Engineering with empathy: Spectrum Design Web Engineering

Rajdeep Chandra
4 min readMay 14, 2024


What is a Design Engineer’s role at Adobe Spectrum Engineering?

A Design Engineer position within Adobe’s Spectrum team entails a pronounced emphasis on strategic planning and collaborative initiatives. The role delineates a heightened focus on devising and executing strategic plans, along with fostering collaboration across multifunctional teams.

Design Engineers within Adobe’s Spectrum Web Components (SWC) team are instrumental in the development and maintenance of foundational web components that underpin the user interface across Adobe’s diverse range of products. The role extends beyond mere coding; it encompasses the strategic planning, architectural design, and implementation of these components, ensuring they meet the highest standards of performance, scalability, and usability.

One of the primary responsibilities of Design Engineers on the SWC team is to architect and build web components that serve as the building blocks for various product teams within Adobe. This involves understanding the requirements of different products, designing components that are flexible and reusable, and implementing them in a way that promotes consistency and efficiency.

What do a Senior/Staff Design Engineer work on?

Becoming a Senior Design Engineer at Adobe’s Spectrum team is not just a promotion; it’s a transition into a role that requires a shift in mindset and approach. Moving to a Senior/Staff Design Engineer means taking on more ambiguous, strategic, and impactful work. It’s about understanding the big picture, collaborating effectively, and leading with empathy.

In this new role, you’re no longer just focused on shipping products; you’re also thinking strategically. You’re diving into projects that have a significant impact on the company’s revenue and overall goals. It’s about aligning your work with the broader objectives of the team and the organization.

One key aspect of a Senior Design Engineer is understanding what your business wants to work on and what the goals are for the group. This requires clear communication and a deep understanding of the company’s priorities.

In addition to working on big initiatives, a Senior Design Engineer is also responsible for ensuring that the projects they’re involved in are running smoothly. This means keeping a close eye on the status of the projects, ensuring that everyone is unblocked, and that the team is healthy and humming along.

How do Engineers at Spectrum CSS team collaborates with Spectrum Web Components Engineering Team?

Moreover, Engineers on the Spectrum CSS team are tasked with managing the CSS aspects of these components. This involves translating design tokens into CSS code and ensuring that the CSS is applied to the web components correctly. They are also responsible for maintaining a consistent design language across products by cascading these CSS styles effectively.

By working closely with product teams, UX designers, and other stakeholders, Design Engineers on both teams ensure that the web components and CSS they develop not only meet the functional requirements but also align with Adobe’s design principles and brand guidelines. This collaboration is essential for delivering a cohesive and seamless user experience across all Adobe products.

How do Design Engineers maintains the core library flexible?

One of the key responsibilities of Design Engineers is to ensure that the systems they build are flexible and adaptable. The Engineering team design systems with scalability and modularity in mind, allowing for easy integration of new features and technologies. This flexibility is crucial in today’s rapidly evolving technological landscape, where the ability to quickly pivot and adapt to change is essential for success.

Transitioning Away from Individual Contributor Mindset:

Senior/Staff Design Engineers undergo a mindset shift from being focused on individual contributions to prioritising broader strategic goals and outcomes. Instead of seeking gratification from writing and committing code, they focus on driving overall team and organisational success. This shift enables them to better align their efforts with the strategic direction of the company and contribute more effectively to long-term goals.

How do Design Engineers help in maintaining collaboration with other product teams at Adobe?

Within the Spectrum Web Components (SWC) team at Adobe, Design Engineers play a crucial role in collaborating with other product teams to identify cross-organization solutions. They actively engage with teams working on various Adobe products to understand their challenges, requirements, and technological needs. By leveraging their expertise and knowledge of industry trends, Design Engineers identify opportunities where solutions developed within the SWC team can be applied to solve problems across multiple products.

One way Design Engineers contribute to this collaboration is by actively participating in discussions and meetings with product teams. They offer insights and suggestions on how SWC components and CSS can be used to address specific needs or enhance existing features in other products. This collaboration not only helps in unblocking teams facing technical challenges but also fosters a culture of knowledge sharing and innovation across the organization.

Additionally, Design Engineers in the SWC team are proactive in sharing updates and enhancements to SWC components with other product teams. This ensures that teams are aware of the latest developments and can leverage them to improve the user experience of their products. Design Engineers also work closely with product teams to address any issues or bugs related to SWC components, providing timely solutions and ensuring smooth integration into their products.

Wagging the dog:

In conclusion, being a Design Engineer in the Spectrum team is like being a conductor in a symphony orchestra — technical skills are just the tip of the iceberg. It’s about harmonizing with your team members, understanding their rhythms, and leading the performance with empathy and finesse. By tuning into the needs of others, orchestrating collaboration, and conducting with empathy, Design Engineers can create a masterpiece of innovation and teamwork that resonates throughout the company.