A year of Out of Office Hours

I’ve taken advantage of Dustin Senos ✌️’s Out of Office Hours project since it was formalized at the beginning of this year. (Tip: We’re all newcomers in something.) The year’s not over yet, but because it’s all about dialogue, here are the top 3 takeaways from every OOOH volunteer I’ve had the privilege of chatting with so far. Inaccuracies in paraphrasing and interpreting are my own.

January: Patrick N. Lewis

  1. When scaling from a design team of 1 to a team of 2, your #2 design hire should be a partner with complementary skills and double your output. By day 90, they should be leading a project.
  2. For big projects, have a process for design stakeholder reviews.
    Sample process—
    after research: What problem are we trying to solve?
    30% review : Does this solve the problem we’re trying to solve?
    90% review: Does this fit with our current design system? If not, are we comfortable adding it to our design language?
    post-engineering: Bug bash & visual QA.
  3. An advantage of joining an incubator program like Techstars is you gain exposure to a lot of different companies, industries, and their problems.

March: Matt Spiel

  1. When you’re just starting out building your design language, make sure your design system scales.
  2. Don’t be afraid of the executive track. Design is about solving problems. The higher up you go, the closer you are able to tackle the source of the problem (as opposed to symptoms of the problem.) When you fix the foundation, you build a happier, more productive team and that is very rewarding.
  3. To grow as a design leader in an organization, find a way demonstrate the impact of design on the business. (Yes, this is hard.)

May: Amanda Russell

  1. Product management can be more of some of the best parts of design (synthesizing lots of information, understanding why, solving user problems), but you are farther away from the end results.
  2. The referral system is dangerous for diversity. People refer people like them, and people trust referrals. De-risk by proactively bringing in candidates from communities that you’re not a part of.
  3. Strategically position yourself to learn the next big thing. Right now, it’s big data and its applications—neural networks, AI, ML, NLP, bots. Don’t set an artificial limit on your skills and challenge yourself to be uncomfortable.

May: Cat Macaulay

  1. When government doesn’t deliver services efficiently, it’s bad for citizens and also more expensive for the state. The measures of success in what we do is the impact on people and society. Did we minimize the harm we did? Did getting the benefit in a timely way to help citizens move on with their lives?
  2. Don’t just study the context you’re designing for, but also the one you’re designing in. Designers are not special, and you’re not swooping in to save the world.
  3. To become a more empathetic designer-researcher, engage in philosophy, anthropology, and epistemology. Work together to experience the world together and collectively interpret that. When affinity diagramming, once you think you have a story, rip it down and start over again.

Hopefully many more takeaways to come as we move through the year. Thanks to you all, and thanks again to Dustin & the OOOH team! You rock.