R E : F R E S H / J U L Y ’ 1 9
Critique is essential to business, because critique is about making work better. And critique (aka “crit”) should be fun – because it’s a conversation about making better work. It involves sharing your work with that right mix of confidence and humility, listening to diverse inputs, feedback from diverse roles and people, the exchange of ideas, co-creation, collaboration, and iteration.
Gratefully, I’ve seen a lot of amazing crits – so I’ve put the best practices in a box. The kit has been tested by the design team at Blend, where I saw how much agency it gave a designer who’d never tried on the role of facilitator. And it’s been deployed by the Data Science team at Twitter – who says it’s their longest-running cultural program – and where all members of that team are onboarded and have visibility to each other’s work. Can you imagine – a critique for non-aesthetic purposes? Amazing.
I’m thrilled to launch CritKit for Product Teams. A version for agencies and another for academia are on the horizon. Sign up to be a beta tester, or join the mailing list to get notified when we launch at critkit.co.
R E : F R E S H / J U N E ’ 1 9
DesignOps before scale
Since September 2018, I’ve been consulting with the Business Technology Innovation (BTI) team at Salesforce. BTI is an internal consulting group focused on improving the employee experience, making internal practices more effective, and tools more efficient. When I joined, Mario Ruiz, the practice manager, had vision and a set of values, and needed help operationalizing them. Over the course of the year, I’ve advised on everything from their first full-time ops hire to a new employee onboarding experience (above). It’s been fantastic to help establish processes & procedures well in advance of scaling.
R E : F R E S H / M A Y ’ 1 9
“I really appreciate that you are the type of teacher that is on our side, coaching and rooting for us through this design field.” – Mike Torchia, CCA Grad Student
This semester, Heather Phillips and I each taught a section of The Business of Design: Professional Practice at California College of the Arts – a required class for grad students. The semester covered the skills of networking, cover letters, interviewing, writing – and the harder stuff of telling the story of your work. I helped 15 students get clear on the type of work they want to go after, then constructing their portfolio to help achieve it.
To help the students realize that any path is the right path, I invited many guests to kick off our classtime. Many thanks to designers Ash Guillaume, Leslie Cheng (a former student of mine) and Dave Bellona, career coach Mike Joosse, content strategists Karen Wickre and Jennifer Jeffries, and recruiter Mandy Zavala.
In a 60 day DesignOps consulting engagement, I helped the 18-person design team at Blend ship:
A design system for getting the conversation started with eng partners
File naming protocol for consistency and being able to find the right things
Improved collaborative models
CritKit for making better work & making work conversations better
Team profiles for understanding each other
Marketing & design social time for improving collaborative rapport
Networking introducing photographers and designers to the Blend fam
Improved project flows
Intake form for being the source of project info
Process for measuring return on investment and working smarter, including a new phase to measure ROI, Debrief
Project sizes for scoping and expectation setting
R E : F R E S H / M A R ’ 1 9
I’m thrilled to be advising Joint Futures.
While the practices of craft (what we make), operations (how we do it), and strategy (impact, differentiation, and value) are equally important – combining and considering them together can achieve so much more. That’s why I’m helping shape the experience of this event, together with Clarity, DesignOps Summit, and other conferences! There’s immense value to thinking holistically.
R E : F R E S H / J A N ’ 1 9
This year I’m doing four new things, all of which I’m very excited about:
Teaching a class at California College of the Arts called Transition to Professional Practice. I’ve guest lectured and critiqued at CCA but have never taught a full semester until now. Spring semester here we come!
Taking myself on a quarterly writing retreat / long weekend
Independently hosting workshops to be announced
R E : F R E S H / F A L L ’ 1 8
Talking and learning
December 23, San Francisco, CA — Taking stock of my year, it makes me happy to have shared what I’ve learned on five national and two international stages.
It was terrific to be at HOW Design in Boston, and to hear such a variety of successful stories from people like Emily Cohen, Adam J. Kurtz, Josh Higgins, and Stephen Gates. I brought a 20-minute version of the People Layer to the Google Design Sprint conference. And I spoke at Designers + Geeks and Otis College [see below].
In Bucharest, I was the only designer to speak during their Tech Week. And at the GIF London summit, I learned about Google’s A120, connected with exciting strategists and thinkers in the UK, and have plans to return in 2019 for a workshop and a visit to the Imperial College of Art.
December 12, New York, NY — Jina did such a fantastic job with this year’s Clarity conference – the third version of the single-track design systems conference, and its first time being in New York. It was the most intersectional, female-led gathering I’ve attended. And I love that it was well spaced-out (not just the type, haha). A tip of the hat to Nathan who jumped in last minute to emcee.
A few months before planning kicked into full swing, Jina and I got together to update the typography, so that it could be, well, more clear. I customized Brandon by lowering the bar in the A to visually connect to its neighbor in the R. Love how it turned out!
Office Hours with Arianna Orland
December 7, San Francisco, CA — To expand the community we don’t yet know, and give back to the community we know and love, my pal Arianna and I experimented with offering free Office Hours. We were absolutely thrilled at the response! In a matter of a few minutes, the time slots were filled up. Over a few months, we connected with emerging designers and with professionals at a turning point in their career. We spoke with individuals in São Paulo, Philadelphia, Vancouver, Portland, Hyderabad, and the Bay Area. We really enjoyed the conversations we had, and we were happy to receive feedback that the conversations were useful. And it brought a comfortable, repeatable structure to our weeks. Look for more in 2019!
Hear + Qwere Qwarterly and Mighty Real
November 2, Los Angeles, CA — To celebrate the first year of international conversations created to celebrate queer people, my partner and I designed and produced the first issue of Qwarterly. Among pride photos and illustrations in 40 pages of all original content, there’s a profile of Gilbert Baker, the creator of the pride flag, an interview with Cecilia Chung, a trans politician, and interviews with the three bands selected to perform at Mighty Real, a party invocation of Sylvester at the Peppermint Club in Los Angeles. Whew!
It’s a very special experience to see everything come together and get jazzed up from its humble origins.
Charrette at Otis College of Art + Design
August 30, Los Angeles, CA — For the very first time, the Communication Design program at Otis College of Art + Design convened a week-long charrette to explore and investigate one theme: citizenship. Interdisciplinary students, faculty, and staff – including Sheharazad, their newly-hired Creative Director – mixed with four visiting artists (two illustrators and two designers) who added their perspective to the topic. The week’s activities were cumulative – it was an honor to be in the mix, and to enjoy the bonus activity of synthesizing the work.
Silas and I strategized approaches & structures for about a month leading up to the charrette week. Mary prompted the students to think small and concentrate their message. And on my day, students clustered around topics such as belonging, unity, empathy and sharing a meal. There was a palpable buzz in the room as faculty floated from table to table offering critique and ideas, and students iterated and refined their approaches whilst figuring out how to collaborate with each other. Table by table, risograph posters were produced as evidence for further explication.
I’m always impressed with what can be accomplished over one day. As a participant and lecturer for this first instance experiment, I’m eager to see where Otis takes it next.
R E : F R E S H / S U M M E R ’ 1 8
Tuesdays at Sequoia Design Lab
Menlo Park, CA — I love the intersection of startups and communications & design needs, and had the distinct honor of consulting one day per week for many months with the extraordinary Sequoia Design Lab team inside the eponymous venture capital company. Pictured below is Aine Zhou, one of the team led by James Buckhouse. Over five months I consulted with a number of their portfolio companies on integrated brand / product / marketing strategies, brand identity design, and I authored a designer career ladder for all their portfolio companies.