A Collection of Design Engineers

Collecting people I know who work at the intersection of design and engineering, in an attempt to figure out what a design engineer is

Assumed Audience

People trying to figure out what a Design Engineer is and want to see tangible examples of design engineering work.

I won't walk you through what defines and distinguishes each of these, because I don't fully understand most of them. Few people do. They're fuzzy, malleable pointers to a wide array of skills and responsibilities that differ from company to company. But they're our best attempt at describing emerging roles in the very young field of software creation.

Throwing this extra label onto the pile feels necessary though. Design engineer captures something simple, important, and worth distinguishing: a person who sits squarely at the intersection of design and engineering, and works to bridge the gap between them.

They're people who know how to run a design process to decide how something should work, look, and feel, and have the engineering chops to implement it. They can quickly iterate on ideas by cycling between design exploration, research, and live code. The skillset is ideal for prototyping, exploratory interaction design, and building robust design systems.

Others have written about the role in more detail, so I'll lean on their insights to flesh out the definition:

Rather than dwell too long on the definitions and literature, I'm more interested in practical examples of design engineering work out in the wild. Selfishly, I'm trying to figure out whether I'm a design engineer, or want to become one when I grow up.

The best way to do this is to find and follow people doing design engineering work in public, and pay attention to their outputs, skills, and responsibilities.

Over the last year or two, I've seen an increasing numbers of these folks pop up. Most from a small set of companies like , , and , known for their attention to interface design detail and slick product interactions, who are clearly encouraging and cultivating design-engineer hybrids.

So here's my list of people I consider design engineers, based on the work they put in public. It's not exhaustive or comprehensive. I am not listing all design engineers known to the universe. Only the ones I pay attention to and respect the work of. Maybe it'll help you figure out what design engineers are too.

1. Rauno Freiberg

Staff Design Engineer at

2. Paco Coursey

Webmaster at . Previously Software Engineer at

3. Szymon Kaliski

Design Engineer at . Previously Principal Investigator at

4. Amelia Wattenberger

Research & development at . Previously Designer at

5. Andy Allen

Designer and Founder of

6. Alex Obenauer

Independent researcher. Collaborates with

7. Bret Victor

Independent researcher. Creator of . Frankly, much more than a design engineer and working many meta levels above those of us mucking about with cool UI interactions, but fits the definition anyway.

8. Emil Kowalski

Design Engineer at

9. Steve Ruiz

Founder and designer of . Previously at . Master of the arrows

10. Bartosz Ciechanowski

Creates interactive explanations. Not a Design Engineer as a profession, but a good example of blending design and engineering for educational content.

Some caveats

I've intentionally only listed people who put lots of work in public. But the work people put in public is not necessarily the work they do day-to-day.

People are incentivised to only share their sexy, shiny, flawless creations, rather than their messy process or shameful failures. Some of the especially tedious and labourious work isn't easily shareable, such as advocating for robust design systems and cleaning up legacy code.

I am not under any illusions that these public works constitute the entirety of what design engineers create or spend all day making. I'm sure some spend their days “aligning stakeholders,” buried under a mountain of strategic documents and trapped by heirarchical approval chains. Say a small prayer for them.

If you're mortally offended that I didn't include someone who you think is the definition of a design engineer, tweet at me and include examples of their work. It's not helpful to send me people who don't work in public. I'm sure there are a thousand and one exceptional design engineers buried in the basement of Apple, but we'll never get to see their work or learn from them.

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