The Design Better podcast delivers insights from the world’s most renowned design leaders, empowering teams to transform their practice and build remarkable products. This series is hosted by Aarron Walter and Eli Woolery and brought to you by InVision, the digital product design platform used to make the world’s best customer experiences. Discover more best practices, research, and resources at www.designbetter.com.
Here's the Latest Episode from Design Better Podcast:
Abigail Hart Gray, Director of UX at Google, is one of the most inspiring design leaders we know. A self-proclaimed analytics nerd, Abigail uses numbers to deftly communicate the value of design to her colleagues, giving her team the runway to do great work. In this episode of the Design Better Podcast, Eli and Aarron get Abigail’s take on measuring design’s impact on business, how parenthood has changed her approach to problem solving, and more.
Listen as Julie Zhuo, VP of Product Design at Facebook and author of The Making of a Manager, recalls some of her earliest professional experiences at one of the fastest growing companies on the planet. She reveals how she got her start and grew to be a highly influential design leader renowned for building top-notch teams. Julie talks about the difference between leading and managing, and shares personal examples that can help you advance your career.
Julie Zhuo is one of Silicon Valley’s top product design executives and author of The Making of a Manager. Aside from her day job as VP of Product Design at Facebook, Julie writes about technology, design, and leadership on her popular blog The Year of the Looking Glass and in The New York Times and Fast Company.
What if you could unlock the full potential for business impact in design? On today's episode we are joined by Leah Buley, InVision's Director of Design Education and author of the new report on design in business, The New Design Frontier. Leah shares the insights she's learned from surveying thousands of companies to explore the relationship between design practices and business performance. We chat with Leah about how teams are measuring success in design, the dimensions of design maturity, and debunk myths around team size and designer to engineer ratios. Check out the full report at http://invisionapp.com/designmaturity.
The next season of the Design Better podcast is nearly here. Listen to a special preview of the upcoming season which focuses on the impact and challenges of the connected workflow. We sat down with some incredible design leaders from Facebook, Airbnb, Google, Wall Street Journal, Atlassian, and Intuit for honest conversations that will give you a fresh perspective on the way you work. Be sure to subscribe for the new season coming soon.
What if you could set aside a distraction-free space to accomplish one meaningful thing in your life each day? How might that change your relationships, hobbies, work, or mental wellbeing?
In a special episode of the DesignBetter.Co Podcast, we talk to Jake Knapp, co-author of the New York Times bestseller Sprint, about his new book, Make Time. The book advocates for forgetting about being productive and focusing instead on being purposeful by using design sprints thinking to define a “highlight” for each day.
If you enjoy this episode, we hope you’ll leave a review on iTunes or Google Play to help others members of the design community discover the podcast.
Jake Knapp is the author of Make Time and the New York Times bestseller Sprint. Jake spent 10 years at Google and Google Ventures, where he created the Design Sprint. He has since coached teams like Slack, Uber, 23andMe, LEGO, and The New York Times on the method.
Previously, Jake helped build products like Gmail, Google Hangouts, and Microsoft Encarta. He is currently among the world’s tallest designers and is a facilitator for DesignBetter.Co workshops.
As organizations grow, they tend to think in terms of processes and data, and although those elements are vital to scale, teams sometimes lose sight of the why. Key to scaling is building an infrastructure that supports a company’s core mission.
In our final Season 2 episode of the DesignBetter.Co Podcast, Facebook Vice President of Product Design Margaret Gould Stewart talks with Aarron and Eli about how storytelling, open communication, and keeping the focus on the customer help the company's design team scale.
“The most important thing you can do is have a story around what you're doing, for whom, and why.”
If you enjoy this episode, we hope you’ll leave a review on iTunes or Google Play to help others members of the design community discover the podcast.
Margaret is a seasoned UX executive with over 15 years experience leading design and research teams, including in her current role as Vice President of Product Design at Facebook. Over the course of her career, she's led user experience for six of the top 10 websites (Facebook, Tripod, Angelfire, Lycos, Google Search, YouTube). She has a proven track record of leadership in a variety of contexts, from startups to Fortune 500.
