One of the things I’ve been thinking about this week as I’m preparing for my upcoming UXPA Boston 2021 talk is this… What makes a successful Enterprise Designer? Is it different from a Startup designer?
Having done both, I figured I’d share my experience about the differences.
I started my career in a marketing startup some 20 years ago now. I’ve obviously grown as a designer since then, and while my experience may color my perception, I have noticed some stark differences.
- Wear way more hats – Due to lack of staffing, you may have to learn how to do design for flyers, microsites, social media, websites, motion, audio and more. This can make you a serious generalist.
- Project types are more varied – Jumping from project to project, with different styles, brands, and needs are the norm. If you get bored easily, this might sound great.
- Tooling and hardware are harder to come by – In my experience, getting an upgrade or better software was a constant challenge. If you like the newest stuff, that can occasionally be an issue, depending on the firm.
- More independence – For me, there were fewer levels of red tape to sift through, so I had a bit more autonomy. However, this also created a level of showboating and competition between designers. Also, everyone designed things differently. They stored them differently. And they named them differently…
- Career growth and pay was limited – If you’re one of a handful of designers, it may be very difficult to increase your position within the org. Same with pay.
I’ve now been in an enterprise design team for the last 7 years and have noticed a few things that seem to make designers successful at their role.
- Specialization is more important – Knowing a unique aspect of design is critical to stand-out among the crowd. Generalization is typically less-well rewarded.
- Project types are more impactful – You may switch projects less, but sticking with a few different project over years really begins to highlight the impact you can make. Plus, your clients are often global ones, not just local ones.
- Tooling and hardware are easy to get, with a caveat – Because of IT and procurement, your options may be limited due to a totally different concern, security. Better make friends over there!
- More collaboration – What a designer may give up for autonomy, they can gain in collaboration. There is much higher quality design as an end result, but the process can be slower and more frustrating.
- Career growth is earned, not given – The best designers seem to pave their own path to leadership.
Where should I start?
This is up to you, but honestly, learning to work in a team and drive your own career seem to be strong reasons to start with Enterprise design. I personally prefer it, and find a strong unified team to be a very rewarding experience. Whatever you decide, good luck!