Product Manager Relationships: Designers


Product Manager Relationships: Designers

This post is one in a series about the different relationships that a product manager has within their organization. Whether it be working alongside the product designer or engineer, or liaising with customer success and feeding information to the marketing team. This post looks at the relationship between a product manager and a designer.

Designers

Creative contributors who use elements such as typography, illustration, layouts and interactions to bring product ideas to life. Subdivisions of the role include UX (user experience), UI (user interface), graphic, and interaction.

Relationship between a designer and a product manager

Designers have a large role to play in developing product ideas and contributing to the product backlog, which comes from their core value of understanding the end user and what goals are seeking to be achieved.

They work with the PM to bring to life the features and ensure that they are introduced within the product vision.

Designers will maintain the product style, from how certain actions are indicated to where on the product the actions can be found. In some organizations, designers are wholly responsible for the design, from wireframe through to finished design, whilst in other organizations other members of the product team assume the role of wireframe creation.

How a product manager can make the designer happy

Designers like to be creative, and for real creativity then instructions on what to design need to detailed enough to give context and vision, whilst not being too prescriptive. 

The PMs role is to provide all the necessary jigsaw pieces, but leave the designer alone to bring them all together into a coherent picture.

If you're a wireframing PM, then use your wireframes with caution. Use them when there's already a design framework to work within, and all you're doing is identifying the different elements on the product.

Using wireframes with a designer when there are big design challenges to overcome can lead to bias, and therefore restricted thinking, which invariably doesn't lead to the best end result. Sometimes just a user flow or list of use cases will suffice.

Talking to a designer is always the best way to get across your brief, supported by some documentation. You need to let them ask questions, as you can guarantee your brief won't have covered everything they'll want to know. 

Provide insightful feedback that a designer can actually do something with, rather than "I just don't like it". What's not right about it? Focus? Priority? Flow? They want details not vagueness.

Finally, fight their corner! It takes a lot of effort and a lot of talent to create product designs, so don't let the engineering teams ride rough shod over them. Show the designs, and designers, some respect, and let their designs live without having to live with stray pixels, or grotesque gradients.

What product managers want from a designer

It's fairly obvious to say good quality designs, but as product people we want consistent designs. We want common approaches to problems, reusable components, and a simple design language. This makes product engineering much easier and will deliver better results in the long term.

We want creative problem solving, not just for today but for tomorrow. We want ideas to be pushed so that we can exceed our users expectation. If our designs can do that, then the rest of the product management role becomes much easier.

Note:

This post is a short summary of the roles and relationships mentioned. It does not cover every element involved in product development and is intended to give an indication of how the roles might interact.

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