Product Design at Pivotal Labs Berlin

Join this team of kind, collaborative designers, devs, and PMs

Nina Mehta
Feb 4, 2016 · 5 min read

Pivotal Labs designers, developers, and product managers pair with clients to make great software. Our founders started it as small engineering company in 1989 in San Francisco. We focused on building software the right way and later introduced design and PM so we could also build the right thing.

Pivots and Clients at Pivotal Labs Berlin

We recently opened the Berlin office in Friedrichshain overlooking the Spree near Warschauer Straße. It runs like a Pivotal Labs office with everything from a Director of Happiness to pairing stations. We have a delicious breakfast before our company standup at 8:30 and don’t work past 17:00. Realtalk! We are sharing a space with Volkswagen to help them build new digital products for their customers in a lean, balanced, and agile way.

Projects typically change every 4–7 months and you’ll ideally (but not always) be paired with a Pivotal or client designer. The team sizes are usually 1–2 designers, 1–2 product managers, and 4–8 developers. You’re a specialist in design but will learn and teach from the other practices in the spirit of balanced team.


Labs designers have experience building a product from a concept to the app store: research, framing, ux/interaction design, visual design, and front-end collaboration with developers. It’s of course not possible to be in expert in all of these areas below but your desire to learn is essential.

The view from a walking one-on-one

Research: a strong Labs researcher can run generative, exploratory, and usability sessions especially during a discovery and framing. They know who and how to recruit participants, choose the right method, write a script, and run the session. They can synthesize the findings that translate to framing and prioritizing the product needs.

UX/interaction design: a strong Labs UX designer creates workflows that primarily consider the user needs based on research findings, their user’s meta experience with the service, and the micro-interactions that add up to a good user experience. They can design for the future of the product while focusing on the immediate minimum viable product.

Visual design: a strong Labs visual designer can create polished compositions from zero to an existing brand or can create a style guide that shows strong color, typography, balance, icons, illustrations choices, and production from an existing visual identity. They have a catalog of activities to extract and explore the right concepts that inform the future of the aesthetic, look, and feel.

Front end: a strong Labs front-end designer can lead a front-end pairing session with a Labs developer. They can also independently write coded prototypes animations, and components for a live style guide. This skillset is the lowest priority for Berlin right now. You only need enough experience doing this to have productive conversations with the developers.

German: The ability to talk with clients and run user research sessions in German is not required but is a important bonus.

Designers, Developers, and PMs during a Discovery & Framing research phase
  • Facilitation: a strong Labs designer can confidently leads a client through discovery and framing or design activity (e.g. sketching, persona making, scenario writing, design reviews, 2x2, etc)
  • Coaching: a strong Labs designer advocates and enables the client to lead the project with user-centered, lean, and balanced team design processes once they return to their home office.
  • Agile/Lean/Balanced Team: a strong Labs designer works in these styles or has enough understanding and interest to learn these methods by the end of their first project.
Sketchnotes from Annamaria Boheim and Pilar Serna’s Pair Design talk at UX Camp 2016

As part of the 16+ offices you’ll have access to designers around the world in our active slack channels, world-wide round table discussions, cross-office pairing, or the occasional project in another office.

But how do you be a better consultant? We have industry thought-leaders on our team like

  • Janice Fraser, former CEO and founder of Adaptive Path at the beginnings of user-centered design and the Lean Startup
  • Tim McCoy, the former director at Cooper and a progenitor of pair design and balanced team
  • Laura Klein, the author of UX for Lean Startups founder of the lean movement for designers
  • Eric Ries, founder and author of The Lean Startup

And by the way, like everyone else at Labs they are kind, honest, thoughtful normal people also looking to learn and grow. You might not work with them directly but we collaborate and share knowledge in the company so much that you will always learn what you need to know. The most transformative learning will be in your day-to-day work and that’s where we think it should be.

  • We are not hiring interns
  • We are not hiring students without professional experience
  • We are not hiring experienced designers who don’t meet the criteria
  • Be Kind
  • Do the right thing
  • Do what works

Great portfolios show process. We love seeing complex workflows where you were the primary designer. Examples of personas, ethnography, insights from user interviews, iterations on the product inspired by learnings and insights from interviews and user behavior are a major plus. Designers who show work that has shipped and includes early and regular collaboration with developers will be prioritized. Portfolios of only interface screenshots will be deprioritized.

It’s a very exciting time to join us. If you love collaborating, shipping software, and learning every day, stop reading Medium and submit your portfolio. If we talk on the phone, let me know you read this post :)

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