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The best team white elephant party ever

As I was organizing my Vimeo page I stumbled upon this gem...our White Elephant Christmas party from 7 years ago when I worked at ExactTarget. It's amazing that these group of people have grown up to now have their own families, elevate in their career to be directors and beyond.


Tending your ideas is an obligation

I currently feel sad, hurt, and disappointed. It has nothing to do with anything at work. Something felt off.

I did what I usually do to figure out problems. I went for a walk, found a nice place to sit, and began writing, sketching, and reflecting to figure out where the source of this feeling is. After going through more than a dozen dotted grid Leuchtturm notebooks, the source of the feeling became abundantly clear. Upon each page turn, it became more challenging. My notebooks became a graveyard for ideas. Each drawing or note invoked a memory of the moment when that idea was generated. The ideas vary, from product ideas that might bring joy to people in a time of despair for the world, artwork, and design tools that could really infuse the process to build quicker.

In contrast that bad ideas should be jettisoned, when a good idea dies, it really hurts. These feelings reminded me of a moment in Bret Victor’s talk, “Inventing on Principle”:

“Ideas are very precious to me, and when I see ideas dying, it hurts. I see a tragedy. To me it feels like a moral wrong. It feels like a moral injustice, and if i think there is anything I can do about it, I feel it’s my responsibility to do so. Not opportunity, but responsibility.”

Victor follows up mentioning that the words “moral wrong” and “injustice” are not ones you often hear in tech. However, it is pretty powerful when you look at being a someone who works in tech having an obligation and responsibility. I resonate strongly with these remarks and don’t expect people to agree and believe this perspective.

When I see an idea dying, it hurts me so much emotionally. What travesties could we have prevented by seeing an idea all the way through? How many people did not experience something you didn’t make become a reality? What could I have doe to not let this injustice happen?

Like a garden, ideas need room and time to grow. They also need to be nurtured and maintained. Ideas also have a life expectancy and need to be cared for and nurtured. If they are neglected or not attended to, they fade from existence.

  • Revisit ideas daily. Gardens need to be watered, and so do your ideas
  • Ideas are stronger tethered with other ones. This is why I like to mind map and think about lateral thinking

I formulated my own list of things I can do to commit to tending to ideas:

  • Be able to build the real thing. Design prototypes can only take you so far. Learn the entire product process and be able to ship without being dependent on anyone
  • Make time in the mornings to review notebooks or wherever ideas reside and do something to push it to become real

Generate ideas, share them, and be held accountable to make sure the good ones become something real instead of a concept.

Tangibility is the oxygen for ideas. Keep ideas alive. It is your responsibility.


Take California

It’s been almost two years since I moved back to Seattle for the second time. The city of New York is a really special place in my heart and it was difficult to move away from there, but the motivation was the be close to family. I moved to Capitol Hill and re-united with my my mentor at HTC. A year later I then joined Black Pixel, the one company I sought after for several years. It was the dream job. After leaving Black Pixel I spent months exploring to figure out what I would do next.

From that I exploration I met a mentor who really changed the way I worked and thought about ideas. I worked in the heart of the Mission District in San Francisco California. As I worked, I also started contracting at One Medical, where my friend David (another designer named David H. with a slightly smaller cat) works. He told me that I would love it and there is this great new CTO who has been taking charge for a while and thinks I’d get along. That person is Kimber Lockhart. I remember when I first talked to her on the phone after a panel interview she did, I felt an instant connection and resonated with this person. As I contracted, she and I began doing 1:1s and the rest is history. I decided to join One Medical’s product team as the last decision I made in 2015.

2016 turned out to be a _really_ odd year. A lot of us can feel that once David Bowie died we knew this year was going to be a bad one (I’ll let you fill in the rest). In 2016 some personal events made it really important for me to remain in Seattle. I found myself on the Monday 7am Virgin America flight every week…so much that the staff and flight attendants all knew me. I’d fly to my first meeting and work there until Thursday evenings to fly home to Seattle.

