Ask DN: Would you design at Facebook?

over 8 years ago from , Writer at The Long View

Would you want to work there? If yes, why don't you already? If no, why not?

If you do work there now: Engaging challenges? Any big company woes? Life/work balance? I'm sure it depends on the product/team etc, but general is fine.

It's changed so much over the years. The great designer-grab of 2011 seems like it's over. I am curious what the vibe is like now.


  • Xavier BertelsXavier Bertels, over 8 years ago (edited over 8 years ago )

    I would not work for a company of which I know they purposely breach their customers’ privacy by (machine) reading all of their communication and treating them as lab rats, trying to influence their mood. I would not work for a company of which the CEO called their customers “dumb fucks”. I would not work for a company where the main design goal is to get people hooked to a product.

    I would rather sell drugs.

    32 points
  • Denis RojcykDenis Rojcyk, over 8 years ago (edited over 8 years ago )

    It depends.

    Hypothetical situation.

    I am running my own agency, let's say Teehan+Lax. I am effin good. Portfolio containing really big and successful clients. I am at the top. Now ... facebook approaches me and says "Hey, you guys are doing awesome job! We really want you here at Facebook. There is this huge pile of cash ready for you. Accept it and you will be at the top at our company dealing with things that matter."

    Would I like to be in charge of product design at facebook? Working on stuff that affects millions of people around the world?

    Hell yes!

    Another hypothetical situation.

    I am a freelance designer doing my thing. I am not bad, I have a pretty good income. Steady flow of new clients. My portfolio is growing steadily, my income is increasing with every new client. I am working from the comfort of my home. I am being creative as I like to. I am in charge of app design, app icon design. I am figuring out what kind of app store screenshots work and which don't. Every day there is something new waiting for me. New opportunity. New potentially huge client.

    Now, would I leave it all behind and arrange an interview with Facebook (Apple, Google)? So they could put me into "creative" open space with a billion of other people working at the same time? So I could iterate on one icon or one app view and fight with other teams working on the same thing? With the possibility that my work would never see the light of the day?


    14 points
    • Christine RødeChristine Røde, over 8 years ago (edited over 8 years ago )

      Totally agreed there are huge differences to the freedom of freelance vs working at a big company, but thought I'd try and be open about how Design works at Facebook as well. :)

      You're right there's always risk working on something that doesn't ship, but fortunately we don't have a culture of "iterating on one icon or one app view and fight with other teams working on the same thing". Designers have clear ownership over individual products or features, and while you're expected to communicate with other teams and defend the best user experience, teams aren't pitted against each other.

      Personally I've been the sole designer working on Facebook at Work for the last 10 months, responsible for visual design, user experience, planning and executing new features, onboarding flows, app store & marketing assets, etc — across WWW, iOS and Android. Call it drinking kool-aid, but I feel I've got more than enough responsibility and creative freedom to make a difference!

      12 points
      • Denis RojcykDenis Rojcyk, over 8 years ago

        Thank you!

        It is nice to see it from a different perspective :] Did you apply for a job or did you got invited?

        1 point
      • Oz ChenOz Chen, over 8 years ago

        My design team just started experimenting with Facebook at Work.

        Looks promising but we have a ton of suggestions (which you've probably already heard) if you ever need some user research.

        2 points
    • Wentin ZWentin Z, over 8 years ago

      I am still bitter about teehan and lax just let go of their company and joined facebook for... a big chunk of cash? So I would vote nope and nope on these two scenarios.

      If I am mediocre designer, doesn't have tons of exciting stuff I am super into, then yeah, but they don't want to hire me in that case.

      So I guess it will never work out. :D

      0 points
      • Mike Wilson, over 8 years ago (edited over 8 years ago )

        Actually they weren't acquired, they were "acqui-hired" so it was not a big payday. In those cases you get a salary and a contract, not much more. Granted, if they're now upper management level, it's probably a super nice salary with very nice stock options, but nothing like what happens when your entire company gets acquired (ie. 5X EBITDA with a quick earn-out). I'd venture to guess the company was having financial troubles.

        People don't usually realize, an acquihire basically means Facebook thought their agency team had little value and the only value to be extracted was in the founders.

        0 points
        • Paul @StammyPaul @Stammy, over 8 years ago

          Acquihires can still be a large pay day (not upfront lump sum but significant earn out). Easily $1M+ per person over the vest.

