editione1.0.2Updated February 27, 2023
You’re reading an excerpt of Land Your Dream Design Job, a book by Dan Shilov. Filled with hard-won, personal insights, it is a comprehensive guide to landing a product design role in a startup, agency, or tech company, and covers the entire design interview process from beginning to end, for experienced and aspriring designers. Purchase the book to support the author and the ad-free Holloway reading experience. You get instant digital access, commentary and future updates, and a high-quality PDF download.
All the resources that were mentioned in the book in one place.
Product Design Skills, Traits, and Responsibilities
About Face: The Essentials of Interaction Design, 4th ed., by Alan Cooper, et al. It’s a great handbook to refer back to, as well as a primer for anyone new to design.
Jakon Nielsen’s 10 Usability Heuristics for User Interface Design.
Observing the User Experience: A Practitioner’s Guide to User Research by Elizabeth Goodman, et al. A useful read on research techniques that lays out the core fundamentals while arming you with practical tips.
Meeting Design: For Managers, Makers, and Everyone, by Kevin Hoffman. A book specifically about meetings. I know what you’re thinking: what could be more boring than attending a meeting—reading a book about it. But it’s a solid read that helps you reframe how you facilitate and conduct meetings, helping you ultimately save more time.
Designing Together, by Dan Brown. All about how to collaborate as a designer, working with different styles, and how to take work together to achieve a better outcome.
User Experience Management by Arnie Lund. More applicable for managers, it’s also a good read when it comes to understanding how individual designers fit into a larger company’s ecosystem.
Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman. A definitive book on the topic of emotional intelligence, awareness of self, and how to use emotional intelligence to connect with others (it’s not just about being “nice”).
How to have impact as a designer. An Intercom blog post by Paul Murph that outlines the formula for impact.
UX Strategy: How to Devise Innovative Digital Products That People Want, by Jamie Levy. A step-by-step guidebook for how to create great products.
Outcomes Over Output by Joshua Seiden. A short read on distinguishing deliverables and outcomes, with a few case study examples.
Carol Dweck’s book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success is an excellent read about what it means to have a growth mindset, compared to a fixed mindset. This concept has been popularized in the media and may seem like old news; however, I sincerely recommend the book, as the rich stories bring it to life.
The power of believing that you can improve. The Ted talk By Carol Dweck.
How Design Maturity Impacts the Type of Work You’ll Do
Level Up, by Heather Phillips (design director at Abstract). This questionnaire enables a company to self-assess its design maturity across multiple phases from process. Each question has four answers corresponding to how mature a company is based on its stage (process, communication, employee development, and so on).
Design Maturity Model: The New Design Frontier. A report by InVision in which they interviewed and conducted a large-scale study across many companies, from small startups to large corporations.
UX Maturity Stages by NN/g is a detailed, two-part article on how a company evolves from design immaturity to design enlightenment. Of note is that while growth can sometimes come fast and easy in the first stages, in the last phases, it takes more than a few years to reach the peak, and few, if any, companies ever reach it.
Assessing Company and Design Culture
Although it’s more engineering focused, Key Values is a useful resource for getting a sense of product culture at startups. Sites like Comparably and Glassdoor are also good resources, but take the feedback with a grain of salt as most reviews tend to skew negatively.
Kim Goodwin, a design consultant, defines four types of cultures: adhocracy, clan, hierarchy, and market. Kim defines each and provides recommendations for how to gain credibility and influence for each culture. Another way of looking at these types is through your own lens—which culture resonates with you more.
More on Angel Streger’s philosophy of design and Growth Design from First Round.
Katie Dill, VP of design at Lyft shares 8 Principles on Scaling a Design Team—a good read on what makes a design team successful in an organization.
Designing at a Large Company, Agency, or Startup
According to John Maeda’s Design in Tech Report 2019, there were 19 agencies bought in the last 12 months reported. So if you do end up at a large company, you may find yourself working for an agency inside the company or working closely with them. Or if you start your work at an agency don’t be surprised if you become part of acquihire.
Looking to learn more about different types of agencies? Take a look at SoDA, a membership organization that has a list of agencies known for their high-quality work.
Designing Consumer or Enterprise Products
Company Location and Surrounding Ecosystem
Hired’s 2018 report in the U.S.: Seattle, Austin, and Denver are some of the top cities for relocation for tech workers.
Holloway’s guide on Remote Work is a good resource for anyone figuring out how to navigate the remote work experience.
Design Impact, Ethics, and Diversity
Clayton Christensen is well known for his jobs-to-be-done theory, and one of his seminal books on the topic is The Innovator’s Dilemma. But did you know that he also wrote the book, How Will You Measure Your Life? In this book, Clayton admonishes readers to think about their guiding principles when making decisions so that they stay true to themselves and not end up in jail.
