Season 5

|

Episode 6

Envisioning the art of the possible

Michael Wandelmaier

Head of Design @ Metalab

Apr 4, 2024

Apr 4, 2024

|

53 mins

53 mins

music by Dennis

About this Episode

Since the beginning of my design career, I’ve looked up to Metalab. So this interview is a special one because we get to learn from their Head of Design, Michael Wandelmeier.

We go deep into how design works at Metalab and talk about specific strategies around:

  • Mike’s go-to storytelling tactics

  • The importance of opinionated design

  • When they ignore constraints on a project

  • The unique way they map out user journeys

  • Tips for driving alignment on complex projects

  • How they use the “ridiculously early hypothesis”

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Lauren LoPrete

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Femke

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Lauren LoPrete

Lead designer @ Netflix

David Hoang

VP of Marketing and Design @ Replit

Adrien Griveau

Founding Designer @ Linear

Femke

Design Lead @ Gusto

Join 10K+ designers

HC

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Deep Dives

Get our weekly breakdowns

Insights + resources from top designers 👇

Lauren LoPrete

Director of Design Systems @ Cash App

David Hoang

VP of Marketing and Design @ Replit

Adrien Griveau

Founding Designer @ Linear

James McDonald

Designer @ Clerk

Femke

Design Lead @ Gusto

Join 10K+ designers

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Transcript chapters

[00:00:00] Overview of how Metalab works

Mike: To understand, like, why we do it a certain way is you need to know a little bit about Metal Lab. Uh, We are a relatively small agency working specifically in products. So about like 200 people, but those people are fully remote and distributed everywhere, uh, was founded in, uh, Vancouver, Victoria, BC and Canada.

and there is a chunk of our team that is, you know, in those two cities, but people are in Italy and France and the UK, South Africa, India, New Zealand, Australia, people are everywhere. So a remote first culture is really about like how we operate and then our teams to be successful are very small and very senior.

So, like, a typical nucleus project team will be 1 major representative of each discipline. So, like, design, user research, technology and product thinking, and then depending on the type of client or the project we're on that can morph and shift. But. Clients typically fall into two buckets. We work with historically a lot of early stage founders, which makes us really different from, let's say some of the big agencies who work in product that we, you know, you would be familiar with.

, Slack as the kind of like origin story for Metalab was like one of those first use cases where doing the design for the first instance of Slack was done directly with the founder. That first iteration came out and we've continued to work with founders in that model for, I'd say a good half of our projects.

And then the other half would be working with. You know, the big names of the world working on some of their major core products or their service experience or e commerce, all of those pieces. And then you mostly see shifts in the project types and formats, but the teams themselves still say by nature, very small and senior to be able to move fast and like really quickly and like deliver projects at speed with really high quality.

And like, Quite a lot of ambition. So that informs the shape of the projects we do. We don't have these major structures you sometimes see with like, you know, oversight and then like a core team and then two or three production teams around that. It's not at all how, how we structure our work.

[00:00:00] Overview of how Metalab works

Mike: To understand, like, why we do it a certain way is you need to know a little bit about Metal Lab. Uh, We are a relatively small agency working specifically in products. So about like 200 people, but those people are fully remote and distributed everywhere, uh, was founded in, uh, Vancouver, Victoria, BC and Canada.

and there is a chunk of our team that is, you know, in those two cities, but people are in Italy and France and the UK, South Africa, India, New Zealand, Australia, people are everywhere. So a remote first culture is really about like how we operate and then our teams to be successful are very small and very senior.

So, like, a typical nucleus project team will be 1 major representative of each discipline. So, like, design, user research, technology and product thinking, and then depending on the type of client or the project we're on that can morph and shift. But. Clients typically fall into two buckets. We work with historically a lot of early stage founders, which makes us really different from, let's say some of the big agencies who work in product that we, you know, you would be familiar with.

, Slack as the kind of like origin story for Metalab was like one of those first use cases where doing the design for the first instance of Slack was done directly with the founder. That first iteration came out and we've continued to work with founders in that model for, I'd say a good half of our projects.

And then the other half would be working with. You know, the big names of the world working on some of their major core products or their service experience or e commerce, all of those pieces. And then you mostly see shifts in the project types and formats, but the teams themselves still say by nature, very small and senior to be able to move fast and like really quickly and like deliver projects at speed with really high quality.

And like, Quite a lot of ambition. So that informs the shape of the projects we do. We don't have these major structures you sometimes see with like, you know, oversight and then like a core team and then two or three production teams around that. It's not at all how, how we structure our work.

[00:01:59] How to run a great project kickoff meeting

Ridd: So I want to go really in the weeds on like a typical client process, really just as a way to help listeners understand what they can learn from how design works at metal lab. So maybe we can even go to pretty close to the beginning of that process and zoom in on that first kickoff meeting or whatever you're going to call it.

But like that first touch point where you're really establishing direction for the project, we're getting all the creative juices flowing, uh, How are you structuring that meeting as a project leader? And then what are some of the things that designers are really making sure to pull out of that conversation?

Mike: Oh, that's a great question. I think like it's the most important moment in a project. And even if you're going to work with a client for like multiple years, that first instance of getting together to understand what are we going to work on together, what's the. Most difficult challenges to crack. What is the approach that's going to make for a successful collaboration and actually getting started into co ideating to solution for that is like so important.

We try to plan them to be like covering a really wide range of concerns from, you know, what's going on in the world in relation to your company and your product to where do you situate yourself and what are the challenges you're seeing. So almost like a rebrief to understand if we've truly understood what they've come to us for.

But then we want to inject a bit of our own perspective, uh, to be able to challenge or to, you know, really crack open things that may seem straightforward on the surface and to expose where there could be. Hidden complexity, whether it be like, you know, technology or operational or just human and brand related stuff, like what's going to be difficult about this project, but ultimately we really want to create Mindset right from the start of co creation like break down that old agency model of like you've commissioned us to do this and we're going to keep bringing you solutions and you feedback on them. Like instead of you want to use those initial workshops to set up activities that are going to be.

Engage in the client as a co participant so that we don't even use the word client anymore. It's like literally the team and what are we doing together on this? And there's a range of activities that can usually get you in that headspace right away. Uh, assumption mapping is one that we do. So our UX researchers lead one where people just throw out all the things that we think we know that are important to the project and then sort them by like how.

relevant they are and meaningfully impactful versus how much do we think we know them. And the things that are going to be potentially crazy important and also very unknown are the things that we're going to first dig into and drill into from a research and like market scans and like just coming up with ideas perspective.

