February 24, 2020

Shifting Design at Start-Ups

As we enter a new era of start-up culture, I’ve started to think about the shift in how we grow as designers in start-up environments.

As a designer, I have always valued working with other designers who could help me grow in areas of design that interested me. I have always pursued gaps in my skillset and tried to focus on going deep on subjects that appeared valuable in the context of where the industry was heading.

As managers, I feel it’s our job to do the same for the designers we work with. We must establish relationships with everyone on our teams that allow us to be honest about our weaknesses. Together, we can support each other through growth that helps us bridge gaps in our understanding and helps us break through to new levels in our careers.

Having worked at big tech companies with a healthy amount of funding, I have noticed a trend where design teams create systems for growth through passion projects and conceptual design work. Often, the output of these projects doesn’t align with the needs of the business but presents the designer with an opportunity to try new things and push the boundaries.

These projects are valuable to the designer. It’s important to take opportunities to try new things and learn by doing. However, what cost does this present to the business? As we enter a new chapter of VC funded start-up life, it’s hard to justify design teams that aren’t extremely focused on creating design work that not only ships but contributes directly to the success of the business. As designers at start-ups, we might need to redefine what good” design looks like.


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Shallow Design I’ve been reading and enjoying Deep Work by Cal Newport this week. The concept of deep work is easy to understand for the creative community.