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A few notes from the Staff design, interviews with high level individual contributor designers by Brian Lovin.

Staff level is anything beyond senior level. Impact is over the whole organization, or more like whole company. An individual contributor who can get things done by themselves, floating outside of teams and convince stakeholders by building ideas and executing. This is a viable alternative to manager’s track, but it needs extra commitment, motivation and capabilities.

Each staff level role is different, even more so as seniors are different. Much depends on the individual’s skillset and motivations. There is probably little or no structure at this level, lot’s of ambiguity. Managers have broad organizational structures they fit into. Staff designers need to find their own way by learning about those structures and leaning on them, but going beyond the design team.

There are a limited amount of staff level IC problems at any given company / product line. For example:

  • Design system: it’s a platform for all the other designers.
  • Research system: maybe depends on maturity, product trajectory or lifecycle, but a complete system that enables all other research and discovery.
  • Product specific: 1-2 chief problems, for example for Trustpilot it would be trust. For Prezi it was canvas interaction. For Emarsys it would be personalisation.
  • Innovation: for a chief visionary, figuring out the next innovation in the company, and building the product for it.