A design system helps deliver a unified experience for the end user, no matter what the medium. But it also means a cohesive internal experience as well. Design systems unite teams across time and space, bring designers and engineers together through a shared language, and help designers focus on experience over style.
In our newest episode of the DesignBetter.Co Podcast, Indeed’s director of design experience, Kim Williams, talks with Aarron and Eli about the evolution of Indeed’s design system, and how collaboration across the company is key to any design system’s success.
“I think for us, the design system is one part of how people feel about the brand and the product itself. The design system is really this tool that can help you tell your best story.”
If you enjoy this episode, head over to iTunes to leave a review so other members of the design community can learn from Kim too.
Kim is the design director for Indeed’s Design Platform Studio, leading a team of copywriters, brand strategists, technologists, user researchers, interaction and visual designers, and illustrators defining Indeed’s product experiences. Before joining Indeed, Kim was head of brand systems at eBay and associate creative director at agency Ogilvy & Mather.
For many years, Google’s engineering-led culture cherished efficiency over user experience. Irene Au arrived at a pivotal moment in the company’s history and helped shape the way Google’s products clearly value design today.
In this Rewind episode of the DesignBetter.Co podcast, Khosla Venture’s Irene Au talks about how she helped scale design at Google, shaped the design philosophy that carries into today, and now, as design partner at Khosla Ventures, helps startups build their own teams and processes to create the best design experiences.
If you like the episode, I hope you’ll post a review on iTunes, Google Play, or your favorite podcast source. It helps other discover the podcast.
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to scaling design, but there are similarities between fast-growing companies that prime them for lasting success.
In this episode, Accel Partners’ Vas Natarajan talks about effective ways design leaders can operationalize hiring and scaling. He also discusses the hallmarks of a healthy team at any growth stage, what designers and developers can to do collaborate better, and why storytelling is key to growing a company.
“Storytelling capability—especially at the founding stages—can really make the difference between something that gets up and off the ground and something that doesn’t.”
Listen as Eli and Aarron chat with Vas about design’s role in making companies successful, the importance of balancing data with customer insights, and more.
If you enjoy this episode, head over to iTunes to leave a review so other members of the design community can learn from Vas too.
Rallying around a shared vision is one of the biggest challenges for design teams operating at scale. So how can you foster that vision and bring people together to execute it?
In this episode, Hot Studio Founder and former Autodesk VP of Experience Design Maria Giudice talks about overcoming team silos and learning to lead with influence instead of authority. She also discusses why diversity is one of the keys to great product design, along with lessons she learned while working with fast-moving companies like Facebook.
“Agile was not developed with design in mind—but we as designers can impact that process and bring our own processes in. I call it human-centered Agile...At the end of the day, it doesn't matter about being a designer, or an engineer, or a data scientist—it's more about ‘Did we ship a great product together?’”
Listen as Eli and Aarron chat with Maria about everything from Hot Studio’s role in establishing the practice of DesignOps to how companies can reinforce their design culture foundation.
If you enjoy this episode, we’d appreciate you leaving a review on iTunes.
Do you ever wonder what it’s like to be part of fast-growing, design-led companies like Slack, Medium, or even InVision? Every team has challenges with scaling—and it turns out those challenges share many common traits when you peek behind the curtain. In this episode, Spark Capital’s Megan Quinn talks about the common hurdles she sees across companies as they scale. She also discusses her own experiences going from the engineering-driven culture at Google to the design-driven culture at Square, and more. “At the end of the day, design is not how something looks or feels. Design is the abstraction of the technology to the end experience for the consumer.” –Megan Quinn Listen as Eli and Aarron chat with Megan about scaling with purpose and overcoming widespread hurdles—like how to incorporate the “why” into your product roadmap along with the “what” and “when.” If you enjoy this episode, head over to iTunes to leave a review so other members of the design community can hear Megan’s perspective too.
When companies start scaling design, the emphasis is sometimes on getting more shipped—but what if the first deliverable was a balanced team instead of a new feature?
USAA’s Chief Design Officer Meriah Garrett has a unique approach to creating balanced design teams. In this new episode, she also discusses her role in the C-suite and how being mission-driven affects product development across multiple offices.
