Design versus Product? It’s time we talked.

Rosenfeld Media
Rosenfeld Media
Published in
9 min readNov 7, 2022


The following article is based on a recent interview conducted by Lou Rosenfeld, Publisher of Rosenfeld Media from his podcast, The Rosenfeld Review. In this episode, Lou speaks with Christian Crumlish, curator of the new Design in Product Virtual Conference. The interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Christian Crumlish headshot

[Lou] I’m Lou Rosenfeld, and I am very excited to have my friend, Rosenfeld Media author Christian Crumlish, on the podcast. He was on here not long ago, and we were interviewing him about his new book, Product Management for UX: People From Designing to Thriving in a Product World. Today, we are going to get into the intersection between product and UX because I think really interesting conversations are happening there. Christian, you were telling me about a conversation you were just having, so what is going on?

[Christian] Behind the Book reached out a couple of months ago asking if I might moderate a conversation about the relationship between product and UX. And what’s interesting to me is that I’ve been to many events, and I’ve been teaching workshops largely to UX people. The book is aimed at UX people trying to make sense of product. And yet, in mine, the product is a little bit of a mirror image community that’s product people who are attentive to UX, but much more rooted in their own product backgrounds. This was an opportunity to ask them about this area of overlap and unspoken assumptions that a lot of people are addressing these days as they do UX work on product teams or as product managers are trying to figure out the best way to collaborate with their UX colleagues. I was pleased to see that I had struck a nerve with this topic that I find the book is helping bring into a sharper focus. When you raise this subject, you get a wide range of responses. Everything from, “I don’t know what people are talking about. I love my team,” to where people are finally saying the uncomfortable things out loud. And I think many of us have been bumping into each other with unspoken assumptions that haven’t come to the surface yet. I just see this pent-up energy in this desire to have the conversation. The idea of a book like mine is not to say, “Here’s the template, here’s the answer.” But more to lay out the idea that there’s a lot of work still to be done and that there’s no shame in not having it figured out yet. You’re not alone in that situation.

[Lou] The sense I get from UX people, both designers and researchers, is that we kind of have a seat at the table. We think we’re in a good position, and then we run into the whole product side of our organizations, and ultimately, those are the people who make the call on what gets shipped. They’re the people who hinder a lot of what UX people are hoping to do. I’m wondering if that’s what you see and if there’s a way through this.

[Christian] Well, I definitely see those things. And what’s interesting is having been on both sides and having consulted with companies trying to figure out how to work together, it’s also clear to me that people approaching this from either side of the divide see it differently. We’ll describe the same conflicts in different terms and see that there’s often a lack of empathy in putting oneself in the other person’s shoes or even doing the homework to figure out why they say no. The scenario might be that user research shows that the problem being worked on isn’t really the right problem or that the solution we’re trying to ship is not going to solve the problem. It’s human nature for the product person at that point to be sad to hear that. So, now, if you did all the research and you’re trying to save the project, and you get a gatekeeper telling you, we’re going to plow ahead anyway, that’s very frustrating. The inability to put things in terms that the other person values, causes many of these problems. It also stems from teams with unclear leadership or a brand of product management, which is really just ticket-taking from the bosses. They appear to be a boss, but they’re really more like an overseer or a person cracking the whip or making people row faster. That UX person often doesn’t feel like they have a lot of agency either, they’re just taking assignments from on high and passing them along. In other contexts, UX people feel like the product person is a gatekeeper, and yet if you talk to that product manager, they’d say they can’t make anything happen. And yet, they still appear to be between what the UX person wants and what’s actually happening.

I absolutely think there are ways to get these problems addressed. The UX person should eventually be able to look at their product manager as an ally. There’s an incredible number of shared goals, and you succeed or fail together, but it does involve people being vulnerable. You have to have situations where you can talk about difficult things and admit that you might not know it all and that the other person might be bringing something to the table that’s valuable and must be reckoned with.

[Lou] Are there concrete areas that may be wrestled over right now, but they’re actually great opportunities for product and UX people to collaborate more effectively?

[Christian] Yeah, I think product discovery or general user research is a great example of a realm of huge potential. If a product person can allow the expertise of the UX researcher to help support the goals and if the UX researcher can allow that the product person has strategic responsibility and access to a larger sort of business context, you can very powerfully put together a research agenda and figure out what needs to be de-risked. However, that’s one of the greatest areas of complaint and frustration. And I’ve found that when I teach workshops to UX people on how to function better in a product environment, nearly half of the people who come are researchers in leadership roles, who are starting to think about product management as being the range they have to grip to actually get in charge of discovery. It just tells me that there’s some unfinished business there in making the case to each other and we should not be at odds with each other.

