Design Career Ladders
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 Grid
Lex 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 Designers
Siva 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 Ladder
The 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.
- InVision Design Talks — The design career journey
Todd presents on what makes a good career ladder, how to assess competency, the value to ICs and managers, and the path to design management.
- Designing a Career Ladder for Product Design
Helena 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.
Design Career Ladders From Leading Companies
These examples can help you compare and contrasts what different companies have developed for their product design career ladders.
- Product designer job levels at Intercom
Intercom's design career ladder for ICs covers 5 levels, with 21 skills across 3 skill groups - Strategy, Execution, and Behaviors.
- GitLab's Product Designer Career Ladder
GitLab's design career ladder for ICs covers 4 levels. GitLab doesn't use skill groups, but does cover 10-15 skills per level.
- Figma's Product Design Ladder
Figma'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, v3
Cap & 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.
- Design Org at Unacademy
Hardik explains how the design org at Unacademy maps skills and expectations to their design career ladder.
Defunct Design Career Ladder Examples
Some companies have outdated or ineffective design career ladders that fail to provide clear paths for advancement or reward the wrong behaviors.
- Career Architectures for Design Teams
Zendesk has three distinct design career pathways: 1) IC product designers 2) Product design people managers 3) Brand design people managers
- Career progression for Product Designers & User Researchers at Lyst
Tom provides insight into their thought process behind Lyft's design career ladder. However, the actual career ladder document is no longer publicly available.