fmr VP on Product Design (Part 2)

Through the years, I’ve asked product designers to share horror stories about business leaders who didn’t get it. In other words, there are many scenarios in which leaders give direction for product design in ways that do not align with how design works. Using real-world testimonials, I have created five personas to avoid when engaging with product designers.

Bob The Builder
This reflects someone who tells the designer how to do their job. For example, “can we move the logo to the upper left?” or “let’s change the copy in this spot.” Instead of telling the designer what to do, the better approach is to empower the designer to make changes. For instance, “the page feels a little crowded – how can we give this section some more breathing room?”

Cheshire Cat
Many leaders feel self-conscious about not having a design background. As a result, they try to “speak” like a designer and ultimately don’t make any sense. For example, “can we make this elevated in a scrappy way?” or “I want this to be louder, but keep it quiet.” In the end, you need to be comfortable with your own language and share business goals with designers in a way that makes sense for everyone.

This occurs at bigger companies where you have multiple layers of review and approval. For example, one person leads a specific review and asks for the logo to be enlarged. Then, the big boss comes into the next meeting and says “why is the logo so big, we need to make it smaller.” With this, you need to assign specific people to lead design reviews and prevent contradictions in direction.

Veruca Salt
In simple terms, these are people “who want it right now.” When designers are rushed, steps are skipped, and you end up missing out on the big picture. For example, we had requests come in for notification flags for a particular part of a web page. Next thing you know, there were requests for more flags on different parts of the page. The better solution would have been a holistic approach to icons, rather than the creation of one-off symbols.

Amelia Bedelia / Pea In A Pod
Some leaders will take things way too literally or stress about insignificant details. For example, someone who asks if the letters “FPO” will show up on an actual image. In addition, this includes people who obsess over a single word of copy to prevent things from getting done.

In summary, here’s the good news. These scenarios are all easy to avoid – and will make your interactions with the product design team much more enjoyable and productive.


Click here for Part 1

Click here for Part 3

About the speaker
Sarah Bernard Crisis Text Line, COO Member
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Five Principles of Product Design

Sarah Bernard is a product leader who has pioneered innovative design experiences to enhance customer engagement. For product leaders, working effectively with designers is critical to creating meaningful products. Sarah shares her five principles for working with product designers – from leveraging individual strengths to never losing sight of the customer experience. fmr VP on Product Design

Product design delivers positive results for people in need by breaking down barriers that normally prevent supportive solutions.

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