Product Design 101: How To Work With Designers

One of the most common questions that get from product managers is, “how do I work with product designers?” I find this question pretty amusing – because product design and product management share many common characteristics. For example, both product designers and product managers have a similar outlook on making things happen.

We like making things that:

  1. Go out into the world.

  2. Get used by people.

  3. Are appreciated.

  4. Ship.

  5. Are valuable to people.

  6. Are well-crafted.

These sound like product management goals, right? With this, it’s weird that so many product managers are uncomfortable with understanding product design. To me, one of the biggest reasons for this friction is that product design can seem mysterious to product managers. In other words, design enters our lives in a fully-formed state. For example, you don’t typically see all of the iterations and prototypes that go into a final design. As a result, it’s easy to discount the amount of work that goes into the design process from start to finish.

Along similar lines, great product design is often invisible to product managers and end-users alike. Specifically, this occurs frequently with software design. You wouldn’t know it, but some of the simplest interfaces are incredibly complex. For example, I worked on an app called “Readability” – which featured a simple, clean user experience that functioned a lot like Instapaper. Judging from its presentation, you would never know that this platform has over 6000 product design elements that bring it all together.

In summary, making something really simple is actually really hard. As a result, it’s important from product managers to appreciate the time and effort that it takes for product designers to produce even the simplest solution. Many product managers tend to devalue the work of product designers when a product “just works” and don’t appreciate all the intricacies that go into producing great designs. Simply put, the best designs often don’t look like they’re designed at all. However, every product manager must appreciate the effort that goes into achieving outstanding product design.

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About the speaker
Jon Lax Facebook, Director Product Design Member

Jon Lax is the Head of AR/VR Design at Facebook - working on developing interactive experiences within the platform. Prior to joining Facebook, Jon co-founded Teehan+Lax - a digital product agency in Toronto. Jon is a graduate of the University of King's College and currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

About the host
Boone Spooner Google, Product Manager

Boone Spooner is a customer obsessed Principal Product Manager at Caavo - a device designed to simplify and unify your home entertainment system. Previously he built products at TuneIn where millions of users listened to live music, sports and talk radio shows, podcasts and audiobooks. In another life he worked as a music producer and engineer in San Francisco where he managed the largest recording studio in San Francisco, before building and launching his own. There he worked with Apple, Google, and KFOG and musicians Steve Earle, Alanis Morissette, Death Angel, Third Eye Blind and many others.

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