A collection of ideas, and thoughts which prove to consistently provoke. Thoughtful, in both senses of the word.
I keep these notes to explore and better understand what I value, and my general philosophy. I share it to strengthen collaboration, alignment, and outcomes.
If you see things I fail to practise, or have any perspective to add— please let me know. I really mean that.
Inspired by 37 signals.
Bruno Munari said it. I like it. Aesthetics aren't vanity— they're signals.
Everything is designed, it’s just a case of by who, and with what sensibilities. Understand the decisions other people are making around you, and the tradeoffs.
Design is a team sport. As a practised planner, move the team forward.
Aesthetics, and beauty, aren't vanity— they're signals someone cared.
They signal assurance. If what's visible is great, then people can trust the parts they can't see.
Trust goes two ways. I’ll always assume your actions come from positive intent, and ask you to always assume the same of mine.
One of the most common communication failures I see is senior stakeholders misjudging how much weight their voice carries, even in casual discussion. Made worse when exercising brevity.
If you’re not sure of my temperature, or rationale, please assume positive intent, and just ask me to expand.
Everything sounds great in the abstract. If it doesn’t work in practice— learn, and move on.
Don’t follow things blindly, including anything written on this page. Equally, don’t challenge needlessly. Challenge purposefully.
Ask for clarity on clarity. Remove ambiguity by using temperature (low-medium-high) in discussion. Consider being explicit (fyi, idea, recommendation, plea— please trust me, or show me my blind spots).
Dial up when building trust. Dial down when you can. You'll know when. Ask others to dial up especially when discussing beyond usual peers— vertically, or horizontally.
Companies are essentially people, and collections of decisions. Both have layers of idiosyncrasies— figure them out.
Decisions reverberate. Is this easily reversible? Or will it layer, like sediment?
If you find yourself surprised by a decision someone else made— denaturalise it. Decisions come from places, like leaves on a tree. Analyse the roots. Try not to shadow the leaves.
Don’t lose sight. Users are people. Products are experiences.
Get to the point. Bias to action. Never ‘hey hang’.
Get back to people quickly. The highest performing teams optimise for the speed of building together. Don't interrupt yourself— give yourself focused time, but get back to others when you can in break points.
Acknowledge, even when you can't action.
“Perfection is the enemy of good” is often cited when trimming scope, and scaling back ambition.
Use more vocabulary. Products, tasks, features, and milestones aren’t created equal. Consider this take from Shreyas Doshi:
Leverage: Where should your inner perfection shine?
Neutral: Where should you do a good job?
Overhead: Where should you just get it done?
Compositions are just pictures. The learning curve with in-place context, feasibility, emotion, and perspective is huge.
At 60fps, there’s 58 frames you need to design between Mock A and Mock B.
Just like people, experiences display a wealth of nonverbal communication. People have an uncanny instinct for how something was cared for, especially on first see or touch.
Don’t ship junk. Care about the back of the cabinet. Craft.
What’s being uniquely, or accidentally, communicated? As an auteur, what are we saying?
It’s easy to say no to bad ideas. Focus is about saying no to the good ones.
Apply discipline. Validate impact. Rationalise opportunity cost. Why now?
One of the most common tensions in growing, changing environments is how hands-on individuals should be ever changing scale.
As a design leader, I strive to fluidly move between a a strategist, operator, and coach, being:
Hands-on: In guidance, critical thinking, thought sparring, and support.
Hands-off: In canvas, unless you've invited me to jam, ideate, or stress test.
Every contributor, manager, and lead I’ve worked with has benefited from a different approach based on the in-the-moment realities. You tell me yours, and I’ll tell you mine.
The best individuals, and teams, have the highest rate of learning, and application of that learning. I’m inspired by incredible products built ambitiously fast. Here’s some examples:
The first iPod took 290 days from green light to shipping.
Apollo 8 went to the moon 134 days after NASA decided.
Sometimes, I’ll move uncomfortably quick as one of the ways I find the limit is by going over it. If you think I’m over— let me know and we can calibrate on tempo, especially if we’re sustaining bursts over time. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
If something works, and needs to be repeated— operationalise it. Operationalise to make the easy stuff really easy, and free yourself up for where it counts.
Write checklists. Create playbooks.
Watch out for operationalising things prematurely. Avoid busywork.
Let things breathe. Make space for silence.
It might feel uncomfortable at first, but try using silence as a tool even in meetings. Silence can enable understanding more thoroughly. Silence can enable gathering more broadly.
Consider the nuance between being competent (you can get stuff done), literate (you understand something), fluent (you're a specialist, others trust you) and ignorant (you're lacking awareness).
Understand where your impact benefits from leaning in.
Sometimes, it’s okay to be ignorant. In fact, embrace it to enable focus. Just don’t be blind.
If you’re breaking new ground, or struggling to correlate now to the future, try starting from the end.
Working backwards can uncover gut-checks on viability, reveal direction, and help validate the end outcome. Use it as a time machine in thought experiments.
I have a tendency to get over excited by what’s possible. I need to remind myself to focus on the smallest, valuable pieces first. Please remind me of that too.
People are more comfortable when they’re along for the journey. Use narrative to bring them along. Tell good stories.
Learn about what makes great stories.
What’s interesting? What’s the theme? Simplify. Focus. Hop over detours. What are the stakes? What’s the essence?
I’d rather hear about issues when they’re small, rather than big. Early insights help me gather wider opinions across multiple people, and find the most scalable solutions.
I’m never puzzled by problems. If I am, it’s usually because there’s agency I think you should be exploring already. If that’s the case, don’t worry— we’ll just talk it out.
Collective wisdom is a force multiplier. Strengthen creative, and critical thinking by socialising it.
Thought spar, and hold up thinking for argument.
Create an environment where people can vulnerably share, critique, and learn. Provide psychological safety. Discuss blind spots without blame. Obliterate reputational penalties.
If you’re a research professional (design, marketing, product, ux) you’re already gifted with a professional superpower.
Use it to understand your peers, and amplify cross-functional outcomes. Use it to make your impact as valuable to others as possible. Use it to drive entire teams, and organisations forward.
Strive to figure out what you need from others in advance, so you don't need to interrupt them, and they can focus better.
Make meetings really great. Write agendas. Often, the act of organising the problem presents the solution.
If you sense parties are talking past each other asynchronously— just jump on a call. Value everyone’s time.
Common wisdom I find to be repeatedly true, and I find valuable to remind people of:
80-20 rule: Find the 20% which makes the 80% difference. Pareto.
90-90 rule: There’s the first 90% of effort. Then, the second 90% of effort.
Aesthetic-usability effect: Peoples' tendency to perceive attractive products as more usable.
Anchoring bias: People rely heavily on what they rationalise first.
Confirmation bias: People confirm what they think.
Change aversion: Understand if negative reactions to change are short or long term.
Serial position effect: People best read and remember first and last in a given sequence.
Survivorship bias: People are blind in success.
If you’re ideating, don’t say no. Ideas are fragile, and it’s easy to dismiss good ones when they’re not fully baked.
'Yes, and' in thinking and exploration. Then, later in editing, figure out when to say no.