So right off the bat, we almost break down all the formality that you usually get around something and try to take down to a clean

Ridd: Is there more on this topic? Like, let's say that I'm a designer at metal lab. I'm actually walking into my first instance of being a project lead. Are there certain Exercises or tactics or other frameworks. In addition to assumption mapping that you're equipping me with to make sure that I crush that meeting.

Mike: Yeah, so I think like especially design leads will be interested with some of the, uh, journey and opportunity mapping. So very typical exercise would be to try to not think of it by just what is the feature set or what is the, you know, value we're going to deliver, but try to understand the human context.

[00:01:59] How to run a great project kickoff meeting

Ridd: So I want to go really in the weeds on like a typical client process, really just as a way to help listeners understand what they can learn from how design works at metal lab. So maybe we can even go to pretty close to the beginning of that process and zoom in on that first kickoff meeting or whatever you're going to call it.

But like that first touch point where you're really establishing direction for the project, we're getting all the creative juices flowing, uh, How are you structuring that meeting as a project leader? And then what are some of the things that designers are really making sure to pull out of that conversation?

Mike: Oh, that's a great question. I think like it's the most important moment in a project. And even if you're going to work with a client for like multiple years, that first instance of getting together to understand what are we going to work on together, what's the. Most difficult challenges to crack. What is the approach that's going to make for a successful collaboration and actually getting started into co ideating to solution for that is like so important.

We try to plan them to be like covering a really wide range of concerns from, you know, what's going on in the world in relation to your company and your product to where do you situate yourself and what are the challenges you're seeing. So almost like a rebrief to understand if we've truly understood what they've come to us for.

But then we want to inject a bit of our own perspective, uh, to be able to challenge or to, you know, really crack open things that may seem straightforward on the surface and to expose where there could be. Hidden complexity, whether it be like, you know, technology or operational or just human and brand related stuff, like what's going to be difficult about this project, but ultimately we really want to create Mindset right from the start of co creation like break down that old agency model of like you've commissioned us to do this and we're going to keep bringing you solutions and you feedback on them. Like instead of you want to use those initial workshops to set up activities that are going to be.

Engage in the client as a co participant so that we don't even use the word client anymore. It's like literally the team and what are we doing together on this? And there's a range of activities that can usually get you in that headspace right away. Uh, assumption mapping is one that we do. So our UX researchers lead one where people just throw out all the things that we think we know that are important to the project and then sort them by like how.

relevant they are and meaningfully impactful versus how much do we think we know them. And the things that are going to be potentially crazy important and also very unknown are the things that we're going to first dig into and drill into from a research and like market scans and like just coming up with ideas perspective.

So right off the bat, we almost break down all the formality that you usually get around something and try to take down to a clean

Ridd: Is there more on this topic? Like, let's say that I'm a designer at metal lab. I'm actually walking into my first instance of being a project lead. Are there certain Exercises or tactics or other frameworks. In addition to assumption mapping that you're equipping me with to make sure that I crush that meeting.

Mike: Yeah, so I think like especially design leads will be interested with some of the, uh, journey and opportunity mapping. So very typical exercise would be to try to not think of it by just what is the feature set or what is the, you know, value we're going to deliver, but try to understand the human context.

[00:05:19] A different way to think about user journey maps

Mike: And it's not to create these really expansive journey maps, but typically we'll make something with like maybe four, uh, Big buckets, major stages of the experience. Someone goes through using a product, like, let's say your trip advisor who we worked with, and it's about planning a trip and like, what do I want to know?

What are my considerations? What am I doing? But against that, we'll start to create like a really good understanding of like, oh, let's use the client to help us understand pain points. So that'll be the things that we first map along a journey. And they'll have it from customer feedback, from testimonials, from like, you know, call center calls where people complain or help center stuff and just their own experience in the business.

And then against those, we'll start to be like, well, what are the meaningful things that we might do as opportunities in terms of design solutions against them? And then typically each journey is drawn like a circle. So imagine almost like an Audi logo where there's like four circles side by side. Well, that's to recognize that people don't just water slide through a journey naturally.

They actually sit in shopping around or considering for quite a bit. So we put like a moment where those circles touch to be like, well, what would be a meaningful. feature or experience that we can deliver that'll help them shift from being in shopping around to now finding the thing that I want or considering.

And those typically like help us be anchored in a human perspective where it's really easy to just start talking about like, Oh, this part of the experience, this homepage, or, you know, that feature or this onboarding.

Ridd: I love that Audi example. That's an interesting mental model that I haven't heard before. It makes a lot of sense.

So let's continue our hypothetical project timeline here. So you've come out of that meeting. You have this dump of information. Some of it, maybe might even feel a little bit conflicting on the surface. What are you then doing to make sense of everything, establish momentum and map out some of those next steps internally?

Mike: Yeah, the momentum piece and what you mentioned is actually so important. So there have been in, you know, our least successful occasions, a desire to do a really long scientific synthesis of everything that we've learned. Try to plot it all out and then create the Swiss watch of a perfect plan for a product or an application.

[00:05:19] A different way to think about user journey maps

Mike: And it's not to create these really expansive journey maps, but typically we'll make something with like maybe four, uh, Big buckets, major stages of the experience. Someone goes through using a product, like, let's say your trip advisor who we worked with, and it's about planning a trip and like, what do I want to know?

What are my considerations? What am I doing? But against that, we'll start to create like a really good understanding of like, oh, let's use the client to help us understand pain points. So that'll be the things that we first map along a journey. And they'll have it from customer feedback, from testimonials, from like, you know, call center calls where people complain or help center stuff and just their own experience in the business.

And then against those, we'll start to be like, well, what are the meaningful things that we might do as opportunities in terms of design solutions against them? And then typically each journey is drawn like a circle. So imagine almost like an Audi logo where there's like four circles side by side. Well, that's to recognize that people don't just water slide through a journey naturally.

They actually sit in shopping around or considering for quite a bit. So we put like a moment where those circles touch to be like, well, what would be a meaningful. feature or experience that we can deliver that'll help them shift from being in shopping around to now finding the thing that I want or considering.

And those typically like help us be anchored in a human perspective where it's really easy to just start talking about like, Oh, this part of the experience, this homepage, or, you know, that feature or this onboarding.

Ridd: I love that Audi example. That's an interesting mental model that I haven't heard before. It makes a lot of sense.

So let's continue our hypothetical project timeline here. So you've come out of that meeting. You have this dump of information. Some of it, maybe might even feel a little bit conflicting on the surface. What are you then doing to make sense of everything, establish momentum and map out some of those next steps internally?

