The key to successful collaboration between product managers and designers

Welcome Tech
Published in
6 min readMay 24, 2022


At Welcome to the Jungle, we believe that people should not be put in boxes just because of their job titles. Job positions often overlap and it’s important to keep an open mind about each other’s tasks. Which is what we have tried to do in the product team here! There are currently 16 people working in the team, most of whom are either product designers or product managers (there is also a UX writer, head of design and chief product officer). For smooth communication, everybody uses the same tools, such as Notion, Miro, Figma, Slack, and Zoom, but that’s not all! We expanded the usual scope of our product designers’ and product managers’ jobs and the way they work together to make the most of their collaboration. Let’s sneak into their Slack conversations to find out more about the foundations this collaboration is built on!

It’s all about synchronous communication

We’ve made the choice to create very few rituals between the product managers and product designers in order to prioritize continuous communication. Unlike the engineering team, we have faith in synchronous discussions and only write things down when absolutely necessary, such as for documentation. Indeed, these unplanned discussions are essential for engendering the creativity we need on a daily basis, and mean that we might end up talking to each other several times a day in addition to during the planned meetings, like user interviews, daily squad stand-ups, or feature meetings.

A downside of this synchronous communication with very few written notes is that if someone misses a meeting, their counterpart has to update them so that they both have the same level of information. So it can definitely be more time-consuming sometimes.

It has to be noted, though, that the Covid situation changed the game a bit: The almost-full time remote situation removed the opportunity for informal discussion, for example while having a coffee, or after bumping into a colleague in the corridor, or during an ad hoc exchange using a whiteboard or a piece of paper. We almost exclusively communicated through Zoom or Slack during this period, which made us formalize interactions a bit more than we had in the past.

Working side by side during the discovery phase

At Welcome to the Jungle, every project starts with a discovery phase to frame the work, align goals, and define the expected outcomes. The product designers and product managers are both involved in interviews and demos with the clients, internal teams, and recruiters during this phase to understand what the pain points, blocking points, and needs are going to be.

For us, it was out of the question to confine product designers to the role of taking notes with the excuse that they have less experience in leading meetings compared to product managers. Division of tasks during the discovery phase is decided together, based on the willingness, availability, and seniority of each person regarding the topic. This approach also allows both designers and managers to pick up new skills along the way.

This discovery phase can also consist of NPS and surveys with Hotjar, as well as analysis of metrics in collaboration with data analysts to find out more about clients’ habits and tendencies.

Taking advantage of each other’s backgrounds for the debriefing

Because product designers and product managers have different backgrounds and experiences, comparing notes after an interview with a client often turns out to be very insightful. Even if we try to prevent bias by systematically rephrasing what the users say to us, we still sometimes end up not having the same understanding of feedback because of our different prisms of analysis.

That’s why debriefing after interviews, demos, and surveys is always done with both the product designer and product manager present.

Doing this requires us to keep an open mind and have enough empathy to understand a thought process that is not our own. But making this kind of effort is definitely worth it and makes not just the debriefing more efficient, but the product at the end of the process too!

Maintaining one-voice communication with all stakeholders during daily squad meetings

We are organized by squad for each product, and each squad is a multidisciplinary team composed of one product manager, one product designer, 3 to 5 developers, one engineering manager, one QA engineer, and one data analyst.

The product manager and designer usually attend both the feature meetings and the squad’s daily stand-ups. Having the same knowledge of a project allows them to speak with one voice to the tech teams and other teams when discussing the decisions that were made based on the discovery phase.

Design creations and functionalities are showcased during these daily meetings to ensure all tech team members are aware of the product details and can question them if they think they may cause any technical issues.

Additional workshops are then planned by the product managers to go into more technical depth on some aspects of the project, and they then write up the technical specifications.

The importance of sharing knowledge upstream to ease the delivery process

Having the product managers and product designers work together throughout the preparatory phases allows them to collaborate more easily when the time comes to take action. They are more eager to make compromises because they are both aware of the users’ needs, as well as the technical, business, and time constraints.

The technical debt can be huge on some projects and it is crucial that both parties understand and accept that this can sometimes lead to less freedom in the creative process and that egos will need to be put to one side. Being aware of those constraints upstream prevents product designers from having to put up with others’ decisions and makes both roles equal stakeholders in the project.

A multidisciplinary approach for recruitment

There are no UX or UI designers in the product team, and that’s on purpose! We made the choice to have more multidisciplinary roles in the team so that all members could be involved every step of the way of a project.

But a potential downside of this decision is that we are then limited to receiving only high-resolution designs, which means it is harder to request any changes — and any changes that are approved take a long time to carry out.

Tell us about your product team

We’re not presenting this form of collaboration between product designers and product managers as the one to adopt no matter what. It’s working for us right now, given the current size of our company and teams, but that doesn’t mean it won’t change in the future. As always, we are eager for knowledge and curious to find out more about how other product teams’ designers and managers collaborate, so don’t hesitate to share with us what’s working for you in your company!

Written by Anne-Laure Civeyrac, tech editor, based on interviews with Jade Mihami, Pauline Arnaud, Emmanuel Rafitosoa, Pierre Vabre, and Jérônathan Semelane

Illustration by Irina Selaru

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