Designing Designer Skill Growth

Sketch elements of skill eval

Continuous improvement is one of our core values at thoughtbot and I want to make sure that Designers at thoughtbot continue to learn. Because our Designer role covers a range of skills, many designers have struggled with where and how to grow. I wanted to help our Designers not only target areas of self-development but also show them how far they’ve come. To show that progress, we needed to start tracking Designer skills. Tracking soft skills is especially important because they are harder to measure and improve on. When Jaclyn and I started redesigning the hiring process, I began to think about ways that we could visualize the skill set of a Designer, to help them see where they are now and where they want to be in the future.

Research, Prototype, Test

I started designing a skill chart in the same way I would tackle a product: quick research. After searching through management blogs and asking on slack groups, I started with a radar chart that represents each of the Designer skills as one slice. The design is based on a similar design leadership self-evaluation that I did with Mia Blume from Design Dept. The first versions of the chart were hand-drawn with Sharpies and printer paper. I tested these early iterations with our Design Directors and refined the evaluation until I felt confident in rolling it out to the rest of the team.

Numbers and shapes

With the help of the Design Directors, all the Designers at thoughtbot have now taken the evaluation. Our Design Directors have had meaningful, tailored conversations with each Designer about their own career development. Together they pinpoint areas of growth and how they might make that progress and then will reevaluate at the end of the year to see what has changed.

I would love to hear what tools you’re using to track your progress in your career on Twitter!

Join me for office hours to fill yours out

Want to fill the self-evaluation out with me? I have open office hours to work through these with you too. Grab time with me on October 4th!

Full skill eval