Mike: Yeah, the momentum piece and what you mentioned is actually so important. So there have been in, you know, our least successful occasions, a desire to do a really long scientific synthesis of everything that we've learned. Try to plot it all out and then create the Swiss watch of a perfect plan for a product or an application.

[00:07:33] Why Mike uses the "Ridiculously early hypothesis"

Mike: So what was missing from those was like a strong. informed point of view, even a personal point of view from our teams that challenged the client on, you know, like the just obvious direction of where this might go. So to kind of head that off something that I started like about three or four years ago and it's really caught on was doing a thing called a ridiculously early hypothesis.

And what this meant was to try to come back after a week of kickoff with a really strong structured narrative driven point of view as to what we should be doing next. And. To present that to get a reaction to the client so that we don't give like some four week span of like product definition without having really put an idea forward.

And I found that it's like so much more productive to be working on a hypothesis as in, we think the product should be this and to continue to co evolve it together than to try to go away and leave someone wondering what it's going to be. And then come back with a big tada and then have them either approve it and we're like, yay, or challenge it.

And we're like, we're out of time. We can't do that work together. So the Ridiculously Early Hypothesis is called that because it's intentionally like a little bit impulsive. It's like we've spent a week together really cracking into your problem. Here's what we think. And you present it in like a narrative structure so that there really is almost like we're talking about your original business problem, your original context, the challenges we see, what that means we might want to do for you, and what we think is so important that we got to put it at the front and how that results in a shaping of an experience that has these features or this character and not some of the other things we might have considered.

Ridd: I know a lot of what you're doing is very client specific and you can't share it, but. Can you help shape what that might look like for someone who's listening? And they're like, okay, I get that at a high level, but like, how does that translate into what I'm actually saying and showing to a potential client?

Mike: Yeah, I mean, I can give the example from like the first time we use it was on Upwork, which is a basically a marketplace for finding people who can help you with any form of like creative or knowledge work. So if you want a video editor or a designer or even an accountant, you know, Upwork is a place where you can do that.

And, um, This was right when the pandemic had started. They had been a traditional kind of like temp hiring service. They had been a merger of two other companies and the CEO, Hayden Brown, had really put forward this proposition that we want to be something else, the future of where people do independent work.

And that had been established at a big high level. They had done a rebrand with a Puerto Rocha, amazing brand shop, huge fan of, and then they came to us to be like, okay, how do we translate that into an actual. product experience and feature set that's quite different from what we do today. And we spent a week workshopping as described, and very clearly some themes emerged that had nothing to do with the original things that we had talked about.

Like people had talked about making better collaboration and getting to a point where you can get the job done together more effectively, but other things came up that were equally important. So geographic, Equanimity and equity as in a lot of people went to that platform and saw that a freelancer was from India as a developer, Ukraine as a designer.

And then all these things crept in, like they would offer them a lower rate for that project, or they would seek them out because they would expect it to be a lower cost, or they would expect it to be potentially like better value for them. And what we wanted to do was create a platform that actually breaks down those barriers and creates a better conditions for people everywhere to work.

And that translate into things like. Well, do we show a location or not of a person on a portfolio of their work? Do we show more of the work or help humanize someone by showing more of themselves as a human? And if we do, what do we encourage people to show and not and to create a better exchange there?

And that became a major pillar of the product that was only exposed by our designers going, Hey, we think this is important. This will be extremely differentiating for you. It'll give Make such a better set of conditions for your talent. I don't like the word talent in that context, but the people who supply the services as opposed to the buyers of it.

And this was like a strong point of view that came through in the conversation. And you know what, the clients had been thinking that too, but it hadn't been expressed or put on paper and made a priority. So, you know, we were really proud to inject, uh, an angle into the work that had not been present in the original brief.

Ridd: I like the really early hypothesis because, you know, I've, I've been on both sides of the table now in this agency model and some really positive experiences and some that didn't go as well. And in. I think one of the worst case scenarios is you have that next touch point and there's something being displayed or shown and you realize that actually we were not on the same page at that previous touch point.

[00:07:33] Why Mike uses the "Ridiculously early hypothesis"

Mike: So what was missing from those was like a strong. informed point of view, even a personal point of view from our teams that challenged the client on, you know, like the just obvious direction of where this might go. So to kind of head that off something that I started like about three or four years ago and it's really caught on was doing a thing called a ridiculously early hypothesis.

And what this meant was to try to come back after a week of kickoff with a really strong structured narrative driven point of view as to what we should be doing next. And. To present that to get a reaction to the client so that we don't give like some four week span of like product definition without having really put an idea forward.

And I found that it's like so much more productive to be working on a hypothesis as in, we think the product should be this and to continue to co evolve it together than to try to go away and leave someone wondering what it's going to be. And then come back with a big tada and then have them either approve it and we're like, yay, or challenge it.

And we're like, we're out of time. We can't do that work together. So the Ridiculously Early Hypothesis is called that because it's intentionally like a little bit impulsive. It's like we've spent a week together really cracking into your problem. Here's what we think. And you present it in like a narrative structure so that there really is almost like we're talking about your original business problem, your original context, the challenges we see, what that means we might want to do for you, and what we think is so important that we got to put it at the front and how that results in a shaping of an experience that has these features or this character and not some of the other things we might have considered.

Ridd: I know a lot of what you're doing is very client specific and you can't share it, but. Can you help shape what that might look like for someone who's listening? And they're like, okay, I get that at a high level, but like, how does that translate into what I'm actually saying and showing to a potential client?

Mike: Yeah, I mean, I can give the example from like the first time we use it was on Upwork, which is a basically a marketplace for finding people who can help you with any form of like creative or knowledge work. So if you want a video editor or a designer or even an accountant, you know, Upwork is a place where you can do that.

And, um, This was right when the pandemic had started. They had been a traditional kind of like temp hiring service. They had been a merger of two other companies and the CEO, Hayden Brown, had really put forward this proposition that we want to be something else, the future of where people do independent work.

And that had been established at a big high level. They had done a rebrand with a Puerto Rocha, amazing brand shop, huge fan of, and then they came to us to be like, okay, how do we translate that into an actual. product experience and feature set that's quite different from what we do today. And we spent a week workshopping as described, and very clearly some themes emerged that had nothing to do with the original things that we had talked about.

Like people had talked about making better collaboration and getting to a point where you can get the job done together more effectively, but other things came up that were equally important. So geographic, Equanimity and equity as in a lot of people went to that platform and saw that a freelancer was from India as a developer, Ukraine as a designer.

