How to Make the Case for Hiring a Product Designer on Your Team

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hiring a product designer

At Pragmatic Institute, we preach the importance of design for product managers and the value in building a strong partnership between product and design teams, but what if you don’t have access to design resources in the first place? 

Whether you’re looking to bring on a product designer for your project or advocate for creating a design function at your organization, we can help you make the business case for hiring a product designer.

Consider Your Business Strategy and Key Performance Indicators

Before you can craft a compelling case for hiring a product designer, you need to assess what’s driving your organization’s product strategy. Are you looking to deepen your relationship with your current audience? Are you looking to expand to a new niche? Once you’ve considered the business strategy, you can determine where design can help. For alumni of Pragmatic Institute’s Focus course, our Strategy Matrix tool will be a valuable exercise here.

Then, figure out what change you’re trying to effect or measure you’re trying to move. Do an analysis of your current product or service. What are the KPIs you’re currently being evaluated on that design can push forward? Here are a few examples: 

  • Net Promoter Score (NPS)
  • Time on task
  • Engagement
  • Loyalty
  • Customer ratings
  • Decision to purchase
  • Ease of use 

Gather Data and Surface Bandwidth Issues

Next, look for hard numbers that demonstrate the need for design resources. “Gather data,” as Instructor Amy Graham said in a recent Product Chat. “I looked at our support tickets, our win/loss data, any sort of input that would speak to usability, adoption, complaints that a product is not intuitive, or if somebody used our mobile app one time and never came back.”

Provide visibility and transparency into bandwidth and skill set issues. Assess the impact of forcing product managers or engineers to “practice their flair” for design rather than focusing on their primary responsibilities. Look at it from a business standpoint, and make the argument that by bringing on a design resource your team will now be able to do projects more quickly, cheaply and successfully, because you’re not asking someone to do a job they aren’t equipped to perform.

Pull Case Studies and Reports on the Value of Design

Don’t just look inside your own organization, look at your industry at large. Find relevant MBA case studies and examples of how design has driven positive results at similar companies. 

Want to push for building a design team or even a design thinking practice? Zoom out further to share compelling industry reports and statistics. Here are just a few resources:

Establish Your Design Needs 

Identify the design capabilities you need so you can be sure to apply the right skill set to your project. Dig into the Design Practice Identification Guide in our “Exploring Design” eBook and identify the practices that could make the biggest impact on your organization today.

Keep in mind, there are plenty of designers out there whose skill sets cross multiple practices. As Pragmatic Institute Co-Director of Design Practice Shannon McGarity says, “There are some designers who are truly visual designers, maybe they have a brand focus; some who are user experience designers, focused on digital products; some who are focused on services and orchestrating multiple touchpoints and channels over time. There are some people who do all those things.” 

Create a “Persuasion Presentation”

Now armed with your organization’s business strategy, the metrics you want to move with design, bandwidth issues, internal data, external case studies and reports, and the needed design capabilities, you can build a business case for investing in design. Pragmatic calls this a “persuasion presentation.” Share your presentation with stakeholders and executives who have influence over hiring and budget. 

Be Intentional About Hiring a Product Designer

If you’re successful in making the case to hire a product designer, don’t think of the organization’s first design role as an MVP. As Pragmatic Institute Director of Product Management Ian Templin says, “If you have no design infrastructure or onboarding right now, then it’s almost the inverse of how you would treat a product. You need a ‘maximally viable person’ not a minimally viable product.”

Templin advises product teams to consider: How early a hire is this, and where is the design maturity of your organization? If this is your first hire in design, don’t try to get someone on the cheap just to focus on your team’s work. Take advantage of the opportunity to set the organization’s design strategy. How will this product designer work with others? How will they integrate with teams? Advocate for a more experienced candidate who can establish your organization’s approach to design as they get their hands in the project.

* * * 

Read the next two pieces in this series, “How To Identify a Truly Talented Product Designer” and “How to Onboard a Product Designer to Your Project.”

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Erin Thibeau

Erin Thibeau

Erin Thibeau is a marketing manager for design at Pragmatic Institute. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

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