An Event Apart: “Leveling Up Your Design Communication”

Aarron Walter speaking at An Event Apart Orlando 2018 on October 10, 2018

Design is a medium for communication, and to do it well, we must cultivate our own communication skills. Within design teams, we do our best work when we create a culture of feedback shaped by our creative space and our design review process. Beyond the design tribe, our work thrives when it’s communicated in language that aligns to the goals of the business and invites participation early and often. In this presentation, Aarron will share the experiences of real design teams at Apple, Spotify, and other organizations to show how to improve the communication of design both inside your team and with key outside stakeholders. You’ll see how to run effective design reviews and retrospectives which will help you create a culture of feedback that produces better work, helps designers sharpen their skills, and communicates the value of design by making it more transparent and inviting.

Notes

  • We are all struggling to communicate at scale
  • The breakpoint — Mo’ people, mo’ problems
  • Language
    • As language specializes teams fragment
    • Language shapes the work
    • Language shapes the culture
    • Language shapes the partnerships
    • Design on any level is a team sport
    • Let’s speak the language of good design
    • Most people are let go because of soft skills, not hard skills
  • Visibility — The state of being able to see or be seen. The degree to which something has attracted general attention.
    • As companies grow, visibility goes away
    • Why do companies/offices look different than the places we are trained (schools/universities)?
    • Communication flows best when the work is visible
    • Design that’s not visible can’t be valued
  • Design reviews — A formal assessment or examination of work with the possibility or intention of instituting change if necessary
    • Invite the right people—not just designers
    • Limit attendees to 5-6 people to be productive
    • The facilitator — reviews that are really productive are facilitated
    • Google Ventures process:
      • Set the stage — send e-mail with agenda to set expectations
      • Review business goals
      • Review customer goals
      • Review constraints
      • Review schedule
      • Set expectations on fidelity — for example, explain that this is a prototype, sketch, etc., not a final working product
      • Direct the feedback
  • Feedback
    • Be candid
    • Be specific — “Never say candy bar when you can say Snickers”
    • Tie everything to goals
    • Affirm what is working
    • Problems first, then solutions
    • Suggestions, not mandates
  • Cadence — A rhythmic sequence or flow
    • If you do these things on a regular basis, then you can create a culture of feedback
    • The best way to get comfortable is by practicing
  • Showing a sketch early on is a helpful way to bring people in, make them feel like part of the process
  • Polish — Improve, refine, or add the finishing touches to
    • The lower the polish, the more people you can bring in
  • Retrospectives — Looking back on or dealing with past events or situations
    • Learn from every success and failure
    • Survey before the meeting
    • Rate team and individual performance
    • Start, stop, keep
      • What is something you want to start doing?
      • What is something you want to stop doing?
      • What is something you want to keep doing?
  • Agile islands — when teams get unbalanced (1 designer, 11 engineers)
  • Paired design — A set of two things used together or regarded as a unit. Two people related in some way or considered together.
  • Design operations — A piece of organized and concerted activity involving a number of people, especially members of a design team.
    • DesignOps (like DevOps)
    • All about language and communication
    • A producer (like in filmmaking) — provides resources and help to designers
  • Safe harbor — Protected from or not exposed to danger or risk; not likely to be harmed or lost
  • Translation — A written or spoken rendering of the meaning of a word, speech, book, or other text, in another language
    • Speak to business goals, not design goals
  • Design debt
    • Slows time to market
    • UX crashes — explain design problems like you would software problems
    • Reduces retention
    • HEART (Happiness, Engagement, Adoption, Retention, Task Success)
  • Co-Creation — The action or process of bringing something into existence together
    • Design-centricity develops by inviting participation in design
  • Create a shared language and process
  • Language
    • Fuels a culture of feedback
    • Is supported by infrastructure
    • Aligned with business
  • You gain more power by bringing people into what you do — dismantling the magic

Speaker Links and Resources

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