March 25, 2020

Slowing Down

I am two and half weeks into my COVID-19 quarantine and have noticed an interesting phenomenon in my day-to-day experience. I feel like I’m doing less and getting more done.

I feel like I’m communicating more effectively with my collaborators, and my days seem to have more time for deep work. I am knocking more tasks off of my to-do list than normal and have been able to make progress on things that I had been putting off for weeks.

A lot of this has been accomplished by automating information sharing. In person conversations have turned into Dropbox Paper doc share-outs. Meetings have turned into digital stand-ups. Critiques are more fluid as the design process becomes more transparent to accommodate remote work.

It’s only a couple of weeks in, and there are definitely some kinks to work out, but I’m excited to see the progress we have made and hope it sticks.

March 8, 2020

Remote Friendly

As our current public health situation becomes more threatening, there have been a lot of conversations around people being forced to take part in remote work. As someone who has worked remotely in the past, I have experienced the ups and downs of being a remote worker. After thinking of some of the issues I had experienced, I wanted to know who was implementing the processes required for successful remote work the right way.

Emily Campbell responded with her thoughts on Invision and used a term I had never considered. Remote-friendly” was a concept that I had never encountered, but I feel it perfectly described the remote situations I had been in previously.

Having worked for companies that had a very defined and personalized in-person culture as a remote worker, I have found that remote-friendly is often friendly for the business but not the worker. Remote workers can become floating heads in Google Hangouts, and have to use deep work time to establish a presence” in virtual spaces that are otherwise established effortlessly for in-person workers.

Remote-friendly can be isolating. It can establish you as a satellite employee as opposed to the core member of a team. In doing so, it can deeply affect the way you view yourself as a critical part of the business. The need to constantly be seen” takes energy away from creative tasks and places a unique burden on the remote worker. The business rarely feel obligated to take extra efforts to relieve this burden, as it’s often seen as the worker’s choice to be remote.

If you’re considering establishing a remote culture, I would consider Emily’s words. Are you ready to take on the responsibility of being remote-friendly? To do it effectively, you might want your north star to be remote-centered.”

February 25, 2020

Shallow Design

I’ve been reading and enjoying Deep Work by Cal Newport this week. The concept of deep work is easy to understand for the creative community. Protected time for flow state seems to be a critical process component for high-quality craftsmanship.

The more I sat with this concept I began to question the idea that deep work is something that can be adopted by everyone. In theory, isn’t some shallow work required to keep things moving? As an example, we have to do the work to create complex systems for creating artifacts (deep work) and use those systems to quickly iterate on solutions. (Potentially shallow work.)

It’s common to see designers disengaged when working on seemingly shallow tasks: mocking up a templated email, designing a flow for an obviously simple user task, etc. Tasks obviously critical to the business.

The flaw in my thinking is that while these tasks are seemingly simple in nature, the ability to craft them in a way that retains a high-level quality requires intense focus on the detailed parts of the creative process.

In short: I don’t believe that shallow design exists. Only unfocused design.

February 24, 2020

Shifting Design at Start-Ups

As we enter a new era of start-up culture, I’ve started to think about the shift in how we grow as designers in start-up environments.

As a designer, I have always valued working with other designers who could help me grow in areas of design that interested me. I have always pursued gaps in my skillset and tried to focus on going deep on subjects that appeared valuable in the context of where the industry was heading.

As managers, I feel it’s our job to do the same for the designers we work with. We must establish relationships with everyone on our teams that allow us to be honest about our weaknesses. Together, we can support each other through growth that helps us bridge gaps in our understanding and helps us break through to new levels in our careers.

Having worked at big tech companies with a healthy amount of funding, I have noticed a trend where design teams create systems for growth through passion projects and conceptual design work. Often, the output of these projects doesn’t align with the needs of the business but presents the designer with an opportunity to try new things and push the boundaries.

These projects are valuable to the designer. It’s important to take opportunities to try new things and learn by doing. However, what cost does this present to the business? As we enter a new chapter of VC funded start-up life, it’s hard to justify design teams that aren’t extremely focused on creating design work that not only ships but contributes directly to the success of the business. As designers at start-ups, we might need to redefine what good” design looks like.

September 9, 2019

Panini

Panini

Acorns made an appearance in the music video for Panini.

August 7, 2019

Imposter Syndrome

I see a lot of advice that people shed imposter syndrome. Imposter syndrome is a psychological pattern of thinking where people doubt the worth of their experience and accomplishments. The fear of being exposed as a phony controls the thinking and takes the wheel of the person’s confidence and drives the person to take actions to prevent exposure.

Imposter syndrome can be a major negative force in people’s lives. However, we sometimes confuse imposter syndrome with the nagging reality of inexperience.

It’s important for us to embrace our inexperience and honest with ourselves when we have things to learn. Growth is positive and new experiences require a void of experience to fill. We should embrace the void and shouldn’t confuse its presence with Imposter Syndrome.

Don’t get it twisted; you should be proud of your experience and own the person you are in this moment. Just don’t let your aversion to the feeling of inexperience trick you into thinking you know more than you really know. Focus on growth and be kind to yourself.