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DIY guide to leading design — a primer

DIY guide to leading design — a primer

10/01/24

Last updated: 10 Jan 2024

I'm working on a detailed series of blogs to share what worked for me (or didn't) in my journey from a developer to a designer to leading design at a few companies. That may take a lot of time, and the need is too important.

I've compiled a list of resources which you can go through over 6-weeks and train yourself. I'm writing this on the move so I'm adding references that are on the top of my mind. I'll update this with a thorough list.

All the best.

Week 1: Introduction to design leadership

  1. Watch: Designing leadership by Andy Budd
    Hard-hitting facts for designers waiting to get a seat at the table and what it really takes.

  2. Read: Design leadership handbook by Invision
    Fast read. Slightly meta but worth going through.

  3. Read: Making of a manager by Julie Zhuo.
    Learn through the journey of one of the most prolific design writers of our age.

Week 2 & 3: On building & managing design teams

  1. Read: Radical Candor by Kim Scott
    Learn how to give clear feedback without being an asshole.

  2. Read: The culture code by Daniel Coyle
    One of my re-read books. Must read for understanding how to leverage collective intelligence of your team.

  3. Watch: The power of vulnerability by Brené Brown
    To learn how to build trust by staying authentic, and becoming vulnerable.

Week 4, 5 & 6: Refresh on product design & strategy

  1. Read: Inspired by Marty Cagen
    How big-tech companies create beautiful products, at scale.

  2. Read: Product leadership by Richard Banfield
    See how the really good product managers help build great products.

  3. Read: The lean startup by Eric Ries
    Simply put, you'll learn bias to action from this book.

Week 7, 8: User experience & research

  1. Read: Rocket surgery made easy by Steve Krug
    The only book you need to learn about usability testing. One of the most important skills to master for simplifying digital products.

  2. Read: Sprint by Jake Knapp
    The only book you need to learn how to kill the weeks long process of moving ideas to design.

  3. Read: The user experience team of one by Leah Buley
    Broaden your exposure about various applicability of research.

Week 9: Communication

  1. Read: Crucial conversations by Kerry Patterson
    To learn how to manage conflicts and keep relationships healthy.

  2. Read: Difficult conversations by Douglas Stone
    Another book that I found helpful. In the topic of conversations, reading more will give you more examples to relate to.

  3. Re-read: Radical Candor by Kim Scott
    Important re-cap to do.

Week 10: Bring it all together

  1. Create a 6 months plan (weekly) for yourself with tangible actions on each theme

  2. Have one new thing, improvement planned for each week for 24 weeks

  3. Use sticky notes (and keep it above your home desk), flash cards (carry it everywhere with you), Trello or similar

  4. I usually keep it in bullet points for four weeks and set it as a lock screen wallpaper

Few things to keep in mind:

  • Read the books slowly & take copious notes; I've considered reading pace of one book per week.

  • You don't need to read the books cover-to-cover. Pick topics that are relevant to you in your context and themes that you can apply immediately.

  • Outline (in notes) how you plan to apply learnings in your day-to-day

  • Watch the videos at least 2 times. First to just watch & listen, and second to take notes.

  • There are more detailed books, resources on each theme above. Over time, I'll keep updating them as much as I can.

All the best!


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