Much of my time these days is focusing on working with product designers of various skills either at my current work or externally. Coaching and mentoring other designers has become something I deeply love. It was the way I started in design and there is nothing more gratifying then seeing people grow and exceed even you. Aside from fundamental skills and the creative process, one area I like to focus on is how you present your work and talk to stakeholders.
Everyone has stakeholders, but in design it can be more difficult because not only do you have your immediate stakeholders such as your manager and leaders in the company you work at, but also the end user. The vision of what is best for the business and best for the user is not always harmoniously aligned. Young designers want to do good work and be seen as successful in the eyes of their managers and stakeholders, but there is the danger of simply doing what you think what they want.
“Don’t build The Homer! Don’t build The Homer!” I often exclaim to them.
This saying was inspired by my favorite television series, The Simpsons. In an episode called “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?” Homer discovers from his father Abraham that he secretly has a half-brother, Herbert Powell, a successful car salesman who has a little bit more hair and less of a belly than Homer.
Herb (voiced by Danny DeVito) is so thrilled about the discovery of his family member and invites the entire Simpson family to stay at his mansion. Herbert then gets the idea that Homer, the average American, is the perfect person to design a new care for his company.
Homer then has full authority to approve the car’s design despite the engineer’s hesitance on the ideas, which includes a bubble dome, tail fins and a horn that plays “La Cucaracha”.
When the car is unveiled it was so poorly received and because of the $82,000 sticker price, it cripples the company leaving Powell Motors bankrupt.


We as designers have a strong responsibility as decision makers, and simply saying “yes” to whatever people tell you to do can have sever unintended consequences. You owe it to your end users to not do everything your stakeholders want. In the end, stakeholders will want you to make the best decision regardless of what they say to you.
At WWDC I met up with my former coworker and manager Phil, a huge Simpsons fan as well. He got me the Hot Wheels version of The Homer, which I leave at my desk for inspiration and serves as a reminder…
Remember, don’t build The Homer.