We’ve had a few debates now related to product-related organizational structure, responsibilities, and reporting lines. Because product management touches so many other business functions, these issues continue to be a source of discussion within companies, but also across industries and between product creators of all stripes.

One issue we’ve ignored in these discussions a bit is product design –  but no more. Where should designers sit? Earlier this year, we shared an interview with Megan Quinn, one of the original product people at places like Google Maps and Square. She (and one of our debaters) is a strong advocate for design autonomy.  But this was not the popular opinion in our poll, where only 24% of you voted for design to exist as an independent organization within the company.

In our modern product team series, a CPO argues that design must be an integral part of product, and so does our other debater. Most of you seem to agree – 66% voted for that option. Only 10% think that design belongs within engineering. No one seemed to think that design belongs elsewhere (marketing? anyone?).

Within Product

In a perfect world, particularly with an agile team, Design should be embedded in the Product Team that includes the subject matter expert (either Product Manager or Business Analyst), Design, Build, Test and Customer Validation because the only way we really get the efficiency for building our products is if the team learns and iterates together and Design is a critical part of that equation.

Kristen Butzow

Product Coach, Pragmatic Marketing

It's Own Org

This depends on the scale and the needs of the organization. Many times, design is contained within a broader “products” group, composed of product management, marketing, and design, etc.; other times it can sit within engineering, marketing, or on its own as a self-contained function. Each has its pros and cons, but in any case, it’s important that design has the autonomy to drive the right things they are accountable for without undue influence. This may include branding, identity and associated guidelines and standards, all the way down to the physical design system used for repeatable, scalable product designs. Long story short, there has to be a healthy partnership between design, product management and engineering (or other orgs): product management asks design ‘what to design’, design defines ‘how it’s designed’ and engineering informs product and design ‘how it’s implemented’.

Tom Witczak

Director of Product Management, Okta