Design Strategies (Broad vs. Focus)

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When you find yourself in a situation where there are LOTS of projects you can work on as a designer, you need to choose one of two strategies.

Strategy 1: Go Wide
This strategy is best when your team is too small and there are tons of engineers outnumbering you. This is super typical in a startup.

Strategy 2: Focus
This strategy is best when you have lots of designers and can dedicate time and energy to a single project. More typical in bigger companies.

Which to choose?
Because I have been in startups for most of my career, I prefer strategy 1 (Go Wide). This strategy has an advantage that can be illustrated with this chart:

Getting to 100% completeness takes alot more time that getting to 50% completeness twice on two different projects. I can get to 50% complete on almost 10 projects in the same time it takes to get to 100% on just one.

Understand that this means you have to spend alot more time with engineering getting the details right. It means there will be more items on the punchlist and more risk of getting something wrong.

Each strategy is a Risk/Reward calculation. It’s one of the reasons that you need to get the ratio of engineer to designer to product manager just right. In my experience 1 designer to every 10 engineers allows for strategy 1 (broad) to work. 1 designer to every 5 engineers allows strategy 2 to work. Give or take.

I wish there was a chart of average ratios. What’s yours?


Whatya think?