Why you should work at a non-design driven company
by Tobias van Schneider
Most designers I know, in particular those in their early career, want to work for a company already known for design.
We typically aim for the "dream" design jobs. The cushy ones, where we feel like angels from heaven doing God's work. Yet the most interesting companies, the ones where designers have the most potential, are those not yet famous for good design. It's at these companies you can have an impact as a designer and leave your personal mark.
Just 10-15 years ago, few designers dreamed about working for Google or Microsoft. These companies didn't seem to care much about design back then. At that time, everyone wanted to work for Apple or companies that not only celebrated design, but executed on it.
Most of us want to jump into a strong design culture and system. And I get it. If you're a designer, you want to be designing. You don't want to spend your time establishing a design process, pushing for a design culture and fighting against internal politics that don't value "design" the way you think they should.
But at some point, someone had to do exactly this at companies like Google and Microsoft. Ten years ago, these companies were famous for their engineering heavy culture, not their design. Now they're both one of the most sought-after companies in our industry.
Being the first designer at a company isn't going to be easy. You'll be fighting windmills and it will be tiring. But it's here you have the potential to see the effects of your work. You're not just a cog in an already established system. You're defining that system. Every conversation you have, project you lead and task you do is an opportunity. You'll also have less competition for these jobs, as other designers simply don't have these companies on their radar.
It may be a higher risk, but it can also be a higher reward. It won't be easy, but who ever said it should be?