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Dropbox Engagement Model

At Dropbox, content design was a horizontal function that worked in an embedded model. Content designers were allocated to specific areas where they partnered closely with product design, pm, engineering, research, and other cross-functional partners. 

When I started, content designers were often ratio'd against product design with the expectation that a content designer could support a certain number of designers. 

The opportunity


Content designers are traditionally under-resourced, and Dropbox was no exception. Content designers were stretched to work with multiple teams. There was a considerable amount of time lost context switching and triaging, rather than doing deep design work. Content design was seen as a service rather than strategic problem-solvers.

When content designers were able to go deep in a project, they had clear business impact. But when they were forced to stretch across multiple projects with multiple design, product, and engineering partners—in ways their partners were not—it left the content designers frustrated, the cross-functional partners uncertain about how and when to include content design, and the quality of the product suffered.

Impact of the current model

  • Content designers were burning out. They didn’t know where to focus so everything. It meant they couldn’t be strategic and they couldn’t grow as designers.

  • Product teams didn’t have visibility into a content designer’s workload and were unclear when to include content designers.

  • The business and product suffered. When content designers had time to work through solutions and embed with teams, conversion and activation rates increased.

The process


Learn from our stakeholders and content designers what was and wasn't working. We conducted stakeholder interviews and launched a new engagement model that we called High | Low | No. With this model, we were clear about the type of work we prioritized and how much work we could take on.

The solution


We changed our engagement model. We were intentional about the work we staffed, and we empowered content designers. We:

  • focused on high-impact (for the business, for design, for the writer)

  • gave writers the bandwidth to contribute to design strategy

  • could clearly communicate our priorities

  • could work from a more realistic content design:product design ratio


High | Low | No Model 

What we learned

🟡  content designers were usually included in strategic planning, but they couldn’t always attend 

🔴  the low engagement model was confusing: content designers felt obligated to staff everything as low

🟡  teams that weren’t prioritized as high asked for low support

🟢  leaders were more clear about the tradeoffs of what to staff

What we did next

  • removed low from the engagement model

  • developed our self-serve resources to include a quality checklist, webinars, and updated internal resources

  • ran roadmapping sessions for content designers; content designers learned from each other on how to best estimate projects

  • gave content designers permission to say no to project work and helped them prioritize

How I communicated the new model

engagement model.png

Intro to self-serve resources

here for you.png

Content designer-led internal sessions

Jennie Tan, the staff content designer at Dropbox, created a presentation on roadmapping and prioritization that she shared with other content designers. This helped other content designers know what and how to prioritize, and when to say no to work.Jennie even shared this process externally to help other content design teams prioritize.

Roadmapping_ Jennie.png

The outcome

  • Content designers employee engagement scores increased, and remained among the highest across design

  • Content designers were included in more strategic roles:

    • leading a vision workshop for an entire pillar

    • crafting a roadmap story to share at an all-hands

    • being sought after to work on strategic initiatives

  • Teams gave headcount to content design

  • Content designers delivered statistically significant improvements in their areas of focus, led design efforts, and influenced the roadmap


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