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Organization Design for
Design Organizations
Peter Merholz
e: peterme@peterme.com
t: @peterme
To deliver great user experiences…
I just need to get the design right
strategy
organization
Why are companies investing more in design?
Generates new business value Software is eating the world
The Expanding Role 

of Design
All design is service design
Definition Execution
Definition
/ Requirem
ents
Iterative design
Im
plem
entation
Strategy and plan, 

aka “Build the right thing.”
Working through tradeoffs to deliver optimal solution, 

aka “Build the thing right.”
Ideation/Generation
Understand
the market
Product
Strategy
Prototype
Customer
empathy Ideation
Experience
strategy
Prototype
solutions
Flesh out
solution Refine
Sketch
options
Test
prototypes
User test Build
design makes strategy concrete design supports delightful, engaging experiences
Plan Ship
Analyze
By Peter Merholz, http://peterme.com. If you use it, please attribute it. Thanks.
Initial
Insight
Design informs planning
Henrik Kniberg
The Three-Legged Stool
product/service
business
technology
design
Adapted from Don Norman
Organizational Models for
Design Teams
Capability Assessment
1 ft
Surface
Typography, color, layout, interface design, spacing, animation,
transitions
40%
10,000 ft
1,000 ft
The Big Picture
Integrated view of company’s entire offering, brand traits
5%
100 ft
Strategy
Requirements, briefs, desired results, planning, vision, 

campaign concepts
15%
10 ft
Structure
Flows, service blueprints, wireframes, wayfinding, navigation, 

brand standards and guidelines, visual language
40%
Centralized Internal Services
Your in-house agency
Project-based, organized by function
PROS
Strong design community
Clear lines of authority
Wide range of projects
Interface consistency
Efficiencies of work product
Optimized headcount

CONS
Design is not strategic
Little influence on important
“upstream” decisions
Designers easily dismissed
Us vs Them
Business unit disconnection
D D
DP P P P P P
E E
E E
E E
E E
E E
E E
E E
E E
E
E
E
E
DE
DESIGN 

PRODUCT

MGMT
ENGINEERING
Search/
Browse
Product
Page
CheckoutPersonalizationUGC/
Reviews
D D DDD
Leadership
Decentralized and Embedded
Decentralized and Embedded
Everyone Gets A Designer!
Program-based
PROS
Business units gain control
Part of the team
Design included throughout entire
lifecycle
Feeling of ownership
Quick iterations post-launch

CONS
One narrow problem for a long time
Lonely
Fractured user experience
Less efficient use of time and people
So, you’re screwed either way?
D D
DP P P P P P
E E
E E
E E
E E
E E
E E
E E
E E
E
E
E
E
DE
DESIGN 

PRODUCT

MGMT
ENGINEERING
Search/
Browse
Product
Page
CheckoutPersonalizationUGC/
Reviews
D D DDD
Leadership
S S
DP P P P P P
E E
E E
E E
E E
E E
E E
E E
E E
E
E
E
E
DE
D D D
DD
DESIGN 

PRODUCT

MGMT
ENGINEERING
Search/
Browse
Product
Page
CheckoutPersonalizationUGC/
Reviews
Leadership
S S
DP P P P P P
E E
E E
E E
E E
E E
E E
E E
E E
E
E
E
E
DE
D D D
DD
DESIGN 

PRODUCT

MGMT
ENGINEERING
Search/
Browse
Product
Page
CheckoutPersonalizationUGC/
Reviews
Leadership
Centralized Partnership
Centralized Partnership
Best of both worlds


Designers supported in career, development, 

and day-to-day.
Design teams maintain commitment across a meaningful set of
products/features.
Yet centralization helps maintain a holistic view across the entire
customer experience.
Freedom to shift after ‘tours of duty’.
Not disrupted by inevitable re-organizations.
Think in terms of design teams
Structure of each design team
4-7 folks
Singular strong leadership
• Manages down – gets the most and best out of their team
• Manages across – collaborates with cross-functional partners
• Manages up – presents to executives and other stakeholders
Best organized around business problems, not
functions
Spread of skills – strategy, planning, research,
IxD, IA, visual design, prototyping
10,000 ft
1 ft
10 ft
100 ft
1,000 ft
S
S
D
D
D
DD
Definition Execution
Understand
the market
Product
Strategy
Prototype
Customer
empathy Ideation
Experience
strategy
Prototype
solutions
Flesh out
solution Refine
Sketch
options
Test
prototypes
User test Build
Initial
Insight
Plan Ship
Analyze
By Peter Merholz, http://peterme.com. If you use it, please attribute it. Thanks.
Definition Execution
Understand
the market
Product
Strategy
Prototype
Customer
empathy Ideation
Experience
strategy
Initial
Insight
By Peter Merholz, http://peterme.com. If you use it, please attribute it. Thanks.
Plan
That said...
Definition Execution
Understand
the market
Product
Strategy
Prototype
Customer
empathy Ideation
Experience
strategy
Initial
Insight
By Peter Merholz, http://peterme.com. If you use it, please attribute it. Thanks.
Plan
It’s better to iterate here...
...than here
Organize for the
customer journey
If you’re designing for this...
Then it is senseless to have marketing and product/UX
design on different teams.
It’s all the same customer journey.
Keep teams focused on user types
Search / 

