Product Design strategy for a team of one


I find joining a startup as a sole product designer incredibly exciting – sometimes roles offer a very concrete definition of what needs to be done, but what do you do when your role can involve shaping the very fundamental needs part of it?

At least because of how my brain works, I end up creating a never-ending list of potential tasks. The openness of the role makes me really good at planning and thinking, but then I find it hard to prioritize what is actually impactful.

Lately, I've been approaching it like this – if I could wave a magic wand and have any task done for me (with the caveat that I wouldn't get the experience from performing it) which ones would I choose to do myself? For example:

  • I wouldn't externalize investing time in having a better understanding of the product, industry & customers, as that creates the base from which I make intuitive product decisions.

  • I would externalize the process of fine-tuning the UI to the design system – grinding pixel perfection doesn't help me make better product decisions.

I find this useful for two reasons – on one hand, it helps me keep an eye on tools that automate the work that I detach from the concept of product designer (or at least on defining the role enough to eventually hire to solve those tasks), and on the other, it puts in perspective the value of tasks from the point of view of what you choose to learn (will doing this help me make better choices for the product?).