          1 point
  • Suganth SSuganth S, over 8 years ago

    I honestly feel Facebook is one of those companies which have so many amazing problems to solve and their designers are doing a pretty good job at it.

    Right now Facebook's platform is more open than ever with messenger, groups being separate products from main app.

    Its definitely in the list of companies I want to work.

    9 points
    • Jonathan ShariatJonathan Shariat, over 8 years ago (edited over 8 years ago )

      A agree. Facebook's size and function in our lives makes even the smallest problem a significant one.

      Personally, I would love a chance to work there. Especially since Teehan and Lax joined. I would totally dig to be on one of the teams they manage.

      3 points
    • Pedro PintoPedro Pinto, over 8 years ago

      I also agree. It would be great to work in some of the challenges that Facebook is solving. And Mark seems to be a great leader.

      0 points
  • Christophe TauzietChristophe Tauziet, over 8 years ago (edited over 8 years ago )

    I'm currently working at Facebook, in the Friend Sharing team and have been for 2 years now. In the past, I've worked a startup (Parse, acquired by FB in 2013) and at Apple.

    I read a lot of concerns about designing for Facebook, and what it involves, and to be completely honest, I was sharing the same concerns until the startup I was working for got acquired and I joined the place. Since then, after having seen how Facebook works from the inside, I've completely changed my mind. Every day I go to work excited about the opportunity to have a lot of impact on a product that people love to use, and use a lot.

    Even when I worked on something as silly as letting people add stickers on top of their photos (which originally irritated the photographer in me), I got to see how excited real people (the ones that don't work in tech) got, how suddenly some lady in Wisconsin wasn't concerned anymore about the photo of the dinner she just cooked for her kids being too boring for sharing on Facebook, because she was able to put a happy face and a "stupid little fat kitty that eats pizza" sticker on top of it to make it funny. And whenever we make it any easier to share a moment with your friends and family, we're helping people express themselves, and communicate with the people in their lives. And that matters to me more than anything I've worked on in the past.

    I often get the question: "what's challenging about working at Facebook?", to which I often answer that what I find the most challenging and interesting is not to design for an insane number of people, but to design for people from different culture, age, social environment. People in India use Facebook in a very different way than people in Kenya. Grand-fathers in Spain don't use Facebook the same way teenagers do in Brazil. And learning how people use your product, and then informing your next design with that information is quite challenging, and interesting.

    Yes, working at Facebook also has its shares of downsides, and yes, people's perception of Facebook in the tech industry isn't amazing yet, but overall, it's the best gig I've ever had and I'm quite happy with it.

    8 points
    • Jenny Singer, over 8 years ago

      Thanks for the perspective! Maybe it's a shallow question, but does you work follow you home? When you get home at night or on the weekend, are you able to do other things or are you right back to work on FB stuff?

      0 points
  • Luke Woods, over 8 years ago

    When I joined Facebook back in 2011 I was pretty nervous. At the time I was working at IDEO and I wasn’t sure what it would feel like to work in-house. Would I get bored working on the same thing all the time? Would I get stuck working on small problems like optimizing a button?

    I asked a lot of friends as I was considering the possibility. Most of my designer friends responded, “Facebook? Why would you want to work at Facebook? What are you going to do there — redesign the like button all day?” Interestingly, when I asked by non-designer friends, their response was very different, “Facebook? That’s awesome. Think of the people you can reach. You’ve always wanted to do design that really matters — now’s your chance.” This outsider perspective resonated with me. I was excited about the scale and potential for impact, but still had some lingering reservations. That week I flew to Columbus Ohio, where I grew up and spent time reflecting on what other things I cared about and what I had learned during my time at IDEO. Two more things stood out:

    1. The people I work with matter a lot to me
    2. Trying new things energizes me

    Facebook stacked up well on both dimensions. The people I met in the process — people like Julie Zhuo, Adam Mosseri and Kate Aronowitz — asked great questions, challenged my assumptions and felt like people who would be great to learn from. The role felt like something new and very different from what I was doing before. With excitement, fear and a sense of possibility, I decided to give Facebook a try.

