In a perfect world, engineers and designers work together in harmony. But, more commonly, tension lies between the two roles. Engineers can feel like design requests overburden their workloads; designers can feel their counterparts ignore their insight. Overcoming this starts with effective leadership, says Scott Berkun, the author of How Design Makes the World.
“If I’m a VP, and the design team works for me and the engineering team works for me, that means I am the connection point for helping both of those roles understand the value of the other and that they need to work as collaborators,” says Scott, who recently guested on The Design Better Podcast season six.
Understanding how engineer and design thinking differ can also help resolve this friction.
No one likes to feel like they’re imposing on someone else’s territory.
Freehand, InVision’s online visual collaborative whiteboard, is common ground that levels the playing field so that everyone feels both entitled and enabled to share.
Engineers like building things. Some engineering professions, like civil engineers, have more design training than others. Engineers can limit themselves by building only fun or cool features. Design thinking, though, forces them to ask questions like: “Who is this for? What problem do they have? How can I evaluate that?”
Scott has a track record of building one-on-one relationships with engineers over time:
“They trust me because of the history of our relationship together,” he says. “And when I suggest something to them, it’s not because I want to waste their time, it’s because I want to show them a way to make what they’re doing better.”
This collaboration helps create products people will love and allows for more team pride in finished work.