Lead UX/UI Designer Handbook
Lead UX/UI Designers work on two fronts: individual contributor (IC) and people leadership. Lead UX/UI Designers contribute to recruitment, chapter initiatives, and the design team’s strengths development.
Lead UX/UI Designers must master their tools and processes as individual contributors. They are expected to be able to start new work from scratch using the design stack. Still, they must also have the knowledge and expertise to take over client-provided materials and efficiently bring them up to the team’s standards.
Monitoring Creative Direction
All UX/UI Designers can set the creative direction for their projects based on the project brief and discovery. However, Lead UX/UI Designers are expected to monitor the creative direction set by the UX/UI Designers.
The Lead UX/UI Designers’ experience gives them a better ability to understand the clients’ expectations and, consequently, increase the chance of client satisfaction. Lead UX/UI Designers must follow the initial stages of the design process closely to ensure that the projects start in the right direction.
As a company, Nimble produces design resources regularly. Whether for recruitment, marketing, or communication, all branding-related assets must follow the company’s creative direction.
Lead UX/UI Designers, although not necessarily the ones producing every internal design resource, must ensure that everything created aligns with the company brand.
Overseeing Projects Progress
Lead UX/UI Designers need to monitor their direct reports, and they also need to monitor their direct reports’ work. The Lead UX/UI Designer is ultimately accountable for delivering quality UX/UI designs that fulfill the clients’ requirements.
Monitoring Industry & Trends
UX/UI design is a fast-moving industry where new trends, tools, and innovations frequently appear. Lead UX/UI Designers must stay in touch with all of it.
The team’s processes are constantly evolving, and improvements to their design methodology must stay up to date. Lead UX/UI Designers also need to identify new trends and tools that can benefit the clients and ensure that the design team always provides appropriate yet modern solutions to the client’s problems.
Defining and Improving Processes
The Product Chapter, and Nimble as a whole, has established many guidelines and conventions of which Compass is the embodiment. Lead UX/UI Designers must ensure that their reports follow the established guidelines and conventions as much as possible.
Beyond evangelists, Lead UX/UI Designers must take an active role in improving the current processes and defining new ones. Lead UX/UI Designers must keep the team and processes at the forefront of the industry. It is where monitoring the industry and trends is paramount.
Unlike UX/UI Designers, Lead UX/UI Designers have direct reports (usually 2—3 reports). Lead UX/UI Designers are responsible for their reports’ performance and professional growth.
Consequently, the Lead UX/UI Designers also need to monitor their reports’ work to ensure that the designs progress smoothly.
Guiding & Monitoring
Monitoring the product design progress for their reports’ projects is integral to the Lead UX/UI Designer’s role. If a UX/UI Designer is struggling in an area of their work, the Lead UX/UI Designer needs to assess and provide the necessary guidance. It can include a technical aspect, a process, a stakeholder to manage, etc.
The Lead UX/UI Designers must also ensure that the product(s) designed by their reports are built following the internal processes and aligned with client’s requirements.
While monitoring is an active process, Lead UX/UI Designers need to be open and available to their reports who might need guidance on a specific aspect of a project or personal development.
Nurturing UX/UI Designers
It is part of the Lead UX/UI Designer’s duty to help their reports progress as professionals. There are two primary mechanisms that the team uses to support UX/UI Designers in their career growth:
- Regular 1-on-1 sessions.
- Biannual 360 reviews.
The 1-on-1 sessions are a bi-monthly opportunity for Lead UX/UI Designers to catch up with their reports. It is an excellent time to establish a relationship, deliver regular feedback on the UX/UI Designers’ work, and provide guidance.
360 reviews are more thorough feedback sessions the company organizes twice a year. The starting point is a company-wide feedback process where all team members provide feedback about one another. It takes a lot of preparation from a few different people.
Lead UX/UI Designers then have to review all the feedback shared about their reports, analyze it, sprinkle their feedback, and create growth objectives.
Then the Lead UX/UI Designers will need to schedule a 1-on-1 feedback session with their reports to see what went well, what could be better, and the objectives for the next period.
Although the entire Product Chapter can (and is encouraged to) participate in the chapter initiatives, Lead UX/UI Designers take a more active role. They formulate new ideas (and help their fellow UX/UI Designers do so when needed), participate in the planning, work on delivering initiatives, and monitor the progress of all endeavors.
As people managers, Lead UX/UI Designers are involved in building the team by participating in the recruitment efforts. They typically conduct interviews with UX/UI Designer candidates and review their candidates’ UX/UI design challenge submissions.
Reporting to Management
Finally, there is a crucial link between Lead UX/UI Designers and the Chief Product Officer (CPO). Lead UX/UI Designers provide insights and report concerns to the CPO to help keep all company projects in sync and proactively escalate potential or actual risks.