    Today I lead the product design team at Facebook. We’re much larger than we were in 2011, which enables us to work on many more diverse problems than before. Facebook is still a place where individual designers (or any individual for that matter) can make a huge difference. Just last week, one of the designers on my team shipped a donations campaign that raised over $10M for the International Medical Corps relief effort in Nepal from more than half a million donors. We’re also investing more in design than ever before in terms of people, development programs (like iOS training for designers) and tooling (like Origami). That’s not to say there aren’t challenges. Facebook is not the best place for everyone. But if you’re excited about communication apps or business tools and want to wrangle challenging trade-offs, Facebook is one of the best places in the world to make an impact as a designer.

    7 points
    • Jenny Singer, over 8 years ago

      Silly question Luke, but to what extent does your work follow you home? Are you able to maintain good balance, on weekends, and say, if you wanted to pack up for a few days and visit NYC?

      0 points
  • Robin HoodRobin Hood, over 8 years ago

    I think Facebook has one of the worst UI's I have ever seen on the desktop for such a popular application. It's visually boring and not intuitive. My friends ask me a lot How Do I Do Such and Such on it? I don't think I would want to work there... I have a feeling it might be design by committee.

    6 points
  • Mike Wilson, over 8 years ago

    I think most designers don't dream of working for Facebook. I can think of nothing more boring. If they stopped iterating on their design tomorrow they would still generate billions of dollars.

    Yet, I think most designers in tech would say yes if offered a job there and convince themselves it's something they want with canned lines like "you can affect the lives of billions by changing this button style!" Here's why:

    Prestige + Money.

    I know that sounds very cynical, but the desire to seek the approval of friends, family, romantic partners, etc. is quite strong. With Facebook being so successful, much like Google, if you tell people you work there it illicits a "Wow you must be successful too" response from the average person. Heck, for a platform built on getting peer approval from your "friends," it's kind of ironic isn't it?

    For myself, since I'm too much of a sociopathic assohole to care enough about what my friends/family think, it's not something I'd leave the freedom of freelance for.

    4 points
  • J.T. TrollmanJ.T. Trollman, over 8 years ago

    I joined Facebook two years ago, but I did plenty of homework beforehand to make sure it was the right place for me. I was impressed by the possibility of impact — few places allow your work to affect peoples' lives on such a grand scale — but I was worried the size of the organization would hinder individual impact, and that everything would always break down into either verticalized decision-making, or design-by-committee fracturing.

    Thankfully, it's turned out to be neither of those things.

    I'd say Facebook intentionally hires designers who can work proactively, without a huge amount of oversight. Doing so allows us to maintain, if not a completely flat structure, then absolutely a structure where your direct ability to ship (and your ability to make informed decisions about what you design) is of prime importance. Design is a huge part of our culture, and has been since the beginning. And for those of you who've ever worked in agency life (or vertical organizations like a lot of shops I see on the East Coast), it's a refreshing change to know that the people you have your critiques with aren't there to tell you what to do: at the end of the day, you own what you build. The rest of the designers in your critique are there to offer their opinions and share experiences to help push things in the right direction. It's a nicely collaborative environment, and I've yet to experience the sniping or bickering I hear other companies have to deal with.

    I've also never been locked into working on something I wasn't passionate about. Speaking only from my own experience, it's really energizing to work on things in which you truly believe. I've never spent a week iterating on an icon unless I thought it really made an impact on the product experience; but I will say I jump rather quickly from pure wireframes to full pixel mockups, because it always helps me to work with the actual content in question. Visual design dovetails into UX so much as to make the line a complete blur, with the way I work — and I dare say with the way a lot of us work.

    The amount of challenges you face here is flat-out amazing. I personally dove head-first two years ago into unifying and improving our Android app, specifically focusing on how we could improve the experience for people in emerging markets: people who are largely mobile-only, with slower year-class Android devices, smaller screens, and slow/spotty connections. I now work on the Protect & Care team, trying to "turn bad experiences into good ones:" focusing on problems ranging from "What happens to my account when I die?" to "How do you tell Facebook there's a problem, and how do we respond?" When someone's digital life is lived on the platform for which you design, it takes a lot of humble pie to try to do that experience justice. I guess you could say I just love the challenge. (And the mission-driven people I work with help, too, for sure.)

