Innovation Product management

Having a designer at the table day one?


There is an ongoing debate in the industry around the value of getting a designer involved early in product development. The importance of products being “beautiful” with a “gorgeous” user interface seems to have become an accepted norm. But should a designer have a seat at the table from day one? Should they be involved in the early product discussions?

Some people, like Jon Schlossberg, argue that giving design a seat at the table from day one when creating a new startup or product is somewhat overrated. Jon, a designer him self, say that no one person representing a single discipline earns a seat at the table early on. And while there are some products where getting design right is crucial, for most it is not the single most important aspect early on.

Others, like 30 weeks, have built their entire existence on the importance of getting designers to contribute early. In their case contributing isn’t enough. They believe designers are the ones who should make new things happen by founding companies.

So should you have a designer at the table day one?

Personally I tend to agree with Jon. But I guess it also comes down to a matter of definition. Do you define a designer by what they do (design stuff) and their experience doing that, or by their mindset?

Designers, unless multi-disiplinary, of course have somewhat limited value. Just like any other person with a single disciplinary focus. Design is important, but very seldom THE single most important factor. Perhaps not even a top 3 factor for creating a great product or a successful company.

Having said that I strongly believe in early user focus. In getting the user experience right. And design is part of that. Design isn’t only about making something pretty, it is also about making something that is easy to use.


So perhaps a bit contradictory, but even though you don’t need a designer at the table day one, you need someone who keep users, user experience and design in mind.

Does it have to be a “designer” doing that? If a designer is a person spending 8 hours a day designing stuff, then no. But if a “designer” is simply someone with a creative mindset, then definitely!


By Alexander Sandstrom

Passionate product manager with a love for technology and innovation. More about me.

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