Here’s the kicker…I didn’t officially have a place to live. I crashed with my aunt down in Redwood City and spent a lot of quality time with her. She is the one who taught me to be curious, live a simple life, and always travel. In addition, my friend Rob and his wife Emily took me in for several months with me crashing on their couch and occasionally feeding the cat. Their sacrifice made it possible for me to continue flying back and forth. By the middle of Summer I realized I needed a more steady arrangement and reached out to my friend who serendipitously was looking for someone to rent her place while she was traveling. It really reminded me of when my friend Damon was staying at my place while in Europe. His presence did such a favor for me to have someone trusted in my apartment.

This year has reminded me a lot of the power of community—a word that is often thrown around as a buzzword but yet so obviously necessary. Community for me is the tribe I’ve found in Seattle Xcoders and the Cocoa Community, my Destiny clan, and the Brunch Crew in San Francisco. As friends have sacrificed to accommodate me while I achieved a goal, I found that I wanted to pay it forward and have friends stay at my temporary place instead of paying hundreds of dollars for a hotel room. It also gave me the chance to catch up with them and spend some quality time.

2016 also brought constant change in my life and willingness to embrace change. The time feels right for a change, yet again. At the end of the year I will be moving down to the San Francisco Bay Area. The difference this time is I will only be living in one place—something I have not done in several years.

I would be lying if I said there wasn't any initial reluctance to moving down there. In fact, I still do. Of course, there is the myth that rent is $800 billion a month for a studio…okay, that is slightly exaggerated. Just slightly. That actually wasn’t my concern.

My concern about San Francisco is that it is losing its sense of purpose and reality. There seems to be a focus on making the world easier, not better. You could not tell the difference between an episode of Mike Judge’s Silicon Valley and real life. The tech scene in San Francisco is very much often “the scene” and superficial. It seemed like more of a lifestyle instead of a privileage to make such an impact, and with such great power comes a great responsibility to do something meaningful.

However, my concerns were addressed with a sense of hope, meeting people who were truly authentic about their mission and was looking for the signal through all the noise. I met people who were part of a continuos narrative of some of the great pioneers of the bay area. I feel I have ties with people I look up to here. Similar to the connection I felt in Brooklyn with Adam Yauch, I have ruthless innovators who taught me to “just win baby” and be a crazy one.

My goal is to chase the big dream and finally do something really meaningful…be a living proveocation. I’m looking to put that dent in the universe. My commitment is to stay true to a mission in using technology to empower and enable humans, not exploit them.

I want to be a better community member, and really be present in one city. This starts with simply being a great host. I’ve traveled the world for so many years visiting friends, and as they have hosted me with wide arms open, I want to return the favor.

I will miss Seattle a lot. It is the city that where I have spent most of my adult life and I will always have ties here. Ever since moving back from New York I have appreciated it so much more than I ever did. I will miss most the Seattle Xcoders community—a place where I really found my tribe and sense of purpose. However, I know it is just a hop and a skip away to come home and visit friends.

When I was young our family friend, Mrs. Pulliam, once told my dad “David’s life is like an unwritten book. You’ll never know what the next chapter will contain.”

Here is to the next chapter.

Notes:

- Yes, Wilson is moving
- The title is inspired by the Propellerheads song “Take California”, which was the song used in the original iPod commercial


Abstract For My New Talk: Making Together

Talk Title: Making Together: The Need for Organizations to Have Internal Studios

Abstract:

The practice of design, engineering, and product management has been see as the foundational aspect for building products. However, as product roles continue to evolve with ever-changing problem spaces, the lines of responsibilities have blurred. This talk challenges the notion of ownership and function with the intention to break the barriers and friction by building together synchronously. A world where a PM cares as much about design as much as a designer cares about working with engineering directly to get it shipped.

One approach to this problem is building a work culture and space that fosters a studio model within organizations, whether you are a small startup or large corporation.