“We have this power to synthesize the world into something that feels actionable, and that is both a burden and a gift...Your job is not to just put your headphones on and make a beautiful object. Your job is to listen to the world around you and drive a new perspective on it.” –Meriah Garrett
Tune in on iTunes, Stitcher, or Google Play—and if you enjoy Meriah’s episode, I hope you’ll review and share it with others in the design community.
Design leaders spend a lot of energy trying to get a seat at the table. It’s an ongoing process—and it’s tough to keep design involved over time. What questions should be asked along the way, and what business language can design leaders use?
In this episode, LogMeIn’s Vice President Product Design & Customer Experience TS Balaji talks about helping big corporations use design to be competitive in new ways. He covers everything from maturity models and setting up team playbooks to how LogMeIn measures the business impact of design.
Listen as Eli and Aarron chat with TS about design’s place in business—and hear why a multidisciplinary background could be the ultimate career boon, even if it does require a bit of statistics.
TS Balaji's Bio
TS is a user experience and product development executive, currently leading product design, internationalization, and insights and analytics functions for LogMeIn.
As a former designer turned strategist, TS specializes in identifying new technologies, spotting trends, introducing business models, and combining all of the above with design to advocate for customers. Prior to his current role, TS established and led digital experience practices at Cox Communications and Sprint.
Design systems give product designers and developers reusable, interchangeable components to make the design process efficient and repeatable. They’re a critical part of scaling—so why build everything from scratch when you can plug in pre-built elements?
In this episode, GitHub’s Design Systems Manager Diana Mounter talks about navigating the path from style guide contributor to full-time design systems manager. She covers everything from getting buy-in beyond the design team to deciding whether or not to make a system open source.
Listen as Eli and Aarron chat with Diana about refining and growing GitHub’s design system, Primer—and learn how a little-known vegetable became part of her personal brand.
Diana Mounter is a designer based in Brooklyn, NY. She specializes in design systems and has a background in user-centered design.
Diana currently leads the Design Systems team at GitHub, where she helps manage their design system, Primer. In her spare time, she organizes the NYC Design Systems Coalition, writes, and speaks about design, code, and working with people.
Diana is also a co-author of the DesignBetter.Co Design Systems Handbook
A lot of companies are investing more in design. As they do, the organization scales. As it scales, it has to operationalize, become more efficient, and plug into the rest of the company—but what makes all that possible?
In this episode, Pinterest’s Head of Design Operations Meredith Black talks about the emerging practice of DesignOps, and how she introduced it to Pinterest more than three years ago. Meredith covers everything from when it’s time to start building a DesignOps team to advice for getting started. She even reveals where she finds most of her best hires.
Listen as Eli and Aarron chat with Meredith about starting and growing a DesignOps practice—and how she nearly joined the FBI before finding herself in a different kind of “ops” career.
Meredith Black is the Head of Design Operations at Pinterest, where she's pioneered the Design Program Management organization and grown it to 11 design program managers in almost four years. Within Product Design, she’s also responsible for operations, recruiting, resourcing and risk management.
Prior to Pinterest, Meredith worked at design firms Hot Studio (acquired by Facebook) and IDEO. Her love for design runs deep. Real deep.
Over the last 10 years, Shopify has grown from a scrappy 5-person startup to a team of more than 3,000 across five locations. Scaling a company that fast takes a lot of talented people—and Lynsey Thornton is one of them.
As Shopify’s VP of UX and Core Product, Lynsey takes on an array of challenging tasks. In the first episode of the season, she talks about everything from building a leadership pipeline to governance of the famed design system Polaris. Her advice and first-hand experiences also highlight major technology pain points—like implementing customer-centric business models and helping individual contributors successfully transition to leadership.
Listen as Eli and Aarron talk about scaling design at Shopify with Lynsey—and don’t miss her biggest piece of advice for finding great org design inspiration.
Lynsey Thornton's Bio
Originally from Ireland, Lynsey is now the VP of UX and Core Product at Shopify in Vancouver, BC. With a background in design, project management, and business, she focuses on building UX teams and practices in high-growth tech companies.
Prior to leading Shopify’s front-end developers, designers, researchers, and content strategists—along with the team that builds the core product—Lynsey designed gaming and gambling experiences. In addition to UX, her true loves are ethnographic research and developing women in tech.
