How to hire designers. Hard and soft skills

Who is a designer and why do I need to hire one?

This question often comes to the heads of CEOs, product managers and owners of various companies. Let’s take a couple minutes to find the answer.

Some 5 years ago, tech companies used to hire a designer at the latest stages of work to simply “decorate the interface, move around the buttons”. Those designers were considered “artists” having no claims on the development process itself.

Years passed, the design branched out more than most people out of the industry can imagine. It ended up creating such a Designer Bingo (UX designer, UI designer, Product designer, Information Architecture). In 2009 there was just a web designer.

Come take a look at 2019:

All the specialists mentioned above do pretty much the same thing — work on the design.

UI designers suffered the most as all their hard work can now be substituted with the UI Kit available from many various sources. UI designer who didn’t learn to work on the projects the way actual clients need it has to do it for the fictional audience with fictional features. Those design look kinda good though, right?

According to the Gartner survey, “85% of companies by 2020 will compete only through the user experience in the interface“. And also, “By 2020, customers will manage 85% their needs with the enterprise without interaction with a person. “

Gartner survey also found that 84 percent of organizations expected to increase investments in customer experience (CX) technology in the year ahead. It’s not too surprising. Invision researched the market recently and found huge increase in a ratio of designers to web developers.

This is why in we can count on having some very advanced interfaces in the nearest future. And those who work on these interfaces will not be mistaken for UI Kit.

Good designer nowadays has to be more than just artist. I has to be a specialist with very strong hard and soft skills, or so-called T-shaped specialist.

These skills can help understand the market and competition, conduct heuristic analysis, prioritise the product functional and explain it to stakeholders. Specialists with such skills build teams that rock when it comes to business efficiency, money making and customer satisfaction.

But wait, where can I find those amazing specialists? That’s a good question you have there.

Here we offer some advices:

  1. Think about the dutie and analyze what competencies can benefit your team the most and at what stages:
  • Market and competition understanding. Qualitative and quantitative research. In this case, you need UX researcher
  • Hypothesis building, prototyping. Simple paper, Balsamiq, Sketch, Figma? Whatever it takes, the result is most important. In this case, you need somebody who knows startup and has experience of starting at the point zero.
  • Testing. Now you need to find respondents and test everything your team has been working on (We’ll tell more about it in other articles, stay tuned!). This is the stage when soft skills and communication abilities are an absolute must have. This is when communication with clients begins big time. Sometimes it’s a bit overwhelming, no doubt. But if you want to have a really good interface in the end, there is no way to avoid it.
  • Implementation, quality control, metrics. Whatever is created by designer, should be available for measurement and improvement during the next iterations. And yes, designer should be friends with analytics and marketing specialists to stay on the same page at all times. At the same time, it doesn’t really matter if they work under the same roof or from different countries. Them being responsible professionals who can add value to each other’s work is the most essential part of your product’s future success.

Enunciate your expectations. Designers can be of great help to the company and essential part of the team working on a product. But you need to clearly understand what results you want to obtain within certain period of time.

Hire as soon as possible, don’t wait until the project is almost done. Don’t hire designers to adjust the color of the buttons. More successful approach is to hire designer before any development is done as they can dive into your industry, research it and help you make something valuable for your customers.

The most essential. Don’t hire newbies to perform complex tasks. Of course, if you have had enough experience with designers and design teams, you might be able to make it work no matter what. But if not, you’ll be safer inviting a Lead/Senior Designer who will help you build the process the way it should be. We can’t stress enough how important it is. There were too many cases when our clients tried working with Junior Designers, but ended up asking for help when it didn’t work.

To grow competent specialists within your own departments, you need a well-working system. It’s essential to grow expertise within your team and help junior employees get much needed experience.

For instance, we have a Skills map that allows for one-on-one meetings with designers for particular skills improvements or related discussions. The grading is 1 to 5, thanks to Yuri Vetrov.

There is some theory for each level of knowledge and each practical skill, and the theoretical materials should not be neglected.

At the end of the day, each designer should have a full picture on how they should grow and what skills to pay attention to and develop. They have access to theory and ability to evaluate practical skills as well as opportunity of being supported by other team members. All of them work on different projects, so knowledge sharing is one of the most valuable Soft skills out there.

Here are a couple more points to check once you look for good designers.

  1. They should work on projects from the very beginning all the way to the product release.
  2. They access criticism and don’t overreact (We’ll pay more attention to it later)
  3. They can make decisions and explain them top to bottom. The explanation should be based on deep research instead of rich life experience. You designer should dig long enough to find insights that can benefit your interface and your business.

A couple words on Hard skills

Today it doesn’t really matter how many instruments you’ve tried to use. What matters is how they help you present your ideas and influence the interface you’re building. There are some effective team tools like Figma. There are animation presentation tools, such as After Effects, Principle, Framer, Origami. But the tool is secondary. The goal and the quality of solution is something that matters more.

We are sure that good specialist can easily learn any new tool within quite a short period of time and use it without negative consequences on performance and work quality. While soft skills is something you might want to dig for a bit more meticulously.

Good design is good business.

— Florence Knoll.

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Authors: Irene Pleskach and Yaroslav Bosenko