Meredith Black, co-founder of DesignOps Assembly, is our very first return guest to the Design Better Podcast. We first spoke to her in 2018, when she was the head of DesignOps for Pinterest. A lot has changed since then, not least of which is the increasing number of DesignOps roles. As Meredith said:
“There was barely anybody in the role…we were trying to leverage each other and figure out what DesignOps really meant, how to define it, how to help design leaders. And fast forward to today, design operations is an established practice within design teams, not only just in the US but all over the world.”
Not only has the number of DesignOps roles increased, but the backgrounds of people coming into these roles has shifted. Originally, many came from agencies, where they were producers, account directors, or account executives. Now, Meredith says, many come from design backgrounds:
“I think what makes designers so successful in this role is that they truly understand not only design, but the mind of a designer…they understand how process works, how designers think, from discovery to sketching to a final product.”
If you’re a designer considering making the transition to an ops role, Meredith says that most of the people she sees coming into the role have 10-15 years of design background, as they need the business acumen and cross-functional capabilities that come with years of experience. You’ll also need to be comfortable with not needing the credit or validation that can come with a more traditional design role: DesignOps roles are very service-centered, and it can be a thankless job sometimes according to Meredith.
That said, there’s still a lot to get excited about in the world of DesignOps:
“We’re seeing design companies all over the world and in all different industries leveraging design ops. It’s not just tech companies anymore. It has grown into this burgeoning industry that we wouldn’t have seen a few years ago.”