#010: Mia Blume: design, or be designedDesignBetter.Co: Design great products add
“Will I lose my creativity? Will I be stuck in meetings all day?” Those are common concerns for any individual contributor transitioning to a managerial role—even experienced product leaders like Mia Blume.
Luckily, Mia’s impressive career spans positions at places like IDEO, Pinterest, and Square, so she’s had plenty of opportunities to see what it takes to make a fundamental impact on culture from beyond her laptop screen.
In this episode, Mia shares what it was like stepping away from daily design work to lead, how she combats imposter syndrome, and how being a designer ultimately made her a more effective manager. Now, with a motto for time management and loads of experience walking other people through that transition, Mia can expertly explain how to navigate the intricacies of being a great leader—which includes everything from managing priorities to being vulnerable on the job.
As a former design leader at Pinterest, Square, and IDEO, Mia’s work is informed by her deep understanding of the unique challenges and opportunities designers face in hyper-growth start-up environments. She is specifically attuned to the challenges of women in tech—and, more importantly, their potential impact on individuals, teams, and organizations when their authentic, empathetic, and intuitive leadership style is unlocked.
#009: Christian Madsbjerg: exploring how humans experience the worldDesignBetter.Co: Design great products add
In today’s tech-driven economy, it seems like it can be hard to justify the value of a traditional liberal arts education. But given the speed at which AI-driven advancements are taking over traditional jobs—even technical ones—perhaps a better understanding of humans and their cultures is exactly what we need.
Because being product-driven really means people people-driven—and we’re betting few people understand the human experience better than the author of Sensemaking, and co-founder and Senior Partner of ReD Associates, Christian Madsbjerg.
In this episode, Aarron and Eli chat with Christian about using tools from human and social sciences to inform business decisions. Christian’s expertise helps clarify the methods a lot of fast-moving companies botch, like gathering proper ethnographic research, and the hazards of conducting focus groups. Together, they also dig into the pros of a liberal arts education and how it helps foster the crucial skill of critical thinking.
Put on your thinking cap and enjoy this interview with Christian Madsbjerg, and thanks for listening.
Christian Madsbjerg’s bio
For the past 20 years, Christian Madsbjerg has worked as a management consultant—but he writes, speaks, and teaches on the practical application of Human Sciences. So far, his work has been featured in publications such as The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, The Washington Post, Der Spiegel, and Bloomberg Businessweek.
Madsbjerg’s latest book, Sensemaking: The Power of the Humanities in the Age of the Algorithm, was released in the Spring of 2017 by Hachette Book Group. His first book, Moment of Clarity, co-written with Mikkel Rasmussen and published in the Fall of 2014, has been published in 15+ languages. Christian studied philosophy and political science in Copenhagen and London, and has a master’s degree from the University of London.
#008: Jake Knapp: beyond the SprintDesignBetter.Co: Design great products add
If we asked you to name a recent book that’s really changed how product teams address sticky challenges, there’s a good chance Jake Knapp’s Sprint would be at the top of your list. Since publishing and popularizing the process, design sprints have become a tool for teams at organizations as wide ranging as Prudential, the United Nations, and The British Museum.
Given the impact of Sprint, we’re delighted to have Jake on the show to dig into questions we’ve been curious about since reading. In this episode, we run through topics like the relationship between design thinking and the sprint process, how design sprints can work in harmony with an agile development cycle, and when not to use design sprints.
Jake also shares a sneak peek of his next book.
Grab your copy of Sprint and get ready to learn from the guy who literally wrote the book on design sprints.
Jake Knapp the New York Times bestselling author of Sprint. He spent ten years at Google and Google Ventures, where he created the Design Sprint process and ran it over 150 times with companies like Nest, Slack, 23andMe, and Flatiron Health. Today, teams around the world—from Silicon Valley startups to Fortune 500s to schools and governments—are using Design Sprints to solve big problems and test new ideas.
Previously, Jake helped build products like Gmail, Google Hangouts, and Microsoft Encarta, and nowadays, he's writing new books and hanging around IDEO as a Visiting Fellow. Jake is currently among the world’s tallest designers.
#007: Laura Martini: getting to the right finish lineDesignBetter.Co: Design great products add
If there’s anyone we’ve interviewed on the DesignBetter.Co Podcast so far that really embodies the product-driven concept, it’s Laura Martini. Not only does she have a background in both design and engineering, but she also has a keen product sense with a real understanding the business factors behind good design decisions.