Follow Lynsey on Twitter @lynseythornton
“Will I lose my creativity? Will I be stuck in meetings all day?” Those are common concerns for any individual contributor transitioning to a managerial role—even experienced product leaders like Mia Blume.
Luckily, Mia’s impressive career spans positions at places like IDEO, Pinterest, and Square, so she’s had plenty of opportunities to see what it takes to make a fundamental impact on culture from beyond her laptop screen.
In this episode, Mia shares what it was like stepping away from daily design work to lead, how she combats imposter syndrome, and how being a designer ultimately made her a more effective manager. Now, with a motto for time management and loads of experience walking other people through that transition, Mia can expertly explain how to navigate the intricacies of being a great leader—which includes everything from managing priorities to being vulnerable on the job.
As a former design leader at Pinterest, Square, and IDEO, Mia’s work is informed by her deep understanding of the unique challenges and opportunities designers face in hyper-growth start-up environments. She is specifically attuned to the challenges of women in tech—and, more importantly, their potential impact on individuals, teams, and organizations when their authentic, empathetic, and intuitive leadership style is unlocked.
In today’s tech-driven economy, it seems like it can be hard to justify the value of a traditional liberal arts education. But given the speed at which AI-driven advancements are taking over traditional jobs—even technical ones—perhaps a better understanding of humans and their cultures is exactly what we need.
Because being product-driven really means people people-driven—and we’re betting few people understand the human experience better than the author of Sensemaking, and co-founder and Senior Partner of ReD Associates, Christian Madsbjerg.
In this episode, Aarron and Eli chat with Christian about using tools from human and social sciences to inform business decisions. Christian’s expertise helps clarify the methods a lot of fast-moving companies botch, like gathering proper ethnographic research, and the hazards of conducting focus groups. Together, they also dig into the pros of a liberal arts education and how it helps foster the crucial skill of critical thinking.
Put on your thinking cap and enjoy this interview with Christian Madsbjerg, and thanks for listening.
Christian Madsbjerg’s bio
For the past 20 years, Christian Madsbjerg has worked as a management consultant—but he writes, speaks, and teaches on the practical application of Human Sciences. So far, his work has been featured in publications such as The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, The Washington Post, Der Spiegel, and Bloomberg Businessweek. Madsbjerg’s latest book, Sensemaking: The Power of the Humanities in the Age of the Algorithm, was released in the Spring of 2017 by Hachette Book Group. His first book, Moment of Clarity, co-written with Mikkel Rasmussen and published in the Fall of 2014, has been published in 15+ languages. Christian studied philosophy and political science in Copenhagen and London, and has a master’s degree from the University of London.
If we asked you to name a recent book that’s really changed how product teams address sticky challenges, there’s a good chance Jake Knapp’s Sprint would be at the top of your list. Since publishing and popularizing the process, design sprints have become a tool for teams at organizations as wide ranging as Prudential, the United Nations, and The British Museum.
Given the impact of Sprint, we’re delighted to have Jake on the show to dig into questions we’ve been curious about since reading. In this episode, we run through topics like the relationship between design thinking and the sprint process, how design sprints can work in harmony with an agile development cycle, and when not to use design sprints.
Jake also shares a sneak peek of his next book.
Grab your copy of Sprint and get ready to learn from the guy who literally wrote the book on design sprints.
Jake Knapp the New York Times bestselling author of Sprint. He spent ten years at Google and Google Ventures, where he created the Design Sprint process and ran it over 150 times with companies like Nest, Slack, 23andMe, and Flatiron Health. Today, teams around the world—from Silicon Valley startups to Fortune 500s to schools and governments—are using Design Sprints to solve big problems and test new ideas.
Previously, Jake helped build products like Gmail, Google Hangouts, and Microsoft Encarta, and nowadays, he's writing new books and hanging around IDEO as a Visiting Fellow. Jake is currently among the world’s tallest designers.
If there’s anyone we’ve interviewed on the DesignBetter.Co Podcast so far that really embodies the product-driven concept, it’s Laura Martini. Not only does she have a background in both design and engineering, but she also has a keen product sense with a real understanding the business factors behind good design decisions.
