Trouble scaling design? You’re not alone

4 min read
Kaysie Garza,
Eli Woolery
  •  Jun 4, 2018
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Do you ever wonder what it’s like to be part of fast-growing, design-led companies like Slack, Airbnb, or even InVision? Every team has challenges with scaling—and it turns out those have a lot in common when you peek behind the curtain.

In our newest episode of the DesignBetter.Co Podcast, Spark Capital General Partner Megan Quinn talks about the scaling roadblocks that trouble even the best of teams, along with her time-tested ideas as an advisor to help overcome them. She mentions everything from balancing analytics with intuition, to the importance of incorporating the “why” into your product roadmap.

Key points you’ll hear from Megan:

  • Three things she looks for in a product roadmap when evaluating and advising companies
  • How to incorporate the “why” into a product roadmap along with the “what” and “when” to scale with purpose
  • Her thoughts on design team ratios, and why engineering and design should be separate
  • How to help designers help other people see the business value of design
  • The most common challenge she sees and how to alleviate it early on

“Instill processes around communication earlier than feels necessary. Make it so it almost feels like it’s too much process and too much structure for where the company is at—because if you’re growing and doing well, it’s going to be just the right amount of process by the time you get any good at it.”

Conversation highlights

On balancing intuition with insights

“…You didn’t always have to ship tests and experiments in millions of little iterations to get to a good product—there’s a role for intuition and…having a design perspective about how a product should work and look.”

On qualities needed to build and sustain a company

“We of course look for entrepreneurs who have a vision of the future they absolutely believe must exist. They have no qualms, they believe it’s the world that needs to be there, and it’s going to happen come hell or high water—they were born to build it. That kind of tenacity is really required to build a company for the long-term.”

“The strongest designers I’ve worked with have more than a deep sense of the business need—they don’t design for design’s sake. They design for purpose.”

On prioritizing efficiency and process in design to reduce tech debt

“I think it’s very easy in startups to basically ignore your tech debt. You’re building so fast and there are all these things you want to exist in the world…But at the end of the day, successful products can’t be built with toothpicks and gum…If you say, ‘We’ll get to it eventually,’ like a lot of things in life, you’ll never get to it.”

Resources Megan recommends:

  • Curated email lists to explore topics with colleagues and friends
  • Reading sci-fi novels to help spark new ideas without creative limits
  • Listening to podcasts outside of technology (her go-to topics are economics and true crime)
  • Principles of Product Design book

If you like what we’re doing, and want to hear the stories of more great designer leaders, it would help us a lot if you subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or Google Play and leave us a review.

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