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Illustration: Ximena Cuenca

This post is part of an ongoing series about design at scale. Read “Driving Quality and Consistency at Scale” by Ken Skistimas, “Doing Design at Scale” by Lucinda Burtt and “Modern Design Tools” by Daniel Eden.

When I’m designing — whether in my job on Facebook’s Ads Interfaces Design team or on my own projects — I frequently look to the world outside of design and technology for inspiration. Stepping outside of design and into, say, philosophy, architecture or biology forces me to learn something new in a way that’s both uncomfortable and unfamiliar. Often, this can help me make sense of the direct design challenges I’m facing, allowing me to view and navigate the situation in a different light. …


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Reading fiction, and even more so, writing fiction, has been one of the greatest things I’ve done to better understand how to design for others. In the design community we talk a lot about the importance of writing. In general, it’s a great thing. There’s a wealth of great resources on the recommended reading for designers, and there’s plenty of designers putting out great content on a regular basis, too, but much of it tends to be on usability, psychology, user research, testing, should designers code, design leadership, and other kinds of technical writing. But it’s not enough.

The act of reading and writing fiction requires the author to imagine a reality that is not and never will be her own. It means imagining and coming to an understanding that the people in these stories have lives and experiences equally as complex as hers, and that whoever conceived of these stories has (or had) a life and motivations that are wholly different from her own life and experiences. And when we write fiction, we’re asked to create realities that are not prototypical, but specific, and then to understand the implications of those realities for the people that inhabit that imagined space. How do two people with differing value sets perceive the world differently, and how do they interact together? …

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