And then all these things crept in, like they would offer them a lower rate for that project, or they would seek them out because they would expect it to be a lower cost, or they would expect it to be potentially like better value for them. And what we wanted to do was create a platform that actually breaks down those barriers and creates a better conditions for people everywhere to work.

And that translate into things like. Well, do we show a location or not of a person on a portfolio of their work? Do we show more of the work or help humanize someone by showing more of themselves as a human? And if we do, what do we encourage people to show and not and to create a better exchange there?

And that became a major pillar of the product that was only exposed by our designers going, Hey, we think this is important. This will be extremely differentiating for you. It'll give Make such a better set of conditions for your talent. I don't like the word talent in that context, but the people who supply the services as opposed to the buyers of it.

And this was like a strong point of view that came through in the conversation. And you know what, the clients had been thinking that too, but it hadn't been expressed or put on paper and made a priority. So, you know, we were really proud to inject, uh, an angle into the work that had not been present in the original brief.

Ridd: I like the really early hypothesis because, you know, I've, I've been on both sides of the table now in this agency model and some really positive experiences and some that didn't go as well. And in. I think one of the worst case scenarios is you have that next touch point and there's something being displayed or shown and you realize that actually we were not on the same page at that previous touch point.

[00:12:18] Strategies for driving alignment with clients

Ridd: And, you know, maybe we've spent a week or more kind of going down the wrong path a little bit. there other things that you're doing to prevent that? Protect against that outcome or other strategies that you're using to really drive alignment with a client and make sure that you're on the same page.

Mike: Yeah, absolutely. And I mean. before getting into that, getting to that point in one week is actually a success. It's not a failure. We've had that happen so many times. A failure is when you go like six weeks into a project and only then realize that you have a major disconnect or some major consideration that wasn't surfaced or even just a personal desire of the client that wasn't out there.

We do a range of things. Um, We do stakeholder interviews one on one that are really carefully constructed to Reveal like who might be meaningful stakeholders and participants in the project who are not actually involved in the project And that's a great way to find out what will make especially in a large organization A successful outcome you sometimes can work with a team and get perfect alignment and then t minus one week Some member of like, I don't know, the VP of operations or marketing joins and they go, you haven't spoken to me.

We haven't talked about this aspect of the work and it can derail things. So we really want to be inclusive and broad in our thinking to make sure we get a really good capture in those moments. the workshop activities are usually a good way to cover a broad range of concerns really early on. So we use things like definitions of success where we might talk about success for the business with.

Uh, an activity called blue sky, dark sky, what would be like great outcomes versus negative outcomes, and they typically expose some of the concerns or fears that the client have. We do a lot of ideation and mapping exercises, and that typically helps capture a rough sense of scope as in. Are we building one app, a dozen apps?

Are we building a desktop or mobile experience? Are we focusing on these feature sets? Will there be a community or not? Like there's so many things that we can. Begin the discussion on and have a tangible point of reference for that, you know, evolves together. We're co creating it, but at least it's not just in people's minds or it was mentioned in passing in a zoom call and then forgotten.

It's having a point of reference, a shared source of truth, usually a fig jam board or a Miro board.

Ridd: you had situations where key stakeholders simply don't agree?

Mike: Often. And I mean, not in an unproductive way, like, The funny thing is that often the best solutions come from those disagreements because a lot of large companies, it's less frequent in our startup work because what you're working with directly is like. A single or dual founder situation, and they have a strong vision.

They've just been off of shopping it around for, you know, for venture funding, that kind of thing. They've really clarified their proposition and they have clarity for themselves, but large enterprise work often is the first time that people who may not even work together in an organization, get together in a joint venture to do something of a higher order.

That's significant to their customers, something that'll give a better end experience from the brand. But they've become siloed. You know, someone who's owns the checkout flow, you know, or someone who owns the onboarding might not be the same person who's responsible for marketing or, you know, all of those things don't often connect.

So we've had many kickoffs where the spiciest conversations in the room are between members of the client team, as opposed to us being particularly challenging and. A big part of our function is to drive alignment, to find methods and ways to understand what are the intrinsic motivators, you know, big companies have everything from really practical stuff like targets that they are all responsible for to just general areas of interest.

How do we get people on the same page?

[00:12:18] Strategies for driving alignment with clients

Ridd: And, you know, maybe we've spent a week or more kind of going down the wrong path a little bit. there other things that you're doing to prevent that? Protect against that outcome or other strategies that you're using to really drive alignment with a client and make sure that you're on the same page.

Mike: Yeah, absolutely. And I mean. before getting into that, getting to that point in one week is actually a success. It's not a failure. We've had that happen so many times. A failure is when you go like six weeks into a project and only then realize that you have a major disconnect or some major consideration that wasn't surfaced or even just a personal desire of the client that wasn't out there.

We do a range of things. Um, We do stakeholder interviews one on one that are really carefully constructed to Reveal like who might be meaningful stakeholders and participants in the project who are not actually involved in the project And that's a great way to find out what will make especially in a large organization A successful outcome you sometimes can work with a team and get perfect alignment and then t minus one week Some member of like, I don't know, the VP of operations or marketing joins and they go, you haven't spoken to me.

We haven't talked about this aspect of the work and it can derail things. So we really want to be inclusive and broad in our thinking to make sure we get a really good capture in those moments. the workshop activities are usually a good way to cover a broad range of concerns really early on. So we use things like definitions of success where we might talk about success for the business with.

Uh, an activity called blue sky, dark sky, what would be like great outcomes versus negative outcomes, and they typically expose some of the concerns or fears that the client have. We do a lot of ideation and mapping exercises, and that typically helps capture a rough sense of scope as in. Are we building one app, a dozen apps?

Are we building a desktop or mobile experience? Are we focusing on these feature sets? Will there be a community or not? Like there's so many things that we can. Begin the discussion on and have a tangible point of reference for that, you know, evolves together. We're co creating it, but at least it's not just in people's minds or it was mentioned in passing in a zoom call and then forgotten.

It's having a point of reference, a shared source of truth, usually a fig jam board or a Miro board.

Ridd: you had situations where key stakeholders simply don't agree?

Mike: Often. And I mean, not in an unproductive way, like, The funny thing is that often the best solutions come from those disagreements because a lot of large companies, it's less frequent in our startup work because what you're working with directly is like. A single or dual founder situation, and they have a strong vision.

They've just been off of shopping it around for, you know, for venture funding, that kind of thing. They've really clarified their proposition and they have clarity for themselves, but large enterprise work often is the first time that people who may not even work together in an organization, get together in a joint venture to do something of a higher order.

