Kit Unger cut her teeth in design as a graphic designer at a newspaper where she created informational graphics, maps, designed magazine covers, illustrations, and page layouts. But with the newspaper industry rapidly changing and the world moving online, she knew she had to update her skill set in order to keep up with the way the internet was scaling the news world. So she taught herself everything she could about web design and landed herself a job at a tech company.
Fast forward 20+ years, Kit has built design teams in many organizations, from startups to IRS. "I love solving problems in creative ways," Kit explains. "In design, we iterate until we get it right by our customers. I iterated my career until I got it right by me."
Organizational design: The most fulfilling challenge for Kit
Kit’s design-first approach has guided her in her career and led her, repeatedly, to rapidly growing companies where she has scaled the design function and built design teams. “My history of building design teams from the ground up, as well as my enterprise experience, has set me up with the skills to scale design organizations successfully,” she explains.
As a leader, Kit loves organizational design and finds it really fulfilling — she sees scaling teams as an interesting challenge because it’s more than just designing systems, it’s about helping people succeed, too.
Not only does Kit love growing teams, she’s good at it: When she joined Smartsheet, she was the first product design hire. She grew the UX team to 40 people and led them through an IPO and major product redesign.
Kit’s path to MURAL
With her success at Smartsheet, Kit was a theme curator for Rosenfeld Media’s Enterprise UX conference in 2020, sharing her knowledge of scaling design and teams — and that’s how our leadership team heard about her. “When MURAL approached me, I was excited because our interests are 100 percent aligned: We believe that design thinking can solve the gnarliest problems in the world and want to empower people to do that,” she says. “Even though most people don’t wake up thinking they want to be an expert in design thinking, every team has problems they need to solve and design thinking can help them get there.”
What’s more, Kit was drawn to MURAL because of the way we’re democratizing design thinking for all teams. With her passion for infusing design thinking into all parts of an organization, making it available to everyone through the collaboration tool they use was a great place to start.
In her role now as MURAL’s SVP of Product Design, Kit is focused on growing our design team globally and scaling our processes across the organization. She’s taking stock of what works for our design team now, what will work in the future, and how we can keep design top of mind across every part of MURAL. “I see my job as setting the team up to do the best work of their careers,” Kit explains, “Which starts with the team itself and our processes, of course.”
Thinking about success — from a design perspective
Setting her team up for success starts with an understanding of how to measure that success. Because designers are a primary user of MURAL, it’s especially important that Kit and her team focus on building the highest quality tool—from a functional and aesthetic standpoint—so she starts by making sure the design team OKRs reflect that. She knows firsthand that it can be hard to establish functional OKRs when it comes to design, so she takes a different approach: “I focus our OKRs on quality, process, and culture, making sure that they aren’t duplicating or conflicting with the OKRs of our product teams — after all, we all work together toward a common goal to create experiences for our customers that are valuable, intuitive, and delightful,” she explains.
Lucky for Kit and all MURAL designers, leadership at MURAL has always been bought into the value of design — in fact, MURAL’s first hire was a designer! Since design is an integral part of MURAL’s culture, designers are basically joined at the hip with product managers and get involved early on in projects, leading a human-centered process through research, design thinking workshops, iterative feedback loops, prototyping, usability testing, and visual design.
“By adding specialists and building out more design functions, we’re able to think more holistically about the user journey within MURAL and improve the overall quality of the user experience,” Kit explains.
Keeping the team united
As she builds out the design team at MURAL, one of Kit’s priorities is making sure everyone on the team is set up for success. “Design is embedded on every product team, but we’re united — we’re still one product design team after all,” she says.
To that end, they cultivate a culture of connectedness — even when spread across the globe. They use Slack during the day to check in and say hi to each other and MURAL to plan projects, give feedback, and tie all of their work into the bigger picture. They hold weekly design round table meetings to come together as a design team for inspiration, fun, learning, figuring stuff out together, supporting each other, and sometimes just to connect.
Using MURAL to design MURAL is about as meta as it gets and it’s also something that helps unite the team. “We use MURAL for everything, even things I couldn’t even imagine using it for before I started working here,” Kit says. “We use MURAL to run workshops, conduct design critiques, one-on-ones, capture meeting notes, craft OKRs, provide visibility into the design process for every project, and onboard new team members.”
“One of my favorite ways to use MURAL as a team is to have fun,” says Kit. “We play games and embody our company value of making work fun. Doing so helps us get to know each other better, too. The value of being primary users of the product you’re designing is that you have deep knowledge of the product and added empathy for your users.”
The way Kit sees it, “We’re designing a tool that keeps teams connected, so we have to embody that culture within our own team in order to successfully deliver on our product promise.”
With an eye to the horizon and everything that’s coming for design at MURAL, Kit can’t help but get excited about the many new design challenges and opportunities her team will face, such as improving the facilitator experience for MURAL.
“We’re constantly improving the quality of our work and product, as well as expanding the breadth of skills on the team,” Kit says. “I have to pinch myself that I’m helping design a product that will change how people work together — it’s something we’re all immensely proud to be a part of.”
👉 Interested in joining Kit and her team? Check out our open positions and apply today!