How would you design a kitchen? – cuatro(final)

Continued from tres

After spending the first 12 minutes of a design interview for a program/product manager role in learning more about the user, requirements, constraints and scenarios, as per the design template, you could spend the next 30 mintues in actually designing the prodcut/feature/object.

What design you come up with will be directly proportional to your imagination, your readings and your curiosity; but it is important to do the following at the very least:

  1. Approach the design in logical steps
  2. Ask for feedback and design iteratively
  3. Recognize key decision-points during the design and decide

Approaching logically: The easiest way to make your answer appear logical is to add a pre-determined structure to your answers. While designing, the simplest way to do so is to divide key design components in three. For instance, there could be three main components to designing a kitchen: cooking area, storing area and cleaning area – or- you may follow a workflow model and start by saying – the key persona (Leona, in our example) will do three key activities (cooking, storing and washing dishes).

Designing iteratively: Once, you’ve stated your three main points, it is critical to get them validated by the interviewer. More than validation, it always helps to involve the interviewer in the design exercise and ask for feedback on your thoughts. You may use the third column on the design template to list down key feedback points on the whiteboard.

Decisions: If someone were to ask me to answer – “What do I do the the most as a Program Manager?”, the obvious answer will be “decide.” Throughout the product cycle, the PM is required to make several decision (small and big) about the product/feature and the rest of the team looks up to the PM to make the final call. It is indispensable to demonstrate this to the interviewer. The key about making decisions is to make them on the basis of a “value system”. Decision-making becomes easier when there are no contradictions in your value system.


In the design template, the value system is represented on the top of the third column by a simple graph with three axes. I typically take three determining criteria for the product and prioritize them. For instance, for any interactive web-based software three factors (represented by each axis) could be a. interaction, b. functionality, c. robustness. After listing these three factors and validating them with the interviewer, you could mark their importance on the graph and connect the dots. For instance, if you’re likely to focus on ‘interaction’ more than performance and ‘robustness’ for that design question, then mark further on the interaction axis than you would for the ‘robustness’ axis.

If you have to choose between two design choices, it would be easier to use simple tables to list down all pros and cons of both options. See the third table in the design template.

It is very important to try to design a comprehensive wireframe/diagram on the board within the remaining 30 minutes. So I would caution you on time. The process and approach described in this series have worked for me and several other people who have used it, but only process won’t help (it would only indicate that you’ve read this blog). It is important to design WOW things. That can be done only through practice. So, I would urge you to develop a design-oriented thought process. Be cognizant about good and bad designs of objects around you. Ask yourself, why your cellphone is designed such? Why your bathroom door-knob is designed such? Why is my blog’s layout designed such?

Let’s design a kitchen!


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