Illustration of people working to build social impact products
Illustration of people working to build social impact products
Illustration by Taylor Krut

If you’re one of the over 2.5 billion people who uses Facebook each month, you likely know it as a place to find news, keep up with friends, or even buy or sell some of your belongings. But did you know that you can also mark yourself as safe during a crisis, raise money for nonprofits you care about, sign-up to donate blood to local blood banks, and help safely return children when they go missing nearby? In fact, there is a team at Facebook dedicated to using the platform to create real-world, social impact.

But at a company as large as Facebook, how do we translate needs into ideas, and get those made into features that will positively impact billions of people? …


5 insights from design recruiters and managers

Man presenting portfolio to panel of recruiters
Man presenting portfolio to panel of recruiters
Illustration by Taylor Krut for this article

I just finished reviewing the 100th design portfolio since early April. It all started when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and affected all sectors, including technology. Early on we heard about startups and smaller companies laying off and then suddenly the unicorns unloaded. Lyft laid off 17% while companies like Airbnb and TripAdvisor laid off 25%. As the layoffs mounted, it felt like nobody was safe. Soon my LinkedIn feed was full of posts from talented designers looking for work.

And then Austin Knight made an incredibly generous offer. …


My journey to Social Impact Design.

Man shrugging with balloons reading “30” behind him
Man shrugging with balloons reading “30” behind him
Illustration by Taylor Krut for this article

Exactly a year ago, to the day, I turned 30. In the months leading up to that pivotal birthday I felt…unsettled. I knew that my life’s work — the sum of all my years of study, labor and achievement — didn’t amount to much. I was searching for purpose.

I don’t think I was alone. For many people, their 30th birthday is a milestone marked by self-reflection. In astrological parlance this is called the Saturn Return. “Saturn takes approximately 29.5 years to complete one full orbit around the Sun and literally return to the same zodiac sign it was in when you were born. The first Saturn Return, which can happen between ages 27 and 30, is a bit like a cosmic bar mitzvah, quinceanera or communion if you will: a rite of passage welcoming you into your more mature role here on Earth.” …


Thoughts on how design and content work together.

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Illustration by Taylor Krut for this article

I recently spoke on a panel about how design and content strategy work together at Facebook.

Like peanut butter and jelly, design and content strategy are a classic pairing. But whereas peanut butter and jelly make a great sandwich, design and content strategy together make great products (I promise I’ll try to not take the metaphor too far).

Throughout the panel a few themes emerged that I wanted to share.

1. Design and Content are strategic partners

“Designers make things look pretty.” If you’ve worked in the field long enough, you’ve heard a version of this. For the most part, this adage has been dispelled. …


Lessons learned from screening hundreds of candidates for top tech companies

Illustration of a man building a portfolio
Illustration of a man building a portfolio
Illustrations by Taylor Krut for this article

I just got home from a speed-dating-style design mentorship event, and I’m equal parts exhausted and energized. I’m exhausted because I’m an introvert, and talking to strangers for two hours is physically and emotionally depleting. I’m energized because talking with students and early-career designers reminds me why I got into this field.

One thing stuck out to me at this event, and it validated what I’ve been seeing for years: Portfolios often focus on the wrong things and are too damn long.

Here is the advice I gave to young designers tonight, which I want to give to all designers looking for feedback on their portfolios. …


Hint: it’s product thinking

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Eight years in the industry, working at two major consumer tech companies has taught me one thing: how to spot the difference between a good designer and a great designer.

As I talked about in my article “Advice on your design portfolio”, the main skills hiring managers are looking for are craft and product thinking.

But a trend I’ve seen in hundreds of interviews is that a candidate is strong in craft, but weak in product thinking. Or strong in product thinking, but weak in craft. The designer who is strong in both is often the one we hire.

I call the person who is strong in craft but weak in product thinking a “good” designer. This is because at first glance, they do look like a good designer. They often have a well manicured Dribbble account with animated prototypes and isometric screen layouts. Their portfolio website is polished with high-fidelity mocks of finished products. …


My journey to a minimalist lifestyle

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Photo cred: @scottweb

If you grew up in California in the ’90s there’s a chance you’ll remember Petroglyph Ceramic Lounge. It was where we would go, mostly for birthday parties, to paint ceramic mugs, plates, vases, and more. Your masterpiece would then be fired in a kiln and taken home, likely to be gifted to an unsuspecting grandparent that Christmas. Somehow, one of my more colorful pieces has survived to this day, and let me tell you, it is…something.

It’s a coffee mug with an elephant trunk as a handle. And if that weren’t enough, the budding 9-year-old artist in me took some creative liberties and painted a multi-colored pinstripe pattern around the outside. But I didn’t stop there. Oh no. There was still the inside of the mug to conquer. …


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From a guy who has screened hundreds of candidates for companies like Intuit and Facebook

I just got home from a speed-dating-style design mentorship event and I am equal parts exhausted and energized. Exhausted because I’m an introvert and talking to strangers for two hours straight is physically and emotionally depleting. Energized because talking with new graduates or early-career designers reminds me why I got into this field and why I get up each day to do what I do.

One thing stuck out to me at this event, and it validated what I’ve been seeing for years interviewing candidates hoping for admission to companies like Intuit and Facebook: portfolios often focus on the wrong things, and are too damn long. …


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Photo by Clark Tibbs

Reflections on my first 30 years

In second grade my teacher invited parents to come to class and share their professions, of course describing them in ways that second-graders can understand. While I don’t remember the specifics, I have to imagine there was a firefighter, a doctor, a lawyer, etc. Our project for the week was to think about what we wanted to be when we grew up and to draw a scene of us in that profession. She then collected all of the drawings and shipped them off to be turned into plates (Why plates? I have no idea). …


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Building a product to further a basic human emotion

The origin story

All good startups have one: an origin story. In this case, our Founder and CEO, Jeremy Fischbach, was going through a bit of a rough patch to say the least. As he puts it:

It was a rainy summer night in New Orleans in 2015 — one of the most difficult years of my life. My last endeavor, a psych-tech company dedicated to helping people explore their inner realms, was on life support. A relationship I cared deeply about was, too. And that mixture of commitment and belief that fuels start-ups and relationships was gone. …

About

Garron Engstrom

Product Design Manager @ Facebook Social Impact

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