A year of designing at Facebook

And how it’s different than designing at a startup

Cemre Güngör
Jan 21, 2015 · 6 min read

I do fewer things tangentially related to product design

When you work at an early stage startup, you get the opportunity to build a variety of new products and iterate on them until you find product-market fit. Being part of a very small team, you get to touch every aspect of building new products: as a designer at Branch I was not only involved in brainstorming ideas, product definition, visual and interaction design, I also got to write all our frontend code, tweak backend code to prototype ideas and push (gasp) production code. I also did quick usability tests, spent time thinking about the copy we used in our UI and occasionally tried to make sense of usage data in Mixpanel or Google Analytics to see what people were doing in our products. I wasn’t doing any of the tasks that were tangentially related to design particularly well, but I got to touch many parts.

There are a lot more design challenges to pick from

A design job at Facebook can look quite different depending on what team you’re in. A team working on a brand new feature or a new app operates pretty much like a startup: they have a blank canvas to solve a problem or follow an opportunity. A team improving an existing product is more constrained, but has years’ worth of history and research to guide their decisions.

Data isn’t a silver bullet

A lot of product decisions for brand new startup projects are done with gut feeling, because usually that’s all the available information there is. After operating this way for many years, I was looking forward being able to harness all the data about how people use News Feed.

Nobody stops you from working on what you want

One fear I had about designing at a big company was having stiff boundaries around what I get to work on and having to get permission from layers of management to experiment on things. At a startup there are no clear boundaries of ownership and the stakes are lower, so it’s easy to talk a few people into hacking on something new and shipping it.

Parting thoughts

The five years I spent designing at startups taught me what it takes to build and ship brand-new products. At Facebook, I have the chance to explore design challenges that are not available in the startup realm and go deep with the ones I am passionate about.

Facebook Design

Stories from designers at Facebook offices around the world.

Thanks to Austin Bales and Emily Albert.

Cemre Güngör

Written by

turkish / finnish / hipster, design-founder of @branch and @potluck

Facebook Design

Stories from designers at Facebook offices around the world.