December 9, 2019

Great Design Happens In The Open.

A few notes and quotes around design visibility, or as we like to say socializing”.

1. Uber shows work

This was from a conversation with a designer at Uber. The key thing was speed. Uber is a big company with lots of things going on, and spending weeks polishing a design is to not going to ensure it’s success. It’s not just about showing it early, it’s about rapidly folding in feedback. And you can’t get feedback without showing , so it’s actually more about the feedback than the work.

His process was: get something rough (but never wires), get feedback and action it immediately. By the time the work is shown to high-ups, it’s in a good place and gets sold. The feedback rides along and gives the work a gleaming armour. I wanted to know more about the design, I still hold this belief that polished design takes time, but he emphasized speed. You’ve got to go fast.

The metaphor here would be cooking a pancake, sharing it around before it cools down, and asking everyone what they think. A bit more sugar, a bit bigger, more blueberries, rounder. And he’s immediately back at the stove whipping up the next one, while everyone still in the room chatting. There’s not long winded discussions about”what the perfect pancake could be” and grouping back in the kitchen in 2 weeks to discuss gourmet Italian flour. It’s cook, eat, cook, and next thing he’s got the budget to start a pancake factory.

This may or may not be a coincidence, but the first rule (of 77), from Uber Design is Great design happens in the open.” So his approach may have been something instilled in all Uber designers. We say you have 24 hours to post because when your work is in the open it invites collaboration and everyone benefits. Consider it design by osmosis. Your work gets better when everyone can share their perspective and learn yours. Design can and should reach far beyond the design studio and into every part of the company, from the C suite to the people deep in the field.”

2. Apple shows work.

Steve Jobs doesn’t like to be suprised. I like to think Steve Jobs is sort of the ghost in the room of every design critique, endlessly shaking his head at all us poor designers. But Steve also doesn’t believe in vacuum design. He says, if anybody ever brings in anything that surprises me, something’s wrong in the process.”

Bob Baxley, a director of design at Apple, talks more in detail on a Design Better podcast. If you ever found yourself sitting at your desk by yourself with your headphones on stressing cause you felt like you had to figure it out on your own (pause for nods), something was really broken.”

People had to show their work every 48 hours basically. I came to describe the process as a little bit like Saturday Night Live, where Monday we sort of threw around some ideas as to what we might think we’d have for the week. On Tuesday we sort of had like the initial run through the sketches. On Thursday we had a dress rehearsal, and on Friday was the show with the executive team.”

From what I’ve heard, Apple still follows this structure very closely. I can’t imagine this would work in many other orgs, for a number of reasons, mainly because most of big tech is handled by product managers, whereas Apple relies on design and engineering to figure a lot more of the problem space out. But they are working that muscle of showing work early and often.

3. Facebook shows work

This one is from a designer at Facebook. Find a way to make your shit visible. Don’t toil away in secrecy, show people shit.” Nicely said.


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