Season 5

|

Episode 5

Becoming a creative problem solver

Rich Arnold

Design leader at Vine, IG & Coinbase

Mar 28, 2024

Mar 28, 2024

|

38 mins

38 mins

music by Dennis

About this Episode

Rich Arnold was the Head of Design at Vine, a design lead on the early Instagram Stories team, and now he works as a design manager at Coinbase. So this episode goes deep into:

  • How Rich grew as a storyteller at IG

  • Why we cant let data be the designer

  • The importance of “zooming out” in your work

  • How to grow your creative problem solving muscles

  • What it takes to design successful consumer products

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Lauren LoPrete

Director of Design Systems @ Cash App

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James McDonald

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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

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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] Going from the studio model to Vine

Rich: The thing you run into working in design studios, at least at the time, I don't know how much this is still the case today, but at least at the time you were very much at the whim of, whatever, whoever like your contact was at the company.

It was very hard to get deep into the problems they were solving. A lot of times You would maybe disagree even with the premise of the stuff you're working on, but you sort of, you're not in a position to push back on that. You kind of just have to accept, assume the position of whatever idea they have and then try to find the best execution of it.

And it's like, at some point, that becomes a very, very exhausting exercise and it feels, you feel very limited in what you can achieve. So the idea of moving house was interesting to me for a bit. Specifically Vine, I was very interested in because I've always been interested in these like weird, fun products.

Those are the things that like, I got into design to make. and Vine is maybe the weirdest, most fun products I'll ever get to work on. In particular, because it like existed in a period of time in tech where I joke about this with friends, but there was a period of New York tech where like the, um, Money had arrived and like there were fun things here, but the grownups weren't here yet.

and so things like Vine and Tumblr and all that stuff was popping in New York and it was like, that was like a fun opportunity to actually work in that space.

Ridd: Can you talk a little bit more about like the design culture? Because I think Vine as a company and as a product has such a nostalgic Place in our hearts. Like we kind of feel that, Oh, those were the glory days too. can you give us like a little lens? Like, what was it like behind closed doors? How did you operate and what was the vibe at that company?

Rich: when I joined, of the three founders, two had left at that, at that point, but the founder that was left was the design founder, uh, which is Russ, who, you know, so he, after Vine, he went on to do HQ.

Russ, I think, is a visionary in a lot of respects. I think he's a very, very, very creative person. especially in, his ability to come up with, like, the zero to one ideas. In that respect, design was able to function pretty independently there. And I think the process of working there was definitely a lot less formalized than what we would end up doing later on at places like Instagram, where it would just be, you know, Russ would have an idea or like someone in design would have an idea for just a weird, fun thing that we think we'd have a good time playing with, and then we would just go make that.

and it was definitely a lot less. Of a, you know, formalized, review and planning process. It was definitely a lot, you know, looser. Probably going back to what I was saying before about like the grownups hadn't gotten there yet, you know? but the team, like at the, at that point in time, like that really like appealed to me.

This, this idea of feeling like an artist who had been dropped into, uh, a tech company. it was definitely this somewhat nice transition from. The studio working model, which is also a little loose and, you know, you're kind of just trying to find the most fun thing or like the coolest thing to make.

into more traditional, like product design, capital P capital D.

Ridd: You know, you, you mentioned some of the differences between Instagram and Vine. And when you were writing to me, you said that Instagram more like a grownup organization.

Rich: Yes.

[00:00:00] Going from the studio model to Vine

Rich: The thing you run into working in design studios, at least at the time, I don't know how much this is still the case today, but at least at the time you were very much at the whim of, whatever, whoever like your contact was at the company.

It was very hard to get deep into the problems they were solving. A lot of times You would maybe disagree even with the premise of the stuff you're working on, but you sort of, you're not in a position to push back on that. You kind of just have to accept, assume the position of whatever idea they have and then try to find the best execution of it.

And it's like, at some point, that becomes a very, very exhausting exercise and it feels, you feel very limited in what you can achieve. So the idea of moving house was interesting to me for a bit. Specifically Vine, I was very interested in because I've always been interested in these like weird, fun products.

Those are the things that like, I got into design to make. and Vine is maybe the weirdest, most fun products I'll ever get to work on. In particular, because it like existed in a period of time in tech where I joke about this with friends, but there was a period of New York tech where like the, um, Money had arrived and like there were fun things here, but the grownups weren't here yet.

and so things like Vine and Tumblr and all that stuff was popping in New York and it was like, that was like a fun opportunity to actually work in that space.

Ridd: Can you talk a little bit more about like the design culture? Because I think Vine as a company and as a product has such a nostalgic Place in our hearts. Like we kind of feel that, Oh, those were the glory days too. can you give us like a little lens? Like, what was it like behind closed doors? How did you operate and what was the vibe at that company?