Browse
Details Purchase
List Offering Enter Details
Redeem
Redeem
Review
Analyze
BUYER
SELLER Sell item
Keep teams focused on user types
Search / 

Browse
Details Purchase
List Offering Enter Details
Redeem
Redeem
Review
Analyze
BUYER
SELLER Sell item
Search / 

Browse
Keep teams focused on user types
Details Purchase
List Offering Enter Details
Redeem
Redeem
Review
Analyze
BUYER
SELLER
Book
Update

Calendar
Make a 

Reservation
Sell item
Where does
Design report?
Creative Operational
photo: David Shankbone
Designers can keep a lot

of other people busy
S S
DP P P P P P
E E
E E
E E
E E
E E
E E
E E
E E
E
E
E
E
DE
D D D
DD
DESIGN 

PRODUCT

MGMT
ENGINEERING
6
21-
31
With a
1) centralized partnership,
2) teams with strong leadership,
3) influencing definition, and
4) a relatively small team,
you have leverage.
Leverage = Power
There’s no reason design can’t be
the driving force.
We just need confidence, evidence,
and commitment.
One more thing...
D D
DP P P P P P
E E
E E
E E
E E
E E
E E
E E
E E
E
E
E
E
DE
DESIGN 

PRODUCT

MGMT
ENGINEERING
Search/
Browse
Product
Page
CheckoutPersonalizationUGC/
Reviews
D D DDD
Leadership
Decentralized and Embedded
S S
DP P P P P P
E E
E E
E E
E E
E E
E E
E E
E E
E
E
E
E
DE
D D D
DD
DESIGN 

PRODUCT

MGMT
ENGINEERING
Search/
Browse
Product
Page
CheckoutPersonalizationUGC/
Reviews
Leadership
Centralized Partnership
Technology Features Experience
S S
DP P P P P P
E E
E E
E E
E E
E E
E E
E E
E E
E
E
E
E
DE
D D D
DD
DESIGN 

PRODUCT

MGMT
ENGINEERING
Search/
Browse
Product
Page
CheckoutPersonalizationUGC/
Reviews
Leadership
Still stuck in a “features” world
S S
Design 

Team
D D D
DD
Shopping
Experience
Gifting
Merchandising
Sharing
Social
Wishlists
In-store pickup
Style guide
PLUS
Search/
Browse
Product
Page
CheckoutPersonalizationUGC/
Reviews
Thank you for your
consideration.
Peter Merholz
e: peterme@peterme.com
t: @peterme

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Organization Design for Design Organizations - CanUX 2015