That's significant to their customers, something that'll give a better end experience from the brand. But they've become siloed. You know, someone who's owns the checkout flow, you know, or someone who owns the onboarding might not be the same person who's responsible for marketing or, you know, all of those things don't often connect.

So we've had many kickoffs where the spiciest conversations in the room are between members of the client team, as opposed to us being particularly challenging and. A big part of our function is to drive alignment, to find methods and ways to understand what are the intrinsic motivators, you know, big companies have everything from really practical stuff like targets that they are all responsible for to just general areas of interest.

How do we get people on the same page?

[00:16:03] How Metalab's process evolves for startups vs. big-name brands

Ridd: What are some of the ways that you have to evolve your own process based off of whether you're working with one of those more founder driven early stage companies versus this really big, well known enterprise?

Mike: I would say that like the largest amount of work that Metalab does outside of actually doing the work is continually debating whether the way we do things is the right way to do it. We have some tangible mechanisms. So, you Our products manager team is constantly performing retros, uh, ways for us to have not only with the client, but internal to our teams, learnings as to like how successful worry like what worked, what didn't work, what was even just led to good quality of life while working versus, you know, like just, uh, things that felt stressful or difficult and all of that is constantly being collated and discussed in things like team meetings to try to create new things.

I think the organic stuff is what I like more though is whenever someone finds a tool or a way of doing something that works, it almost just catches on and that's a form of evolution that happens on its own. , early concepting called like Tarantino's was like a really big one that caught on like wildfire.

Uh, Constantine, one of our design directors, came up with the idea of doing, Like Pulp Fiction, you start at the end and then you back out of the solution and to give designers ultimate freedom in the first couple of days to be unconstrained by requirements or even like a hard specific goal. And just envision in high fidelity the most natural way to express yourself concepts for what the product might be.

And the funny thing is that that changes dramatically the conversation around what we think is possible. Often, you know, the perceived barriers to doing something really cool are mostly in your mind. And you self censor and do more conservative or pragmatic solutions. Whereas, like, a little bit of freedom is so much more enjoyable.

It's a little blip at the beginning of the project. That's not a high risk thing. Like you're betting all on it and people forget to do that stuff. So naming something like a ridiculously early hypothesis or a Tarantino has a way of just promoting a recall. People go, Oh, we should do a Tarantino. And then it happens.

[00:16:03] How Metalab's process evolves for startups vs. big-name brands

Ridd: What are some of the ways that you have to evolve your own process based off of whether you're working with one of those more founder driven early stage companies versus this really big, well known enterprise?

Mike: I would say that like the largest amount of work that Metalab does outside of actually doing the work is continually debating whether the way we do things is the right way to do it. We have some tangible mechanisms. So, you Our products manager team is constantly performing retros, uh, ways for us to have not only with the client, but internal to our teams, learnings as to like how successful worry like what worked, what didn't work, what was even just led to good quality of life while working versus, you know, like just, uh, things that felt stressful or difficult and all of that is constantly being collated and discussed in things like team meetings to try to create new things.

I think the organic stuff is what I like more though is whenever someone finds a tool or a way of doing something that works, it almost just catches on and that's a form of evolution that happens on its own. , early concepting called like Tarantino's was like a really big one that caught on like wildfire.

Uh, Constantine, one of our design directors, came up with the idea of doing, Like Pulp Fiction, you start at the end and then you back out of the solution and to give designers ultimate freedom in the first couple of days to be unconstrained by requirements or even like a hard specific goal. And just envision in high fidelity the most natural way to express yourself concepts for what the product might be.

And the funny thing is that that changes dramatically the conversation around what we think is possible. Often, you know, the perceived barriers to doing something really cool are mostly in your mind. And you self censor and do more conservative or pragmatic solutions. Whereas, like, a little bit of freedom is so much more enjoyable.

It's a little blip at the beginning of the project. That's not a high risk thing. Like you're betting all on it and people forget to do that stuff. So naming something like a ridiculously early hypothesis or a Tarantino has a way of just promoting a recall. People go, Oh, we should do a Tarantino. And then it happens.

[00:18:11] Understanding the core Metalab process

Ridd: You're making me curious, like how much the meta lab process varies depending on the team that has been constructed and just the personalities of the people who are stewarding the process, because, yeah, I can see how there's like this really organic component of it. Are there other elements of how you work that feel a little bit more top down where it's like, no, this is actually like what we believe about.

The design process and how we work as an agency.

Mike: Yeah, so there is a through line, a spine of our core process and it has certain pillars that we feel pretty strongly about over time have led to like just better outcomes and those things tend to stay constant and I can get into a couple of them. But those other things I'm describing, there's a lot of room for flex, you know, as long as that main through line stays the same.

I think having like a really strong. human centric research grounded start that's paired with a lot of design exploration. So not only being strategically thinking, but also putting pen to paper and exploring freely in design has always led to better outcomes for us. So we try to do the two concurrently in the very beginning through, I would say, like a product definition phase.

And that sounds like a very definite thing, but it actually has a combination of a Almost like a double diamond, only we don't really use that exact methodology, but a very classic methodical phase paired with a lot of wildcard design exploration to still disrupt what otherwise might be a little bit too empirical or logical.

One week sprints. Uh, we work really rapidly and iteration, usually with a couple of touch points that are quite formal throughout a one week sprint, and it can be, uh, Extremely taxing and grueling from like an urgency perspective, but it also keeps us from getting mired in like unproductive spinning or to lose track of the arc of what we're trying to achieve, uh, or going too long without meaningful contribution or feedback, either from user testing or from our clients.

And that's one that we've almost never shifted on. I think the way we present work is like a really important part as in like this kind of like a dual format. Some of them are much more summative and big kind of like, I don't want to say big reveals, but big presentations of end to end cohesive thinking to make sure that framing and context is really there.

And then the other one is to be constantly able to effectively present. day to day, week to week in the work. We use Loom a lot to be able to just share ideas, to be able to, like, have a human voice being left behind or passed on. Like, clients can take a Loom and pass it on to someone else who wasn't in the meeting.

And between Looms and meeting recordings, like, we have a really good way to make sure that, like, you're always communicating rather than documenting. We're actually a very Light on documentation culture. , the most of it comes in when we're, you know, directly doing design and engineering in parallel.

And I think that that's when you want to have an additional layer, like really solid documentation, but when we're doing foundational design explorations or, you know, a design only project where we're working with the client's development team, uh, we try to keep a really lean Notion, Figma, Slack, Miro sometimes.

