Design

Explore the DNA of the world’s most successful product design teams

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We’re excited to introduce a new resource for digital product designers and managers—The Design Genome Project, which explores the DNA of the world’s best design teams.

 

There’s something special about certain product teams—a superpower enabling them to create great products that dominate a market. It’s a special process, organizational structure, or unique culture that helps them hone in on a problem and execute with precision.

That’s what InVision’s Design Education team spent the past year exploring. Through working with great design teams, we hoped to uncover traits that could help your team unlock its full potential, too. After hundreds of hours of interviews, we’re excited to share the results through The Design Genome Project.

We’ve studied 15 product teams so far—including the 5 available now, Netflix, Slack, Shopify, Capital One, and Pinterest—and we saw some interesting patterns:

1. A golden ratio

Though outliers popped up, we were struck by how many of the teams we studied had a balanced ratio of designers to engineers and product managers. Some teams even have a term for balancing cross-functional teams—the golden ratio, which is 1 product manager, 3 designers, and 5 engineers. Similar ratios popped up in our research with some variation. What we almost never saw in this cohort of successful companies? A single designer on a team outnumbered by engineers.

2. Shapeshifting organizations

Teams are constantly shifting organizational design to optimize for current team and business goals. We began our research expecting to find one org structure to rule them all, but instead discovered that flexibility of org structure and a solid understanding of the pros and cons of each is far more important.

3. Connecting to the customer

As we expected, teams across the board had a strong connection to their customers and invested time in understanding their problems. The way each team connected with customers varied, but the practice always played a key role in successful outcomes.

These are just a few patterns that surfaced in our research. Equally fascinating are the traits unique to each company. Every detailed report in The Design Genome Project begins by identifying what sets the team apart.

“There’s something special about certain product teams—a superpower enabling them to create great products that dominate a market.”

So what can those involved with digital product design do with these findings? You can create momentum for change.

If you’re a design leader, The Design Genome Project provides insight into the aspects of your practice that can be changed for greatest effect.

If you’re a design practitioner, The Design Genome Project gives you concrete examples of what drives the success of the companies you admire, and helps you build a body of evidence for investing in design.

Today, The Design Genome Project includes reports on Netflix, Slack, Shopify, Capital One, and Pinterest, with many more coming soon.

– – –

We’d like to offer a special thanks to the design teams that participated in our research. We’re grateful for your remarkable transparency and the contribution it makes to the entire design community.

Author

Aarron Walter, VP of Design Education at InVision
As the VP of Design Education at InVision, Aarron Walter draws upon 15 years of experience running product teams and teaching design to help companies enact design best practices. Aarron founded the UX practice at MailChimp and helped grow the product from a few thousand users to more than 10 million. His design guidance has helped the White House, the US Department of State, and dozens of major corporations, startups and venture capitalist firms. He is the author of the best selling book Designing for Emotion from A Book Apart. You'll find @aarron on Twitter sharing thoughts on design. Learn more at http://aarronwalter.com.

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