  • 1. Organization Design for Design Organizations Peter Merholz e: peterme@peterme.com t: @peterme
  • 2. To deliver great user experiences… I just need to get the design right strategy organization
  • 3. Why are companies investing more in design? Generates new business value Software is eating the world
  • 4. The Expanding Role 
 of Design
  • 5. All design is service design
  • 6. Definition Execution Definition / Requirem ents Iterative design Im plem entation Strategy and plan, 
 aka “Build the right thing.” Working through tradeoffs to deliver optimal solution, 
 aka “Build the thing right.” Ideation/Generation Understand the market Product Strategy Prototype Customer empathy Ideation Experience strategy Prototype solutions Flesh out solution Refine Sketch options Test prototypes User test Build design makes strategy concrete design supports delightful, engaging experiences Plan Ship Analyze By Peter Merholz, http://peterme.com. If you use it, please attribute it. Thanks. Initial Insight
  • 10. Capability Assessment 1 ft Surface Typography, color, layout, interface design, spacing, animation, transitions 40% 10,000 ft 1,000 ft The Big Picture Integrated view of company’s entire offering, brand traits 5% 100 ft Strategy Requirements, briefs, desired results, planning, vision, 
 campaign concepts 15% 10 ft Structure Flows, service blueprints, wireframes, wayfinding, navigation, 
 brand standards and guidelines, visual language 40%
  • 11. Centralized Internal Services Your in-house agency Project-based, organized by function PROS Strong design community Clear lines of authority Wide range of projects Interface consistency Efficiencies of work product Optimized headcount
 CONS Design is not strategic Little influence on important “upstream” decisions Designers easily dismissed Us vs Them Business unit disconnection
  • 12.
  • 13. D D DP P P P P P E E E E E E E E E E E E E E E E E E E E DE DESIGN 
 PRODUCT
 MGMT ENGINEERING Search/ Browse Product Page CheckoutPersonalizationUGC/ Reviews D D DDD Leadership Decentralized and Embedded
  • 14. Decentralized and Embedded Everyone Gets A Designer! Program-based PROS Business units gain control Part of the team Design included throughout entire lifecycle Feeling of ownership Quick iterations post-launch
 CONS One narrow problem for a long time Lonely Fractured user experience Less efficient use of time and people
  • 15.
  • 16. So, you’re screwed either way?
  • 17.
  • 18. D D DP P P P P P E E E E E E E E E E E E E E E E E E E E DE DESIGN 
 PRODUCT
 MGMT ENGINEERING Search/ Browse Product Page CheckoutPersonalizationUGC/ Reviews D D DDD Leadership
  • 19. S S DP P P P P P E E E E E E E E E E E E E E E E E E E E DE D D D DD DESIGN 
 PRODUCT
 MGMT ENGINEERING Search/ Browse Product Page CheckoutPersonalizationUGC/ Reviews Leadership
  • 20. S S DP P P P P P E E E E E E E E E E E E E E E E E E E E DE D D D DD DESIGN 
 PRODUCT
 MGMT ENGINEERING Search/ Browse Product Page CheckoutPersonalizationUGC/ Reviews Leadership Centralized Partnership
  • 21. Centralized Partnership Best of both worlds 
 Designers supported in career, development, 
 and day-to-day. Design teams maintain commitment across a meaningful set of products/features. Yet centralization helps maintain a holistic view across the entire customer experience. Freedom to shift after ‘tours of duty’. Not disrupted by inevitable re-organizations.
  • 22. Think in terms of design teams
  • 23. Structure of each design team 4-7 folks Singular strong leadership • Manages down – gets the most and best out of their team • Manages across – collaborates with cross-functional partners • Manages up – presents to executives and other stakeholders Best organized around business problems, not functions Spread of skills – strategy, planning, research, IxD, IA, visual design, prototyping 10,000 ft 1 ft 10 ft 100 ft 1,000 ft S S D D D DD
  • 24. Definition Execution Understand the market Product Strategy Prototype Customer empathy Ideation Experience strategy Prototype solutions Flesh out solution Refine Sketch options Test prototypes User test Build Initial Insight Plan Ship Analyze By Peter Merholz, http://peterme.com. If you use it, please attribute it. Thanks.
  • 25. Definition Execution Understand the market Product Strategy Prototype Customer empathy Ideation Experience strategy Initial Insight By Peter Merholz, http://peterme.com. If you use it, please attribute it. Thanks. Plan
  • 27. Definition Execution Understand the market Product Strategy Prototype Customer empathy Ideation Experience strategy Initial Insight By Peter Merholz, http://peterme.com. If you use it, please attribute it. Thanks. Plan It’s better to iterate here... ...than here
  • 29. If you’re designing for this... Then it is senseless to have marketing and product/UX design on different teams. It’s all the same customer journey.
  • 30. Keep teams focused on user types Search / 
 Browse Details Purchase List Offering Enter Details Redeem Redeem Review Analyze BUYER SELLER Sell item
  • 31. Keep teams focused on user types Search / 
 Browse Details Purchase List Offering Enter Details Redeem Redeem Review Analyze BUYER SELLER Sell item
  • 32. Search / 
 Browse Keep teams focused on user types Details Purchase List Offering Enter Details Redeem Redeem Review Analyze BUYER SELLER Book Update
 Calendar Make a 
 Reservation Sell item
  • 35. Designers can keep a lot
 of other people busy
  • 36. S S DP P P P P P E E E E E E E E E E E E E E E E E E E E DE D D D DD DESIGN 
 PRODUCT
 MGMT ENGINEERING 6 21- 31
  • 37. With a 1) centralized partnership, 2) teams with strong leadership, 3) influencing definition, and 4) a relatively small team, you have leverage.
  • 38. Leverage = Power There’s no reason design can’t be the driving force. We just need confidence, evidence, and commitment.
  • 40. D D DP P P P P P E E E E E E E E E E E E E E E E E E E E DE DESIGN 
 PRODUCT
 MGMT ENGINEERING Search/ Browse Product Page CheckoutPersonalizationUGC/ Reviews D D DDD Leadership Decentralized and Embedded
  • 41. S S DP P P P P P E E E E E E E E E E E E E E E E E E E E DE D D D DD DESIGN 
 PRODUCT
 MGMT ENGINEERING Search/ Browse Product Page CheckoutPersonalizationUGC/ Reviews Leadership Centralized Partnership
  • 43. S S DP P P P P P E E E E E E E E E E E E E E E E E E E E DE D D D DD DESIGN 
 PRODUCT
 MGMT ENGINEERING Search/ Browse Product Page CheckoutPersonalizationUGC/ Reviews Leadership Still stuck in a “features” world
  • 44. S S Design 
 Team D D D DD Shopping Experience Gifting Merchandising Sharing Social Wishlists In-store pickup Style guide PLUS Search/ Browse Product Page CheckoutPersonalizationUGC/ Reviews
  • 45. Thank you for your consideration. Peter Merholz e: peterme@peterme.com t: @peterme