Saw Austin Kleon tweet this at the start of a weekend:
Time off puts us back in touch with why we do things
So we watched Rams by Gary Hustwit a beautiful labor of love. Do watch it if you can. If you’re curious what Orin was doing, here it is:
I just came back from DesignUp 2019 which isn’t just a design conference, it’s made by designers for designers. This year it was bigger and better than ever. In the conference lineup there was a mix of data+design, the pluralities that exist in India with design for the social sector, design leadership and a number of varied workshops. Here are the sketchnotes of the talks I attended:
Jon talked about four ways in which design leaders can help to enhance creativity of their teams – to acknowledge feelings, tame ambiguity, drive a vision and let teams run wild. For example, designers feel vulnerable when putting up their work for a critique, so respect and acknowledge that. In a critique, he said, there should be no hierarchy. The highest paid person in the room is equal to everyone else, it should be a democratic process so foster trust. Another aspect of a design leadership is to set a vision – frame the problem and humanize it.
“Show the team why there’s a reason to believe. Bring the design criteria to life.”
Dave’s talk finally gave me a name to some of the activities I’ve been engaged in over 2019 – hiring and setting up the design team and the comms for Microsoft Edge Design in India. For a long time, until I heard from Dave, I didn’t really think I was doing real “design” – but I realized after this talk, that I was setting the foundation for the team now to start performing at their best.
Design Ops basically creates time for design teams by streamlining effort and communication, to focus and put their best energy on the most creative aspects of the work. For scaling a design team and ensuring a quality practice that creates quality experiences, design ops is a must. Dave’s talk focused on principles and values to guide with.
“So that we mutually understand and value what is quality design output, AND quality practice is. Design Ops carries the burden.”
The design process (and proud to say we use the shiny double diamond in our team) that helps to explore multiple approaches:
Dave also explained how should design teams use quantitative and qualitative data:
BTW, Dave founded the ixda – and that’s where I learnt how to be an interaction designer way back in 2004…
I had been reading Andy’s blog since 2004, and he was one of the early designers, and his talk was about the roles and responsibilities of design leaders.
An absolutely fantastic talk that made we wish I had a design mentor back when I was struggling to understand how to lead design teams. Now after 5 years or so, I may have learnt all these, only with a few battle scars and heart burn.
Andy talked about 5 things: Hiring the right designers for your team, retaining them and helping them stay creative, giving them the space to thrive and managing up and down.
“Give your team the air cover to support learning and growth.”
For more guidelines visit his site Clearleft.
This panel, moderated by Ripul Kumar was about how Indians are changing as a result of their high mobile usage.
People will find a digital consumption equilibrium.”Navneet Nair of Phonepe
“People expect pleasure out of productivity.”Payal Arora, author of The Next Billion Users
Payal spoke about the 5 needs of the next billion users: Fun, Flexibility, Family, Fusion and Friction, and the need to understand the nuances of contexts.
“We need friction to protect people from themselves – to provide a pause before action.”
We are “maker-centric not market-centric” no matter what the project brief or design process is!
Another awesome talk which I couldn’t draw – because my pen had run out of ink – was “Design Leadership without losing your hair” by Param Venkataraman.
“The higher you go, the deeper you need to look.”
What was nice was that lots of speakers recommended books like Orbiting the giant hairball, Design the life you love, etc. There were so many more talks that were happening in parallel that I missed, including Alyssa Naples’s talk. It was really difficult to be at each of them. Plus there were all the wonderful conversations that happened at the edges of the conference.
All in all, a great conference – lots of validation, new learning, new ideas and new people to connect with! Looking forward to the next!
[I first read this book Making ideas happen: Overcoming the obstacles between vision and reality in 2013, and since then this book has been my daily guide, often standing in as a coach for my day job. Scott wrote this book while working at Behance: “I realized that creative professionals are the most disorganized community on the planet! But they are ultimately responsible for <so many things> that bring meaning to our lives…
I saw not only an opportunity but also a responsibility to help them overcome the obstacles to make them happen
…as such I committed my professional life to organizing the creative world.” The book is guidance and wisdom on every page, but here are three of the ideas that resonated with me:
Capitalize on healthy conflict: Use disagreements to foster valuable insights that would otherwise be inaccessible. Make your creative team resilient to advocate for their perspectives while respectfully considering that of others, until breakthroughs are revealed.
