Design collaboration is clearly a learned skill, and I’m having to find a new way to teach it. A couple thoughts from today that are still jangling around in my head.

First, designers should be responsible for their own research. This means user research, of course, but just as important, it means company and product research. It doesn’t mean you have to necessarily do the research yourself, but the designer is accountable for answering all these research-related questions.

It means when you show me a design, you can tell me who you talked to while creating this design — not after, but while creating — if you haven’t talked to everyone, then you haven’t generated buy-in, and haven’t vetted your ideas with others on the team. …

Starting on some CSS refactor/redesign work today. Noticing how nice it is to have files well-named and organized. Name your CSS files the same as your JS components to make things easy to find. Keep CSS files short and focused with only the classes relevant to that component. Don’t mix concerns.

Also noticing that designers tend to focus on tools and workflows combining those tools. This is not, in my opinion, the important part of design work. Outcomes are important. Collaborating with users is important. Sketch files are — 99% of the time — not the point. A Sketch plugin that generates a React prototype is undeniably cool and a step into the future … but it’s also not the point, or even arguably that useful. There’s no API integration or business logic or coding standards involved, so it’d probably have to be rewritten anyway. …

These are the things stuck in my head at this very moment.

He told me he was young. I told him, “Well what is that good for? Nobody stays that way.” — Stars, “Trap Door”

I feel like we don’t quote lyrics enough anymore.

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It’s a daily refrain that companies are fighting harder than ever to attract talented people. It’s also known that organizations are purposefully designed to be resilient if those people might leave.

So, individual talent is critical to the success of the organization working dutifully to devalue individual talent.

How do you reconcile that contradiction?

The thesis concludes that perhaps high status leaders get so much support and unquestioning obedience that no one is brave enough to challenge the decisions in the organisation or project, and a project where the leader is unchallenged no longer benefits from the diversity of views, skills and talents that an engaged and communicative team can provide.

We are (all) the champions: The effect of status in the implementation of innovations

I read. A lot. Probably too much. But user experience and building products is my jam. I wake up each day, thankful that this is how I get to spend my time.

Recently, I’ve been wondering why we’re not building better products. And maybe there’s an upward-trending curve on some design macro-plane. Yet every day, my feeds are full of articles full of hand-wringing, restatements of fundamental guidelines, and so many reinventions of time-worn processes wrapped in shiny new rubrics. How is it that we are still wandering? How is it we haven’t nailed this?

I wonder whether the problem isn’t us. …

Design doesn’t get a seat at the table, it doesn’t even earn it. You build your seat at the table yourself.

First thing, there is no table.

Unless there is, and then you’re just gunning to be in more meetings, which is probably not the point of your job.

Second, you can’t argue your way to a seat.

You build your own seat by being an invaluable resource for those you see as already being “at the table”.

How you achieve that depends on you and your organization.

Eventually, “they” will realize that they’re consulting you anyway, and you’ll find yourself one day sitting at that table, simply because everyone realizes it’s smarter to have you in the room when decisions are being made.

Originally published at on December 5, 2016.

I work at a large and growing company. We have a startup mentality, but a fairly mature product. We don’t tell startup stories about “boosting landing page conversion by 300%.” We make small, incremental improvements and measure them over time. Our systems aren’t broken, they’re pretty smooth already. We work on expanding their reach and power, while smoothing out any rough edges we find.

So, design in our company is really about creating systems. Designing one email or landing page is not an effective use of time. …


Tim Barkow

Design leader, product & user experience.

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