What's the most difficult challenge you face as a designer? For me, it's typically people. I mean this in the kindest way—people are challenging in the sense that we're all incredibly complex and complicated. You can't reduce things to just "the work." Running a conversation to get multiple people to the same end point means juggling vastly different motivations, experiences, and understanding. When the stakes of a conversation are high, the stress makes it even more difficult to navigate: you might read in malice where there isn't any, or get lost if things are moving too quickly or it's unknown territory.
Annaliese Griffin's written up a short summary of Shela Linton's "Oops, Ouch, Whoa" framework—three words to help moderate and slow down conversations. Each serves a specific role: "oops" to prompt self-reflection and redirection when you catch yourself misspeaking; "ouch" to call out language that's hit you the wrong way or struck a nerve; and finally "whoa" to pause things when you're feeling overwhelmed, confused, or not informed enough to follow. It's a tool to deescalate, refocus, and keep everyone working to the same end goal. As Griffin sums it up:
The point of this tool is to signal a clear set of values: Mistakes are normal, harm can be mended, it’s okay to not know something, and accountability is a shared responsibility.
I’m a big fan of A Book Apart. They’re the most concise and applicable books out there that relate to our field. Short enough to read in a weekend, but meaty enough to explain complex processes and tools.
Everyday Information Architecture by Lisa Maria Marquis is one that I’d recommend to anyone, especially those just starting in product design. For those of us who come to the field from graphic or web design backgrounds, any IA that goes beyond a basic site map may be new. And, while it’s not the flashiest aspect of the work we do, it might be the most critical.
Marquis does a fantastic job both explaining the principles of good product IA, and outlining practical steps you can apply directly to your work. Give it a read!
I recently stumbled on this pair of handy little libraries made by Rauno Freiberg. Inspx lets you erap your React component tree in an
<Inspect> component, and then you can get pixel perfect inspection for your entire app. The other one cleverly uses overrlays, like inspx, but this time it uses the
axe-core library to call out a11y violations and helps you fix them. I love small focused tools like this, and even though you might say "I can just use the dev tools in my browser to do this" I still think there is value in making tools just becuase you want to try a new way. Check them out!
I like to use podcasts to sneak in passive learning time. To anyone who's interested in thinking processes and product design, I recommend Metamuse. While not always strictly design-related, they regularly touch on product ideation, research-based HCI, and interface design.
In this episode they explore computers' untapped potential for helping humans be more thoughtful, creative, and fulfilled in their pursuits. How can digital tools become better co-creators with human beings?
A few weeks back at Config, Figma showed a new feature for audio calls from within their apps. You might be asking yourself why? With all the tools available these days for communication why would you need another way to chat? What problems are they solving? What should they consider? I have so many thoughts on this, here are just a few.
The biggest pro I see (and con depending on how you look at it) is that we’re already using other tools to do this. Slack, Zoom, Hangouts, Loom, Around, and let’s not forget in-person sessions.. remember those? This feature should remove the question of which tool should we use? You’re in the tool, you tap a button and you’re all set, theoretically...
Capturing notes or reviewing feedback in written form doesn’t convey the same emotion/tone and can cause confusion, resulting in longer feedback loops. Having an honest reaction captured in someone's voice is going to really help remove any room for misinterpretation.
One concern I have is with all these friction-reducing tools is we’re making it awfully easy to leave less thoughtful feedback. Sometimes we need to sit with things for a minute to gather our thoughts.
I guess we'll see how this puppy grows.
The other day I was getting ready to hop into some photo editing software to remove a background from a photo, and remembered some experiments I did a while back leveraging machine learning. I decided to hop into Runway to remove the background. Runway provides and easy to use GUI for interfacing with ML models. After some paremeter tweaking I managed to get the background removed almost perfectly. While I did have to hop into some software to cleanup the image a tad bit most the of the work was already done for me.
Removing backgrounds from a photo is only scratching the surface on what you can do with Runway. There are a bunch of pre-trained models ranging from object detection, stylizing images to match your favorite paintings, all the way to text generation. You can even experiment and create your own models with your own datasets to create really interesting imagery.