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How Facebook Finds The Best Design Talent, And Keeps Them Happy

If you take a close look at Facebook’s S-1 registration statement, you’ll notice something striking: Designers are called out as key to the company’s long-term strategic success

Tech company filings often call out certain job functions--like engineering--and the organization’s ability to fill those positions as crucial to its success. But designers? That’s almost unheard of. And yet, there they are. In the section titled “Factors Affecting Our Performance,” Facebook’s filing reads: “We have also made and intend to make acquisitions with the primary objective of adding software engineers, product designers, and other personnel with certain technology expertise.” And in the section titled “Competition,” it says, “We compete to attract and retain highly talented individuals, especially software engineers, designers, and product managers.”

The mentions underline the importance (little-noticed until now) that Facebook places on its design team. In a story on that team, which ran in the April issue of Fast Company, VP of product Chris Cox and others told the magazine how the company is looking to its right-brainers to help them do something that’s essentially never been done in software before: Design interfaces that catalyze emotions, rather than simply enable users to accomplish tasks.


Notably, tracking down the right people and persuading them to join the team is so important that Facebook doesn’t leave the job to HR alone. “We started keeping a dream team list about two-and-a-half years ago,” Director of Design Kate Aronowitz tells Co.Design. “We thought, ‘What if we could assemble all these people in one room?’”


Facebook isn’t looking for your run-of-the-mill “pixel pusher.” When we meet at Facebook headquarters, Aronowitz ticks off three qualities she looks for: A personal vision (about what the world needs or where design is going), a sense of ownership over the projects they work on, and a “builder” mindset. “We’re looking for people who can say, ‘I have a product idea, I can think through a need, I can think through a customer base, build something, ship it, and then iterate based on how it’s being used.’”


When the designers they hire are particularly good--when the company believes in their own unique genius--the company gives them free reign to come up with their own portfolio. When Matas joined Facebook last year with his Push Pop cofounder Kimon Tsinteris, for example, the two were given an office and told to think about what new features and products they thought Facebook should be doing next.


“Design is more strategic than ever,” Aronowitz says. “Designers who come to Facebook have a massive scale of audience and a pretty big impact.”
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