Key habits of highly productive product designers

Three more tips to improve your efficiency and effectiveness

In the first part of this article, we covered how to manage one’s energy and make the most out of our time through deep work. Here we’ll go over how to:

  1. Plan your work — under schedule yourself and overestimate the complexity of a task, do more bottom-up planning vs. top-down
  2. Triage — reassess your priorities and focus on what matters

1. Reign in the meetings

As an individual contributor designer getting heads down time to do deep work is key. However as we know getting…

Five tips to improve your efficiency and effectiveness

In the previous three articles in this key habits of highly productive product designers series, we talked about how designers can build strong relationships by externalizing their work, focusing on progress > perfection, and the importance of planning to drive impact. We’ll build on these lessons here, especially with planning, by looking into some techniques and strategies you can use to be more efficient and effective in your work.

If you’re looking to grow in your role fast, you’ll need to over-deliver and show that you’re ready for that promotion. However, relying on old habits may can sometimes end up…

Giving away answers will level the playing field

It was 11 am on a Wednesday. Slumping on a kitchen chair at home staring out the window I couldn’t help but think — what just happened? Hours earlier the company I was with went through layoffs and I got cut. This was my third design job in a year and a half. Startups are not for the faint of heart — the companies I was with went through rounds of layoffs or abruptly shut down due to lack of funding.

A few days after the shock wore off and I went into overdrive. I spent mornings and nights revising…

Key habits of highly effective designers

How to manage your design projects by planning for the number one resource–yourself.

Planning often gets a bad rep. We often think of plans as rigid structures that fall apart as soon as the plan makes contact with reality. That’s not the type of planning we’ll be talking about here.

I’d like to show you how you can use a lightweight form of planning to be more effective in shipping high-quality design work consistently. Good plans help you think through alternative scenarios and provide options when changes inevitably occur.

Photo of a person looking over a map and writing down notes
Photo of a person looking over a map and writing down notes
Plans are useless but planning is indispensable

If you want to do more strategic work—get better at planning.

Over time plans become obsolete but the activity of planning is indispensable as…

Tips on how to navigate the job search and land your next gig

Over the last few months the design interview landscape has shifted. With many (if not all) companies going remote, the interview process is now fully remote as well. This means some of the previous tried and true interview types such as the app critique or the infamous whiteboard challenge are taking a back seat in favor of the take-home design exercise and the portfolio presentation.

Although remote interviewing presents its own set of unique challenges, many of the same principles still apply such as taking stock of your skills first.

Before diving in…

Take a moment to reflect. Before dusting off that portfolio…

Key habits of highly effective designers

Increase your capacity to execute and develop your intuition through mini-feedback loops.

Design for progress > perfection
Design for progress > perfection
Make it a daily goal to show progress

Early on in my career I had a bad case of imposter syndrome. I would delay showing my work until I thought it was perfect trying to cover all the possible use cases. Other times I would underestimate the project and start on it later — how difficult can it be? But when I did start, the complexity became quickly apparent raising more questions than answers.

Both of these scenarios led to more work (and stress) in the end. But most importantly they deprived me of the opportunity to get better, faster.

Today’s design process is in flux. Gone are…

Key habits of highly effective designers

Move faster by revealing the process through sketches, whiteboards and by printing your work out

As designers, we have the superpower of making the future concrete. When we’re deep in the work mocking something up, it might not feel like we’re doing anything special, it’s just part of the job description. And yet, not everyone has this ability.

By giving shape to ideas we can get feedback quickly, align the team and save time pushing pixels.

Here are a couple of ways you can become more effective by:

  1. Whiteboarding during meetings
  2. Printing your work out and sharing it broadly

Carry a sketchpad

Should designers sketch? You don’t have to be an artist to draw…

Be a better design partner and leader by incorporating these habits into your process

What does it take to be an effective designer? As a discipline, digital design is always flux. New technologies and new tools are coming on the scene all the time. It’s important to have the craft down and know your way around the latest tools. But that’s just the beginning.

Today, the design process is a never ending collaboration with stakeholders. To shape and ship a quality product we need to work together with our cross functional partners in product, engineering, research and others. After all, without a team—a design deliverable can only go so far.

To be a strong…

Part 2

Using core design methods to solve problems on new platforms.

This is the last part of a two-part series of Designing for Google Glass. In this part I’ll go deep on the process I used to design a rating system for Glass.

If you’re considering designing for new and emerging platforms—I hope this article inspires you to take the leap. At its core, the design process is similar regardless of technology. But with new hardware there are usually few rules in place giving you the freedom and opportunity to shape the future.

The Glass UI lives in the prism

Glass at a glance

To understand Glass we must first examine its hardware. The Glass UI is projected on a tiny transparent…

Part 1

Lessons learned in augmented cognition, designing for healthcare and thinking beyond screens.

Glass found a new home in the doctor’s office

“Google Glass huh? Is that thing still around?” would be the typical response I would get when I said I design for Glass.

When it was launched to the public Glass was universally panned. Things got so bad we got a new term, Glasshole. But a few years after the glitzy consumer release Glass quietly found a new home — in enterprise.

With Google’s announcement last year, Glass has been making strides in hardware advancements — it’s faster, lighter and more energy efficient. …

Dan Shilov

Designer and author of Land Your Dream Design Job ( a guide for UX Designers to find their next role.

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