Rich: when I joined, of the three founders, two had left at that, at that point, but the founder that was left was the design founder, uh, which is Russ, who, you know, so he, after Vine, he went on to do HQ.

Russ, I think, is a visionary in a lot of respects. I think he's a very, very, very creative person. especially in, his ability to come up with, like, the zero to one ideas. In that respect, design was able to function pretty independently there. And I think the process of working there was definitely a lot less formalized than what we would end up doing later on at places like Instagram, where it would just be, you know, Russ would have an idea or like someone in design would have an idea for just a weird, fun thing that we think we'd have a good time playing with, and then we would just go make that.

and it was definitely a lot less. Of a, you know, formalized, review and planning process. It was definitely a lot, you know, looser. Probably going back to what I was saying before about like the grownups hadn't gotten there yet, you know? but the team, like at the, at that point in time, like that really like appealed to me.

This, this idea of feeling like an artist who had been dropped into, uh, a tech company. it was definitely this somewhat nice transition from. The studio working model, which is also a little loose and, you know, you're kind of just trying to find the most fun thing or like the coolest thing to make.

into more traditional, like product design, capital P capital D.

Ridd: You know, you, you mentioned some of the differences between Instagram and Vine. And when you were writing to me, you said that Instagram more like a grownup organization.

Rich: Yes.

[00:02:57] Comparing Vine vs. IG design cultures

Ridd: you unpack that a little bit? Like what were some of the differences between these two teams and specifically how was that reflected in the design culture?

Rich: at Vine, you know, the, the process of like building and shipping things was really just incredibly ad hoc, like the idea of like doing a design review. Yep. To build and ship something was completely alien to me prior to getting to Instagram, which sounds crazy. And so it was still like, it's very much this like studio working model where you would do design crits and then it's kind of like done when you feel like it's done. Uh, and the company was small enough such that like there wasn't a ton of like XFN work to do, you know, you could, I could just walk over to the, to the GM of the company and just say, this is what we're making.

When you get to Instagram, especially in my case. So like when I got to Instagram, I was, uh, the, the entire company was still in the Menlo Park office and it was just myself in design in New York. so like I'm working on stuff and then I'm talking to my manager and I'm trying to figure out what the process is for shipping it and it's, not only is it completely alien to me that like there is a formalized review process for these things in, you know, beyond just design, It's also, like, completely remote, I'm presenting to people who I've never even seen or met, who have no idea who they are.

So that, like, jump between, like, a company where everyone who's important is someone I could just walk right up to and they're all in one room and, you know, we can just have these conversations one on one. To a much larger, much more like formalized process. Remote was like quite a bit of, it required quite a bit of ramping up.

[00:02:57] Comparing Vine vs. IG design cultures

Ridd: you unpack that a little bit? Like what were some of the differences between these two teams and specifically how was that reflected in the design culture?

Rich: at Vine, you know, the, the process of like building and shipping things was really just incredibly ad hoc, like the idea of like doing a design review. Yep. To build and ship something was completely alien to me prior to getting to Instagram, which sounds crazy. And so it was still like, it's very much this like studio working model where you would do design crits and then it's kind of like done when you feel like it's done. Uh, and the company was small enough such that like there wasn't a ton of like XFN work to do, you know, you could, I could just walk over to the, to the GM of the company and just say, this is what we're making.

When you get to Instagram, especially in my case. So like when I got to Instagram, I was, uh, the, the entire company was still in the Menlo Park office and it was just myself in design in New York. so like I'm working on stuff and then I'm talking to my manager and I'm trying to figure out what the process is for shipping it and it's, not only is it completely alien to me that like there is a formalized review process for these things in, you know, beyond just design, It's also, like, completely remote, I'm presenting to people who I've never even seen or met, who have no idea who they are.

So that, like, jump between, like, a company where everyone who's important is someone I could just walk right up to and they're all in one room and, you know, we can just have these conversations one on one. To a much larger, much more like formalized process. Remote was like quite a bit of, it required quite a bit of ramping up.

[00:04:25] Growing as a storyteller at IG

Ridd: Were there skill gaps that you felt or areas where it's clear, like you need to grow in this way pretty quickly in order to succeed in that new environment?

Rich: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. I mean, that's a big one. Honestly, I think the biggest one was, the storytelling and like narrative part of, design. I think, I always like, I think was pretty good at being able to, you know, figure out the problem, get my hands around it and like come up with something I felt was good.

But being able to like. Explain and tell a story about why it's good and get people to believe in it was not something I, like, had to do previously. in some respect it's because, again, it's like, it's small enough, that like, the people who are the decision makers on these things, these things are with you the whole time.

