Design Leadership

Secrets of design masters (a podcast by True North)

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Design, as a mental model, is something specific that sits in each of our minds defined by our relationship to it. Verbalizing what we think of as “design” isn’t easy, in part because it’s a “doing” rather than a clearly written, defined practice, but also because what design is differs greatly from person to person.

I created the True North design podcast to explore all aspects of design, speaking to experts from around the world, sharing their stories and lessons in a narrative format.

As the first season of True North came to end, we ran a retrospective—as all good teams do—to see what went well and what could be improved. One thing that came out of our analysis was that we had hours of interviews that didn’t make the final cut for the episodes, but in their entirety contained valuable wisdom and actionable advice.

Related: The 8 qualities of a great design leader

Knowing that it would be months before season 2 of True North was ready for release, Loop11’s co-founder, Shefik Bey, realized a great opportunity existed. He could interview some of the world’s great design and UX leaders so that we could support our existing seasons with a much more in depth look at design.

Shefik’s plan was to draw upon his 20 years of experience in UX, and the challenges he’s identified, then see how other “masters” would tackle them.

Above, you can listen to Shefik’s interview with Aarron Walter. For those of you who don’t know Aarron, he founded the UX practice at MailChimp, where he was employee number 4, and now he’s the VP of Design Education at InVision. He’s also the author of Designing for Emotion.

Shefik and Aarron cover:

  • Common problems design teams face and the best ways to solve them
  • How UX research fits into designing for emotion and whether organizations are doing enough research upfront to guide their direction
  • The discovery process behind MailChimp’s mobile app, Snap, and how the ethnographic research process lead to new feature development that would have otherwise not been identified
  • Strategies for ensuring research happens in parallel, not holding up design or development, and is in turn shared with the team
  • How designers are frequently being thrust into positions of leadership, which often causes them internal conflict
  • The attributes often seen in a great design leader
  • How to create a successful UX team and how the process changes depending on a company’s level of maturity
  • Helping designers find the balance between being thoughtful and being productive/frequently shipping
  • How convergent and divergent thinking can work together to achieve an optimal result
  • And, finally, how organizations should measure success

Want to listen to more episodes of True North? Find the show on iTunes, at truenorthpodcast.com or wherever you listen to podcasts.

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Author

Ben Newton, Host of the True North Podcast
Having ran a web design consultancy, started a national print and online magazine, and co-founded a international fitness website, Ben has seen design and development from many different angles. Now working on product and growth at Loop11, a user testing tool for UX professionals, he's enjoying the challenges of combining all of his experiences and focussing them on one​ product.

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