Tips for building connections in a distributed design team

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Illustration by Marcus Oakley. Composition by Nick Levesque

When I joined Zendesk in 2017, my biggest challenge was adjusting to working in a distributed team. Yes, the product set was complex, but wasn’t dissimilar to the complexity I’ve dealt with before. Yes, the tools were different, but they’re tools that you can master in days or weeks.

Working in a distributed team was challenging for three reasons.

First, there is the tyranny of timezones. Spoiler alert: I don’t have a solution for defeating time differences across US, Europe, Asia, and Australia. When your team spans four continents, there will be some pain if you want to speak in real time. This is unavoidable, but you can minimise how much it impacts your day. …


Scaling the output of your design systems team without scaling the team

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Migratory birds in formation [source]

As a kid fascinated by nature, one of my favourite TV shows was The Living Planet series narrated by Sir David Attenborough. I remember the episode on birds. I was awestruck by the group behaviour migratory birds use to conquer the seemingly insurmountable task of flying halfway around the world. They achieve this by taking turns at leading the flock. Flying at the head of the formation is more tiring than flying at the back. The bird at the head takes the brunt of the air resistance. It ‘breaks the air’, thus reducing the flying friction for those behind it. …


And what you can expect to learn from each one

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Over the last couple of years I’ve been devouring online content on design systems. In this article, I will share the videos and articles I found most useful in my learning journey.

The content linked here has influenced the way I think about design systems, and the way I work with my colleagues at Zendesk on maintaining Garden, our own design system.

The list below is by no means exhaustive, but these are the videos and articles that I found most helpful and informative and I hope you do too. I decided to include a little explanation of key content for each resource so you can make an informed decision if it is for you. …


As my last week at SEEK drew to a close, I was in the process of drafting one of those ‘farewell’ emails people send on their last day of work.

Before I knew it, the email length blew up, so I decided to say goodbye in picture form instead.

So here goes.

During my time at SEEK, I…

…was part of an amazing team of talented and passionate designers and researchers

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Don’t add sound to mobile or web interactions.


Co-created with Emily Arnautovic

We made something physical, and shipped it to customers around the world! Read the story behind bosancica-posters.com below.

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Finding inspiration

It was over a year ago that I read a post about a print project by Goran Peuc, a Croatian UX designer at SAP. It inspired me to embark on a print project of my own. In his post, Goran detailed the process he went through to bring the ancient Croatian alphabet, called Glagolitic alphabet, to life and into people’s homes in the form of a fine art poster.

Being from the same region (I was born in Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina), I was aware of a similar alphabet called Bosančica that was used in Bosnia & Herzegovina and parts of Croatia between the 10th and the 18th century. …


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Image modified from image sourced at http://maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com/Handicap-Logo-Signage-Deaf-Visually-Impaired-1173331

Recently two of my colleagues (Todd Moore, Stephanie Moss) and I tested parts of SEEK’s site with vision impaired users.

It was my first time facilitating usability sessions with users who entirely rely on screen readers to navigate the web.

We learnt a lot of specific things about our site — things that worked and things we needed to improve.

However, there were four things we learned which were not necessarily about specific issues with our site — these were lessons which will be useful the next time we run usability sessions with vision impaired users.

Hopefully, you will find them useful too. …


Over the last 10 months, my wife and I have been lucky to live in Sarajevo, Bosnia, with reduced work commitments. This allowed us to make many road-trips with our two kids who are four and two years old.

On each trip, without fail, we never made it more than 10 kilometers, without one of the following phrases being uttered:

  1. Are we there yet?
  2. When are we going to be there?
  3. I want to go home!

The further we went from Sarajevo, the worse it got: tantrums, fights and tears featuring in just about every trip. …


It took a person with a severe vision impairment (macular degeneration) to help me acknowledge what’s wrong with the current design trends of low contrast and thin text, and other ‘trendy’ visual and typography design mistakes.

First things first, I get the theory

As a designer, I’ve understood why we need legible text in design of digital interfaces for a long time. I understand how line length, line height and font size affect our ability to scan and read lines of text. I understand how our brain recognises shapes of words when we use lowercase, and how this is inhibited when we write in uppercase. I understand that certain colour combinations make it difficult for colour blind people to distinguish objects. …


If you are a designer and get your daily reading fix from Twitter or Medium, the chances are you’ve read articles telling you what you should and/or shouldn’t learn to do.

I don’t want this to be another one of those articles.

The problem with *those* articles

Articles telling designers what they should and shouldn’t learn take a ‘one size fits all’ approach, making assumptions about you as a designer, your background, your interests and the environment you work in. They oversimplify the nature of the problems we solve and dumb down the profession.

Tl;dr version of this article: you should learn to do whatever the f..k you want. If you have the desire, time and capacity to learn a skill that will contribute to your personal and professional development, make you a more useful member of your team, make you a better and more employable designer, or make you a happier and more satisfied human being, then start learning and don’t look back. …

About

Vedran Arnautovic

Designing in Australia, assembled in Bosnia. Product Design Manager at Zendesk. www.vedran.io

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