Design System Leaders and Managers

A Job Description for Those That Drive a System


As systems evolve from loosely managed side project to a more disciplined practice, contributors may form a central team that treats the system as a product.

At this moment, questions of “Do we have a backlog?” (Yes) and “Shall we work in sprints?” (Yes) give way to more important questions like:

Initially, system teams are staffed by designers, developers, or a mix of the two. These practitioners may be disinterested or ineffective in leading and managing a system as a product.

That’s an important reason teams hire me as a consultant and coach: I’ll serve in these capacities – system lead, product manager, and (untrained but good enough) scrum master – for system teams through a first release. I’ll spend from 8 to 12 hours per week to lead and manage a 5 to 7 person team, each ~1/2 time. For a system to thrive, it’s essential that in-house staff observe and eventually succeed me in each role, whether by adding team members and/or via me training them along the way.

In fact, a systems team I worked with in 2016 had me write up a job description. I love it! They were smart enough to recognize the need (“You know what, Nathan’s not just a designer/developer, is he?”) and serious enough to figure out how to fill the gap.

They were also kind enough to let me share the description with the community, which I’ve copied below. I hope that it helps your team identify who’ll take on varying responsibilities, even if not as a formal hire. Now get to making a system with discipline!

Systems Lead Job Description

Drive the vision, product management, and/or project management of a design system of visual style, UI components, and other design concerns.

The ideal candidate will take a systems-mindset to build and integrate consistent, efficient components across the product portfolio. Emphasis will be on the complete systems life-cycle, from establishing a practice and vision that endures to design, build, document, and maintain a library used by many product teams.

System Design and/or Dev Leadership

Product Management

Project Management / Scrum Mastery

Additional Skills: Design & Development?

The system lead need not necessarily perform daily design and development tasks. However, a Systems Lead should have experience in both competencies, contribute to lower-level decision making, direct broader strategy, and observe when narrower efforts conflict with or distract from broader goals.

Behavioral Competencies

Work Experience

Need help with your system?

EightShapes can energize your efforts to coach, workshop, assess or partner with you to design, code, document and manage a system.