[0511] Design Sprint and Sprints, Ready to Take a Leap? And More.

Highlights from UX lightning talk in May

Yesterday I participated in UX Lightning Talk in May and met 3 amazing presenters sharing their insights with us. They are:

Avinash Raj, UX Design Manager at Canada Post
David Asher Wilson, Former Design Director of Salon UK
Flora Li, Director of UX at Financeit

Make Design Big Again

Avinash presenting “from Tactic to Strategy”

Started from the traditional graphic design, to industry design and design thinking, Avinash shared his understanding at looking at the development of design.

Visual Tactic — Functional Tactic — Strategy

Design used to be taken as make something look good, then slowly be broaden to the design products to satisfy needs, now it also becomes a strategy, a methodology, to solve a problem. Design is problem-solving.

“Adding the human connection is important in design thinking. People should be the core.” Avinash also mentioned that use empathy to define the problem, and then start the design process, pick the winner of a few options, execute and measure.

He also clarified the difference between Design and Design Thinking.

1/Individuals vs Teams(collaboration)
2/Products vs Experiences
3/Eng&Art vs Tech&Business&Human

About Design Sprints and Sprints in Agile

Avinash shared his experience starting a design sprint referencing the Google Venture Design Sprint method at Canada Post. At first, I got a bit confused as this method using 5 days to go from discovery to delivery, always with a prototype to test. And it seems it is different from the “sprints” I’m having at work with developers and PM.

Thanks to Mohammad, I finally understand the design sprints they are talking about is different from the sprints we are having in agile environment.

The Five Day Design Sprint is usually used to get the right direction at the early stage of a product/validate an assumption quickly in 5 days before investing large amount of money and time. It focus on the most important aspect of a challenge because you can never finish anything just within 5 days.

The weekly sprints we are having at work is a methodology we are taking in the agile environment, to quickly deliver and iterate. For example, Mohammad shared that at Canada Post, as a UX designer, he is at the very front, work with PM to define problem and design requirements , and is ahead of visual designer and content strategist, while they are also ahead of development team. But there are exceptions as well based on the different situations. Also, Mohammad is working at a large corporation while at startups, it is likely that there will be a very small team, even design team of one like me, so the format of the sprints can always be adjusted based on needs.

The most important take-away I got from Mohammad is that:

Don’t be skeptical about yourself. UX is not a solution, UX is the methodology to a solution.

Storytelling, Context, and Inspiration

David presenting “Understand context of the story we are telling”

David gave a very inspiring presentation about how he got inspired by going out of the box. “When doing design, we focused too much on the rectangles.” David encouraged us to think of the situation when users are actually interacting with the product, whether it is a website/app/video or an physical object, “Don’t just think of the screen, think of the room and the environment around.”

Thoughtless Act

Sometimes there are some actions not being designed.

David showed a picture of a person lying on the grass and using a piece of newspaper to shelter from the sun. The newspaper isn’t designed to be a shelter, but it became one. The wisdom from people is hardly measured and predicted so learn and get inspired from daily life. David himself uses the way of taking interesting observational photos to keep being creative.

A Mile Wide, A Mile Deep

Flora presenting her dilemma between “an inch wide and a mile deep” and “a mile wide and an inch deep”

Flora shared her 10-year design career from a visual designer, to a UI designer, a UX designer, finally to a UX director. Starting from designing ads to making the first responsive website, from crafting illustrations in agencies to leading a design team in a fintech startup, Flora gained a broad skill set and continue to evolve and learn in the world of design.

The broad skill set Flora gained in her design career

I personally shared a lot with Flora: I spent 4 years in design school; The very first thing I did after I graduate was also designing ads; I also transitioned to UI design with a website; I’m now also working in a fintech startup…So absolutely this talk means a lot to me.

Service Design example from Flora — get to every single touch point

Here are some lessons I learned from Flora.

1/Make the most of it

Whenever and wherever you are, always be ready and willing to put in extra effort. Like when Flora was in agency, she got a switchable brain to quickly adapt to different brand guidelines and process.

2/Be brave to take the leap

Don’t be afraid to get a starting point and start again, no matter switch from a graphic designer to a UX designer or product designer or anything else. She shared a quote from Steve Harvey:

“If you want to be successful, you have to jump-there’s no way around it. When you jump, I can assure you that your parachute will not open right away…but if you don’t jump, your parachute will never open.
So you’ll be safe, but you’ll never know, and you’ll never soar. You’ve gotta jump.”

3/Empathy an process — soft skills go the long way

Empathize, remember design is to meet someone else/the users’ needs, not the designers’ need for perfectionism.

Know the process of design, know the target market and objective, speak to users, know the plan, validate….This process can be applied to many other dimensions.

4/Let developers understand the value of design

The relationship between developers and designers has always been a issue, but if we let developers understand the value of design, they will be more willing to execute carefully, maybe even more than your expectation.


In all, I really got a lot from this talk so thank you again for the organizers. I may mixed some points as my note is messy, but I hope this one is helpful. Join the meetup if you would like to participate in the next events.


Fairy is a product designer who is dedicated to utilizing technology to better connect the world. Welcome to connect me via Dribbble, Linkedin, and Twitter.