Very few decks. Most of them are in pitch because it's a tool that we worked on and that, you know, we really enjoy.

[00:18:11] Understanding the core Metalab process

Ridd: You're making me curious, like how much the meta lab process varies depending on the team that has been constructed and just the personalities of the people who are stewarding the process, because, yeah, I can see how there's like this really organic component of it. Are there other elements of how you work that feel a little bit more top down where it's like, no, this is actually like what we believe about.

The design process and how we work as an agency.

Mike: Yeah, so there is a through line, a spine of our core process and it has certain pillars that we feel pretty strongly about over time have led to like just better outcomes and those things tend to stay constant and I can get into a couple of them. But those other things I'm describing, there's a lot of room for flex, you know, as long as that main through line stays the same.

I think having like a really strong. human centric research grounded start that's paired with a lot of design exploration. So not only being strategically thinking, but also putting pen to paper and exploring freely in design has always led to better outcomes for us. So we try to do the two concurrently in the very beginning through, I would say, like a product definition phase.

And that sounds like a very definite thing, but it actually has a combination of a Almost like a double diamond, only we don't really use that exact methodology, but a very classic methodical phase paired with a lot of wildcard design exploration to still disrupt what otherwise might be a little bit too empirical or logical.

One week sprints. Uh, we work really rapidly and iteration, usually with a couple of touch points that are quite formal throughout a one week sprint, and it can be, uh, Extremely taxing and grueling from like an urgency perspective, but it also keeps us from getting mired in like unproductive spinning or to lose track of the arc of what we're trying to achieve, uh, or going too long without meaningful contribution or feedback, either from user testing or from our clients.

And that's one that we've almost never shifted on. I think the way we present work is like a really important part as in like this kind of like a dual format. Some of them are much more summative and big kind of like, I don't want to say big reveals, but big presentations of end to end cohesive thinking to make sure that framing and context is really there.

And then the other one is to be constantly able to effectively present. day to day, week to week in the work. We use Loom a lot to be able to just share ideas, to be able to, like, have a human voice being left behind or passed on. Like, clients can take a Loom and pass it on to someone else who wasn't in the meeting.

And between Looms and meeting recordings, like, we have a really good way to make sure that, like, you're always communicating rather than documenting. We're actually a very Light on documentation culture. , the most of it comes in when we're, you know, directly doing design and engineering in parallel.

And I think that that's when you want to have an additional layer, like really solid documentation, but when we're doing foundational design explorations or, you know, a design only project where we're working with the client's development team, uh, we try to keep a really lean Notion, Figma, Slack, Miro sometimes.

Very few decks. Most of them are in pitch because it's a tool that we worked on and that, you know, we really enjoy.

[00:21:26] Designing to find answers vs. finding answers to design

Ridd: I want to put a pin in the loom comment because I want to return to it, but maybe even as a way to like reflect on, on everything that you've shared from a process standpoint, I want to toss a hypothetical your way, which is, let's say that for one reason or the other, you decide actually you want to venture out and work for yourself as a freelance independent design practice. What are the elements of. The meta lab process that you would definitely want to take with you to incorporate into your own freelance practice.

Mike: Oh, yeah. I mean, there are so many and, you know, I've always cross compared against like a range of like former agencies and context that I've worked in to try to evaluate what works and that flows both ways. You know, everybody brings their experience into it, but metal lab does have a few things that I think are always worth keeping.

I think,, Truly designing to find an answer, not finding an answer to be able to design is a basic principle isn't like you absolutely have to get into it and be evaluating a solution. , and that's not to put aside strategy. It's actually one of my biggest areas of passion in the work is to be using elements of product strategy, brand strategy, experience strategy, very formally in the work, but never at the expense of actually solutioning through.

You know, looking through a prototype or even just like working something out live with a client, that kind of thing. , it just becomes too cyclical and abstract if you're not doing it in relation to the work itself. And our designers are like constantly designing and prototyping. Almost simultaneously.

Figma has gotten to the point where they're prototyping tools that you can almost do the same thing that you might achieve in principle or after effects or, you know, quite effectively. And most of our demos are. They're not looking at the screen and let's evaluate the next one. So I would never let go of that.

[00:21:26] Designing to find answers vs. finding answers to design

Ridd: I want to put a pin in the loom comment because I want to return to it, but maybe even as a way to like reflect on, on everything that you've shared from a process standpoint, I want to toss a hypothetical your way, which is, let's say that for one reason or the other, you decide actually you want to venture out and work for yourself as a freelance independent design practice. What are the elements of. The meta lab process that you would definitely want to take with you to incorporate into your own freelance practice.

Mike: Oh, yeah. I mean, there are so many and, you know, I've always cross compared against like a range of like former agencies and context that I've worked in to try to evaluate what works and that flows both ways. You know, everybody brings their experience into it, but metal lab does have a few things that I think are always worth keeping.

I think,, Truly designing to find an answer, not finding an answer to be able to design is a basic principle isn't like you absolutely have to get into it and be evaluating a solution. , and that's not to put aside strategy. It's actually one of my biggest areas of passion in the work is to be using elements of product strategy, brand strategy, experience strategy, very formally in the work, but never at the expense of actually solutioning through.

You know, looking through a prototype or even just like working something out live with a client, that kind of thing. , it just becomes too cyclical and abstract if you're not doing it in relation to the work itself. And our designers are like constantly designing and prototyping. Almost simultaneously.

Figma has gotten to the point where they're prototyping tools that you can almost do the same thing that you might achieve in principle or after effects or, you know, quite effectively. And most of our demos are. They're not looking at the screen and let's evaluate the next one. So I would never let go of that.

[00:23:21] Importance of storytelling in the informal working context

Ridd: I'd like to zoom in on the storytelling piece a little bit, which you've kind of touched on here and there. And obviously like there's the, the application where you are presenting some meaningful body of work to a client and you're thinking through the presentation, but you also talk about. The importance of storytelling in the informal working context, the words that you used, can you talk a little bit more about what that looks like and what you mean by that?

Mike: totally. I mean, First, the reason for the storytelling being so important is, like I was mentioning, great ideas dying from lack of good execution. Well, the other number one reason why they don't work out is often because they're miscommunicated or misinterpreted, especially when you're doing something new and weird.

Like the first time someone thought that, like a, I don't know, pinch to zoom would be a good idea, they might have explained that wrong and it could have never happened. Or, I don't know, something else that we now take for granted, you know, and seeing is believing on a prototype sometimes. But often great ideas get outright rejected because people didn't set them up, didn't explain them in a way that connects it back to why are we doing this.

