What is Design Pairing and How Do We Do It?


Mischelle Mulia


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One of our Lattice Design team rituals includes quarterly design pairing partnerships. Inspired by a common practice in software engineering, pair programming, it’s a way to share knowledge, shorten the feedback loop, and solve problems together. Below is an overview of what design pairing is, why we love it, and how to try it out with your own team.

🧑‍🤝‍🧑 What is design pairing:

Design pairing is a way for all of the designers on the Lattice Design team to cross-collaborate across multiple product domains and levels. This process allows designers to learn from each other, gain context, and influence outcomes across multiple projects that they aren’t typically involved in on a day to day basis. With a longer term pairing partnership, each designer is able to gain context across each other’s goals and projects. This helps facilitate conversation and higher quality contextual feedback over a period of time.

💌 Why the design team loves design pairing:

To get a full sense of just how meaningful design pairing is for our team, here is what some members of the team say they like about their pairing sessions:

  • Getting a sounding board and hearing different design perspectives
  • Seeing other people's processes and the different problems compared to my own work
  • Going deep on the details and building up context in other product domains
  • Having a safe space to share very rough designs / ideas not fully thought through

💬 Here are some words the design team members used to describe their pairing sessions:

"Collaborative" "Insightful" "FUN!!!" "Camaraderie" "New perspective" "Energizing!"

⚙️ How to set up pairing:

At the beginning of each quarter, a facilitator will evaluate a series of inputs to help pair people up including: strengths, areas of improvement, roadmaps, levels, bandwidth, manager input, etc. The facilitator will then graciously partner people up based on the most advantageous learning opportunities they can gain from each other. The pairs will afterwards hold a pairing partnership kick-off to really learn about each other's learning goals for that quarter and set expectations with each other on length of pairing, day of week, etc. The pairing relationship has now officially begun and each pair will meet once a week for a few hours to focus on bettering each other's design output.

🧑‍🤝‍🧑 So, you think you can pair?

The answer to that is YES YOU CAN! Our design team has definitely benefited greatly from our quarterly pairing partnerships and we hope that you may give it a chance and try it out with your team as well. If you want to get a pairing ritual going and would like some advice to set up, reach out to us on Twitter @latticedesign.