System of roles, skills, and capabilities for design operations


Improve the effectiveness of design operations, quality of the employed designers, and their level of job satisfaction through organizing design roles, levels, capabilities, and skills, providing instructions about the company expectations and growth possibilities, equipping design managers with the instrument for career coaching.

Expertlead, Nord Security
9 members
Head of Design Operations
11 months


I have started this project in one company, and some results were already applied to practice and tested. Later it gave me a better perspective over how to improve it. In my next occupation, I have facilitated the initiative to build the extended instrument based on my previous work. During all the time of collecting and processing information, the team consisted of HRs, Design Managers, Design Leads, Product & Visual Designers, Researchers, Product Managers. Without their expertise and assistance, this idea would never see the light.

Discovery | Goals, Conditions & Methods

— Announced the initiative, planned actions, and defined responsibilities;
— Collected and processed the common operational issues between designers and peers, supervisors, cross-functional colleagues, HRs, e.t.c.;
— Processed the operational documentation like roles, responsibilities, values, performance metrics;
— Discovered and analyzing all possible solutions that already exist;
— Discovered and tested various methods of defining and grouping matrix parameters.

Negative traits extracted from issues turned into personal qualities necessary for avoiding them.

Definition | Structure & Principle of work

After the specification of the main idea and concept, I have defined the list of restrictions:
— All metrics should be positive, and even luck of it should not be insulting;
— Framework should be flexible and scalable so we can shift and add new blocks later;
— Each metric should be understandable;
— Taxonomy of the system should be balanced and logical;
— There should be a possibility to evaluate each of the metrics equally.

In the end, We have defined the system's structure with six levels of depth. Personal and Professional capabilities are two main blocks. For product (UX) designers from junior till industry lead, each main block consists of 3 sections. Professional Capabilities include Research, UX design, UI & visual design.

The common responsibilities of a Product Designer are based on our research and my own experience.

Design | Navigation, Operation & Readability

Each section consists of 4 metrics, and each of the metrics consists of 8 sub-metrics. The number of metrics and sub-metrics we have chosen was optimal to begin and balance the structure. But it isn't essential and could easily be changed in the future. In this step, the main goal was to make the system work, so every design lead could understand it, apply it, and later interpret the results.

The blank capability cards before the evaluation

We have chosen 5 levels of appraisal to make the process easier. The same system didn't work for personal and professional capabilities, but we have managed to find the balance. Personal capabilities grades are based on how often a person shows the expected behavior. Professional capabilities grades are based on knowledge, experience, and outcome from each skill.

The capability cards after the evaluation

Each sub metrics could be opened as a page with a detailed description, examples, possible reasons, and recommendations for improvements.

The last level helps the team leads to work with each capability

Validation | Coverage, Balance & Copywriting

The most complicated part for us was naming and descriptions, especially for personal capabilities. To validate the matrix, we have chosen the reverse method to make sure it covers all parameters present for the product designer. Each of my colleagues (testers) had some issues happen in their management practice. We named the issue and looked for the capability it could belong to. After this exercise, the matrix was changed about 20 times.

The full version of the matrix for the product designer
The size and level of details of the framework let design managers be aware of most of the possible issues. It simplifies the communication between designers and managers and helps to define clear expectations. As we have found out later, it also assists in difficult 1-on-1s when we have to talk about unpleasant things.


The last step of the evaluation is comparing the predefined parameters for each of the levels. Here we also left it as flexible as possible. Each company can set its expectations for each of the capabilities.

The final stage of the evaluation


We have defined 4 directions of improvements: Scale (more various roles); Content (more and better advice about each capability); Platform (software); Quality (testing). The first version of the matrix was built in Miro. Later, it was also repeated in Typeform and Google Spreadsheet. Since neither of the platforms was comfortable enough, it was decided to make it a separate product. But first, we would like to collect more feedback.