Out of the Office

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Ratios and Reality

What’s the optimum ratio of designers to engineers?

I started working on this question last year in an effort to analyze whether we had enough designers working with one of our divisions. The first conundrum is who do you count…just designers? all engineers? does QA count? what about backend projects?

We looked externally at what our colleagues told us they had at other companies. This varied from 1:10 to 1:6.

Internally we saw 1:4 on mobile projects and 1:8 on web and desktop.

What ended up being most useful however, was to look at the ratio of designers to scrum teams. When we took that look, we decided that the best practice would be 1:1 or 1:2 max. Beyond two scrum teams, it becomes impossible for the designer to participate in the necessary meetings and keep track of the work and progress.

For backend projects, with little customer facing UI, we think the ratio could be closer to 1:20 (designer: engineers).

What about non-designers? We aim to have 1:5 researcher: designers and 1:5 UI writer: designers. More or less — could be 4 or 6. For research, it depends on how new the customer base is to us. For writing, it depends on how content rich the apps are. Management-wise 1:8 manager: designers.

Other thoughts?