I've always found it difficult to capture management work in case studies or portfolios, but as Head of Design for just over four years here are some of the things I worked on...
Growing Ableton's Product Design Team
When I started as Head of Design our product design team (then known as the specification team) was a small centralised group of two to three designers supporting several teams for a single product: Ableton Live. To meet Ableton's growing product ambitions, I grew the team to over twenty designers and researchers embedded in feature teams across multiple products and services including software, hardware and the web. We also brought interface design, industrial design and user research in-house.
To support this growth I worked with the team and other managers to develop our approaches to hiring, feedback, salary and professional development. Two aspects of this I'm proud of are:
- Working with our Communication and People teams to make our recruiting communication and hiring process more inclusive, contributing to bringing more diverse perspectives and backgrounds into the Ableton design team.
- Working with our Head of Software Engineering to make compensation fairer and more systematic, helping to close pay gaps across the teams.
Design and Agile Development
Along with the Head of Software Engineering, Product Owners and members of the design team, I supported teams developing how they research and design as part of an agile development process across many concurrent products, projects and features.
This involved working with individuals, teams, and leaders to work out what our priorities were as a design team and where the pain points or impediments in reaching these were. Some highlights were:
- To get feedback earlier and leverage the unevenly distributed product knowledge in the team we established design critiques and demos.
- To help facilitate more product discussions we encouraged the use of prototyping by designers and with engineers.
- To help build shared pictures of needs and constraints we worked to establish user research for discovery, not just validation, as a team activity.
- To better connect product visions, design solutions and research insights we encouraged adopting methods like story mapping and user experience mapping.
Connecting design across Ableton
Alongside product design, I also invested time trying to connect product design with our branding and communication team, and to find opportunities where design could connect with other teams. This produced some impressive collaboration where I can really only take credit for not getting in the way and reassuring designers that "If you think it's useful for Ableton and doesn't get in the way of the work you've commited to, you don't need to ask for permission". A few of the highlights were collaborations between product design and engineering team members to produce part of the branding for Loop and our Industrial Designers supporting our office team in developing an interior design language and pattern library for Ableton's workspaces.