Fractional Director of Product Design

Get temporary design leadership help when you've got a FT director role to fill and the show must go on. I'll help your UX team maintain their velocity, prevent disruption to your business stakeholders, and free your time up for recruiting—all backed by 25 years of design experience.

Right arrow painted on blue brick wall

Are you a senior design or product leader who recently lost a director of UX and left a lot of people, product, and project challenges on your plate? 

Are you concerned about the team’s productivity, ability to react to changing business needs, or your own capacity to respond to daily product-level questions?

Would you like to accelerate the onboarding of your next full-time leader—so they can be more productive on day one?

Hiring good design management takes time.

Sure, you can spread the UX leadership responsibility around for a period, but at some point, product quality, team velocity, or team morale may degrade —and your customers and stakeholders may feel the pain.

Problems like these can begin to occur:

  1. Business priorities may change quickly, but the team doesn’t know how to react: who will you translate those priorities into actionable product R&D tasks?
  2. Velocity can degrade if you don’t have strong design ops 
  3. Gradually, “small-fire” work starts to take over all the important strategic work  - you need to keep that design runway so your team isn’t in a reactive position
  4. Without air cover, your UX staff pulls back and may not challenge their engineering, SMEs, and business stakeholders - UX professionals need to be empowered to drive design and creative solutions without risk
  5. User research and long-term strategy work takes a back seat…to everything!
  6. You have no single point of contact for big, strategic level product questions - while you want to rely on the team to step up, sometimes the tough decisions are best informed by significant past experience that your ICs don’t yet have
  7. Your new director hire inherits a mountain of problems on day 1: they don’t just have yesterday’s work to do, but they also have to deal with the aftermath of a management hole that may have existed for months. 
  8. Without a detailed onboarding plan, your new FT director won’t show value for months: sure, they’re seasoned enough to be thrown in the fire, but is that the most efficient way for them to relieve pressure on you, lead their team, and create value?

Would you like to devote your time to finding the best new FT UX leader while ensuring your design velocity remains constant and business disruption is minimized?

My Fractional Head of Product Design service will help you bridge the gap between your outgoing and incoming leaders so business disruption is minimized, your team’s velocity and credibility remains strong, and you can focus on hiring—without trying to change or disrupt your current design culture and processes.

(7) Key Benefits

  1. Provide advice, strategic leadership, and support to you and your UX staff during the hiring period within the confines of how your team does things.
  2. Maintain the velocity of your design team/ICs: you probably have a design process and culture; my goal is to keep the team’s velocity up within the the culture you have created—not to introduce a new one
  3. Ensure the team is responding to rapid shifts in business priorities Prevent short-term tactical work from taking over the design team - because without product leadership, short-term engineering and product demands can take over
  4. Help your ICs sustain their cross-functionalize relationships: design and UX staff need to foster good relationships with other departments and stakeholders. I will bring a neutral, objective perspective when team members have a challenging product situation to resolve that is too “in the weeds” for your time.
  5. Strategic leadership backed by 25 years of digital design experience & consulting with deep specialization in products using analytics / ML / data science, SAAS, business applications, IT/data center software, and fintech. Additional experience in legal, travel, government, healthcare.
  6. Get outside, objective feedback on hiring (optional): on request, I can review your FTE job description, candidate portfolios and respond to questions about FT candidates you’re considering—but only if you seek my help.
  7. Accelerate the onboarding of your new FT hire (optional). I may have to learn about your product, culture, and domain from scratch. As a neutral outsider, I can help transfer my own learnings during this period to your new hire so they don’t have to spend as much time learning what I did.

How This Service Works

  • Bi-Weekly Product Design Critiques (Brian + UX Team only) - We can discuss team challenges, host design review/critiques, and address strategic efforts that affect all members. Format: 2-hour video call.
  • Bi-Weekly Product Design Jams (Brian + 1 UX lead + 2 stakeholders) - if your staff needs an outside opinion on a particular area of the product and wants to work with me and 2 of their stakeholders to work through the issue. Format: (4) 30-min slots available for booking via Calendly.
  • Coaching/1x1 Assistance on Product: team members can request consultations 1x1 with me via Zoom up to 1x/month. These are meant to focus on product, not career (since that’s your job!). Format: (1) 30-min slots available for booking per staff via Calendly.
  • Advisory Retainer: get 1-on-1 access to me M-F, 10-6pm ET (time adjustments may be accommodated for non-US clients).Advisory access breaks down like this: 
    • Unlimited for you, the new hire, and your team with communication taking place via Slack until your new hire starts
    • You, and the new hire, will also have phone access to me throughout the engagement
    • A dedicated Slack channel will be set up for your UX team
  • Craft a PPP (People, Products, and Process) Onboarding Plan for the new hire to ramp them up quickly into their new role informed by interviews, observations, and experience. You can then integrate my findings into your onboarding template if you have one.
  • Monthly 1-on-1 Alignment Calls With You - we should touch base 15-30mins at least once a month. We will also use this time to review progress to the draft Onboarding Plan if you are taking advantage of`that.
  • Delivery of Onboarding Plan (optional) - (1) hour Zoom call to deliver the onboarding plan to the new hire and you, and discuss any issues.
  • New-hire transition support for (4) weeks - from their date of hire, your new hire will get 24/7 Slack access to me for four weeks plus the option to set up a (30)-min support call each of these weeks (scheduled via Calendly).
  • 1x1 Exit Debrief - get my outside, objective impressions about the state of your product/team/processes and opportunities during my time working with your team.

