Big-up design

 

The following article is reproduced with kind permission from Linked In.

If you take a close look at Facebook’s S-1 registration statement, you’ll notice something striking: Designers are called out as key to the company’s long-term strategic success.

Tech company filings often call out certain job functions–like engineering–and the organization’s ability to fill those positions as crucial to its success. But designers? That’s almost unheard of. And yet, there they are. In the section titled “Factors Affecting Our Performance,” Facebook’s filing reads: “We have also made and intend to make acquisitions with the primary objective of adding software engineers, product designers, and other personnel with certain technology expertise.” And in the section titled “Competition,” it says, “We compete to attract and retain highly talented individuals, especially software engineers, designers, and product managers.” (Emphasis added in both cases.)

The mentions underline the importance (little-noticed until now) that Facebook places on its design team. In a story on that team, which ran in the April issue of Fast Company, VP of product Chris Cox and others told the magazine how the company is looking to its right-brainers to help them do something that’s essentially never been done in software before: Design interfaces that catalyze emotions, rather than simply enable users to accomplish tasks.

Designing for Facebook, Cox said, gets at “the science of things you can’t reason about, that you just feel.” He added: “That’s why, when we’re trying to accomplish something that’s pretty new, it’s important to be iterating in that [design] mindset.”

That mindset is only going to become increasingly important. Facebook executives say they’ve only scratched the surface of their road map. As a result, the company’s been on a hiring tear, tracking down and convincing some of the tech world’s brightest design talent to join the company, including, most recently, the team at Gowalla (brought in via an acquisition) and Elizabeth Windram, a former staff designer at Google who was snatched away from Quora just months after she joined that company.

Notably, tracking down the right people and persuading them to join the team is so important that Facebook doesn’t leave the job to HR alone. “We started keeping a dream team list about two-and-a-half years ago,” Director of Design Kate Aronowitz tells Co.Design. “We thought, ‘What if we could assemble all these people in one room?’”

 

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