Laura has had a really interesting career too—from working as a researcher in John Maeda’s Media Lab at MIT and leading the design team at med-tech startup Counsyl to her current role as a senior interaction designer on Google’s Analytics Platform.
In this episode, Aarron and Eli chat with Laura about how her engineering and design backgrounds complement each other, how a company’s values shape her own work, and how design leaders can help individual contributors grow.
#006: Michael Leon: from skate punk to creative forceDesignBetter.Co: Design great products add
How do you go from being a self-professed skate punk, to a design director at Nike, creative director at Patagonia, and land as the global creative director for Sonos? As a creative force, Michael Leon has worked with some of the most product driven companies out there.
In this episode, Aaron and Eli talk with Michael about the tension between sustainability and business goals, maintaining a consistent voice and tone across a company like Patagonia that sells hundreds of different products globally, and some of the traits that Michael looks for when hiring for his creative teams.
So crank up your Sonos and enjoy this episode with Michael Leon!
#005: Alex Schleifer: a mission to belong anywhereDesignBetter.Co: Design great products add
Airbnb’s mission is both simple and powerful: to help create a world where you can belong anywhere. Alex Schleifer, Airbnb’s head of design, fully embraces this mission. To create the products that make the Airbnb experience so welcoming and immersive, he also believes in being product driven, and organizes his teams in an Engineering, Product, Design (EPD) structure, which they also call “the triforce.”
Have a listen as Aarron and Eli talk with Alex about the advantages of this team structure, and about some of the problems companies run into when they try to create a “design-led” culture. They also dig into Airbnb’s mission and vision, and talk about the tradeoffs between quality and speed when building products. Enjoy the episode, and may the triforce be with you!
Alex Schleifer’s Bio
Alex is a designer, who as a teenager co-founded the digital agency Sideshow, which went on to produce award-winning work for a variety of global clients. They were acquired by Say Media in 2011.
He’s been on the incredible design team at Airbnb since 2015.
#004: Albert Lee: kickstart a design transformationDesignBetter.Co: Design great products add
Albert Lee has had an amazing arc to his career. From his beginnings as a wine-steward at Chez Panisse, to working at Frank Gehry’s architecture studio, and on to the role of Associate Partner at IDEO and now Design Partner at NEA, the nation’s largest VC firm, Albert always strives to work with the best of the best.
Given the breadth of his experience at these top institutions, it’s probably not a surprise that even though his expertise is in design, he values the balanced approach between design, engineering, and product teams that are the hallmark of a product-driven company.
In this episode, Albert helps us explore subjects like: why the VC world has become more cognizant of the impact of design, how organizational design influences product design, and how to kickstart a design transformation. We hope you’ll get as much as we did from the insights Albert shared, and thanks for listening.
Albert Lee's Bio
Albert is currently the Design Partner at NEA (New Enterprise Associates), the world's largest venture capital firm, with a portfolio of over 450 companies. In this role he works closely with portfolio companies, furthers the understanding of design within the tech eco-system, and seeks out design-centric investments.
In addition, he coaches CEO's, founders and entrepreneurs as an executive coach with Reboot.io, founded by Jerry Colonna, on all the questions and challenges that come along with building a high-growth company.
He is also a Special Partner at Juxtapose, where he supports a multidisciplinary team in their user research, design, and product processes to launch and invest in high-growth consumer concepts.
Albert has a deep background in both design and business. Albert was previously the Managing Director of IDEO’s New York office, where he brought more than a decade of experience in digital product, communication, and venture design to bear. He specialized in developing new offerings and incubating ventures for clients based on consumer insights in a wide range of industries, including retail/fashion, financial services, and consumer technology.
Prior to IDEO, Albert was a Managing Director at the design firm 2x4, and founded their Asia office in Beijing. Earlier in his career he was a design architect at Frank Gehry’s office. Albert also co-founded the product, Popplet, which provides a visual productivity and collaboration platform for K-12, which has had over 9 million downloads.
He was also recently named to Fast Company's Most Creative People in Business in 2014.
Albert holds a BA in architecture from U.C. Berkeley, a MFA in graphic design from Yale, and an MBA from Columbia Business School. His work has been recognized and exhibited by SFMoMA and MOMA. In 2006, he was chosen as a Young Gun by the Art Director’s Club. He has served on the board of directors of AIGA/NY
#003: Dan Winger: building the future at LEGODesignBetter.Co: Design great products add
If you’re anything like us, playing with LEGOs was a foundational part of your childhood, and a big part of the reason you got interested in design. And given the arc of their history, it is clear that LEGO is a product-driven company: their products are addictively engaging, highly-engineered design masterpieces, they clearly understand the needs of their customers, and they are constantly evolving and innovating with their products to remain a highly-profitable company.