More on Jeff Bezos’ framework in the 2010 Princeton graduating class address.
Now that you’re familiar with the job criteria, take a step back to brainstorm what aspects of that criteria are important to you. You can use this job evaluation template to get started. One way to think about your next role is to think about it in the context of your previous positions. What lessons did you learn there? What was useful and what wasn’t as useful? What do you want to do more or less of?
If you want to learn more about applying design thinking to your life, take a look at Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans.
If you’re interested in futures thinking, take a look at What the Foresight by Alida Draudt and Julia Rose West. We commonly think about the future on a linear scale, where things improve gradually over time. But this book challenges this notion by introducing multiple futures.
How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. The classic in the field, still just as relevant today.
Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferazzi. Although it has mixed reviews, Keith does a great job of providing tips and frameworks you can use to meet people. At the heart of it is the genuine message that we’re better off connecting and sharing resources rather than hoarding away our contacts.
Networking for People Who Hate Networking by Devora Zack. For those shy persons jumping into their first event, this is a great step-by-step guide. The book leads you through a series of exercises to make networking fun and enjoyable, especially for those of us who would actually prefer to spend our time (and eat) alone.
CreativeGuild by Creative Mornings
Jobs to be done and personas by NN/g. A short read on how to use both methods effectively.
Discussing Design by Adam Connor and Aaron Irizarry. This book goes into the mechanics and the nitty-gritty of critique facilitation.
How to Make Sense of Any Mess by Abby Covert. A short read that arms you with basic information architecture tools and techniques.
Elements of User Experience by Jesse James Garrett. A quick read that breaks down a design problem into multiple layers: visual, skeleton, structure, scope, and strategy.
About Face: The Essentials of Interaction Design, 4th ed., by Alan Cooper. A hefty volume of nearly 700 pages, it’s a solid reference for all things interaction design.
Humaaans. A customizable illustration library by Pablo Stanley. Use is free for personal and commercial use.
Blush. Founded by Pablo Stanley, it’s a customizable illustration resource that allows you to remix, change colors, and find illustrations for different occasions.
Undraw. Similar to illustration libraries already listed but with less focus on the character and more emphasis on staging.
Maps: Your project may not require maps, but if it does, spending a little time customizing a map could be another way you can differentiate your design:
Mapbox. Probably one of the most robust APIs out there. With Mapbox studio you can customize tons of things. The learning curve may be a little steep at the beginning, so I recommend you take a couple of pre-existing Mapbox maps and customize those first to get a feel for it.
Google map styles. You can select a theme or you can come up with a brand-new style, customizing things like buildings, landscapes, points of interest, roads, transit lines, and water.
Breaking Down Your Design Job Offer
Hired’s Salary Calculator.
W2 filings for a source of truth on actual numbers.
AngelList for startup equity and salary range.
Holloway’s Guide to Equity Compensation.
Cartas’ Equity education and Equity calculator to figure how much your equity is worth.
Never Split the Difference. Written by an FBI hostage negotiator, the tactics are made applicable to many areas of life, “in the boardroom or at home.”
Intercom’s individual contributor design levels and design manager levels, in addition to being open available and detailed, have specific objectives and growth tasks tied to each level.
Basecamp’s Titles for Designers. Although Basecamp is a small company by startup standards, their design framework is rigorous, and aside from describing what are the different expectations of designers, it also publicly lists the names of designers at those levels.
DoorDash’s head of design, Helena Seo, shares her thinking and approach toward creating a leveling system at the company.
progression.fyi. A collection of open source company ladders, including some for design, such as BuzzFeed, Zendesk, and many others.
Starting Your Job Strong
The First 90 Days: Proven Strategies for Getting Up to Speed Faster and Smarter by Michael Watkins, has advice that’s applicable to managers and individual contributors alike.
Shipping the org chart by Dag Olav Norem.
A frequent question I get from folks is, how long did it take to write this book? Although the content took only two years to put together, the reality is that I’ve been thinking about the topic of design, careers, and development for over a decade. And although my name is on the cover, rest assured many people supported me on this journey; there wouldn’t be a book without them.
First and foremost, I’m grateful for the support of my family. I spent a fair amount of time writing parts of the book while on vacation, which sometimes meant locking myself away in my room for hours on end. Thank you for being patient with me during this time.
A big shout out goes to the fantastic team at Holloway. Courtney Nash helped start the conversation encouraging me to write. Her support and guidance helped me create a strong narrative from beginning to end. Taking the book to the finish line was no small feat either, and I have to thank Joshua Levy and Rachel Jepsen for helping me get there.