[Lou] So a new conference is coming around the corner on December 6th called Design in Product. It is curated by you, Christian Crumlish, and produced by Rosenfeld Media. I’m so excited because you, in a very short amount of time, ran through the guts of a whole bunch of conflicts and frustrations, and a lot of opportunities and things to be optimistic about. That’s what we’re trying to do with this program. So, tell us, what’s your vision for what UX people and product people who attend will get out of this?

[Christian] There’s this sense as I said, that this conversation is overdue and to provide an opportunity to bring it into the public sphere and have people talk to each other honestly about how we view each other and what could we do better. There’s no time like the present for that. I’d love to see both product and UX people attend. Certainly, we reach UX people more easily, but we’ve got speakers lined up who come from both backgrounds and who are quite intelligent about these areas of overlap and conflict. I think we’re going to be able to address, what does that actually mean to a UX person? And how do you lead in a product environment no matter what your fundamental training is? Some of our presenters will talk about where there’s problems and gaps where UX people are. I think it’s comfortable to say we have the answers as other people have the wrong model and we just need to teach them about UX. But it’s a bit wiser to say, “hey, maybe we don’t know it all, and maybe we could be doing a better job in this environment of making the case for what we do and making our services more salient to the people we want to work with.” It should keep folks interested and be snackable and have room for reflection. We’re setting ourselves a big challenge, I think, to try to pack a lot into one day without tiring everybody out. But I think the combination of having some things prerecorded and then having the live orchestration of the event is one way to preserve the feeling of an in-person event.

[Lou] In terms of the challenges that UX people can help product people grapple with, what are some of the examples of those that we may have presentations on?

[Christian] So the thing that comes up quite often that I know we’re going to have at least one person speak to directly is, how can research influence the product strategy or the roadmap? We’re definitely going to have at least one person speaking to that in practical terms about how you communicate and present your findings and how you understand how things are received so that you don’t set yourself up for failure there. We’ll also be looking at some of the specific product management responsibilities that have not traditionally been part of what a UX designer or researcher has had to consider.

Money is another thing. I feel like I came up when UX didn’t touch the money, and I wasn’t often informed about the impact of my designs on those goals and those metrics. I’ve realized that success and failure are measured in these numbers if you’re building digital software products into a market. And the budget and the revenue goals are major aspects of whether or not your design succeeds. And to remain pure and ignorant of these hard data-driven facts doesn’t help you do your best work. There’s some room there to learn the vocabulary and the concerns of product in order to do UX more effectively.

[Lou] One of the things we are trying to do a little differently with this conference is the futures format. Normally, we pay teams of curators to do months of research and calls for proposals. It’s a huge undertaking, but in this case, we’re doing an experiment where, instead of spending months doing the program design and having an extensive call for proposals, we’re doing a very abbreviated version of that where, we’re working with an expert, Christian, who has extensive contacts in the industry and can work to identify speakers through our shared networks. It’s a very different way of doing things, but we think we can have a similar outcome in terms of quality and diversity. Then we go into a more normal process where there’s a couple of months of speaker preparation.

[Christian] I think there’s a goal to see whether we can produce the same results or comparable results that you’ve managed with a truncated version of the process.

[Lou] I think it’s safe to say that you and I are both very open to hearing not only ideas for topics and ideas for potential speakers for this conference, but just questions in general that we can answer as best we can. I’m reachable on Twitter @LewisRosenfeld and can be reached on LinkedIn. If you want to email me, it’s

[Christian] My DMs are open on Twitter @mediajunkie and my shorthand on LinkedIn is under Media Junkie. My e-mail is If you want to just send me your thoughts or your questions, it doesn’t have to wait for December 6th to start. You can start talking to us right now.

As you said, Lou, this event is another punctuation in this larger conversation. It was sort of a moment, and the prep for it, the discussing it right now on, on the podcast, planning it, having the event, and then the aftermath, um, for me are all ways to sort of fuel that conversation and, and stimulate it and, and, and drive it forward. So, so yeah, it doesn’t have to wait for December 6th to, to start. You can start talking to us right now and, we’ll field as much of that as we can in the event and in an ongoing way.

[Lou] I’ll bottom line it here. New conference, one day event, plus a day of workshops. It’s called Design and Product. It’s taking place December 6th, with workshops on December 7th. Christian Crumlish is our curator. Rosenfeld Media is the producer. What’s the event about? It’s an exploration of the intersection of UX and Product, specifically looking at how UX people flip the script, and rather than having a contentious, fractious relationship with product, people can look at ways we can help them through better UXafication and understand them better. There so many opportunities for collaboration. That’s what we’re going to explore, at the very first Rosenfeld Futures conference. I’m excited to be working with you on this, Christian.

Join us for Rosenfeld Media’s Design in Product, a new virtual conference scheduled for December 6. Learn more at

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Rosenfeld Media
Rosenfeld Media

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