A Power Packed Design Driven Meetup: First Designer at Twitter, Product Designer at Facebook and VP of Product at Kickstarter
The Design Driven NYC meetup on May 3rd brought an impressive lineup. The speakers were Vítor Lourenço, Partner at Expa and first designer at Twitter, Bradford Shellhammer, Head of Personalization and Engagement at eBay, Jonathan Smiley, Product Designer at Facebook and Deepa Subramaniam, VP of Product at Kickstarter.
In case you missed it, or if you just want a recap, we’ve summarized key takeaways from some of the talks.
Product Designer at Facebook, Jonathan Smiley on Compromising
The designer’s responsibility is to define and design the product, and they are typically reluctant to any changes to what they have so artfully designed. However, the fact is:
“You don’t have all the answers and there will be compromises you need to make.”
It is difficult to create a product that works for everyone and compromises will usually need to be made in 5 different areas:
While compromising, there will be times when you start to doubt yourself but the solution is for you to be clear about your role. It’s key to figure out when and how to compromise. Over time, you will develop good instincts about what users are looking for and bring key priorities for your environment to the table instead of bringing everything to the table.
VP of Product at Kickstarter, Deepa Subramaniam on Team Dynamics, Testing and Engagement
Though Deepa is currently with Kickstarter, she spoke about her experiences as Director of Product at Hillary for America. Deepa shared with us some tips for building good team dynamics, executing efficient user testing and creating effective engagement.
Partner at Expa and First Designer of Twitter, Vítor Lourenço on Launching Companies
With experience as the first designer of Twitter and a partner at startup studio, Expa, Vítor explained the lessons he learned from launching more than 10 companies at Expa in 3.6 years.
Find something that sucks
Design Driven hosted their 19th event at the United Nations HQ and attracted almost a thousand attendees. It was a fitting venue for some stellar speakers who also raised some noteworthy attention:
A fireside chat with Jeffrey Zeldman and Jen Simmons rounded off the wonderful event and we’re thankful to FirstMark for hosting it.
Amber Cartwright kicked it off with a talk on ‘Co-Designing with Machines’. Amber is a Design Manager at Airbnb where she oversees several teams evolving the company’s two-sided marketplace experiences. She has been a designer for over fifteen years, working across several mediums including interactive exhibit design, design agency consulting and video editing in New York, Portland and San Francisco. She has created designs and user experience strategies for companies like Loblaws, Google, Target, American Express and GE Capital. Her passion in product design are finding what inspires and motivates people, then reflecting that back into products that have meaningful impact on their lives.
Amber discussed the overarching relationship between machinery and design. Both entities in this day and age are constantly changing, and figuring out the dynamics towards integrating them both is something every designer struggles with. However, while Design and Machine work couldn’t contrast more, it’s their unique relationship that brings about great products. She talked about mathematical algorithms and described how everything, not just machinery, requires it.
Her presentation consisted of multiple modern ways design and machinery have learned to coexist including Machine Learning, Augmented Reality (AR), Quality Assurance (QA), The Design/Data Language System (DLS). She spoke about their application to Airbnb as she provided many physical examples and explained some of Airbnb’s machinery in the background such as SmartPrice, an intelligent solution that allows users to set prices based on demand.
The next speaker was Verena Haller from Equinox Hotels. Verena has long been a major player in the interior design world. She previously had strong interests in architecture and product design but decided to take an interior design role at SOM (Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP) as her first career move in New York. Since then, Haller has influenced the hotel design community with her innovative and fresh ideas. Her experience includes a variety of projects at companies like SOM, Ian Schrager Company, and Morgans Hotel Group, and currently is the Senior Vice President of Design at Equinox Hotels. An architectural and interior design background is not the most common among the digital UX/ UI crowd, so her talk brought some fresh perspectives.
Verena explained how design concepts and process are integrated in every type of design. She first covered the overarching history of hotel design and how heightened consideration towards this is something novel and the tracks have yet to be laid out. She discussed her inspirations, something every designer has and drives her particularly, and she tied them with a specific analogy to skiing. As an avid skier, she described her passion for design as an adrenaline rush, flowing and relentless. After coming down the ski slope, this exhilaration quickly turns into disappointment, as you want nothing more than to go down it again.
This analogy is a key example of the type of experience Haller seeks for her clients; the urge to come back for more. It was exciting to see how her inspiration has propagated through to her work, and manifests itself in her hotel designs.
Verena also discussed how many hotels today are found to be overwhelming in terms of design, so she bases a large portion of her design on creating a space where visitors can embrace and prosper in a minimalist and comfortable environment.
The next speaker was Braden Kowitz, a designer, storyteller, and self-proclaimed product development geek. He is a Design Partner at Google Ventures where he founded the team's Design Studio. He also advises startups on UX Design and Product Development. Before joining Google Ventures, Braden led design for several Google Products, including Gmail, Google Buzz, Google Apps for Business, Google Spreadsheets, OpenSocial, and Google Trends.
Braden’s talk revolved around Design Culture and what’s it’s like to start and be in one. He divided his talk into three main cultural values:
The smartphone revolution has led to an explosion in digital applications and web experiences. With this, considering the many new digital experiences for users, interaction and design has never been more important. User Experience (UX) refers to the overall experience of a person using a product or service, especially in terms of how easy and even delightful it is to use. UX can broadly be divided into two categories: UX Research and UX Design. While they are related, there are some distinctions between these two disciplines.
UX Research focuses more on analyzing and understanding user behaviors while UX Design focuses more on using understandings and insights gained in the UX Research phase to design the user’s experience. This doesn’t mean that the two can’t overlap. Whether you’re focused on the research or the design portion of User Experience, a part of understanding your responsibilities lies in understanding the other side too.
In some settings, the two are viewed as part of the many hats a designer can wear rather than two independent roles, typically true for startups or environments with limited resources.
Main Activities and Deliverables
Tools of the Trade
User Research and User Design can be often integrated which makes it hard to distinguish their characteristics, but we hope this helps shed some light and clears any confusion about the two.