Explicit Guide on How to Building an Elite Design Startup

Feb 10, 2023Martín Etchegoyen

Most startups in every niche are indeed destined for failure. But that does not have to be your case. There is no secret formula for success in any niche, though there are some things that you have to do almost perfectly if you intend to succeed. In this blog, we will describe some of the must-do elements to build an elite design startup.

It does not matter whether you have just started hiring or already have a fully-fledged product design team, you already know this one fact, which is that hiring for design is hard, really hard. Building product design teams is tricky given that correct designer searches usually take more than six months.

The 2 Types Of Designers Every Design Startup Needs

In this section, we will mention two designer roles that are indispensable, meaning that every design startup should count on at least two different UX designers who carry out these activities.

1. Design Explorer


Every design task starts with explorations and discoveries. This is the first part of the design process, the discovery stage. In this instance, you research the market, perform a product investigation, and come up with the first design ideas. You need someone comfortable with researching the industry and trends, someone able to create a pool of design findings that will help you choose the best concept for a successful product. This position is all about speed over meticulous execution.

2. Design Maker

The second part of any design task is creating design assets. Here you will need a skilled designer in building and maintain a large design system that can consist of a few hundred screens, a few dozen icons, and a handful of landing pages. This person will help you organize a product-design process, prepare all the documentation, and come up with solutions to implement concepts created by the first designer.

Design makers tend to stay with a startup during its entire lifecycle and scale up with the project. For instance, after a startup is funded, you will need to design a new website and iOS app. A design maker can help you manage all of these things.

Hiring: an Obstacle for Every Low-Budget Design Startup

All design startups usually struggle to hire suitable designers for an internal team because they are competing with big employers like any multinational company. Most designers tend to jump at job offers from large corporations since they provide higher salaries, lower risks, a good social package, and a sense of prestige associated with working at a famous brand.

Hiring professional and experienced designers is tough, especially for a startup without a big name or big perks to attract talent. Nevertheless, there are ways to overcome this challenge and hire promising talent. To do this, you have to offer a favorable environment for professional growth. Generally, designers join a startup to challenge themselves to create something new, shape industry trends, and make a deeper impact in the process. Thus, you should emphasize these huge opportunities in your job ad.

Hire designer

You want to look for designers that want to try out a new niche. Another motivation for designers to join startups is their goal to make a transition to another professional vertical. For instance, a very experienced fintech designer wants to try working on a healthcare app and such a designer could be a great candidate for you. They have a great understanding of general design principles and they just need to acknowledge some basic healthcare stuff to become ultimate health-tech professionals. You need a lot of time, some intellect, and a solid amount of luck to find these people.

3 Elements to Analyze for Every Design Startup

Here we will refer to some aspects every successful design startup understands when proceeding with its different activities.

1. Hiring the Right Designer

Every design startup can articulate what kind of designer they are looking for but do not know how to assess and hire the right designer amongst a field of applicants. These founders often come from product management or engineering backgrounds, so it is no surprise they do not have much experience hiring designers. The most effective way to assess the skills of a designer is to take a look at the work they have done in the past. That is the reason the portfolio review is the most common interview format.

2. Design is First

This skill set means product designers add a lot of value to startups early on. They ask the hard questions, help engineering define the product architecture, and overall contribution to the product strategy and direction. Treating design like a second-class citizen will create a lot of extra work later, paying down design debt and retroactively trying to create proper product development processes. We’ll talk about that later

3. Solid Design System

An extensive and often mistake in founders is not investing in a strong, foundational design system. This is important for the following reasons. First of all, it ensures a cohesive brand and product experience from the beginning. This not only creates a great user experience for customers but also signals to your organization that good design is important. A strong, design-led culture is invaluable and will pay dividends throughout the history of your company. In the second place, and more practically, it will save time and effort for both designers and engineers moving forward.

Bottom Line

If you have a really strong desire to become a top-of-mind design startup, we encourage you to follow these guidelines and adapt them to your model. Now it is up to you to start doing your own thing and trying to find your path within the design business.

Martín Etchegoyen

Martín Etchegoyen

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