I have experienced different forms of design team reporting structures during my career, across both large enterprises and startups.
The most effective design team structure I have experienced involves designers on cross-functional teams reporting to their design manager (e.g. the Head of Design). This allows designers to work on-demand across different projects while fostering team relationships outside reporting lines.
This flat organizational structure promotes individual contribution without giving the impression that there’s a “boss” (e.g. product manager = designer’s boss). Most importantly, this way of working encourages team involvement in the decision-making process so true collaboration can flourish.
That said, there’s no secret formula. The most successful organizations I have collaborated with share the common trait of being flexible—the structure of the design team changed in response to evolving business needs. In fact, team structure should be continually re-evaluated based on evidence, product goals, and employee insights 😊
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