How I spend my Friday nights — Geeking out with Jared Spool! He suggested several poses, one of which was the “tiger claw” pose. In all my experience with photography, I had yet to see anyone pull that one out of the bag so I I knew we just had to try it!

Design is a team sport

My entire class was buzzing with anticipation because Jared Spool, a prominent and early figure in the UX world, was traveling the West Coast with a scheduled stop at our campus. The purpose? To give us a talk about how “Design is a Team Sport.”

Organized by the OCUX group with sponsorship by our UCI MHCID faculty program director (the incomparable Gillian Hayes!), the talk was going to be hosted in our familiar stomping grounds at Donald Bren’s Information & Computer Sciences Hall.

As a lifelong learner, it is important to carve out the time to take advantage of these kinds of opportunities (yes, even on a Friday night!). How lucky are we to learn directly from the best in academia and industry? So despite mounting schoolwork and projects, I went. So #worthit!

I laughed. I clapped. I cried. Okay, I didn’t cry, but I WAS wistfully hoping that in some ideal world, Jared could somehow get on his soapbox and preach for all the world to hear. You don’t need to be a UX designer or tech geek to appreciate the importance of collaboration!

The talk was insightful, poignant, and genuinely humorous all at once. He should really change his job title to UX Evangelist. His ability to capture an audience via intriguing storytelling techniques was captivating. He has an uncanny knack for articulating thoughts, feelings, and frustrations we’ve all had as designers and team players in a way that empowers us to go forth into the world and spread the message — that design is a team sport.

My main takeaways:

  • Involve everyone!
    “Everyone thinks they are a designer because everyone is a designer— Embrace this idea.
  • Set the bar high from the beginning
    “If we want better outcomes, maybe we should start with better expectations.”
  • Help lead the way
    “Facilitated leadership is a way more important skill than knowing which color to pick or which font to use. We should be training, refining, and mastering [facilitated leadership skills] with every designer on our team.”
  • Collaboration is key
    “It should always be our mission to help every member on the team become consciously competent (better designers).”


Step 1: Unconscious Incompetence — Produces poor quality outcomes without realizing it.

“You don’t know what you don’t know…it was occasionally good (mostly due to luck) but you couldn’t do it predictably.”

I would characterize this stage with the following attributes:
Novel exploration / Fearless experimentation / Unafraid to fail / Beginner’s luck / Got it on the first try / Blissful ignorance

Then you start to see the difference between good and poor quality.
Literacy — detailed knowledge of what differentiates good quality from poor quality

Step 2: Conscious Incompetence — Now aware the outcomes are poor quality.

“You’re not good at what you do but now you know you’re not good at what you do.”

“Most people stop here. But some people persist.”

I would characterize this stage with the following attributes:
Reality crash landing / #thestruggleisreal / Don’t be afraid to make mistakes / Practice makes perfect / Airball

This is where people learn practices that lead to good outcomes.
Fluency — repeated practice of procedures to create good quality outcomes

Step 3: Conscious Competence — Follows defined procedures to produce good quality outcomes.

“Produce good quality work but they have to think through every step of the process…as long as you concentrated on it, you would do the right thing.”

I would characterize this stage with the following attributes:
Eureka! / #nailedit / Swish / Knowledge is power

This leads to producing good outcomes without thinking about it.
Mastery — Comprehensive knowledge and craftsmanship for intuitive work

Step 4: Unconscious Competence — Intuitively produces good quality outcomes

“This is the point where internalize this stuff and we can stop thinking about having to make deliberate moves. We can just start doing it.”

I would characterize this stage with the following attributes:
On autopilot / Master Jedi / Wizardry and Magic / I make it look easy / No big deal (NBD)

“We can change the outcome by changing our expectations.” — Jared Spool

If you want to view the talk, check out the video recording UCI’s ICS Department posted on YouTube below (that’s me in the middle bottom of the audience!).

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