So, I don't, there wasn't necessarily a lot of, selling you had to do. Whereas, like, coming to IG, it was, storytelling and narrative is probably the most important skill you could possibly have there. Being able to say, like, not just, this is a good idea, but, like, this is a good idea, this is why, this is why we think we should do it, and it's not gonna screw up, you know, all these other things we have going on.

and to be able to tell that in a way that people who haven't been staring at it for, you 40 hours a week for the last 10 weeks can understand. that took like quite a bit of time to like ramp up and understand. And the thing is it's like, it's hard to know what to do.

You just have to see other people do it. And then you see like, Oh, I see. This is, this is what I'm not doing. And this guy's very successful at it. And I, I need to just like pick up what he's doing, you know?

Ridd: What were some of those things that you were noticing, like you were at IG for roughly five years? Like if you were to kind of measure yourself before and after, what were some of the ways that you think you grew as a storyteller?

Rich: The most important things that you need to have in whatever your presentation are, succinctly, what is the problem you're solving? The second thing would be ideally some evidence to say that it's a real problem and not just like something you've made up because you've thought of something and you're just backing into like the idea you want to do.

you want to be able to put some structure around the solution space so you can say like, this is how we're thinking about it. ideally it's something where you can, basically gives people the ability to look at your explorations and understand the way that you're thinking about it. What you're recommending as a solution and why, and if you can do all those things pretty well, you've probably got, you've at least like told the right story. the other part of it that I think took some time, and was very important is just being opinionated about the work. I think I had this habit, of just sort of coming in with like a menu of solutions and being like, what do you think?

Yeah. You want to pick one? and at Instagram in general, at Facebook, like they're very good at, uh, not letting you take that decision, off of your plate and put it onto them. so if you come in and you don't have an opinion on what's right, they'll just tell you to come back when you think you know what the right thing to do is and you have to come back and present why this is the right thing to do.

Or what are you going to do to, like, to build confidence in your opinion? Mm

[00:04:25] Growing as a storyteller at IG

Ridd: Were there skill gaps that you felt or areas where it's clear, like you need to grow in this way pretty quickly in order to succeed in that new environment?

Rich: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. I mean, that's a big one. Honestly, I think the biggest one was, the storytelling and like narrative part of, design. I think, I always like, I think was pretty good at being able to, you know, figure out the problem, get my hands around it and like come up with something I felt was good.

But being able to like. Explain and tell a story about why it's good and get people to believe in it was not something I, like, had to do previously. in some respect it's because, again, it's like, it's small enough, that like, the people who are the decision makers on these things, these things are with you the whole time.

So, I don't, there wasn't necessarily a lot of, selling you had to do. Whereas, like, coming to IG, it was, storytelling and narrative is probably the most important skill you could possibly have there. Being able to say, like, not just, this is a good idea, but, like, this is a good idea, this is why, this is why we think we should do it, and it's not gonna screw up, you know, all these other things we have going on.

and to be able to tell that in a way that people who haven't been staring at it for, you 40 hours a week for the last 10 weeks can understand. that took like quite a bit of time to like ramp up and understand. And the thing is it's like, it's hard to know what to do.

You just have to see other people do it. And then you see like, Oh, I see. This is, this is what I'm not doing. And this guy's very successful at it. And I, I need to just like pick up what he's doing, you know?

Ridd: What were some of those things that you were noticing, like you were at IG for roughly five years? Like if you were to kind of measure yourself before and after, what were some of the ways that you think you grew as a storyteller?

Rich: The most important things that you need to have in whatever your presentation are, succinctly, what is the problem you're solving? The second thing would be ideally some evidence to say that it's a real problem and not just like something you've made up because you've thought of something and you're just backing into like the idea you want to do.

you want to be able to put some structure around the solution space so you can say like, this is how we're thinking about it. ideally it's something where you can, basically gives people the ability to look at your explorations and understand the way that you're thinking about it. What you're recommending as a solution and why, and if you can do all those things pretty well, you've probably got, you've at least like told the right story. the other part of it that I think took some time, and was very important is just being opinionated about the work. I think I had this habit, of just sort of coming in with like a menu of solutions and being like, what do you think?

Yeah. You want to pick one? and at Instagram in general, at Facebook, like they're very good at, uh, not letting you take that decision, off of your plate and put it onto them. so if you come in and you don't have an opinion on what's right, they'll just tell you to come back when you think you know what the right thing to do is and you have to come back and present why this is the right thing to do.

Or what are you going to do to, like, to build confidence in your opinion? Mm

[00:07:11] Getting buy-in for your ideas

Ridd: Okay. I want to talk more about this, so I'm gonna toss a hypothetical for you. Let's say that maybe you do have some level of like a data insight. There's something real or an opportunity and. You have like your shower thought, you have some kind of an idea that you're so excited about. You're like, I think I, I, you have some kind of a direction to run with in this problem space. Can you walk us through some of those tangible next steps that you would take to get other people in the org energized about this idea? Like practically you open up your laptop on a Monday morning. What are you doing with this little nugget of an idea?

