Design Sprint @Pocket with the @googleventures crew — circa 2014

Two tricks to stay sane during tough design projects at startups.

I am in the middle of a tough product design assignment. Our team has been working worked very hard, done a lot of deep thinking, sketching, getting feedback from people through user research and a/b tests. And now we are finally in the building phase.

Which means a lot more hard work, late nights and early mornings pushing pixels, code, more a/b tests and having a lot of back and forth conversations about what this experience should be. And at times, it is exhausting. If you work as a designer at a startup, I know you have experienced the same.

As Steve Rodgers says, “designing a product is designing a relationship” and relationships are really hard. They take a lot of work. But when done well, they are so worth the effort.

Hence here are a couple of things I do to stay motivated in the midst of hard design projects in startup land.

Remember the People you Serve!

Its easier to put time and effort into creating compelling design when you are passionate about the reason you are designing. And if you are like me, you design because it is a service to people. Shifting my focus away from day-to-day pixels grind and turning to the human being that the design will serve is what keeps me motivated. Design is about understanding people, finding a way to solve problems for them, and helping to make their life better. So when I get discouraged, I try to keep our users in mind. Whether it is looking through my notes from user research sessions, or viewing what our users are saying on twitter, I am trying to keep the voice of the user always close and loud.

Turn feedback into better design.

Getting feedback, specially feedback you may consider challenging, is not fun. And when you hear a lot of feedback like that over a short period of time it can take a toll on you. Whether it is direct feedback from a user, or from your engineering partner, or from the data in the A/B tests you are running, feedback will come! There is no way around it. A huge part of your job as a designer is to be humble, to listen, take that feedback, decide what to keep and incorporate & what not to incorporate.

At the end of the day, all of this work of analysis of feedback, and iterative design should lead to one thing: a better product. So take feedback as what it is: an opportunity to make your design better.


Next time you are in the midst of those hard days/weeks in crazy design projects, take a moment. Breathe deep. And be invigorated by hearing others, improving your designs and remembering that it is all for one reason: serving your fellow human, who (hopefully) loves & uses the product you are working on.


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