The Design life of a product designer — Interview with Michael Lee

Michael Lee

Michael Lee is a product designer at Sunrun- changing home solar in a simple, inexpensive, low-risk way. No doubt he is a great designer, but he is passionate writer as well. He also loves heading workshops on design and prototyping. Some of the workshops lead by Michael include Framer Sessions 5 ,Intro to Design, Design Sprint Workshop,at CET, Berkeley.In his design career he has worked big players like Google, UC Berkeley and others.

Learning is an ongoing process, so to continue the product design learning journey, team zipBoard interviewed, Michael to learn from his experiences. Our discussion focuses on Collaboration with developers, his design journey, his inspirational design websites, UI/UX and much more.

Q: What motivated you to become a product designer?

Michael “I always had ideas for software (mobile & web). Instead of thinking about the ideas I had or trying to articulate it through words, I decided to visually show my ideas, which led to simple wireframes, then hi-fidelity mockups and then prototype via Framer or Flinto For Mac.

I also wanted to be a part of a product team and what designers did really inspired me.

Product designer to me is a multi-disciplinary field and that really motivated me because I enjoy learning from different disciplines.

Q: How is your Product design experience at Sunrun?

Michael “I love it here at Sunrun. The team is very collaborative and there is a respect for design here. I work on a lot of projects (internal projects and consumer facing projects) and am learning a lot. As a product designer I do everything from design all the way to prototyping to user research. I’m constantly learning and improving as a designer.

Q: What according to you are the characteristics of a great product team?

Michael “ I actually wrote about it here.To summarize here(In no particular order):

1. Strong work ethic & craftmanship 2. Zero fear of sharing ideas 3. Complementary & diverse skills 4. Clear & intense focus on vision 5. Enjoying each other’s company 6. Constantly speaking to users 7. Great communication 8. Encouragement & empathy.

“We all learn on the job but a great thing I have witnessed are teams that learn from each other and build up each other and this comes from the foundation of having complementary & diverse skills.”- by Michael Lee at Characteristics of a Great Product Team

Q: How do you collaborate with Developers?

Michael “I collaborate with developers by clearly communicating my designs through words and via software such as Zeplin and by making prototypes the developers can access and see my designs in motion.

I also do regular checkins and design reviews to make sure everything is going according to plan.

Grocery Hamster

Q: Which online tool you use for usability testing?

Michael “I currently either do in person user interviews or do remote interviews via Google Hangout.

Q: What do you think you do as a designer what others don’t. Do you have any advice for them?

Michael “I think there are a lot of articles and videos explaining what designers do, but one thing I encourage designers to do is learn more about user research, how to run usability tests & learning how to prioritize and implement feedback.

Q: How do you do rapid prototyping with your team?

Michael “Our team does a lot of whiteboarding sessions and we use paper & pen. By doing whiteboarding sessions it’s easy to ideate as much as possible and to throw away ideas that do not work. If we get straight into the software, it’s harder to throw away ideas which is why we stick to whiteboard(or paper & pen) first.

Q: What is your main focus while creating a design?

Michael “My main focus is making a great product for the end users and making sure I balance between product goals and business goals.

I also focus on designs that are visually pleasant and I look into ways I can try innovating interaction and animation patterns.

Q: What kind of formal education does a designer need?

Michael “I don’t have any strong opinions on formal education. I’m actually a self taught designer and the Internet was my school. And by Internet I mean all the awesome people that inspired and helped me and all the great articles, ebooks and videos.

Q: As a designer what social channels do you love to hang around?

Michael “I follow designers that inspire me on Twitter which is my main social channel and I also enjoy checking Dribbble and sometimes Designer News.

Enabling Location Animation

More from Michael

To know more about Michael, you can visit here or read his articles on medium. To appreciate his work you can also follow him on twitter and dribbble.

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