How to Onboard a Product Designer to Your Project

how to onboard a product designer to your project

If you’re a product manager working with a designer for the first time—whether they’re embedded on your team or contracted for your project—it can be hard to know what context and information to provide at the outset. How should you get a product designer up to speed and arm them with the tools they need to be effective?  

At Pragmatic Institute, we’ve written extensively on what’s necessary for a fruitful partnership between product and design, and it all begins with onboarding. 

What to Share with a Product Designer

  • The market problem you’re trying to solve and your time frame
  • Everything you currently know about your target users and their problems and goals, from user personas to maps of the user’s current experience or workflow (if you don’t yet have these materials, ask your designer if they have the research skills to collaborate on creating them) 
  • Where you are in the product life cycle: Are you aiming to solve a market problem with a brand new product? Did you launch a product that isn’t meeting objectives and needs better usability? Do you want to improve a mature product in light of increased competition?
  • Business outcomes: the scope of the project and your KPIs 
  • Buyer research, personas and insights—especially where the needs of the buyers and users diverge
  • Positioning documentation and marketing communications for recent releases
  • Your role and responsibilities as a product manager 
  • The competitive landscape

What to Establish With a Product Designer

  • How often you’ll meet and what the agenda will be
  • When and how you’ll provide feedback on design work 
  • Communication channels (such as Slack, Zoom or email)
  • Where you’ll share files and work for review
  • Your goals for collaboration and what you want to achieve as a team
  • How you’ll handle conflict when it inevitably arises
  • At what points you’ll seek direct market feedback on design work (i.e. prototypes and user feedback sessions)

What to Ask a Product Designer

  • What design practices do you identify with? In what areas do you spend most of your time?
  • What are your strongest design capabilities?
  • Where do you want to grow? Where are there opportunities in our project for you to build or practice those abilities?

Setting the stage for enhanced collaboration during the onboarding process will go a long way in ensuring stronger product outcomes—and make the journey to those solutions all the better. 

* * *

Read the previous pieces in this series: “How To Make the Case for Hiring a Product Designer” and “How To Identify a Truly Talented Product Designer.” Learn how to partner with designers to create innovative solutions to your market’s problems in our new course, Design.

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Erin Thibeau

Erin Thibeau

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