So storytelling is like a pretty fundamental tool to being able to see work that involves a lot of people see the light of day at the end. You know, if you're working with two people, you don't need storytelling, but if you're working with five or more, it becomes like essential. And people are aware of it when you're making, like, let's say, a big presentation for the end of a project.

Or let's say you're pitching work and you want to make a pitch. Those are moments where it seems obvious, let's employ a good narrative structure, tell a compelling story. But the ones that really matter happen, like, in a mid week demo. Or when you're trying to set up a workshop that's going to be important to come to a conclusion.

And the designers I've seen be the most successful are the ones who internalized it. Good storytelling in the bigger formal version so well that they still deliver, you know Even the most casual feature explanation with that same point of view as to how to capture and engage the interest of your audience, have them understand the why behind what you're doing in the intent, and to like really be bought in and suddenly become a collaborator rather than a And I think that that's like the ultimate goal. We actually, you know, put so much emphasis on it internally. We recently had a workshop with Ian Wharton. He's like a founder of aid health in the UK, and he does a lot of classes on this. And I literally did it A day ago with our team, and it was so inspiring to just take someone else's perspective on what good storytelling looks like in the context of product and experience design.

And it's like you could spend your whole life learning storytelling and it'll be the most important design skill. I think that anyone can learn.

[00:23:21] Importance of storytelling in the informal working context

Ridd: I'd like to zoom in on the storytelling piece a little bit, which you've kind of touched on here and there. And obviously like there's the, the application where you are presenting some meaningful body of work to a client and you're thinking through the presentation, but you also talk about. The importance of storytelling in the informal working context, the words that you used, can you talk a little bit more about what that looks like and what you mean by that?

Mike: totally. I mean, First, the reason for the storytelling being so important is, like I was mentioning, great ideas dying from lack of good execution. Well, the other number one reason why they don't work out is often because they're miscommunicated or misinterpreted, especially when you're doing something new and weird.

Like the first time someone thought that, like a, I don't know, pinch to zoom would be a good idea, they might have explained that wrong and it could have never happened. Or, I don't know, something else that we now take for granted, you know, and seeing is believing on a prototype sometimes. But often great ideas get outright rejected because people didn't set them up, didn't explain them in a way that connects it back to why are we doing this.

So storytelling is like a pretty fundamental tool to being able to see work that involves a lot of people see the light of day at the end. You know, if you're working with two people, you don't need storytelling, but if you're working with five or more, it becomes like essential. And people are aware of it when you're making, like, let's say, a big presentation for the end of a project.

Or let's say you're pitching work and you want to make a pitch. Those are moments where it seems obvious, let's employ a good narrative structure, tell a compelling story. But the ones that really matter happen, like, in a mid week demo. Or when you're trying to set up a workshop that's going to be important to come to a conclusion.

And the designers I've seen be the most successful are the ones who internalized it. Good storytelling in the bigger formal version so well that they still deliver, you know Even the most casual feature explanation with that same point of view as to how to capture and engage the interest of your audience, have them understand the why behind what you're doing in the intent, and to like really be bought in and suddenly become a collaborator rather than a And I think that that's like the ultimate goal. We actually, you know, put so much emphasis on it internally. We recently had a workshop with Ian Wharton. He's like a founder of aid health in the UK, and he does a lot of classes on this. And I literally did it A day ago with our team, and it was so inspiring to just take someone else's perspective on what good storytelling looks like in the context of product and experience design.

And it's like you could spend your whole life learning storytelling and it'll be the most important design skill. I think that anyone can learn.

[00:26:00] Traits of designers who are great storytellers

Ridd: Are there certain takeaways from that conversation that stood out or maybe even just specific things that you notice in the best storytelling designers that you've worked alongside?

Mike: Oh, absolutely. I mean, you know, he put a really great emphasis on storytelling not having to be theater, you know, some of the negative stereotypes that people have the reason why there's an aversion to the concept of storytelling and design practices. You know, the examples that he brought up were things like Don Draper, and everyone's thinking that it has to be theatrical and performative, and even to the point of just dressing something up as opposed to being truthful, and he showed many counterexamples of what it means to you.

apply great narrative structure to find a compelling ability to capture your audience's attention and really zero them in on the essential and to have them brought along towards a productive outcome of a conversation. And, you know, he had various methods that were specific to his approach, but they were still just fundamentally his take on some of the best practices around storytelling in any context.

He used examples from Movies, you know, here's a great example of back to the future. And like, how does narrative structure inform your engagement with that story, but then translating it to very real practical applied examples of like. Digital design practitioners and agencies and product teams. So I thought it was amazing.

And we do that with like a range of other people. Like it changes every year as we do learning and development with our teams. And there are a lot of internal advocates for it who have their own, you know, oh, this was a great one that we did last week and it was so successful, but it's The most in demand topic still, like whenever we ask people what they want to learn about, like, all the hands go there.

It's not the only one, but it definitely is the most consistently asked for.

Ridd: I mean, that's been my experience even with this podcast is people keep messaging me and be like, I want to learn more about support storytelling. Or like, I really liked that part where you talked about storytelling. So I'm going to double click on the movie part because in preparing for this call, I messaged a past colleague, Julie Stephan, and she said

Mike: Yeah.

Ridd: you are really good at applying movie frameworks for storytelling.

What does that look like? like

Mike: credit to Ian Wharton because his workshop is so fresh in my mind that I'm greatly at risk of like plagiarizing what he told us. But, , his examples were around. , inciting incidents and the escalation of action in a film and how that is done to really effectively land at the end of the day, a resolution that is satisfying.

And I think, you know, that same thing happens in a product conversation, but sometimes, like, people aren't aware of it and, you know, to a certain point, you mimic the vibe of describing a movie. In the same way that you describe a certain, let's say, piece of context, like the reason we're here in the case of Upwork, it's like the pandemic has just suddenly changed everything almost overnight, and so many people are now working from home and learning that in a way that they wouldn't have been doing before and to be able to use that and to intersperse, whether it's visually on slides like animated gifts from movies that reinforce the emotion of the moment you're trying to describe, or whether it's just like mimicking not the tone of a movie trailer, but just some of the familiar paces.

It's. Humans consume storytelling all the time, and it's just a way to make it interesting. Like, I think a boring conversation about product or a boring presentation is probably the death of good ideas. And like, you know, even world changing stuff, if you just crawl through it in a linear, methodical way, will just, you know, you'll lose your collaborators and your audience.

