I’m a Principal Designer – what do I do?

What does a Principal designer do?

The image below is what I wrote on the day as the answer to what I do.

The post-it notes I wrote to explain what i do as a Principal Designer

Clearly repeat why we’re doing this work

Clearly – because it’s my job to help our stakeholders and the rest of digital understand why this is the right thing for our users. Sometimes that’s slides, blog posts like this one or generally telling people in the street how great we are.

Make sure user and business needs are met across products on the platform.

I help to ensure we’re doing the right work for the right reasons by asking:

  • does it align to our strategy and that of the wider Co-op?
  • is it helping the business deliver something (within the bounds of the first 2) in a cost effective and iterative way?
  • is this actually being designed and built in a best practice, scalable and flexible way?

Understanding what our users say and do

It’s important I know what our users think of our services through face to face, remote usability research and our analytics. If I’m asked about how people use and want to use our service. I should know the answer.

I help to form the strategy and vision of the web platform

As with everything here, I’m not the only one involved in these things. I help to set a direction along with our head of online, product manager and others. We also get input from our whole team and secondary stakeholders like the head of digital and head of design.

I facilitate workshops, project kick-offs and weekly design critiques (crits) — and encourage others to do it too

I’ve split these activities up as I tend to see them slightly differently.

Line management, mentoring and pairing

Each Principal designer covers a specialism in design – interaction design, user research, content design and front-end – my area. A principal must have a good grasp of all these disciplines.

I am responsible for the front-end discipline

At the moment this is the hardest bit of the job.

  • run the front-end community of practice
  • help to set the direction of our shared front-end tools

In summary

It really is a lot of activities around ‘the work’ whilst also doing a bit of the work as well.



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Matt Tyas

Matt Tyas


Service and interaction design. Product, team management and front-end engineering. matt.tyas.fyi