Interested in a career in product or UX design? Wondering what to study to get you there? It’s a common question. In fact, after being asked this question by prospective candidates and others for months I wrote, somewhat glibly:
First study philosophy, psychology, sociology, anthropology, critical reasoning, statistics, writing, architecture. Become a student of human nature. Practice empathy. Learn a little code.
Then study UX.
Although it’s been a few years, I stand by these words. …
I didn’t quite make my goal of posting one long-form story per month, but I was close. Some of my stories were among the most popular I’ve written, though, so it wasn’t a total wash.
I would have liked my most popular piece to be something more than a listicle, but with 41K views and almost 1,000 fans, I can’t complain, right?
This was one of my favorite stories, and apparently 8.2K people liked it enough to view it as well.
This one was a lot of fun to write, so its 5.2K views are icing on the cake.
In August, I watched two dozen cursors swarming my screen, a hive of designers working together on a single Figma file. We were mid-sprint, a week in, and the team was powering through the challenge not as a group of solo artists, but as a symphony. It was breathtaking.
When I started designing 25 years ago, we worked in isolation on our individual project slices, coming together to share our work at infrequent intervals. Although we wanted greater collaboration, the tools stopped us in our tracks. That’s no longer the case.
I’ve witnessed a handful of watershed moments, times when it was clear everything would be different. Those fluttering cursors, moths around a flame, represented one such moment. I made a mental note: 2020 is the year design collaboration officially moved from wishful thinking to reality.
Shelve your ego: there’s no going back.
“You ruined my life! All I see everywhere is bad design!”
— A non-designer friend
The outburst surprised me. I guess years of listening to me point out bad design finally took its toll. Instead of just traveling blithely through life, my friend now found himself scrutinizing everything around him, often finding things lacking, ill-conceived, and frustrating.
“Congratulations,” I told him. “You’re now officially a designer.”
“I guess one of the curses of what you do (as a designer) is that you’re constantly looking at something and thinking, ‘Why is it like that and not this?’ …
Last Friday was my last day as TED’s Director of Experience Design, hands down the best gig I’ve had. I believe in TED’s mission, I admire our content and curation, and I love my colleagues.
After I’d said my goodbyes, I decided to write one last, brief email sharing my thoughts on how to keep true to our principles and vision as a product team. One of my colleagues jokingly asked if I’d just tricked him into reading a preview of a Medium post. It wasn’t my intent, but upon reflection I think he had a point, joking or not.
This, then, is that email. …
There is, however, one distinct drawback: embedded designers can feel disconnected from the larger design culture. Put another way, it can be challenging to build a sense of camaraderie, culture and shared knowledge when designers are dispersed across squads. …
I don’t think I became a good designer until I became an empathetic designer. And yet, that’s not entirely accurate: how can I be truly empathetic with people I’ve never met, people I can only conjure in my mind?
Empathy is defined as the ability to understand and share the feelings of other people. I’m designing products for millions of people. I can’t possibly understand them all. I can’t truly share their feelings. So what can I do?
The toothpick is the paradigmatic example of the design axiom, form follows function. But it’s more than that: it’s form and function in a singular, compact, lightweight, biodegradable, sustainable entity. It’s as sleek as a rocket and as simple as a rock, with a certain mid-century Eamesian charm.
Its shape is the epitome of design affordance, serving simultaneously as handle, digger and instruction manual. Its form tells you not only how to hold and wield it, but where to put its pointy bits.
It has no moving parts or circuitry to falter or fail; its only part is itself, and the only place it breaks is in the middle. When broken, it actually doubles its utility by doubling its pointy bits. …
My Mac is my design studio, writing room, communications center, and remote office. I’m always interested in finding better tools for my job — tools that are as beautiful as they are functional. Many people hate switching apps, but I love it. A few months ago, I was a loyal user of the collaborative interface design app Sketch; now I use Figma. A couple years ago, I was creating flow diagrams in Omnigraffle; now it’s Overflow. I’ve used every email app under the sun and switched note-taking apps more times than I care to admit.
Here are the Mac apps I’m using all the time these days, in alphabetical order. …
If you’ve never witnessed a design feedback session go off the rails, you probably haven’t participated in many of them. Even when they don’t go off the rails, these sessions often fail to be as productive as they should be. Problems include poorly structured presentations, misguided criticism, lack of clarity around roles and responsibilities, working from different vocabularies, and even unintentional (one hopes) personal attacks.
The methods outlined below are meant to help both designers and non-designers have better, more productive design feedback sessions. They’re easy to follow and based on common sense and experience. …