Through 17 years as a designer and manager, I have earned a reputation for solving novel and complex problems through empathy and innovation.
Whether I’m designing a new product, mentoring a junior designer, or pitching new business, I learn what my audience cares about and how they use technology, because I believe this practice is the foundation of products and experiences that people love.
These principles have been at the core of my approach to designing products and building teams, honed throughout my career.
Vision is cheap. Execution is priceless.
In order to improve users’ experiences, you have to deliver a product that people can use. I believe in designing products that ship. This means balancing the mission to advocate for users, a product’s business requirements, and development costs in order to get the product live. Innovation without execution is just “thoughts and prayers.”
Wireframes are sheet music for websites.
Documentation is not (strictly speaking) necessary to deliver a great digital product. Great documentation – including wireframes – manifests a product vision and organizes teams around the work.
The process will not save you.
In product development, mental agility (and the gift of experience) enables me to be more successful than strict adherence to a sprint methodology or Agile ceremonies. Processes and tools provide guidelines, but they do not replace the judgment and fortitude required to deliver high-quality, usable products with transparency and high velocity.
It takes work to get work done.
The social labor that turns a design from an idea into a product in users’ hands is as valuable to a designer as expertise in the rudiments of content, typography, color, space, and code. Whether it’s the routine of daily scrums with engineers, presenting wireframes multiple times to groups of stakeholders in a large bureaucracy, or soothing a client’s anxieties over morning coffee, communicating abstract concepts to a gamut of audiences with questions and prejudices is part of what makes a good designer effective.
“Metaphor is the currency of knowledge.”
I attribute this aphorism to Luca Turin from The Emperor of Scent – and I use the quote that follows it to validate my approach to learning: a “chaotic accrual of information,” interdisciplinary, broad, and eternally searching for better metaphors. Metaphors are indispensable rhetorical tools for making the abstract vision I have for a digital product real and knowable for development teams, clients, and end users.
This is our gold rush, and it matters who wins.
If the 21st century has been a gold rush for technologists, then the evolving field of user experience – from information architecture through product design – is the study and practice of mining. Because hiring a young designer means granting a person access to this lucrative field, I believe it’s not enough to be a capable stylist. It’s important that a designer has the self-awareness to know why they want this career, and takes the responsibility to deliver great products seriously.
Good products last a few years. Good designers make products for decades.
I invest in young UX talent because I am in this profession to make people’s lives easier through technology that is better to use – primarily websites. Websites only last a few years, but realizing the impact my mentors had throughout my career motivated me to be in a position to lead other designers.