Introducing our new Chief Design Officer and Design Directors

Chad Pytel

Since 2005, we have been at the forefront of design-led product development. We have always strived for a fully-integrated design and development team, with few barriers between designers and developers.

This way of working not only allows us to create better products, but to do it faster by minimizing overhead and iterating quickly.

Despite the fact that we have a tightly integrated team, everyone on the thoughtbot leadership team was a developer, and only one out of nine office managing directors was a designer. In addition, because we’re well known for Ruby on Rails, 2/3 of the company are developers, and just 1/3 are designers, instead of a more equal distribution.

Designers at thoughtbot repeatedly told us they didn’t feel like the company was truly for them, the path to advancement wasn’t clear, and the support in their design and career roles could be stronger.

After almost a decade of trying to improve this, we recently decided that we needed to take bolder steps to level the playing field between design and development at thoughtbot.

We did this with the following changes:

  • Created the position of Chief Design Officer on the executive team, analogous to our Chief Technology Officer.
  • Changed the existing Managing Directors to be Development Directors, and promoted Design Directors in each of our offices.
  • Designers now work directly with their Design Director to set goals, support in their work and career advancement, on a day to day basis, in one-on-ones, and in quarterly and yearly reviews, all from someone in the same role as them. The same is true for Developers.

We still come together as an integrated team for the work, but from a skill and career advancement and support perspective, we are now organized around functional areas.

So I’m pleased to officially announce

We also have three new growing locations where we hope to add Designers (and Design Directors):

  • Chicago
  • London
  • Portland

At thoughtbot we have an industry-leading design philosophy. It is difficult to find designers who not only do great user interface design, visual design, and can also implement their designs using HTML and CSS, and increasingly Objective-C and Swift. All of our designers are capable of this, and our new Chief Design Officer and Design Directors epitomize this skill set.

While it is still early days for these changes, the response from the team has been very positive, and it looks like we’re on the right track.