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Kumu's Design Career Growth Framework

Crafting a dual-track growth framework that provides structure and guidance for Kumu's product design team

The design team at kumu uses a dual-track growth framework. This allows designers to evolve in two directions—as individual contributors (ICs) or as managers.

At the lead level—before they decide to continue as an IC or switch to being a manager—designers will be hybrids or player-coaches. Player-coaches are exactly that—sometimes players, sometimes coaches. They straddle the line, experiencing both tracks, helping them decide which path fits them best.

Differences between an individual contributor, hybrid, and manager
Illustration: Diana Thai

The five competencies

Our growth framework is divided into 5 competencies—Craft, Strategic Thinking and Planning, Execution, Communication, and Leadership—each of which has 2-4 different skills and different milestones you can reach.


  • Visual Design — The ability to drive meaningful outcomes for the business by describing and executing interfaces and solutions to a high quality of craft
  • UX Design — The ability, both as an individual and working with the product team, to define requirements and design simple, easy-to-use, and elegant interfaces for complex systems.
  • Patterns — The ability, both as an individual and working with the product team, to define requirements and deliver UX designs that leverage UX best practices, and dovetail with the predominant UX patterns present in the product.

Strategic Thinking & Planning

  • Product Thinking — The ability to drive meaningful outcomes for the business by connecting design goals to the strategic objectives of the PM’s team and the company overall. The ability to define an overall vision for the designer's area of the product that connects to the strategy for the team and the company. The ability to understand the roadmap of prioritized features and initiatives that deliver against that vision.
  • Data — The ability to use data to generate actionable insights, to leverage those insights to achieve goals set for the product, and to connect those quantified goals to meaningful outcomes for the business. The ability to leverage user feedback to understand how users engage with the product, make better decisions, and drive meaningful outcomes for the business.


  • Communication — The ability to drive meaningful outcomes for the business by sharing the right amount of information with the right people, at the right time, and listening effectively. The ability to communicate well with those around you with sensitivity to timeliness, medium, brevity and tone.
  • Collaboration — The ability to work closely with one’s immediate team (engineering, design, etc.) to iteratively and quickly deliver product functionality that accomplishes pre-defined goals. The ability to proactively identify stakeholders impacted by the designer's area of ownership and to work with those stakeholders to factor their requirements into design decisions.


  • Process — The ability to drive meaningful outcomes for the business by defining and documenting the process of working for their team and organisation and finding ways to improve and grow their and the organization's ways of working.
  • Toolkit — The ability to drive meaningful outcomes for the business by using a broad set of tools to to best solve and communicate user flows, interaction and motion and create compelling and appropriate narratives via illustration, animation, or prototypes.


  • Culture — The ability to bring groups together and foster a happy and productive environment.
  • Mentorship — The ability to guide others in their personal and professional development.
  • Recruiting — The ability to bring in excellent staff members.
  • Career Growth — The ability to bring in excellent staff members.

Hitting milestones using the 5C rule

As you go deeper or take on more responsibilities, you cross a milestone. But, you don't achieve competency the first time you demonstrate relevant behaviors or tasks. In general, you must have demonstrated a "Conscious, Comfortable, Continuous, Consistent Competency" defined as follows:

  • Conscious: having devoted intentional effort to this endeavor,
  • Comfortable: without being overly stretched,
  • Continuous: for a reasonable period of time,
  • Consistent: reliably and evenly,
  • Competency: meeting the criteria.

Nurturing different designer shapes and sizes

We've always looked for multi-faceted, T-shaped individuals, who bring a lot to the table other than just their craft. But, having a rigid ladder and making them tick milestones from a checklist hampers these individuals’ growth and limits their shapes. People produce great work when they are at their natural best.

To nurture and accelerate the growth of the designers on the team, they are given the flexibility to identify which themes align with their personal journeys and which ones to focus on.

Different designer shapes overlapping to show the team's cumulative skill shape and gaps
Having designers of different shapes helps form a more well-rounded team.
How we built the Figma design team.

View the complete growth framework in tabular format in this spreadsheet ↗.