“Why do we have three separate meetings to go over the same spreadsheet?” said a colleague a few years back, mid-meeting. He had a point: we had three of the same weekly status meeting, whose purpose in each case was to read through that spreadsheet. Half the attendees were lost in their laptops. I was paying attention, but only because there were so many people in the room that we’d run out of chairs.

Sound familiar? How about the one where we can’t figure out what to talk about in the recurring meeting, so we make up topics? Or the…

Design is best done collaboratively. That’s not a controversial idea, but it’s easy to lose sight of in the midst of a project. As a design leader, I’m still surprised by how often the right response to any problem — be it a team misalignment, a design that’s not working well, or a project that’s off schedule — is, “Well, have you talked to them?”

When those conversations do happen, they often happen too late. The solution is defined, the mockups are done, there’s a slick prototype, the design team has critiqued everything, and finally there’s a design review. The…

When you spend as much time in front of a computer as I do, little changes can make a big difference to your health and comfort. And suddenly, all that butt-in-chair time is happening in our thrown-together work-from-home setups instead of our “real” desks at work—opening us up to real health risks and, if nothing else, a lot of soreness.

I’ve picked up some layperson’s knowledge over the years, first and foremost because I started to develop some serious pain and was able to fix it. …

Two years ago I wrote, “Five Rants from a Cranky Designer,” expressing my frustration with recent trends in design: the overemphasis on pixels, the obsession with design systems, the misapplication of user research, the isolationism, the diva attitude.

I expected some controversy, but did not expect what I got instead: gratitude from other like-minded designers. Some felt alone and frustrated, working in environments that didn’t value them. Others had been living with a nagging sense that there was a better way to do it. I’d hit a nerve.

As I’ve ruminated on that, I’ve found myself returning, time and again…

Earlier this month, Basecamp published their Guide to Internal Communication, laying out principles for team communication. It’s a great read, especially coming as it does from a company that’s been thinking about collaboration for more than two decades.

They’re not the only ones. Throughout my career, how people communicate has been endlessly fascinating to me. I’ve been drawn to it in product work, from early solo attempts to reinvent email through leadership roles on Yahoo! Messenger, Gmail, Inbox, and Facebook Messenger. …

“Let’s build a low-quality product,” said nobody ever. Yet, somehow, the world is full of them. You’re probably painfully aware of the ways in which your product isn’t high-quality, and you may have even made the decisions that got it there.

Those trade-offs are necessary, usually painful, and often difficult to navigate: how do you know when to compromise on product quality vs. insist on it? How can you ensure you’re doing it deliberately vs. by accident? How do you stand tall and defend those decisions in the face of entirely reasonable criticism from users and leaders alike?

To begin…

Collaboration and flexibility are the name of the game

Credit: Heap

Let’s face it: The phrase “enterprise web app” doesn’t exactly conjure visions of usable, attractive software. Visual design isn’t often a priority; given finite resources and paying customers, the choice between the next big feature and improved aesthetics usually comes down in favor of the feature.

That’s true even at a company that values design like Heap, which offers behavioral analytics for websites and mobile apps, without your needing to know the data questions you want to ask before you launch. When I joined as VP of Design, it was with the recognition of design debt we knew we wouldn’t…

As a hiring manager, I’ve seen a lot of design portfolios. It’s obvious designers invest time in how they present their work—which makes it all the more tragic that most say very little to distinguish them. If you squint a little, 90% of design portfolios look the same.

Most are a collection of case studies describing, in detail, the process for each project. Which might sound reasonable; but as a hiring manager I know how a design process works. The particulars of process look remarkably similar from project to project, and don’t actually tell me much about what makes the work unique.

It surprises me that this approach is so common. Designers have the skills to treat their portfolios as a design exercise: to understand their users and create experiences that meet their needs.

Or is it just me? Are other hiring managers getting signal I’m missing? I…

Every designer knows the frustration of uninformed feedback. An engineer says the design should have fewer clicks. An executive suggests it should “pop” more. A product manager insists it’s not “intuitive” enough: “I don’t think my grandma would understand this.” Non-designer feedback can be so uninformed, so off-base, so maddening…and yet so difficult to dissuade.

Or maybe you aren’t a designer, and you struggle to provide constructive feedback. You know something’s off with the design…you just can’t put your finger on it. You want to contribute but all you ever seem to do is anger and alienate your designer.


Image credit: boetter on Flickr

After two decades in design, I’d like to believe I’ve earned the right to rant (respectfully and, I hope, constructively) about our profession. But long, tedious rants are boring…so here are five short ones.

1. Don’t Mistake the Mockup for the Product

As designers, we care about attention to detail in our deliverables. The extra time ensuring dimensions are correct, icons line up along pixels, text lacks typos, and so on is well spent — up to a point. But it gets out of hand when we start to mistake the mock for the product.

Nobody uses your mockups. Let me say that again, because it’s important and…

Dave Feldman

CEO & Founder at Miter. Former VP Design, Heap. Alum of Google, Facebook, Emu. Product designer, behavioral science enthusiast. Seeking investors, engineers.

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