HR Elevating the Everyday: Building Product Design Teams

Design is one of the most crucial factors in a product’s success. 

In fact, businesses that value design generate 32% more revenue than others. Design is what makes your customers love or hate your product, and it’s what makes them keep coming back for more. 

The one that makes all this difference is your product design team. 

They’re the enablers of the process of conceptualizing, creating, and refining a product from its initial idea to its final form. These teams typically include individuals with diverse skills and expertise, working collaboratively to ensure that a product meets users’ needs, aligns with business goals, and is technically feasible.

This article walks you through the best ways to build a winning product design team that helps you design products that customers love and stick with for a very long time. 

What makes successful product design teams?

A successful product design team has the following characteristics that allow them to deliver impactful products:

  • They’re always brimming with ideas to create innovative products while keeping the product market fit and customers’ needs in mind. 
  • All the team members have a shared understanding of the project’s goals and objectives, which helps align efforts and ensures that everyone is working towards the same vision.
  • They conduct regular user research and testing to gather insights and validate design decisions, leading to products that better meet user needs.
  • They feel comfortable sharing ideas, providing feedback, and discussing challenges.
  • They embrace an iterative design process, which involves creating prototypes, gathering feedback, and improving in multiple cycles.
  • They understand the importance of collaboration between different disciplines, such as design, development, and marketing. This leads to a more well-rounded and successful product.
  • They actively seek and incorporate user feedback throughout the design and development process. This user-centric approach helps identify potential issues early and ensures that the final product resonates with the target audience.

In the end, successful product design teams are all about delivering a product that meets the users’ and businesses’ needs. 

5 Tips for building great product design teams

Building a great product design team requires careful consideration of various factors. Here are our top five tips. 

1. Define your goals and expectations

This step sets the foundation for the team’s mission, objectives, and overall direction. Clear goals and expectations provide a roadmap for the team, aligning efforts and ensuring everyone is working towards a common purpose.

Here’s how to go about it:

  • Define specific goals for each project the team undertakes. These goals should align with broader company objectives and product strategies. Example: improving user engagement by 20% through a more intuitive navigation structure and visually appealing UI.
  • Set expectations for the quality of work. Clearly define design standards, principles, and best practices that team members should adhere to.
  • Clearly communicate project timelines and milestones. This helps the team understand the urgency of tasks and ensures everyone is on the same page regarding project progress. Example: Launch the redesigned website within three months. We will have weekly check-ins to review progress and address any challenges to stay on track.
  • Define expectations for collaboration within the team and with other departments. This includes communication channels, feedback processes, and collaborative tools.

By defining clear goals and expectations, you give the design team a sense of purpose, direction, and criteria for success. This clarity fosters a more focused and motivated team, leading to the successful execution of design projects.

2. Create a team structure that works for your goals

You can consider building three types of team structures, depending on the size of your team, the nature of projects, communication preferences, and the level of collaboration required.

  • Centralized design teams: A centralized structure could work well if your goal is to have a clear chain of command and minimize time spent on discussions and gatherings. It’s particularly apt for small to medium-sized teams where a few leading individuals can make quick decisions.
  • Embedded design teams: Organizations looking to foster collaboration across different functions, such as engineering, product, and marketing, may opt for an embedded design team. This structure encourages cross-functional collaboration and joint decision-making. It’s well-suited for larger companies with a complete design and development system.
  • Flexible design teams: If you particularly value flexibility and adaptability, a flexible design team structure may be the right choice for you. It allows team members to access internal or external resources freely, tailoring the team composition to project needs. However, it may be more challenging for larger companies to manage due to the constant need for resource adjustments.

To select the right team structuring approach, consider your organization’s goals and make sure the structure aligns with them. Then, evaluate the complexity and size of the projects your design team will be handling—just to ensure you’re selecting a structure that’s as flexible as you need. Lastly, assess other factors such as communication preferences, work culture, and resource availability to make the final decision. 

3. Offer growth and development opportunities

About 59% of employees from a recent survey claimed to have not received any workplace training. If you also don’t offer ample growth and development opportunities to your employees, it’s only a matter of time before they hop on to the next best role they land. 

More so, upskilling is a crucial part of being a design professional, considering the ever-changing demands of customers today. 

  • Begin by assessing the current skills and strengths of each team member. Identify areas for improvement and growth based on individual career goals and the team’s needs.
  • Collaborate with each team member to establish clear and achievable development goals. These goals should align with both the individual’s career aspirations and the team’s objectives.
  • Offer regular training sessions, workshops, and seminars covering relevant design tools, methodologies, and industry trends. This can include both internal training led by experienced team members and external resources, such as online courses or industry conferences.
  • Implement mentorship programs within the team. Pair less experienced team members with more seasoned professionals to facilitate knowledge transfer, guidance, and support in their career development.

By implementing these steps, you can create a comprehensive strategy for offering growth and development opportunities to your product design team.

4. Offer creative freedom

Creative freedom allows designers to think outside the box and explore innovative solutions. When designers are encouraged to take risks and experiment, it often leads to groundbreaking ideas that can set your products apart in the market.

Moreover, it empowers designers to bring their unique strengths, perspectives, and personal styles to their work.

Here’s how to effectively offer your design team the creative freedom they desire:

  • Empower designers with autonomy in decision-making. Trust them to take ownership of their projects and make decisions based on their expertise. This sense of responsibility often leads to increased motivation.
  • Allow designers the flexibility to choose projects that align with their interests and strengths.
  • Create an environment where experimentation is encouraged. Designers should feel free to try new ideas, even if they don’t always succeed.
  • Provide regular feedback and recognition for creative contributions. Positive reinforcement helps build confidence and encourages designers to continue exploring their creative potential.

This approach can lead to a more motivated, innovative, and adaptable design team, ultimately benefiting the organization’s overall success.

5. Empower your team with the best product design tools

Product design tools help streamline the design process with features such as intuitive interfaces, time-saving functionalities, and seamless collaboration capabilities. They facilitate collaboration among team members by allowing real-time collaboration, version control, and easy sharing of design files. 

Here’s how to select appropriate tools:

  • Begin by understanding the specific requirements of your design team. Consider the types of projects they work on, the stages of the design process, and any specific functionalities needed.
  • Consider factors such as user interface, collaboration features, prototyping capabilities, and compatibility with other tools used by the team.
  • Take advantage of trial periods and demos offered by tool providers.
  • Investigate the level of support provided by the tool’s developers. Additionally, assess whether there is an active user community.
  • Choose tools adaptable to the evolving landscape of design practices and technology.

Combining an understanding of your team’s specific requirements with a thorough evaluation of available tools allows you to select the best product design tools for your team’s benefit.

Build a thriving product design team

By empowering designers with the freedom to explore, experiment, and grow, you’re preparing them to generate groundbreaking solutions that your customers adore. 

Make sure to select the right team structure, create a strong team culture, and invest in the right tools to empower them to give their best in the process. 

Build product design teams that are motivated to meet the evolving demands of the design landscape and take on any challenges that come their way. 

Together, we can build exceptional product design teams and achieve remarkable success. Request a Free Demo Assessment.        

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Author Bio: Deepali Kishtwal

Deepali is an engineer-turned-freelance writer for B2B SaaS, writing actionable long-form content for Marketing, Cybersecurity, and HR-Tech companies. When she’s not writing, she’s engrossed in a cozy murder mystery novel, enjoying a cup of hot chocolate!