Book cover
Book cover

Go from just hired, to Minimum Viable Design Team in five weeks

First Designer In isn’t yet another design book, it’s a hyper-practical guide to all the non-design work the role entails.

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Available in Kindle or paperback


A practical guide for designers moving into leadership

I read this book at a time when I was transitioning from an individual contributor at a large company, to a product owner on a much smaller team in a startup. It helped me build confidence in myself that I made the right move, and that it was the right time to make that move.

David H.

What Do You Do?

This book answers the question, "What do you do...when you're the first designer in. I highly recommend it.

Yinjian H.

It's so useful for the first designer in the company!

This book is so helpful for the first designer in the company! I found this book after I joined a startup as a first designer, and I hope I could read it earlier….

I highly recommend this book to anyone who is a first designer in the company, going to be/interested in being a first designer, or any designer that wants to be a generalist.


FAANG product manager

I found this book useful as a PM at a FANNG company for thinking about teams that run lean compared to their impact. In particular the ways that I can fill in where we lack designers and prioritize the most important work.

Shuichi S.

Great read before starting a new role

This book came at a great time for me: 2 weeks before joining a team as the only UX Designer.
It helped me shape my mindset and initial goals for this new role - giving me more confidence from day one.


Essential Reading For UX Professionals

The five-week outline on how to organize your design work at a new company features excellent detail as well. Something sure to feel invaluable to any designer.

This vital guide will prepare you for the harsh (but fabulous!) reality of being the first design hire tasked with creating the design function within a company.

What’s In the Book

The book is broken down into three sections, plus an addendum. Here’s exactly what’s in each:

Section 1

Making Space For Design

Setting the Design function up for healthy success.

Minimum Viable Design Team

Two types of design teams

Six design skills of a generalist

Design business metrics

Design's place in the company

Drafting a master plan

Section 2

The First Five Weeks

An action packed plan to get on-boarded.

Audit of the current state

Identify the real stakeholders

Set fundamental expectations

Take benchmark measurements

Set up proto-personas

Deliver. Deliver. Deliver.

Section 3

Looking Forward

These topics fill entire books. We’ll focus solely on bootstrapping them into existence.

Seed a design system

Getting a components library built

Seed research operations

Measure design org maturity

Prepare yourself to hire a team


Swipe Files & Resources

Downloadable files, free forever for folks who’ve purchased the book.

The Action Plan (Summary)

Readiness (Checklist)

Design Levels Matrix (Spreadsheet)

Research Projects vs. User Studies (Swipe File)

Reading list of all books and articles (Link List)

As the first UX design hire at a startup, you’re flying solo… but you don’t want to stay solo forever. First Designer In is your guide to growing design as a function.

About Me

I’ve made a career of being the first designer hire, then building up a team from scratch.

In over a dozen years in the business, I’ve founded three of my own companies, sold one, been the first hire at multiple startups, and worked in large multinational companies.

I’ve worked on products ranging from SMB to enterprise; delivered via SaaS, distributed via channel partners, or embedded in physical appliances. I’m part of the 500 startups network, member of the UXPA, and an active mentor in the UX design community.

There’s a wealth of knowledge locked away in our industry. It needs to be shared back to the community.

Why Now?
At least once a week, a fresh-faced designer will pop into a forum and cheerily ask for pointers on being a solo UX practitioner. They are met with links to a few articles and a list of books about design craft or design management. Nothing, however, is available that can prepare them for the harsh reality of being the first design hire tasked with creating a brand new design function within a company—until now.
I wrote First Designer In to fill that gap. This isn’t design book; it’s a hyper-practical guide to all the non-design work the role entails.