For designers, the world is full of opportunities to explore. We solve problems using design, in a world where problems (opportunities to design) seem endless. While exciting, this abundance of choice can also be daunting.
Over the last year I’ve been interviewing people who work in product design on what matters to them at the places they worked. In doing so a few key themes have emerged that I would like to share with you.
Small companies, whether agencies or startups, can offer you more responsibility than a corporation or larger, more established tech company often can. However, if you are looking to expand on your people skills, want a big name to qualify your resume, or you’re seeking access to specific expertise, then a bigger company might be a better fit. No matter what size company you pursue, make sure the team values your background, your skills, and that you have people to learn from and look up to in your role.
A company that is growing fast will offer many opportunities, but it might be at the cost of not getting a lot of personal support for you to do your job well. Having mentors and advisors, both within your workplace or industry and outside of it, can be a good way to balance up the support you feel in your design role. If you get it right, this can be one of the more exciting environments to work in as a designer because you often get to see the impact of your work first-hand.
Type of company matters
In a design agency setting you will learn quickly by testing different roles, processes, and approaches. You will work on a variety of projects with the opportunity to tackle vastly different problems and learn from other designers.
On the flip side, at a company that specialises in a certain type of solution or industry, you will instead get the opportunity to go really deep into that industry or problem space. You will not stop with the first version but keep on building, learn which assumptions work in reality, and have the opportunity to create a close relationship with the people you are designing for.
Purpose matters (but perhaps less than working with the right team)
Working for the right purpose feels good. However, as was reflected by several of my friends, you might find that the purpose matters less than the team being really kick-ass and feeling like you’re making great work.
In design school, one of the most important skills you learn is how to use critique to make your work better. Finding a place that welcomes mistakes and open collaboration will be key to your growth in the workplace, too. The more often you can show your work to others and build on their input, the quicker you will not only find better solutions, but also learn to think in new ways.