This talk covers:

  • Why current processes are broken
  • The importance of having a space focused on collaboration
  • Work approaches and tools needed
  • Seeing the problem together

Note: The focus of this talk will vary based on the conference/audience. I plan to dive very specific in process and proposed work structures for more technical conferences for engineers and designers.


Planning my 2017 speaking engagements

I cannot believe that 2016 is already coming to an end! As the year comes to a draw, I am planning on scheduling my speaking engagements for 2017.

"What topics do you speak about?", you might ask? Historically, I have talked about design and prototyping. Most recently, I gave my talk There and Back Again. I am more than happy to give this talk at conferences in 2017 but am also expanding the scope of talks to: generating creative ideas, design leadership, and product thinking.

I'm available for lectures, case studies, workshops, and panel interviews.

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If you're interested in booking me or know a conference I should look into, please contact me!


There and back again

This year I have been giving a talk called "There and back again: the journey of product discovery and exploration" at conferences and meet ups. The essence of this talk is about exploring creative ways to generate ideas as you continue to develop your product. This is a work approach that I was heavily influenced by my friend and mentor Alan Cannistraro.

I put the talk in GitHub so you can have the source material and all the content. If you have any ideas or feedback, please submit an issue.

T&B GitHub Repo

If you're interest in me giving this talk at your conference, please email me!

I'd like to share a few moments and tweets that I have really enjoyed seeing from attendees. Thank you to everyone who took the time to hear me speak—it was a great pleasure.


Photo: Evgenia Grinblo

https://twitter.com/Grinblo/status/776044438556639233

https://twitter.com/sarahklassen/status/776042892091613184

https://twitter.com/jimpick/status/781690144998862848

https://twitter.com/AndrewDoesSEO/status/776038733892161536

https://twitter.com/boonych/status/776057209071558656

 


Designing Native Prototypes With Xcode

I am a huge fan of doing prototypes natively, especially on iOS. When some designers hear Xcode, they might cringe or be intimidated. Though Xcode does have a bit of a learning curve, it is no different than any other tool you might use. Understand the tools intent, and be empowered by using it. Some benefits of prototyping in Xcode:

  • Native functionality. Buttery scrolling is real in native prototypes
  • It gives the engineer you're working with your intent. Your approach won't be practical, but they can see what you are trying to do
  • A great way to visualize navigational flow by using Storyboards (though some people prefer to do it in code, everyone working in Xcode understands the functionality)
  • Uncovers a lot of design problems (such as keyboard states, device classes, and other edge cases that may not be considered in Sketch.

I used my friend Lana's business Lembas as a prototype use case (You should also check out Lana's site and buy some of the amazing jewelry she's making).

Process & Components

My process is simple: work to a state where you have enough to put into the app. This might look like doing some light mockups in Sketch to get the idea of the layout. Once I have an idea I would export all the assets (I use 1x PDF assets) I currently have into the Xcode project. If you stay organized with your naming conventions and layers in Sketch, exporting and replacing assets is simple. I refine assets and screens as I go along to rough out the flow.

With a few components you can build a pretty comprehensive prototype. I basically used:

  • Sketch for asset generation
  • Auto layout to build on every device the right way
  • Stack Views
  • Table Views (all as static cells)
  • Tab Bar and Navigation Controllers

Screenshot 2016-07-05 09.21.59

Fake it till you make it

This prototype was built with all static content and predominantly constructed with stack views, scroll views, and table views. A lot of what you see in iOS apps are actually table views. This lays the groundwork for some more functionality to prototype. I now have the option to iterate on this project or create a new one off of this. Some things I am planning to explore:

  • Camera functionality to give you a preview of what the piece of jewelry would look like on you. (I've done this in the past using Form)
  • Parallax scrolling of the table view cells
  • Implement my first authentication
  • Trying collection views
  • Add analytics such as Mixpanel to track events.

Screenshot 2016-07-05 09.33.04

This prototype was built using tools in Xcode and a little bit of Swift. The final result is a native prototype that you can build on devices to get user feedback.

screenshot

Credits:

 


Don't build The Homer

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.

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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.