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How to Effectively Manage Your Design Team


Gone are the days when the design was considered a ‘nice to have in most organizations. Today, design is an integral part of successful companies, with McKinsey reporting the companies that invest in design see a 32% increase in revenue and a 56% increase in shareholder returns. Design teams that are appropriately structured are the heart and soul of great design that drives profits.

As more tech companies prioritize design, leaders get permission and pressure to hire effective design teams. How they go about it can make or break a culture that enables positive design outcomes. But how can you manage your design team effectively?

Since design is a collaborative process between and within teams, it might get complicated. You must consider the time, workload, human resources, and timelines for clients or other stakeholders.

Characteristics of a Great Design Manager

The Design Manager should be the person who connects the dots between efforts. Focusing on the highest priority projects and delivering solid examples saves valuable time for one’s team and makes it more valuable to the entire organization.

Design Manager/ DesignOps Manager must ensure a well-rounded team to design great products. When you lead a design team of any size, it becomes part of your leadership responsibility to develop the talent you have. You must help your designers develop new skills, embrace new experiences, and imbibe a sense of progress. Here are some well-known standards and methods to manage your design team effectively –

The Broken Comb Designer

Every designer has core competencies – in terms of their strengths & weaknesses. Jared Spool better presents the “Broken Comb” model to represent designers’ complexity and skillsets.

Remember that each person in your team has varying levels of expertise in each competency, and that’s ok. Each project, product, and team will require greater mastery in some areas and not as much in others. If your team possesses a set of T-shaped designers with basic proficiency in each area and more profound expertise in one or a few, you’ll be well on your way to a successful design team.

Understanding and Identifying gaps in team competencies

A designer’s role is more significant than the craft of a design. It requires skills to navigate org structures and establish a place for good design. No matter how skilled a person may be in designing UI in Figma or building prototypes in Origami, if they can’t articulate their process to their stakeholders, build healthy relationships with their teammates, or collaborate with their peers, they cannot bring a design maturity to the culture of their organization.

For a designer to go beyond beautification and have a meaningful impact, they must understand the needs of the business to the same depth that they understand the needs of the user(s).

If we apply this principle to Jason Mesut’s concept of mapping skills to a shape, you can see how it stops being a linear journey and a question of balance. Each level within your team (e.g., principal, senior, mid) is now represented by a concentric shape.

Using this approach, your role as a leader develops a more ‘rounded’ approach to each team member, and your designers can understand what is needed to grow inside a team beyond their craft skills.

Cross-functional collaboration

Leading a design team is an all-encompassing role. You collaborate with researchers and developers throughout the process of creating a product to build something your clients will love. For a team to build a great product, there must be a cross-functional collaboration with other teams, and teams must practice Empathy and a sense of urgency & each individual must take ownership of their team.

Build a culture of design strategy

A culture of design strategy helps your design team play a vital role in driving business goals. Design strategy should guide everything that your design team does. You can create a culture of design strategy by training your designers to be customer-focused and aligning design goals with business goals.

Access to the best tools

DesignOps tools can streamline the design process and save the company time and money. An all-exclusive DesignOps tool, Cubyts makes it easy for designers to scale, measure, and collaborate in one place. Your team can share feedback with contractors and stakeholders under one platform. This tool bridges the gap between design and development.

With Cubyts, you can easily align business goals with design goals and codify design culture. Cubyts helps you identify the current team’s talent gaps and strengths and weaknesses to start pairing skills and recruiting what’s missing from the set. Cubyts can help codify that design culture and strategize & operationalize design by embedding process, people & data DNA in the organization.

Empower your design team with Cubyts

A great design team structure makes it easy for your design team to collaborate with other departments in your organization. Cubyts makes this collaboration easy by providing a single tool to rule all your design needs. Sign up for early access for Cubyts today and empower your design team.