Laura has had a really interesting career too—from working as a researcher in John Maeda’s Media Lab at MIT and leading the design team at med-tech startup Counsyl to her current role as a senior interaction designer on Google’s Analytics Platform.
In this episode, Aarron and Eli chat with Laura about how her engineering and design backgrounds complement each other, how a company’s values shape her own work, and how design leaders can help individual contributors grow.
How do you go from being a self-professed skate punk, to a design director at Nike, creative director at Patagonia, and land as the global creative director for Sonos? As a creative force, Michael Leon has worked with some of the most product driven companies out there.
In this episode, Aaron and Eli talk with Michael about the tension between sustainability and business goals, maintaining a consistent voice and tone across a company like Patagonia that sells hundreds of different products globally, and some of the traits that Michael looks for when hiring for his creative teams.
So crank up your Sonos and enjoy this episode with Michael Leon!
Airbnb’s mission is both simple and powerful: to help create a world where you can belong anywhere. Alex Schleifer, Airbnb’s head of design, fully embraces this mission. To create the products that make the Airbnb experience so welcoming and immersive, he also believes in being product driven, and organizes his teams in an Engineering, Product, Design (EPD) structure, which they also call “the triforce.”
Have a listen as Aarron and Eli talk with Alex about the advantages of this team structure, and about some of the problems companies run into when they try to create a “design-led” culture. They also dig into Airbnb’s mission and vision, and talk about the tradeoffs between quality and speed when building products. Enjoy the episode, and may the triforce be with you!
Alex Schleifer’s Bio
Alex is a designer, who as a teenager co-founded the digital agency Sideshow, which went on to produce award-winning work for a variety of global clients. They were acquired by Say Media in 2011.
He’s been on the incredible design team at Airbnb since 2015.
Albert Lee has had an amazing arc to his career. From his beginnings as a wine-steward at Chez Panisse, to working at Frank Gehry’s architecture studio, and on to the role of Associate Partner at IDEO and now Design Partner at NEA, the nation’s largest VC firm, Albert always strives to work with the best of the best.
Given the breadth of his experience at these top institutions, it’s probably not a surprise that even though his expertise is in design, he values the balanced approach between design, engineering, and product teams that are the hallmark of a product-driven company.
In this episode, Albert helps us explore subjects like: why the VC world has become more cognizant of the impact of design, how organizational design influences product design, and how to kickstart a design transformation. We hope you’ll get as much as we did from the insights Albert shared, and thanks for listening.
Albert Lee's Bio
Albert is currently the Design Partner at NEA (New Enterprise Associates), the world's largest venture capital firm, with a portfolio of over 450 companies. In this role he works closely with portfolio companies, furthers the understanding of design within the tech eco-system, and seeks out design-centric investments.
In addition, he coaches CEO's, founders and entrepreneurs as an executive coach with Reboot.io, founded by Jerry Colonna, on all the questions and challenges that come along with building a high-growth company.
He is also a Special Partner at Juxtapose, where he supports a multidisciplinary team in their user research, design, and product processes to launch and invest in high-growth consumer concepts.
Albert has a deep background in both design and business. Albert was previously the Managing Director of IDEO’s New York office, where he brought more than a decade of experience in digital product, communication, and venture design to bear. He specialized in developing new offerings and incubating ventures for clients based on consumer insights in a wide range of industries, including retail/fashion, financial services, and consumer technology.
Prior to IDEO, Albert was a Managing Director at the design firm 2x4, and founded their Asia office in Beijing. Earlier in his career he was a design architect at Frank Gehry’s office. Albert also co-founded the product, Popplet, which provides a visual productivity and collaboration platform for K-12, which has had over 9 million downloads.
He was also recently named to Fast Company's Most Creative People in Business in 2014.
Albert holds a BA in architecture from U.C. Berkeley, a MFA in graphic design from Yale, and an MBA from Columbia Business School. His work has been recognized and exhibited by SFMoMA and MOMA. In 2006, he was chosen as a Young Gun by the Art Director’s Club. He has served on the board of directors of AIGA/NY
If you’re anything like us, playing with LEGOs was a foundational part of your childhood, and a big part of the reason you got interested in design. And given the arc of their history, it is clear that LEGO is a product-driven company: their products are addictively engaging, highly-engineered design masterpieces, they clearly understand the needs of their customers, and they are constantly evolving and innovating with their products to remain a highly-profitable company.
