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Design Leadership Fundamentals (SF)

  • 564 Market Street #300 San Francisco, CA (map)

Making the transition into management can be challenging, especially for designers. We spend years developing our skills to craft quality products and brands on behalf of others. And when the opportunity comes to take on a leadership role, we may find ourselves facing a whole new set of unknowns, including how to lead a team and manage people.

If you’re lucky, you’ve worked with a great manager or an inspirational leader who has given you some guidance along the way. Even then, the resources, support and training needed to become a truly great design leader is often lacking, particularly in startups. This workshop will show you how to leverage your design skills for leadership success.



As the title suggests – a great foundation class for aspiring and new design managers that will provide you with a starter-kit of tools and frameworks you can use, and also a platform to share points of views and ask questions to people who are in the same boat as you.
— Jane Park, Senior Design Manager at Microsoft Bing
The Design Leadership Workshop isn’t just informational but also actionable. I can take what I learned and apply it to my job to create an immediate action plan as well as a long-term vision. I would highly recommend this to design managers, new and seasoned.
— Susan Payne, Pinterest Design Lead
Like good UI, exactly what I needed, exactly when I needed it. Wonderfully structured, terrific, relevant topics, valuable group participation, and two down-to-earth presenters who really know their onions. I felt I was in good hands the entire time.
— Louise Mintun, Content Design Group Manager at Intuit

What you'll learn

  • Fundamentals of management success

  • Four pillars of design leadership and the skills you need to deliver successfully in each area

  • Strategies for growing a team and designing your organization, especially in startup and hyper-growth environments

  • How to guide a team to deliver design excellence, from vision to process management

  • Guidelines for facilitating an effective design critique

  • How to deliver feedback to foster great team performance

  • Develop strategies for navigating tough conversations

  • Prioritize your time based on your team vision and focus

What you'll receive

  • Your personal workshop notebook with content and exercises

  • Access to our Design Dept. community slack to stay connected and learning from other leaders

Who should attend

This workshop is great for both new managers and senior individual contributors looking to transition into management. DLF is suitable for leaders in brand design, product design, research and content strategy in startups or tech. All industries and backgrounds welcome.

Schedule overview

Day 1

Breakfast and welcome

Leadership as a creative practice

Design Leadership Profiles


Designing design teams

Happy Hour/Q&A with Design Leaders

Wrap up

Day 2

Breakfast and recap discussion

Catalyzing performance


Ensuring design excellence

Designing your time

Wrap up

* Schedule may change

Session Details

Design Leadership Profiles
The Design Leadership Profile focuses on four pillars of creative leadership—vision, team and execution—and the critical skills necessary to successfully deliver within each area. Develop your personal profile to inform your own growth and your team’s development.

Designing design teams
Successful design teams are structured with intention. Great design leaders adapt industry best practices to architect organizations specific to their company and their needs. Learn how to recruit and grow a team that aligns with your purpose — one that delivers great experiences and helps you excel as a leader.

Catalyzing performance
Building high performance teams begins with catalyzing individuals to help them reach their potential. Learn how to accelerate your team’s progress and continued growth through connection, real-time feedback, and coaching.

Ensuring design excellence
High performance design teams focus on solving the right problems with the right guardrails and processes in place to build quality experiences rapidly. In this session, we focus on the fundamentals that ensure design excellence, from setting a vision to instilling quality execution.

Cultivating culture
Culture is an observable set of behaviors that rise organically from interactions in a system or organization. While leaders can’t control culture, they do have power to shape the system and its elements. This session focuses on the parts of the system that you can actually design, to create the opportunity for a good culture to emerge.

Designing your time
It’s a classic challenge: the urgent winning out over the important. After two days of deep learning, designers have even more “important” to consider. Designing your time teaches a framework for evaluating impact and effort to determine what to prioritize, delegate, or dump—so you leave Fundamentals with a clear path for moving forward.



Want Design Dept. to come to your city?

Help us get the word out by telling your colleagues, friends, and fellow designer leaders. If we see enough interest in your area, we’ll add your city to the schedule.

Request a workshop

Cancellation policy

We understand that plans can change and your workshop may have to wait. If you need to cancel, please email us at to let us know as soon as possible.

While we cannot transfer or allow for substitutions, we can help you with a refund.

  • Within one week of registration: Registration is 100% refundable.

  • Between one week of registration and one month before workshop: We'll refund 50% of your registration fee.

  • One month before workshop: Registration is non-refundable.

This policy is subject to change; all registered participants will be notified of any changes.

Earlier Event: September 12
Coaching Creatives (SF)