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Design contributing to product is different from design reporting to product

'Report to' smells of hierarchy which is not always desirable.

Pavel A. Samsonov tweeted about design reporting to product and it triggered an interesting discussion (just as many other product and design discussions that I see on Twitter).

Peter Merholz added their thoughts as you see below.

Designing hierarchies are sometimes complicated particularly when the organizations grow because the reporting needs to be realigned for the new energy and revised goals of the organization.

When we discuss design reporting to product or to the CTO or to a functional GM, in all cases the bottomline is that design contributes to the product. Even marketing as a function contributes to the product just as it is true for engineering, support, research and other departments.

However, Report to smells of hierarchy which is not always desirable. The question is not about flat hierarchies or cyclic hierarchies but somewhere we need to define boundaries for the dependencies and directions for operational accountability and ownership (stewardship) of work. In my post on content leadership where I wrote that leaders need to build more confidence among the people, this confidence helps in strengthening the hierarchy too.

Design reporting to product even if design as a function is part of the product sounds inaccurate because in any organization, design is outside the product as well.

Can we think of a better term than using Report to? For example Respond to, or Look up to? Work with? Anything that conveys *contributes to the product* rather than *merely reports to a position*. What else?

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Vinish Garg

Vinish Garg

I am Vinish Garg, and I work with growing product teams for their product strategy, product vision, product positioning, product onboarding and UX, and product growth. I work on products for UX and design leadership roles, product content strategy and content design, and for the brand narrative strategy. I offer training via my advanced courses for content strategists, content designers, UX Writers, content-driven UX designers, and for content and design practitioners who want to explore product and system thinking.

Interested to stay informed about my work, talks, writings, programs, or projects? See a few examples of my past newsletters—All things products, Food for design, Inviting for 8Knorks. You can subscribe to my emails here.

Vinish Garg is an independent consultant in product content strategy, content design leadership, and product management for growing product teams.