How Meta product designers are shaping the future of social connection

By Vivian W., Jacklyn L., Nir T.
7 min to read
January 10, 2023
A multicolored line weaves through three-dimensional blocks, representing the nonlinear nature of our authors’ career journeys.


Three product designers from across Meta technologies share firsthand accounts of what it means to design the future of social connection.

At Meta, we are designing the future of social connection. What is that like for the designers who are leading the way? We asked three senior product designers from different Meta technologies to share their experience—what inspires them, how they have developed their careers and what their role is in helping shape Meta’s future.

An illustrated portrait of the author, Vivian W., Director of Product Design for Instagram. Beside her, a quote: “Design plays an important role in shaping Meta's future, bringing together voices and expertise from across the company to dream up new experiences for our community.”

One of the most exciting and complex projects I've worked on is the company rebrand from Facebook to Meta. In the years leading up to this point, the company had evolved from a single app to a suite of products, and the rebrand was designed to create clarity around all of the company’s different products and experiences. As part of that process, the company brought together a group of senior designers from across the different technologies to collaborate on what the user experience would look like as the new brand was expressed across each of them.

At Meta, design is a tool for visualizing and evaluating ideas. The opportunity to create a new product and brand system across all of our technologies was a full-scale application of this. As a designer from Instagram, it was one of the best learning experiences of my career to partner with individual contributors (ICs) across Meta’s technologies and programs. Working with designers across the company is something I really enjoy, and I think it’s necessary to have this kind of collaboration when we’re solving complex challenges that will impact every product. We all need to work together to create coherency for the people who use our products.

The process of creating the company product and brand system is just one example of how important the role of design will be in shaping Meta’s future. There will be more and more projects where designers will need to take the lead and work across different product surfaces and technologies. In a lot of the projects I work on, designers are the ones who come together first to paint a clear picture of where we're headed from a user experience perspective. Then we figure out things like the right organizational structure to move the project forward.

I have worked as a manager in the past, but I decided to go back to being an IC because I never want to lose the muscle of doing hands-on design work, especially given how quickly the tools change. The ability to go deep on design gives me a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day that I don’t get otherwise. It gives me the energy I need to sustain myself.

At Meta, there are many possible career paths. We have a lot of programs that connect senior ICs across the company and encourage us to share our stories to help us elevate our growth trajectories. Managers also play a really important role in supporting our growth. Senior ICs do such different things across the company, and a big part of managers’ jobs is to pair us with the right projects and opportunities so that we’re fulfilled by the work we're doing, and we’re adding real value to the business.

An illustrated portrait of the author, Jacklyn L., Director of Product Design for Facebook. Beside her, a quote: “Everything I’ve worked on has been focused on how I can improve people’s lives. Having the opportunity to shape and design experiences for people at a global scale is something I’d never been able to do before Meta.”

When I started at Facebook as an IC, I was the first Black female product designer the company had ever had. I knew it would be important to ensure the work I did positively impacted people who don't have the same access to rooms where decisions that shape the future of social media are being made. I chose to work on News, because I felt like that was where I could have the most meaningful impact at a global scale. I led the global launch of the News tab, presented a proposal to bring human curators to Facebook and created frameworks that allowed people to see content and news outside of their friend group. When COVID-19 hit, I worked with a team to leverage this thinking to create the COVID-19 Information Center. Later, in the lead-up to the 2020 election, I helped drive the strategy and execution of the Voting Information Center, the core elections experience on Facebook. We knew it was critical to help people feel confident in their understanding of the election results.

When George Floyd was murdered later that year, my product partner and I leveraged our past experiences to craft a centralized space to amplify stories and resources from and about the Black community and a place where people could take action through fundraising or find support and community on our platform. In 2021, we partnered with Nikole Hannah-Jones and The New York Times to bring the 1619 Project onto Facebook, creating an education experience for young adults. I'm proud that these experiences ultimately led to the formation of a whole team charged with making more equitable products.

I strongly believe that we need to show, as a company, that we care deeply about all of the voices on our platform. More than 3 billion people use Facebook, and we are intentional in our design approach to ensure we’re representing the range of communities we serve. Facebook is meant to bring the world closer together and to create community, and that means all communities—every single community should feel welcome on Facebook, and they should have a place to amplify their voices, find each other and feel a sense of connection.

As we start to think more about the metaverse, one of the things I've been doing is joining design sprints to help teams build on the things we’ve learned from past projects. For example, helping community builders understand how they can move their existing communities into the metaverse. If you have already done the work to foster a community that is healthy and thriving, we want to help you create experiences for these communities in the metaverse that build on your sense of belonging.

An illustrated portrait of the author, Nir T., Product Designer for Meta FinTech. Beside him, a quote: “The opportunity to keep trying new things really speaks to me as a designer. Constantly learning and experimenting is how you keep doing meaningful work.”

The importance of design to the culture at Meta is something I haven’t seen anywhere else. Design critiques and events, mentoring, building tools and prototypes, sharing knowledge between different design teams—these are all central to Meta’s culture. And the reach that you have as a designer here is essentially unparalleled. This year alone, I have worked on Instagram, WhatsApp, Messenger, Facebook, Ads Manager and Commerce Manager, across mobile and desktop. One of the privileges that we have as designers at Meta, especially as we become more senior, is that we're able to make connections and deliver work across multiple technologies, multiple markets and multiple surfaces globally. It’s something that not many people get to do elsewhere.

I’ve also had the opportunity to move between managing teams and designing as an IC, which is really valuable. When I had been at Meta for two years and worked on a lot of different products, I felt like the next step in my growth was to develop coaching and managing skills, work on processes and learn to have impact through other people. I moved to a management role for about two and a half years and developed new skills that helped me feel confident acting as a manager and mentor to my team. Eventually, I started to miss being close to the actual product design process and getting in the weeds of creating design solutions. I had the opportunity to move to the Meta financial technologies product group, which was a new challenge for me, so I jumped on it. I'm a better IC now that I have experience as a manager. I’d be happy to switch from IC to manager every few years to keep things interesting and to keep learning.

Designers often think that because Meta is such a large organization, they’re not going to have an impact on the product, the design solution or the strategy. They assume all of that gets handed down from above, but I always tell people that it's actually very much the opposite—it is expected of you as a senior IC to lead strategy and high-level product design and direction, and you're given every opportunity to do it. A lot of my career growth has come from working with my team to take a project in a new direction.

Fintech is still a very new space, and in a lot of our design work, there are no established solutions, historical insights or examples to learn from. Working on new technologies like digital collectibles presents design challenges we are solving for the first time. We’re in uncharted territory. That can be a little bit scary, but the places where no one has the answers yet are the places where you have an opportunity to have a substantial impact. We have the chance to set the bar for the rest of the industry with the decisions we make and the products that we create.

Design at Meta is for everyone who touches user experience and design.

Whether you’re a product designer, writer, creative strategist, researcher, project manager, team leader or all-around systems-thinker, there’s something here for you.

Design at Meta is a window into the unique expertise and perspectives of the multidisciplinary teams who are building the future of digital connection and bringing the world closer together.