Ridd: Upwork example a lot because You're right. It's almost like re imagining the starting point of where the story begins, because a lot of times you ask for a storytelling tactic and it's like, well, use the voice of the person that's actually like, you know, using the software, I am a founder and I am looking for so and so and I'm, and I'm trying to fill this need in my company.

And like, yes, that's totally true. That isn't something that you can and probably should be doing, but setting that more emotional stage about. You know, it's COVID and I can't work with the people down the street anymore. So I'm trying to figure out what's next. That's a really unique angle that I think often does get forgotten.

Mike: Yeah, and it's the thing is, it's not fiction or entertainment like these are the real drivers of that create billion dollar industries or, you know, make people move from one thing to the next, like, you know, zoom as a product, you know, covid had a meaningful impact on zoom becoming like a household name in, you know, in the world and all of these things.

Evolve based on what's happening in the world. And I think the biggest danger is for designers in our industry to be myopic and to only be thinking of like, Oh, we have a job to be done from a user and let's design a feature and then fast forward 10 years later and things like the sharing economy are created with all the good and bad things that come from that.

I think taking into account real world. Communities, culture, the impacts of what we do and intentionally building that into our product choices is not only like a useful thing. It's like it to my mind should be a mandatory thing. That's how we do not only great design, but responsible, ethical, beneficial to the world and to the businesses that we're serving.

You know, all of those things like You have to actually say the thing, talk about what is going to be meaningfully impacting your work. And it often gets skipped. You just start it like, Hey, we're not converting as much on this onboarding flow. What are we going to do about it? If you don't take a step back, you may miss the entire reason.

Ridd: Can I get super in the weeds for a second? Because we're talking about a lot of interesting things and you also mentioned how, you know, for some of these client touch points, you're getting into pitch and creating presentations. What are some of the pieces of advice that you would offer to designers who want to improve the way that they're creating and structuring these presentations?

[00:26:00] Traits of designers who are great storytellers

Ridd: Are there certain takeaways from that conversation that stood out or maybe even just specific things that you notice in the best storytelling designers that you've worked alongside?

Mike: Oh, absolutely. I mean, you know, he put a really great emphasis on storytelling not having to be theater, you know, some of the negative stereotypes that people have the reason why there's an aversion to the concept of storytelling and design practices. You know, the examples that he brought up were things like Don Draper, and everyone's thinking that it has to be theatrical and performative, and even to the point of just dressing something up as opposed to being truthful, and he showed many counterexamples of what it means to you.

apply great narrative structure to find a compelling ability to capture your audience's attention and really zero them in on the essential and to have them brought along towards a productive outcome of a conversation. And, you know, he had various methods that were specific to his approach, but they were still just fundamentally his take on some of the best practices around storytelling in any context.

He used examples from Movies, you know, here's a great example of back to the future. And like, how does narrative structure inform your engagement with that story, but then translating it to very real practical applied examples of like. Digital design practitioners and agencies and product teams. So I thought it was amazing.

And we do that with like a range of other people. Like it changes every year as we do learning and development with our teams. And there are a lot of internal advocates for it who have their own, you know, oh, this was a great one that we did last week and it was so successful, but it's The most in demand topic still, like whenever we ask people what they want to learn about, like, all the hands go there.

It's not the only one, but it definitely is the most consistently asked for.

Ridd: I mean, that's been my experience even with this podcast is people keep messaging me and be like, I want to learn more about support storytelling. Or like, I really liked that part where you talked about storytelling. So I'm going to double click on the movie part because in preparing for this call, I messaged a past colleague, Julie Stephan, and she said

Mike: Yeah.

Ridd: you are really good at applying movie frameworks for storytelling.

What does that look like? like

Mike: credit to Ian Wharton because his workshop is so fresh in my mind that I'm greatly at risk of like plagiarizing what he told us. But, , his examples were around. , inciting incidents and the escalation of action in a film and how that is done to really effectively land at the end of the day, a resolution that is satisfying.

And I think, you know, that same thing happens in a product conversation, but sometimes, like, people aren't aware of it and, you know, to a certain point, you mimic the vibe of describing a movie. In the same way that you describe a certain, let's say, piece of context, like the reason we're here in the case of Upwork, it's like the pandemic has just suddenly changed everything almost overnight, and so many people are now working from home and learning that in a way that they wouldn't have been doing before and to be able to use that and to intersperse, whether it's visually on slides like animated gifts from movies that reinforce the emotion of the moment you're trying to describe, or whether it's just like mimicking not the tone of a movie trailer, but just some of the familiar paces.

It's. Humans consume storytelling all the time, and it's just a way to make it interesting. Like, I think a boring conversation about product or a boring presentation is probably the death of good ideas. And like, you know, even world changing stuff, if you just crawl through it in a linear, methodical way, will just, you know, you'll lose your collaborators and your audience.

Ridd: Upwork example a lot because You're right. It's almost like re imagining the starting point of where the story begins, because a lot of times you ask for a storytelling tactic and it's like, well, use the voice of the person that's actually like, you know, using the software, I am a founder and I am looking for so and so and I'm, and I'm trying to fill this need in my company.

And like, yes, that's totally true. That isn't something that you can and probably should be doing, but setting that more emotional stage about. You know, it's COVID and I can't work with the people down the street anymore. So I'm trying to figure out what's next. That's a really unique angle that I think often does get forgotten.

Mike: Yeah, and it's the thing is, it's not fiction or entertainment like these are the real drivers of that create billion dollar industries or, you know, make people move from one thing to the next, like, you know, zoom as a product, you know, covid had a meaningful impact on zoom becoming like a household name in, you know, in the world and all of these things.

Evolve based on what's happening in the world. And I think the biggest danger is for designers in our industry to be myopic and to only be thinking of like, Oh, we have a job to be done from a user and let's design a feature and then fast forward 10 years later and things like the sharing economy are created with all the good and bad things that come from that.

I think taking into account real world. Communities, culture, the impacts of what we do and intentionally building that into our product choices is not only like a useful thing. It's like it to my mind should be a mandatory thing. That's how we do not only great design, but responsible, ethical, beneficial to the world and to the businesses that we're serving.

You know, all of those things like You have to actually say the thing, talk about what is going to be meaningfully impacting your work. And it often gets skipped. You just start it like, Hey, we're not converting as much on this onboarding flow. What are we going to do about it? If you don't take a step back, you may miss the entire reason.

Ridd: Can I get super in the weeds for a second? Because we're talking about a lot of interesting things and you also mentioned how, you know, for some of these client touch points, you're getting into pitch and creating presentations. What are some of the pieces of advice that you would offer to designers who want to improve the way that they're creating and structuring these presentations?

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