Short-circuiting the rewards system: Achieving a creative vision also demands a long term focus and sustaining your energy for the long term. Scott’s recommendation is to unplug yourself from the short term reward system and the desire to the validated in the long term.
Seldom is anything accomplished alone: One idea that stood out for me was that of Dreamers, Doers and Incrementalists. Find out which one you are, and then find the right partners. Serendipity comes from differences.]
A book worth reading if you’re a senior designer or in a creative leadership role, or a design entrepreneur; whether in product or services or consulting – you’ll find it useful. Follow up with the more recent book The Messy Middle, another useful companion for building resilience, staying inspired and bringing the best of your creative self to the “hardest and most crucial part” of any project.
When I graduated from design school, I didn’t feel equipped to be a designer in the real world. I remember that I even googled for “core skills of a designer” and found that empathy was an important skill to have, so I started to teach myself to be a more empathetic designer.
The hardest skill that I tried to teach myself for a decade but finally this is the book that helped, Dare to Lead by author Brene Brown. She clearly breaks down empathy into skills.
For me though the number 1 skill is to Listen. I’m so uncomfortable with silence I keep talking and forget to listen. How to listen:
1 – Hear what is being said
2 – Absorb and try to understand
3 – Respond not react
Brene Brown says the top empathy skill is Perspective taking.
“Honour people’s perspectives as truth even when they’re different from us.Brene Brown
Become the learner not the knower. I think this is the biggest breakthrough for me — the shift in mindset from “knowing” to “learning”.
And coming to why empathy is a core skill for designers: It starts with Curiosity, Learning, Empathy, which is used throughout the design process: To understand users better, to create inclusive product experiences, to stay problem-focused, not solution-focused, to grow and learn from feedback, and to be the best coworker and collaborator you can be.
And the true test of empathy is in practising it daily until it becomes second nature. So best foot forward towards being a more empathetic designer!]
I read a lot, and these days I also draw about the books I read. In 2017 though, my reading didn’t feature as much in my drawings. Here are 20 from 2017 in no particular order and the drawings.
Feeling is crucial to understanding a work of art. “Einfuhlung” coined by Robert Vischer in 1873 is “a way of feeling oneself into a work of art,” which ultimately becomes “empathy” in English. The meaning of an object influences the feelings it evokes.
Every morning I sit and drink my coffee and read a few pages of White in silence and calm, and it’s a beautiful meditative experience reading this book. I feel thankful for life and everything that is still left in this world for me to wonder at.]
Read it for the experience as well as for the content.
From the sketchbook called Captivity (Feb 2017).
Like most people I wake up to the alarm set on my phone. And like most people, I want to press the snooze button and go back to sleep.
And therein lies the twist – have you ever found the snooze button on the iPhone? Exactly. There is no snooze button! Instead there’s a snooze gesture – which is a task for your sleep-addled brain to remember.
Anyway now I use the clock on my Android phone instead.
Here are the sketchnotes I made:
First there was a Pecha Kucha session, where we all had to present our position papers, beginning with Elmar
Mads and Nina
I was the last to present. Then we formed groups and went out into the city for a field exercise, each group to a different location in Munich. My group was supposed to go to the Viktualenmarkt, but unfortunately it was shut, so we went to Marienplatz instead. Then we came back and presented our findings, around different ways of navigating the city.
Here’s Nemanja and Martin presenting their findings, they used a paper map.
I got really engrossed in the discussions that followed so there are no more drawings from the workshop, but later on at the conference Moritz presented the workshop proceedings (only he wasn’t grinning like I’ve drawn).
I’d never been to a workshop before, so this was a really good beginning. The best thing was that everybody was coming from different backgrounds around a common theme, and so there were a variety of perspectives for discussion. I came away all inspired, and looking forward to the next workshop 🙂