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Why is it so hard to hire a good designer — and how to get a great one

6 tips to encourage your designer to be the best of the best

What is a “good designer”?

You know great design when you see it, but recognising a great designer can be more of a challenge. From my experience the best guys:

1. Have a good set of hard-skills

Great designers are able to apply the best methods and practices to any project, without having to reiterate over and over. That means using design sprints and customer journey maps when they’re needed, knowing how to do design research and building a prototype.

2. Are proactive and responsible for product goals

Designers should never need babysitting. Instead, they should constantly be coming up with new ideas and making suggestions to continuously improve the product.

  • solutions-focused
  • a born creative
  • self-organized
  • communicative
  • etc

Chapter #1 — designers don’t have a good set of hard-skills

Problem #1. Designers don’t have anyone to push them up to their limits and to point out their mistakes

Problem #2. Often managers are leaving their product designers marooned on their own in a product team

Problem #3. Designers take a sideways step within a team

Tips on solving the hard-skill problem?

  • Designers should hold on together — team meetups, rotations between and inside the team, hang outs outside of an office. All of this helps to build a productive and creative environment.
  • Designers should have a mentor — a strong and (most importantly) still practicing design director. Not one that just likes to talk but can’t do anything on their own. That type definitely won’t help.

Chapter #2 — product designers are not proactive and vocal

Problem #1. Routine tasks prevail over creativity

Problem #2. Because new ideas mean conflict

Problem #3. Nobody recognises their value

Tips on solving the lack of proactivity problem?

  • Always make the work interesting for designers — try to move them inside the team and between teams to keep them loaded with different types of tasks.
  • Leave them time for creativity and new experiments — give your designers some free hours every week. Start with a few — 4 hours, for example, then move to 6 or 8 creative hours. This is going to be the time when your designer can think out of the product box, try new techniques and ideas and think what and how he can improve.
  • Recognize the value — encouraging your designer to find awesome insights and make some great design discoveries should be a top priority.

Here are 6 tips for a manager who wants to encourage great designers

  • Create a community — designers work best when they’re able to share their knowledge (just look at those companies with their own design agencies like Uber design, Dribble and Dropbox Design).
  • Bring the company’s knowledge into one place — encourage your designers to share what’s going on in their projects and accumulate all this knowledge in one central hub.
  • Record experiences and achievements — ensure everybody is recognised for their work by sharing projects and successes across external channels.
  • Assign a mentor — this design lead will be responsible for synchronising quality, offering constructive feedback and keeping everyone accountable.
  • Set creative exercises — step away from the roadmap every now and then and challenge your designers with exercises that encourage them to stretch their creative muscles.
  • Invest in your designer team and design team infrastructure.
  • Intercom
  • Kiwi
  • Dropbox (own design agency)
  • Uber
  • Airbnb



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