Working transparently

Company size

  • 1,664


  • San Francisco, CA


  • Software

What does it take to go from a scrappy startup to a company valued at over 5 billion dollars, in a timeframe most B2B companies would find impossible? For Slack, a big accelerant of their stratospheric growth has been the focus on designing an amazing experience for their users. From the friendly Slackbot, to the inspirational and humorous quotes that are featured as the software is loading, Slack has figured out that delighting their customers is a powerful way to make a product sticky.

Not surprisingly, Slack invests heavily in their design teams. And because of the nature of their product, they have an imperative to be open and transparent, and they use Slack as a critical part of bringing everyone into the design process early.

We spoke to Diógenes Brito, Senior Product Designer, to learn more about how Slack designs products in a transparent environment.


Collaboration is key to the the process. Designers work out in the open, and design work is shared with the team in relevant channels where it can be iterated upon.

We have a value here of working out in the open, and of transparency. By default everything is public...we’re always getting feedback and iterating.

Diógenes Brito

Senior Product Designer, Slack


Yearly & quarterly planning

The executive team and product managers collaborate on a broad product roadmap. The product director, engineering manager, and product design lead or manager turn ideas into a concrete roadmap for their pillar, with lots of input from the team along the way.


A formal project kickoff involves logistics like setting up a project channel in Slack and a preliminary design brief.

Discovery phase

The discovery phase attempts to answer one crucial question: do we have enough information to move forward? This involves an exploration of the tech involved and working through early concepts. Sketching is a big part of the exploratory process.

We often start on paper at Slack and then explore from there. It’s rare that people are so good with a tool that they can think within it. Having squiggly lines on paper keeps you focused on real problems. You can move through ideas much faster, and there’s also something about the fact that a sketch is so clearly not the final product. People don’t get confused by the style and instead focus on the concept.

Diógenes Brito

Senior Product Designer, Slack

Review & critique

Discovery work is reviewed within the product pillar group during design critiques. The team will eventually share their work with the project team, greater design team, and “product board” (the heads of that pillar and sometimes the VP of Product and CEO, depending on the project). Feedback is not limited to critiques; because everything is public in the project channel, iteration and feedback are happening continuously.

Dio Brito on the open design process at Slack.


In situations where a big product change could be complicated or even controversial, Slack runs a product workshop with the head of the pillar group, and other leadership, to ensure everyone understands the scope of the problem and potential repercussions.


The team prototypes new feature flows iteratively, using InVision and other products. At this point, the design brief gets locked down.

Marketing & launch

Towards the end of the product development process, a comms/marketing/messaging channel gets set up, and there are Platform Demo Days every 2 weeks to present progress on specific projects company-wide, as well as a Platform All-Hands every 3 weeks. It’s mostly the Platform teams that attend these, but anyone can come. It’s up to each function to make sure the product or feature has been fully reviewed before it is shipped.

Org design

A hybrid approach, which is common in large enterprises, blends multiple organizational models and run different models in parallel. In hybrid structures, an organization might position designers in a temporary cross-functional team to work on a focused project with a clear deadline. When they’re done, they return to the centralized design team.

Design at the top

The Head of Design reports directly to the CEO.

Design in the middle

Designers all work on "Pillars" (focus areas such as Core, Search/Learning/Intelligence, etc), and each focus area has various sub-teams. Designers generally lead design on their sub-team, but work very closely with everyone else on their pillar.

At first we were floating around projects, then project teams, then more of an agency style. Now designers are embedded into focus areas and on specific project teams in that focus area, but they do work across teams within that area.

Diógenes Brito

Senior Product Designer, Slack

Another common hybrid model strategy is to distribute designers in cross-functional teams, but pull them back together for design reviews, stand-ups, and fireside chats, which helps designers maintain peer connection even when isolated in teams that are dominated by engineers.

Many large companies position the design systems team as the hub of design culture to which embedded designers return for discussion about creating a unified customer experience across platforms and products.

In 2016, when the company was smaller, the design teams worked in pairs. Slack’s Diogenes Brito explains what “pair design” is and how it helped the design team at Slack design better at that stage in their growth.

Tooling is mostly up to to the team, but sometimes also on a per-person basis.

Diógenes Brito

Senior Product Designer, Slack

Tool stack

At Slack, they have the flexibility to choose their own tools.

How Slack uses InVision

  • To create high-fidelity prototypes that help them dial in their designs.
  • Testing new concepts with customers to get rapid feedback.
  • Socializing design concepts.
It’s common to see InVision prototypes for click-through items. We’re using InVision a lot to test prototypes for rolling user research.

Diógenes Brito

Senior Product Designer, Slack

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