How and when to start building a DesignOps team

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Good design is a competitive advantage. Companies that recognize this invest more in the growth of the design teams and practices. But as these teams scale, they’re often met with new challenges—efficiency, communication, and collaboration within the company. So what’s the solution to help overcome these obstacles? A mature approach to design operations.

In our newest episode of the DesignBetter.Co Podcast, DesignOps is front and center. Pinterest’s Head of Design Operations Meredith Black starts by sharing how she ended up in tech after almost joining the FBI. Now, she’s almost four years in at Pinterest, where she introduced the DesignOps practice and continues to help it grow.

Meredith Black

Meredith (right) and a colleague at work

Through her experience developing (and executing) a design operations practice from the ground up, she learned first-hand how to successfully navigate early roadblocks. In our chat, she shares key takeaways from that journey—along with how to recognize when you may need a formal DesignOps team in your org.

Key points to listen for in the conversation:

  • What DesignOps is, why it’s emerging now, and its most important aspects
  • Where Meredith finds many of her best new hires
  • Why the world of digital product design needs producers

“My goal here was to start out slow. So I started working with a couple product managers. And I’d say, ‘Hey, what are you doing? Where’s your road map? Do you need a designer?’ And I just started navigating from there.”

Conversation highlights

On what makes DesignOps so critical

I think the role of design operations and the role of program management is to let the designers do the design work while somebody else takes care of the rest, whether it’s the resourcing, whether it’s the recruiting, whether it’s getting the project management done. I think those are all really important elements that designers need help with so they can actually focus on what they do best—which is design.

On getting other functional areas to buy in

The people you’re going to have to start working to develop relationships and show real value to are cross functional partners—with your products managers and people leading engineering—to show, ‘Hey, this is how design works. This is what our process looks like.

On how her job is at least a little similar to working for the FBI

I’m working differently than I probably would be working at the FBI—but still solving problems, working with people, and unearthing how to make their lives better, just in a different way.

Recommended resources:

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Eli Woolery, Director of Design Education at InVision
Eli is the Director of Design Education at InVision. His design career spans both physical and digital products, and he is a lecturer in the Product Design program at Stanford University. You can find Eli on Medium or on Twitter.

Kaysie Garza
Kaysie is a digital copywriter at InVision—devouring books, French fries, and hiking trails when she isn’t working on words.

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