I’m preparing to start a new job, and want to kick things off on the right foot by setting some goals. Coming up with goals that feel meaningful and motivating, however, has been difficult. What helped me was answering some broader questions about what I want from the new role and how it fits into my life.

Below, I’ve broken the questions into two groups, broader thought starters, and then some more tactical, concrete questions. I recommend copy and pasting them into a document and working down through them. …


Explaining design work is tough. Not everyone has a design background and understands how to evaluate it. Tying your design choices to your audiences’ goals makes it more understandable, and helps you avoid the dreaded real estate tour.

Here are some ways you can explain your design work to different stakeholders.

Explain how your design helps with business goals

This requires having an understanding of your business strategies and how your team is involved in them. Executives usually love talking about their vision, so ask questions if you’re unsure.

Competitive positioning

Explaining your design choices in terms of how you’re differentiating your product helps people understand the strategic value of…


A simple tool for sharing your work

Have you ever been to an art exhibit and left feeling like you understand an art period so much better? That’s the feeling you’re aiming for in a design exhibit. You want people to walk away understanding why design choices were made and what’s still being decided. Clear project info and mockups are your tools for telling the story.

What is a design exhibit?

A way to get feedback and share designs that doesn’t require meetings. It’s simply putting your work up on the walls with any context that is required to understand your work.

Why do it?

I’ve run them…


A template for when someone asks why you don’t just copy a competitor.

Hi [Their name],

I really appreciate you taking the time to think about our design process and offer a suggestion. We all want to ship the best product as quickly as possible!

These suggestions generally come from a good place, so acknowledge they’re trying to help

There are many reasons why designers rarely copy a competitor. The following are just a few of them:

  1. We don’t know what competitor’s business goals are. Is there a metric they were moving that is different to ours?
  2. We don’t know…


We all want our new hires to feel welcome, comfortable and able to contribute as quickly as possible. A good onboarding program can help get your new hire gets to that state. Onboarding usually includes tasks they need to complete and knowledge they need to learn. Designers use a lot of specialized tools, so they have some specific needs to have a successful onboarding.

This article is based on my experiences onboarding a few new hires and starting a new job recently. It covers getting designers up to speed on the design team, your HR / People / etc. …


Note: I wrote this before I left AppNexus to go to Spotify, but forgot to publish it 😬. Posting it now for posterity

The AppNexus design team believes that consistency can help make the user’s life easier. Primarily, we’e been focused on consistency at the micro interaction level, but it’s just as important to make sure we have it at the high-level. We worked on creating design principles to make sure that we were all designing with similar goals in mind.

The idea of design principles intrigued the design team when Julie Zhuo published an article on their importance. We…


Our first design sprint was fairly successful. We made a few mistakes which had cascading problems, but overall we learned a lot and built some great team spirit.

Some ideas from our lightning demos

What’s a Sprint?

A sprint is a participatory design process created by Google Ventures to quickly solve design problems. It takes five days, with each day given a specific goal and tasks to support that goal. We did the first three days: map out the problem & pick a focus, sketch solutions, and choose what to test.

If you’ve never heard of them, check out GV’s introduction to design sprints. …


Sketch sessions are an easy collaborative process for generating diverse design ideas. My friend AJ introduced me to them and they’ve been a big hit at AppNexus.

It’s basically getting a lot of people (Designers, developers, product managers, sales, support, etc) into a room, and working alone, together. You share a problem with everyone, they sketch for 5–10 minutes and then share what they created.

Why should you do one?

There are many benefits to sketch sessions:

  • They generate a lot of ideas.
  • The ideas are often more diverse than what you’d come up with on your own.
  • Leading a sketch session shows some of…


As a young gay boy I always interpreted “I didn’t realise you were gay” as a compliment. As I grew up, becoming more proud of myself, I realised that it wasn’t a complement at all, but a celebration of normalcy.

There are a few reasons that I paint my nails, and they have changed over the last few years. The first time was a little bit of rebellion, but mostly a fun thing to do for a weekend. I did it once or twice more, usually doing a really shitty job.

No one really judges a man for having shitty…


Along with most of the design community I made the switch to Sketch. last year. The transition was great. It’s so fast! So fast that I started using it to replace sketching. This turned out to be a mistake.

An important part of the design process is being aware what medium you choose to communicate in.

For most points in this article, “Sketch” can really apply to any high fidelity drawing app (Photoshop etc).

1. Sketch really pushes you to high fidelity.

Sketch’s strength (It’s so wonderful for pixel-perfect mocks) is its weakness here. It pushes you to “move this a few pixels” instead of trying a variety…

Mike Brand

Product Design at Spotify. Patron saint of emojis.

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