And How to Avoid These Pitfalls by Democratizing the Power of Design

Image for post
Image for post

For most of my career, I’ve worked as a designer at very small companies and startups, ranging from the roughly 40-person team at Light and Motion in the early 2000’s where I designed underwater camera equipment and bike-lights, to a short-lived but highly educational experience at my own 2-person venture-backed startup in 2012. The latter experience gave me a huge appreciation for HBO’s documentary series Silicon Valley.

In my current role as director of design education at InVision — which is by far the largest and fastest-growing company I’ve worked for — I’m lucky enough to talk to design leaders at a wide variety of companies and various stages of growth. From our Design Better Podcast, to initiatives like the Design Genome Project, and our yearly Design Leadership Camp, our team gets to learn from the best practitioners of design and share their strategies and tactics to a broad audience. …


Image for post
Image for post
Horseback photo credit: via Four Seasons Hotels

Leading a design team can be stressful, whether your company already embraces design or you are in the midst of a transformation. Inspiring your team, remaining driven yourself, even finding someone who understands your challenges and triumphs only gets more difficult the higher you climb in your career. As design leaders ourselves, we get that at InVision; it’s why we partnered with the Bureau of Digital to create Design Leadership Camp.

The camp’s purpose is threefold: develop the essential skills you need to level up in your career, make connections with peers at other companies who can provide valuable guidance and support, and recharge your batteries. This spring, we’ll embark on our third camp journey in a location known for its artistic and creative heritage.


Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Braden Jarvis on Unsplash

Last Spring, I was fortunate enough to be a part of the inaugural Design Leadership Camp, which happened in Gateway Canyons, Colorado and was produced by the Bureau of Digital in partnership with InVision. In the presence of 30 veteran design leaders, and in a setting that was nothing less than spectacular, we discussed topics from communicating the value of design to operationalizing a growing design team.

Video footage from Design Leadership Camp #001 in Gateway Canyons

This year we’re getting ready to build upon this experience, in another location that should prove to be even more inspirational — Hawaii. …


Image for post
Image for post

Note: this was first posted on InVision’s blog in May 2017

Student and teacher

A few weeks ago, in the middle of the scenic Colorado desert in the tiny town of Gateway, I was privileged to be in the company of 30 great design leaders from all over the world, at the inaugural Design Leadership Camp. The Camp, produced by the fantastic Bureau of Digital in partnership with InVision, was meant to be a transformational experience for design leaders — an opportunity to connect with peers and discuss shared challenges.

As an aspiring design leader, I came away transformed. The camp was an opportunity for open and honest discussions, to be “equal parts student and teacher” as Heidi Munc from Nationwide observed. As a student, one of the core themes was influence: influencing teams, stakeholders, and cross functional partners. Each of the five design leaders below have their own ways of creating that influence, and here is what I learned from them. …


Image for post
Image for post

Product design has been the foundation of my career for the past 17 years, and although I have followed more of a winding, overgrown trail than a neat, linear path, design is the thread that runs through each step of my journey. I’m very excited to announce that this journey has led me to a new branch in the path: I have joined the company InVision as their Director of Design Education, where I will be supporting their mission of empowering the future of product design.

It is a good time to be a product designer. Whether you are designing physical or digital products, the technologies available for sketching, designing, prototyping, collaborating on, manufacturing, and distributing products offer a staggering range of options. Software is eating the world, and as designers we have a powerful role in the form and direction that software products take. …


Joe Knoernschild is one of the most interesting, thoughtful, and humble creative entrepreneurs that I’ve had the pleasure to meet. Joe co-founded the surf brands Billabong USA and Hurley; Hurley was acquired by Nike in 2002. I met Joe as a fellow advisor to the action sports startup Kick + Push, which is providing an opportunity for artists to create and fund one-of-a-kind skateboard decks.

During our chat, we had an opportunity to discuss Joe’s first experiences as an entrepreneur, the challenges of balancing creativity and business, and how he made time to surf while building two brands and raising a family (note: his sanity may have suffered). …


Image for post
Image for post
Neri was hacked together in a little under 6 hours.

Neri.works

For those of you who have been following along with the 6x6x6 Project (6 side projects in 6 months, each taking 6 hours or less), I’ve been on something of a hiatus for the past year or so. The most compelling reason (well, excuse) for this is that I took on a coaching role in the Product Design department at Stanford, which turned into a lecturer position last year and ate up a fair bit of my extra time (although as those of you with kids will attest, “extra time” is an abstract concept at best).

In a way, my work at Stanford grew out of the mindset I began to cultivate with 6x6x6; try small, experimental projects to see where they lead. In this case, coaching students in the capstone Product Design series became a more involved, challenging, and engaging role as a lecturer. …


Shower curtains, clocks, and more!

Once again, it’s been quite some time since I’ve posted a 6x6x6 update (and 6x6x6 has morphed into 6x6x24, or something like that).

Anyway, in the time since I wrote about some of my initial projects, Society 6 has come up with some cool new products to slap my photos on top of, like…Shower Curtains!

Image for post
Image for post
Keep the water on the right side of the tub!

So if you’re looking for an underwater-themed replacement for that moldy, tattered, Sponge-Bob shower curtain you’ve had for the last 9 years, quest no further.

But wait…have you ever been staring at a blank wall, and wondered, “Hey, what time is it?” …


Image for post
Image for post
White-tip reef shark / elijah woolery

An Experiment & A Challenge

(This is the 1st part of a 6 month project I’m working on, originally posted on my personal blog)

My wife recently shared an article with me called “10 Reasons Why You Have to Quit Your Job This Year” by James Altucher, a blogger/entrepreneur whose brash and honest style I’ve got a kick out of since discovering him last year. …


Image for post
Image for post

X-rays: Vegetables and scary fish

About

Elijah Woolery

Director of Design Education @InVisionApp. Lecturer in Product Design @Stanford. Founder of Curious by Design. Father, designer, photographer & entrepreneur.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store