So you can imagine our excitement when we had a chance to chat with Dan Winger, Senior Innovation Designer at the LEGO Future Lab. We had a chance to dive into user testing at LEGO (how do I sign up?!), what the future of physical play looks like in the age of VR, and how story affects product development at LEGO. It turns out the design process at LEGO has a lot in common with the software design world.
Dan Winger's Bio
Dan designs playful products, experiences and interactive entertainment at the forefront of technology. For over nine years, he has been driving growth through innovation at LEGO, exploring the intersection of physical and digital play, and bringing these new experiences to life. He has also consulted for various companies large and small, ranging from motocross to cosmetics. His experience spans a broad spectrum of projects and many different roles.
David Kelley doesn’t like to claim to have come up with the term design thinking, even though a most people would say he did. But regardless of who coined it, as founder of IDEO and the Stanford d.school he has been one of the most influential proponents of design thinking, and human-centered design in general.
When it comes to bringing together engineering, product, and design teams early in the design process, and aligning those teams towards a common goal, design thinking has few equals, and should be part of the toolkit for every product driven company.
In this episode, Eli and Aarron speak with David about what it takes to bring designers and engineers together, how our workspace influences our work, and how we can encourage creative confidence in our companies. Enjoy their chat with David, and thanks for listening.
David Kelley's Bio
David Kelley is the founder and chairman of the global design and innovation company IDEO. Kelley also founded Stanford University’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design, known as the d.school. As Stanford’s Donald W. Whittier Professor in Mechanical Engineering, Kelley is the Academic Director of both of the degree-granting undergraduate and graduate programs in Design within the School of Engineering, and has taught classes in the program for more than 35 years.
Kelley’s most enduring contributions are in human-centered design methodology and design thinking. He is most passionate about using design to help unlock creative confidence in everyone from students to business executives. A frequent speaker on these topics, Kelley and his brother co-authored the New York Times best-selling book Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All.
After earning a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, Kelley worked as an engineer at both Boeing and NCR. Drawn to design, he entered Stanford University in 1975, where he earned his master’s degree in Engineering/Product Design. In 1978, he founded the design firm that would become IDEO and, in that same year, began his teaching career at Stanford, receiving tenure in 1990. He also founded an early-stage venture-capital firm in 1984 called Onset, and was instrumental in starting a special effects firm called Edge Innovations, which creates unique Animatronics for the film industry.
Kelley was inducted into the National Academy of Engineering in 2000. He holds honorary PhD's from both the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth and Art Center College in Pasadena. He has been recognized with numerous honors, including the Chrysler Design Award and the National Design Award in Product Design from the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, the Robert Fletcher Award from Dartmouth, and the Edison Achievement Award for Innovation. Preparing the design thinkers of tomorrow earned him the Sir Misha Black Medal for his “distinguished contribution to design education.”
Google could now be considered a product driven company, but it wasn’t always that way. For many years Google’s engineering-led culture cherished efficiency over user experience. Irene Au arrived at a pivotal moment in the company’s history, and helped shape the way that Google’s product’s clearly value design today.
Now in her role as a design partner at Khosla Ventures, she helps startups “build high performing teams, establish design practices, mentor and grow the next generation of great designers, and design interfaces and experiences.” Here is her story.
Irene Au's Bio
Irene is design partner at Khosla Ventures, where she works with CEOs, executives, and designers to make products and services people can't live without. Irene has extensive experience elevating design at the highest levels of the organization by starting first with an empathetic understanding of human needs, and building high performing teams who create products people can’t live without.
Irene has unprecedented experience elevating the strategic importance of design within internet companies, having built and led the entire User Experience and Design teams at Google (2006-2012), Yahoo! (1998-2006), and Udacity (2012-2014). She began her career as an interaction designer at Netscape Communications, where she worked on the design of the internet’s first commercial web browser.
Irene is also a yoga teacher at internationally-recognized Avalon Yoga in Palo Alto, where she offers an accessible and challenging yoga practice for all.