Integrating design and product: insights from James Ferguson

3 minutes

In the current business environment, bridging the gap between product and design is more cri...

In the current business environment, bridging the gap between product and design is more critical than ever. Our product and design recruitment team recently held their first event, exploring how teams can create a collaborative culture

To continue this conversation, Yasmin Vachet sat down with Head of UX at OVO Energy, James Ferguson. James has over 20 years of experience in digital design. He has spent the last ten years in senior leadership roles at Skyscanner and Atlassian, where he has managed product design teams. 

In this article, you can read his thoughts about the evolving challenges and strategies in fostering product design collaboration.

How to secure investment in design?

A key question asked at our event focussed around the advocation for product and design teams. As this is an area that James is passionate about, Yasmin asked for his thoughts on how to secure investment in product and design.

James emphasised the evolution of how businesses view design teams. Historically, businesses had large design teams for the sake of it. Now, James says, "It's harder than it's ever been to get that investment. More and more we're seeing the need to be able to prove the results from a business point of view." 

To secure funding, James stresses the importance of aligning design initiatives with measurable business outcomes. For example, "By investing in X designers or X Product Managers, what results are we going to see? How is this going to affect the bottom line?"

The evolution of design skills

With it becoming more difficult for design teams to secure funding, James highlights the shift in skills required for Design Leads. He argues that designers now need a blend of creative and business skills, "It’s not just good enough to be a really good designer; you need to have that product thinking, that mindset of driving commercial outcomes." 

He emphasises commerciality, stating, "What we're looking for is that commercial acumen, that business thinking. It's even more needed than it's ever been." This explains why we're seeing an increased demand for Product Designers. This design role must consider the commerciality of their designs in more detail, focussing on the user's product experience. 

To upskill James recommended that designers work even more closely with the product development team. Yasmin expanded on this, saying, "You should be curious about your product counterpart's main role, remit and function and how you can bring that into your design thinking."

Collaboration and conflict resolution

Discussing the dynamics between product and design teams, James provides insight into fostering healthy collaboration. 

Focussing on those empathy skills, James shared, "It's about trying to understand where the other person's coming from, what is it that they really care about, and how can you help them with it?" He advocates for a problem-solving approach to conflict, thinking outside the box to reach a solution. It's important to remember that there isn't ever only one solution. Focusing on mutual goals and pragmatism will certainly help reach resolution.

More product and design collaboration in the future

Concluding the conversation, Yasmin reminds, "One discipline can't exist without the other." 

We want to extend a massive thank you to James Ferguson for sharing his insights with us. The conversation about collaboration between product and design is only getting started. If you'd like to join us at our next event, register your interest below!

Product and design recruitment experts

Looking to expand your capabilities in either product or design? 3Search is a specialist digital recruitment agency, supporting on all product and design hires. Get in touch with our consultants for the best recruitment experience you will ever have!

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