What Product Designers Need
Since graduating college in 2009, I’ve worked at 5 startups. I’ve learned a lot about building product design teams. Here’s what I think Product Designers need to succeed, and how these values guide design at Percolate.
True to product
Product Designers thrive when they feel the product is valued. The product, and it’s design must be an integral part of the company.
One of Percolate’s company values is that we’re “Led by Product”. This means,
“Product is not just what we build, it’s the way we are. Everyone in the company should be thinking in, and building, products.”
The Percolate product team is currently 69 people and growing. We’re 32% of the company. The design team has 8 product designers, 3 communications designers and 2 design managers. Our values and commitment to growing the team show we care deeply about product. Design sits at the center of our company.
Product Designers benefit from agile environments. Small product teams allow Product Designers to collaborate, iterate, ship and grow.
Last summer, Percolate split the product team into 5 smaller teams focused on core parts of our platform: Creative, Planning, Assets, Monitoring, and Analytics. Each team is fully functional with a Product Manager, Product Designers and Engineers. The teams are empowered to own their roadmap and run with projects. Collectively, we ship 10–20 times a week. Last year, we shipped 34 major features. This year, we’re on track to double that number. Over the past year, I’ve led design for two of the teams. I’ve seen agile environments lead to the best products, and the most personal growth.
Mentorship over management
Product Designers seek mentorship over management. They gravitate to the people and relationships that will help them grow rather than managers who provide explicit instructions.
Percolate leaders prefer to mentor over manage. In my 17 months at Percolate, I’ve continued to feel that all levels of leadership are supportive of me at every step along the way. The company cares about my short, medium and long term goals. Each quarter, we discuss action steps to help me achieve my goals. Some of the action steps I’ve completed at Percolate include taking on bigger design projects, blogging, launching the @percolatedesign brand and organizing design events such as DesignTalk. Throughout the entire process, my mentors have been there to help me make it happen.
Design projects from start to finish
Product Designers want to play a leading role on projects from start to finish. They want to work with Product Managers and Engineers at all steps in the design process to find the best solution.
Our Product Designers are “start to finish” designers. We believe the designer who researches the design problem is the best person to map out the solution. Our product design process includes user research, sketches, wireframes, visual design and visual QA. We enjoy working closely with engineers and product managers at every step in the process. This process allows our designers to make purposeful design choices and be a voice to guide future iterations.
It should feel like a rocket ship
Product Designers want to be a part of a rocket ship. High growth phases of companies give everyone across the organization confidence to make bold bets.
As Sheryl Sandberg once said,
“If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat! Just get on.”
I joined Percolate in January of 2014 and since then it’s been nothing less than an exciting rocket ship. We’ve grown in every way possible and it’s just amazing. Our team has more than doubled. We’re shipping twice as many features. We’ve secured funding to help us expand and build towards our mission to build the system of record for marketing. We are now in 6 cities; NYC, SF, Chicago, London, LA and Miami.
Happy and healthy
Product Designers want to be a part of happy and healthy companies. These environments help fuel creative juices and provide designers with the proper headspace to thrive.
Of all the places I’ve worked, Percolate is by far the happiest and healthiest. Everything from clubs to office food to our values support an ambitious lifestyle that recognizes health and happiness. As a Product Designer, I feel lucky to have the “Permission to Daydream.” As Dom Goodrum, Percolate’s Design Director notes, we come together for weekly critiques, show & tell, blogging and DesignTalk. We also hold design team dinners and go on field trips. I’m proud to call everyone at Percolate family.
In closing, I would like to tell you about a very special product design opportunity at Percolate.
At the beginning of April, I moved from NYC to San Francisco to expand Percolate design to the west coast. We’re building a very unique and exciting Product Design team at Percolate in SF. We’re looking for Product Designers to join this team. You could be one of the early members. The product team in SF is one of the highest growth areas in the company. It’s an amazing opportunity.
Thanks for reading!