    3 points
    • Jenny Singer, over 8 years ago

      Out of curiosity, are you able to balance your life outside Facebook pretty well? Seems like it's at a stage now where work/life balance is pretty good. Just given the commute, curious if you are able to maintain a social life outside the company?

      1 point
      • J.T. TrollmanJ.T. Trollman, over 8 years ago

        Generally speaking! I think it really depends on the individual. I've personally gone through several months of being totally heads-down, work-is-everything, to (now) several months of very intentionally keeping a work-life balance. I'll probably continue to waver between the two :) .

        1 point
  • Nitin GargNitin Garg, over 8 years ago (edited over 8 years ago )

    A full-time job at Facebook? No

    Why? Personally the goals of Facebook as a company do not sync with my idea of projects I want to invest energy in. Quite sure in few months I will get frustrated and turn into a bad team player.

    Work on a short-term project? YES!

    It would be interesting to understand the process & challenges in taking design decisions for such a massive audience. Their reach is the only thing that excites me.

    3 points
  • Jeff SmithJeff Smith, over 8 years ago

    I care about the quality of people I work with and the opportunity to learn.

    Regarding the above, the friends I know who work there are fantastic both as designers and human beings. Facebook has interesting, impactful, design problems that would force one to learn, especially as it seems ownership of one's product is core to being a product designer there.

    Yup, I'd design there.

    2 points
  • Pasquale D'SilvaPasquale D'Silva, over 8 years ago

    Here's the vibe I get: https://vimeo.com/126882356

    2 points
  • Spencer HoltawaySpencer Holtaway, over 8 years ago (edited over 8 years ago )

    No for a variety of reasons from product, location to culture:

    1. They're on the peninsula and I live in the city. The drive/ride to largely generic towns on the peninsula would make me feel pretty bad.

    2. Having worked at a large company with a campus culture, I know that style of office / worklife is not for me.

    3. They build very few genuinely useful products (and those that are useful, like the "I'm safe" feature require you to use the not so useful products like the feed/wall). I use it every day but could very happily live without it.

    4. Their revenue is built on advertising. Having worked on a product that was funded by advertising, I know that kind of product development is not for me.

    5. I think it's great that it's a big company that can afford to bring less-experienced designers in to learn and build on their skill set, but right now I really enjoy working in a team of really experienced people who are really good at what they do.

    1 point
  • Oskar SmithOskar Smith, over 8 years ago

    I enjoy the stand alone apps like messenger, groups, and paper - But in the end it's just another website. I am more interested in working for small products that I believe in. But it could be tempting, never say never!

    1 point
  • Bevan StephensBevan Stephens, over 8 years ago (edited over 8 years ago )

    I'm not only put off by the decidedly dubious business practices and unethical treatment of people's personal data.

    But I also wonder about the motives of designers that would want to work there and the culture that they would create.

    1 point
  • Dean HaydenDean Hayden, over 8 years ago

    No. Simply because it's one company that does one main product and working within the same guidelines day in day out would drive me mad. Even if I had the opportunity to change those guidelines and essentially the brand, I'd still see it day in day out.

    I've worked in-house for an Apple reseller in the past and it became very very boring after a year. Same bunch of products, adhere to Apple guidelines, tow the line; became a bit of a robot.

    All of the above is in view of a designer that's driven by the gloss of aesthetics. If my career direction was UX / UI (sorry to bunch them together) then I'd give a very different response.

    0 points
  • jj moijj moi, over 8 years ago (edited over 8 years ago )

    Yes, if they pay me handsomely.

    My new mantra is “fund my bliss” (previously, "find my bliss") … what this means is that: find a job I like... but one that I'm not /in/ love with. Find something I'm good at and that I can be marginally proud of at the end of the day and use that to fuel my free time to then create my bliss.

    I'd use the resources from there to follow my passions outside of work. In fact, my “happy place” is furniture. I could not do that if i was not a UX designer and a teacher 9-5. I don't mind and would be so happy if my work there or anywhere is just iterating a single app icon all day and making that truckload of money... and then, I can work on the my side stuff I can then afford to do because I'm making a lot.

    But there's a line I don't cross is when their operations are illegal or morally doomed. I won't work for drug cartels or abortion clinics for an example. Facebook's lab experiments and privacy policies are still far from that. Heck, I'll wash your car and walk your dog if you pay me a million.

    0 points