So you can imagine our excitement when we had a chance to chat with Dan Winger, Senior Innovation Designer at the LEGO Future Lab. We had a chance to dive into user testing at LEGO (how do I sign up?!), what the future of physical play looks like in the age of VR, and how story affects product development at LEGO. It turns out the design process at LEGO has a lot in common with the software design world.
Dan Winger's Bio
Dan designs playful products, experiences and interactive entertainment at the forefront of technology. For over nine years, he has been driving growth through innovation at LEGO, exploring the intersection of physical and digital play, and bringing these new experiences to life. He has also consulted for various companies large and small, ranging from motocross to cosmetics. His experience spans a broad spectrum of projects and many different roles.
#002: David Kelley: creative confidence and aligning teamsDesignBetter.Co: Design great products add
David Kelley doesn’t like to claim to have come up with the term design thinking, even though a most people would say he did. But regardless of who coined it, as founder of IDEO and the Stanford d.school he has been one of the most influential proponents of design thinking, and human-centered design in general.
When it comes to bringing together engineering, product, and design teams early in the design process, and aligning those teams towards a common goal, design thinking has few equals, and should be part of the toolkit for every product driven company.
In this episode, Eli and Aarron speak with David about what it takes to bring designers and engineers together, how our workspace influences our work, and how we can encourage creative confidence in our companies. Enjoy their chat with David, and thanks for listening.
David Kelley's Bio
David Kelley is the founder and chairman of the global design and innovation company IDEO. Kelley also founded Stanford University’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design, known as the d.school. As Stanford’s Donald W. Whittier Professor in Mechanical Engineering, Kelley is the Academic Director of both of the degree-granting undergraduate and graduate programs in Design within the School of Engineering, and has taught classes in the program for more than 35 years.
Kelley’s most enduring contributions are in human-centered design methodology and design thinking. He is most passionate about using design to help unlock creative confidence in everyone from students to business executives. A frequent speaker on these topics, Kelley and his brother co-authored the New York Times best-selling book Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All.
After earning a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, Kelley worked as an engineer at both Boeing and NCR. Drawn to design, he entered Stanford University in 1975, where he earned his master’s degree in Engineering/Product Design. In 1978, he founded the design firm that would become IDEO and, in that same year, began his teaching career at Stanford, receiving tenure in 1990. He also founded an early-stage venture-capital firm in 1984 called Onset, and was instrumental in starting a special effects firm called Edge Innovations, which creates unique Animatronics for the film industry.
Kelley was inducted into the National Academy of Engineering in 2000. He holds honorary PhD's from both the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth and Art Center College in Pasadena. He has been recognized with numerous honors, including the Chrysler Design Award and the National Design Award in Product Design from the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, the Robert Fletcher Award from Dartmouth, and the Edison Achievement Award for Innovation. Preparing the design thinkers of tomorrow earned him the Sir Misha Black Medal for his “distinguished contribution to design education.”
#001: Irene Au: scaling design at Google and beyondDesignBetter.Co: Design great products add
Google could now be considered a product driven company, but it wasn’t always that way. For many years Google’s engineering-led culture cherished efficiency over user experience. Irene Au arrived at a pivotal moment in the company’s history, and helped shape the way that Google’s product’s clearly value design today.
Now in her role as a design partner at Khosla Ventures, she helps startups “build high performing teams, establish design practices, mentor and grow the next generation of great designers, and design interfaces and experiences.” Here is her story.
Irene Au's Bio
Irene is design partner at Khosla Ventures, where she works with CEOs, executives, and designers to make products and services people can't live without. Irene has extensive experience elevating design at the highest levels of the organization by starting first with an empathetic understanding of human needs, and building high performing teams who create products people can’t live without.
Irene has unprecedented experience elevating the strategic importance of design within internet companies, having built and led the entire User Experience and Design teams at Google (2006-2012), Yahoo! (1998-2006), and Udacity (2012-2014). She began her career as an interaction designer at Netscape Communications, where she worked on the design of the internet’s first commercial web browser.
Irene is also a yoga teacher at internationally-recognized Avalon Yoga in Palo Alto, where she offers an accessible and challenging yoga practice for all.