Design Leadership

The design profession is rife with multiple constituents, politics and ruffled feathers. I consider it a super-sized magnet for backseat drivers as a profession. You never tell someone who cleans your teeth, or files your lawsuit, or does your taxes, “you’re doing it wrong”, but as a designer, you simply can’t escape criticism. It’s built in at the epicenter of every engagement.

Which is why, along with pretty thick skin, I’ve developed a genuine ability to connect these seemingly disparate strands of human emotional and mental complexity, and rally stakeholders behind an inclusive and collaborative vision. Through the rigors of design, I form consensus—which is a full-on magic trick. This is far more than just plying crabby sleep deprived engineers with chocolate chip cookies. It only emerges, I believe, after many years of practicing the art of storytelling and craft, but most importantly listening and paying attention, which allows the truth of a situation to be revealed.

I can also destroy any tense situation with humor, which in the design world is uncommon, and frankly necessary. As is having every possible design solution to a particular problem explored, documented, and, if imperfect, thrown in the pile of almost-but-not-quite-good-enoughs. A true design champion knows they haven’t gotten to the good stuff until that pile of discards is starting to block the view to the parking lot.

As a true disruptor by blood, I have plenty of experience with falling down, getting back up, and learning from failure. That’s what the design process fundamentally IS. To make, to break. Over and over. These types of designers are rare because they aren’t motivated by the so-called perfection of final conclusions, but by the open ended mess of curiosity, and questioning.

What product, service, or experience out there are you most itching to redesign and why?

Facebook, because it’s so ubiquitous! However the design experience feels antiquated, flat and IMHO should be able to support a wider range of users, use cases, and devices in a more nuanced and intelligent way. There are many things Facebook has done well that they don’t capitalize on (such as utilizing the more authentic nature of identity to make online reviews more legitimate—they could literally destroy Yelp overnight if they wanted to). There are tons of interesting ways they could innovate in the realm of inter-personal communications which they haven’t seemed at all interested in exploring, and instead seem stuck in the “AOL” dark ages with regards to interaction design. Given how much mindshare Facebook occupies on a global scale (as well as how much world class design talent they’ve gobbled up), I think they are inexplicably conservative when it comes to exploring new frontiers.

Critique a modern design trend.

“Flat” UI design has become an acceptable cop-out. The overall look & feel of modern digital interfaces have reached a state of near permanent homogeneity; the go-to commodity of legitimacy is now overly generic and lacking in personality and differentiation. There is a benefit to this, but I feel it comes at too high a price. As digital interfaces have become more about executing complex tasks and less about the more filmic qualities of story and seduction, we have lost some of the more experimental and interesting qualities of the early web which have now been replaced with more rigid beliefs about “what works” in design; as a result I think less risk is being taken in places where designers have traditionally been more willing to push boundaries. I would love to see things in the design world evolve to the point where many opposing and disparate aesthetic ideas can live together side by side, not so uniformly driven by trends which are unquestioned and unchallenged. I feel that the desire for minimal and clean simplicity has over-ridden the need for unique and original “voice” in interface design, which makes using most software uninspiring and fatiguing.