A clarifying rubric to help teams align around new ideas

Not every work project is cut from the same cloth. There are “big honkin’ bets” that involve bravely stepping into the unknown, and there are tiny tweaks that you wrangle for quick improvements. I’ve worked at Facebook for more than six years now, across four teams — and in the process of building products for over 2.8 billion people, my teams have seen both ends of that spectrum.

But sandwiched between those extremes is a vast expanse of projects that are just begging to exist. They’re often far more numerous, and at times we can struggle to understand how we…


Or We All Risk Losing Our Politeness

Human: “You don’t respond well to insults.”
Siri: “Oh, don’t I?”

There’s a theory that when we send our five-year-olds off to kindergarten, eyes wide and lunch box full of sandwich, they’re not just going to learn from their teacher; they’re going to learn “social norms” through their peers. What’s acceptable repartee? What’s not? When your five-year-old calls another five-year-old “fat,” she learns its impact quickly as she sees her friend’s face scrunch up with hurt. That visible, visceral reaction teaches a valuable lesson: “That didn’t feel good.”

Real-life interactions foster this “social…


How Harley Earl Taught Us That Visionary Design Changes Everything

Harley J. Earl posing with his famous 1950s concept cars, the Firebirds.

This is a story you may not know. And if you ever wonder just how impactful you can be as a designer — for your company, for your field, for society —you can learn something from Harley J. Earl. Because when this man turned off his office lights one last time in 1958, few designers in history had done more to shape our lives.

This is the man who designed the automotive industry.

Over a 40-year career, Harley Earl put his mark on over 50 million automobiles. By the time…


How to navigate the polarizing world of critique in product design — and make better decisions doing it

Remember Sisyphus, that forlorn fellow from Greek mythology who was always rolling a boulder uphill? Give that gent a MacBook and some prototyping software, and ask him to build a product that will please 100% of the people who use it. Therein lies the truly impossible task.

Go this way! No, go that way!

Creative work is polarizing — from architecture, to writing, to digital product design. Building something pleasing to everyone is a task doomed to failure, because the diversity of opinions out there is both stupefying and bifurcated: People gush over your new painting. They hate that chair you designed. They love your blog article…

J.T. Trollman

Product design manager and curious individual. I love AI, maps, problem-solving, transit, privacy & safety issues, and photography. SF native.

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