briefs are not given 📄

More often than not, designers are quickly informed about the flow or the problem at hand and are asked to develop a solution; sometimes, the Marketer or Product manager also outlines the desired state. This is not the best process to work with designers. A designer should always be given a brief of the problem statement. When a Marketer or Product manager writes a brief, you explain the problem much better and cover all the cases; writing will help you better organize your thought.

Once you have given the designers the brief and explained that we want to go from A → B with these constraints, defining the problem is done. Now let the designers work their magic and come up with solutions. Keep checking in between to see if they are going in the right direction but give them the freedom to explore their creative side.

Giving feedback 🔈

This is a tricky skill. Most managers who themselves have not been a designer/ Art-director don't know how to give feedback, although there are always exceptions to this.

❌ The most common gap in giving feedback is that most managers explain "What is not right in the design". They point out the things which are not working. Examples:

❌ The other reason for poor feedback: they don't know what's wrong, they know it's not right, but can't pinpoint what is not working. Examples:

✅ The correct way of giving feedback is to explain "What is not working, and Why". It would help if you pinpointed what is not working, explain what we are trying to achieve and how the presented solution is not solving the problem. Example:

If you speak the language of designers, you can also suggest recommendations to the solution presented. You can get nerdy and say things like -

Powered by Fruition