Design Leaders


Design Leaders aren’t super-designers. Their role is NOT to ‘approve or disapprove’ other designers. Nor is it to dot the final pixel-perfect or sweat the final details to a design.

Many organizations make the common mistake of confusing design managers with design leaders. Design leaders touch upon the organization, and not just the design department. The role is strategic and needs to align with the organization’s strategy and plans.

C-suite Design Leaders who can take decisions

Organizations, in search for a competitive advantage over their counterparts, should have more visible acts of advocacy for design leadership. Hiring design leaders such as “Chief Design Officer” or similar C-suite Vice President design roles is a good start.

A successful design leader brings in a design harmony, patterns, frameworks, and guides across the organization. From the very deep core of visual and experience designs to brand messaging to treating people, a design leader has a meaningful impact. She can have a successful and meaningfully designed product, by working with the team, without herself ever opening Photoshop or Sketch. She might just be sketching on a napkin but she connects the dots and get the team to execute the best of designs.

Erstwhile Craftsman & Practitioner

One key measure of a successful design leader is her effective presentation skills. She should be able to talk with confidence and drive everyone involved towards a common goal. She should have good management skills and leverage the best of design managers. Finally, she should mentor and help more designers become leaders.

Marcin Treder said it beautifully, “Great design leaders are seasoned practitioners, ready to give up the craft.”

A design leader leads and drives discussions with the design team, management and beyond. She initiates dialogue, both good and bad, to achieve the common goal of producing good meaningful designs. She instills an inquisitive mood of asking “what” driving organizations to produce better-designed products. She is confident in leaving the “how” of designs to the designers and the team.

The Right Person

It is sad but many organizations try to bring in design leaders who are not designers but carved out of seasoned managers. Without design leaders, organizations cannot achieve good designs. Without a design leader, even the best designers will just be answering to the whims of managers to fulfill client and customer demands that might not be good in the long term.

A design leader continues to be actively involved in design disciplines, remain driven to design, coaches others, is a team player, always open-minded, is not afraid of change, and is always ready to give actionable feedback. Last, but not the least, a design leader is committed to integrating design and design thinking throughout the organization.

“Design leaders succeed by designing indirectly – through the work of their teams. The key task of a design leader is to become the worst designer on the team.” — Marcin Treder

Here are some good references for further reading;

Photo by Jehyun Sung.

Cloud Computing will develop rural and developing areas

Cloud computing has the ability to transform the developing world, and bring it into the high tech age at lightning speed via what the NY Times calls ‘Gandhi engineering‘. The challenges previously faced by developing countries over reliable power sources, lack of connectivity and expensive equipment costs that were prohibitive for developing areas to modernize are all being addressed by cloud computing. Cloud computing has the potential to create a paradigm shift in the way IT resources are used and distributed, says P. Sinha, Chief Coordinator for R&D at Pune University, India in the Center for Development of Advanced Computing. In India alone cloud computing is projected to grow from a $50 million a year industry to $15 billion in the next few years.

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Yahoo! opts for Downsizing again, to Revive Business

Let me first wish all readers and regular followers of Brajeshwar a very Happy New Year, 2011. 2010 could have been a bad year for many and here is hoping for a better start in 2011. A bad year it was for many at Yahoo! too.

Yes, Yahoo! has done it again. In less than 4 years the company has gone ahead and issued the pink slip to as many as 2,700 employees. History says that the Sunnyvale, California based company had sacked around 1,400 jobs in the year 2008 during the time of recession and then up to 700 job holders were shown the gate in the very next year 2009.

Following this is yet another lot of 600 people who now have to look for other job opportunities. The downsizing saga continued with Yahoo! chopping of 600 jobs during December mid-month of 2010, but the number supposedly higher than the real deal. There were speculations of at least a 20% layoff which in real-time has reduced to a 4% layoff.

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Know when to quit the race

Know when to quit your businessMany businesses fail each year. Others are sold. You read about a few in the newspapers, but for each newsworthy event, thousands occur quietly in good economic times and bad. Here are 10 things to focus on when considering whether you should quit the race and move on.

  1. Selling a company isn’t the same as losing. Some sales are big wins. Others are smaller victories. Redeploying underperforming assets, yourself included, is usually a good decision. Some people quit. Others move on. One of the best reasons to close or sell a business is that you’ve found something better to do. Businesses take up so much time and energy, there is a lost-opportunity cost of stubbornly sticking around too long.
  2. Starting a business is difficult, but closing a company is even harder. Closing the right way is even more difficult. This affects many people, and some will fare worse than others. It’s natural to seek to avoid facing tough choices, but postponing the inevitable usually causes greater harm. If it’s inevitable, dealing with it now is always the best choice.
  3. Campaigns and businesses can be bottomless pits. There’s no sense throwing good money after bad. Funding a lost cause or even a decent business with limited upside potential usually doesn’t make sense. Ask Mrs. Romney. Even multimillionaires have breaking points.
  4. Every company needs a business justification for additional investments of money, time and effort. Each investment decision needs to be justified like the decision to start the company.
  5. Even if a company has a reason to exist, there’s no reason why you have to continue bearing the burden. Get a partner or hire a CEO if you want to move on to other opportunities.
  6. Serial entrepreneurs are some of the happiest and most productive people on the planet. They recognized early in life that launching new ideas and products is a lot more fun than fighting to increase market share a half percent or protecting an eroding market share. Serial entrepreneurs move on when it stops being fun and find something else that gives them the adrenaline rush they crave.
  7. Positioning a company to sell at a premium price can take several years. Don’t wait until you have to sell to start the process.
  8. Companies often invest in things that don’t create value on sale. For example, a buyer who already has a great sales team and channel partners won’t pay much for these parts of your company. Most people don’t add swimming pools to their homes if they intend to sell the house next year because swimming pools are notorious for not recovering investment on resale. Look at your company like a home owner would in deciding where to make pre-sale investments.
  9. The best way to capture the most value is to know when to sell. Value is often a function of the head start you have on bigger companies, which are likely to grind you to dust if your lead time shrinks. The longer the lead time you can sell to another company compared to their competitors, the greater your value may be. Big companies can make more money during that lead time than you can.
  10. Selling the company usually facilitates wealth diversification. Even if it’s a gold-plated basket, having all your eggs in one basket can be risky. If all your wealth is tied up in one company, you may be only one 25-year-old innovator away from losing everything.