Availability & Exclusivity

  • I only provide this service to (2) clients at any given time. Inquire with me to see if a slot is available.

100% Money-Back Guarantee

  • If during the time I am engaged with you, a valued, FT employee quits due to my interactions and involvement with your team while I'm engaged with you, I will refund any amount of my fees to you on request—up to 100%.

Pricing

  • The base price is $15k per month when paid via credit card. This covers a single team of up to 6 people who will have access to me during our time together.
  • If you need me to manage additional staff, it is $1,500 per month.
  • While you can cancel any time, a 2 month minimum is required if you want my help with creating an onboarding plan.
  • Payment through procurement or third-party vendors requires a 3-month initial commitment.

Fine Print

  • Payment is due up front, in full using a credit card (I will provide a checkout link after our Discovery Call). You will be billed in advance of each month's period of service automatically. If you are purchasing a block of 3 or more months in advance, you may also pay via ACH transfer, or bank wire.
  • If you must issue payment via a procurement department or third-party vendor (i.e. not my website/credit card), a 3-month initial engagement is required.
  • This packaged service is subject to the Terms and Conditions of my consulting services and the terms described on this page. In short, it is provided "as-is" to ensure the best value and fastest possible delivery. No additions or modifications to these terms may be made. Access will begin immediately.
  • If you wish to cancel, please notifiy me at least 72 hours prior to your service renewing for the following month so I can cancel your renewal at the monthly anniversary date. Once the service has renewed for the following month, you are entitled to a "I forgot to cancel" grace period of 24 hours to request a full refund. No other refunds including partial-use refunds will be given.

FAQ

  • Will Brian be doing design execution work for us?
    No. It is advisory in nature, so I will not be providing any comps, wireframes, leading ideation sessions, UIs, conducting user research, and the like under this service offering.
  • Can we use email or Microsoft Teams to work with Brian during this engagement?
    My advisory services are not available via email. I may make an exception around using MSFT Teams, however whether Slack or Teams, your team must use a private channel I set up for them. I will not join your organization’s Slack channels, in part for your privacy and confidentiality.
  • Is this an interim design director service? 
    No. It is fractional. What’s the difference? Most interim positions are “full-time, for a limited period.” I will not be managing the day-to-day projects, careers, and sprints of your design team and should not be seen as a replacement for long-term management. If you need a 40-hr week temporary employee, a contractor may be a better fit, or you may contact me about customizing this service to your specific situation.
  • Can I cancel any time?
    Yes, although you must cancel at least 7 days prior to your monthly renewal date. No refunds will be given for partial months once renewal payment has been issued.
  • Who counts towards the initial 6 people?
    Each person who will have direct interaction with me. Here are some examples of teams that would be "full" at (6) people:

    • Ex:  (3) designers and (3) UX researchers.
    • Ex:  (2) product design leads, (1) UX manager, and that manager's (3) direct reports—if those reports will have access to me.
    • Ex:  (3) UX researchers, (3) UX squad managers
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Interested? Let's talk

Before engaging in a Strategy Retainer with a client, I require us to have a 30-min Discovery Call first. It's free, and there's no pressure to buy or any sales pitches. Prior to setting up this call, I will send you a brief intake questionnaire, which you can request here:




Brian's designs and recommendations significantly shifted people’s excitement and expectations about our technology. He understands data.

A big concern when you’re introducing new technology to your staff and clients is making sure they will want to use it. We were concerned about the ease of use and appeal of a new survey data platform we were introducing, but Brian was really able to understand our challenges quickly. His design and recommendations significantly shifted people’s excitement and expectations around it. A big reason why we hired Brian is because he understands data, and the new design he created will only help reinforce GSG’s brand as being innovative and ahead of the curve. My team has been really impressed with Brian's ideas and the simplicity of the designs he created. I definitely recommend him!

Michelle WoodruffMichelle Woodruff
VP of Practice Operations
Global Strategy Group

Brian brings a very high floor in terms of end results. The worst possible end result they will get from him is so much higher than what most designers can provide at their best.

When you’re bringing on a consultant, there is always a level of uncertainty about results, and there’s nothing worse than ending up with solutions that aren’t feasible, workable, or usable at the end of the process. While Brian’s processes differed from what I was used to, and I didn’t always want to get into the level of requirements detail that he felt was necessary, the bottom line is that Brian brings a very high floor in terms of end results. Given how many different responsibilities I am juggling at any given time, it was extremely comforting to know that my goals for the [new Apptopia analytics] product would always be met, and that my bottom line was so high. I’ve recommended Brian to my peers because the worst possible end result they will get from him is so much higher than what most designers can provide at their best.

Jonathan KayJonathan Kay
COO, Apptopia