Jon Lax leads AR/VR product design at Facebook - building experiences to drive greater interactivity on the platform. Many product managers struggle with fully understanding how product design functions as a department - and how designers ultimately produce their finished products. Jon outlines the similarities between product managers and product designers - while breaking through some of the "mystery" around how product design actually works.

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 Product Design Lead
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.

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