Design Career Ladders
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Our skill guide for design career ladders explains what a career ladder is, what the different levels in design are, how to make a career ladder for a design team, and 5 examples of design career ladders from Intercom, Zendesk, GitLab, and BuzzFeed.
Design Career Ladders is part of our Design Career Leveling Framework. Explore next steps in your career from this industry-standard model.
What is the career progression for a product designer?These articles provide frameworks for how to think about product designer careers, and answer these questions: * What levels and titles are common across companies? What do they mean? * What are the skills and skill groups that exist specifically within product design?
- The Skill GridLex provides a public design skill grid with dozens of skills. With so many skills, she introduces the concept of skill groups to help organize them. She uses 6 skill groups: Facilitation, Visual Design, Interaction Design, Research, Business Strategy, and Development. Lex also provides insight into her process for how she tracks her own ongoing skill development.
- Designing a Better Career Path for DesignersSiva explains how very few companies are thoughtful about how to help designers forge senior-level career pathways, but some organizations have explored three options: 1) Senior ICs 2) Hybrid player-coach designer 3) Design (people) managers
How to Make a Design Career LadderThe Design Career Index shows that 71% of design organizations don't have a career progression framework. Lack of clarity in Career Development has been shown to be a key reason designers leave their jobs. To address this challenge, Helena Sao explains her process, decisions, and learnings throughout the process of building a career framework at DoorDash. Todd Zaki Warfel provides an alternative perspective from his experience at Invision on how to create career ladders and assess competencies.
- Designing a Career Ladder for Product DesignHelena walks through her process for building a career ladder at for the design team at DoorDash. She identified the audiences, performed a competitive landscape audit, established design principles, designed a solution, and then tested and iterated with the audiences. She wraps up with 4 key learnings.
- Redesigning our job levels for product designersIntercom redesigned their product designer job levels to provide clearer career paths and advancement for their designers. They started by identifying problems through Employee Surveys, then determined what good job levels should look like by reviewing industry examples and setting principles. They made key changes like introducing a new staff designer level, focusing expectations on actions designers control rather than outcomes, grouping competencies into meaningful categories, and documenting previously unstated expectations that are important. Intercom believes setting clear expectations is an act of kindness that helps designers perform their best, so they shared their updated job levels publicly to help other teams.
Design Career Ladders From Leading CompaniesThese examples can help you compare and contrasts what different companies have developed for their product design career ladders.
- Figma's Product Design LadderFigma's product design career ladder covers 6 IC levels, with 6 skill groups: • Product Strategy (Before you work) — Designing the right thing • Craft + Quality (While you work) — Designing the thing, right • Communication + Collaboration (Working together) — Being clear + easy to work with • Action + Impact (Shipping) — Being efficient and productive • Leveling Up Others (Internal Influence) — Improving design team, and design at Figma • Independence (Self-sufficiency) — Working proactively without supervision
- Product Design Roles at BuzzFeed, v3Cap & BuzzFeed learned some important lessons before making their 3rd version of a design career ladder: skills needed for promotion can be unclear, employees and managers can be misaligned on skill levels, some skills were missing in prior versions, and organizational language fell out of date. BuzzFeed's design career ladder covers 5 IC levels and 4 manager levels. Each level has about 12 skills, with examples of multiple sub-skills for each skill.