Rich: At least very often for me, it was, it wasn't very often that I would start with, like, that I would just like come up with like the idea, a lot of times it would, the, the, like the aha moment for me would actually be less the idea and more, this sounds like ridiculous to say, but even just like getting your hands around what the problem is, like in a way that feels tangible.

So as a, as an example, for the bulk of the time that I was in IC at the company, I worked on stories consumption. So basically the viewer side of watching stories. during that whole time, the thing we're trying to drive is getting people to watch more stories. that's not a problem you can solve.

Like, I can't solve, make people watch more stories because there's no, there's nothing that compels them to do it. You need to understand why are they not watching stories. And once you understand why, at that point the problem actually becomes pretty easy to solve. Like, the solution becomes quite clear.

but you spent, like, we spent like the bulk of the time trying to dig into exactly what the issue is. so as a, as a tangible example, like, there was a project we worked on where we thought the issue, um, was that the stories were too long and then people weren't able, like they were losing interest or whatever. and it wasn't until later that we realized that the issue in reality was that even though they have lots of stories available to them, their closest friends weren't posting them.

And the reality is like, that's the only person's story you're interested in. And so once you realize that's the problem and the solution becomes a lot clearer, like the solution is like, we need to get people's friends to post more, uh, and that could be something like, close friends could be a solution for that, you know, something where you limit the audience or whatever.

and at that point the process becomes okay, like we have the solution, we have the problem, you start designing it, you probably get it into origami at some point. present in a design crit, and then at some point you'll take it to a design review. And that's usually the big barrier you need to cross, um, at least at Instagram, like design reviews are pretty hard, so if you can get buy in from the design leadership, the rest of the approvals start to flow more easily, and then you'll move into like, you know, probably research or, or, or testing from there.

Ridd: Is there just like this graveyard of pretty interesting ideas that never shipped because they didn't make it through that

Rich: Oh, yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Especially at IG, like my joke was always it's significantly harder to test things there than it is any other place I've ever worked. once you get to a test, you have to be pretty confident you have at least something pretty tangible to hold on to.

So a lot of ideas like die before they even get to that because you know, the story is not there or the research isn't there, I think you have to be very thoughtful about, what you introduce to people, because you, you know, you exist in people's lives in a way that's, potentially very sensitive, and so you have to be very thoughtful about, what you're actually getting out there, which means You often end up erring on the side of, safety, and a lot of stuff ends up sitting in Figma files.

There are times where, people in tech have the ability to delude themselves into thinking that people want something that they don't actually want because. It would be better for you if you shipped it. in those situations, at least Instagram in particular was a very, like, or is, principled, uh, company when it comes to decision making.

And so there were lots of projects where, like I sat on the review board for, this, like, review process for basically any changes for home and profile and stories. And there is like a bunch of work that would come through there that would, I principally disagree with. And I think very often when I came up, those projects just stopped or we were able to turn them into something else.

but you know, like we have things, for example, like there were projects that came through through Facebook where, people were floating the idea of being able to expand, like if you post a story, having it expand the audience to maybe include Facebook people. those ideas were, were stopped, but, like, the reason why we were able to stop them is because you could talk yourself into just testing it and seeing what will happen, but, like, sure, the number will go up, and, uh, it's the kind of thing where if you screw this up, you know, one time out of a hundred thousand, like, you could, you could permanently screw up someone's life, You could, like, ruin someone's relationship with their family, their family, their, their, like, their spouse, whatever.

It's, inappropriate to, like, be irresponsible with it. So it's always, like, we were always very thoughtful about saying, you have to justify this as a thing that people actually want and will improve the product for them in a way that is thoughtful and not just trying to juice a number.

Ridd: Yeah, I like that. It puts an emphasis on having real vision rather than almost using testing as a crutch to kind of incrementally get there.

Rich: I mean, you'll, you know, it, when you see that every designer can open products and you'll see them and you'll say like, this is a product that is just the sum of 10, 000 tests that did like a 10 percent better than the alternative and nobody, nobody likes it, nobody actually enjoys the thing, but it's just optimized to, to take advantage of your dopamine receptors, you know,

Ridd: I want to talk more about that. I'm going to hold it just for a few questions. Cause I want to kind of zoom out a little broader, uh, consumer social landscape. But I do have a specific question about early. Instagram stories, because it's kind of this interesting use case where obviously Snapchat had stories and it was freaking working like people liked stories.

[00:07:11] Getting buy-in for your ideas

Ridd: Okay. I want to talk more about this, so I'm gonna toss a hypothetical for you. Let's say that maybe you do have some level of like a data insight. There's something real or an opportunity and. You have like your shower thought, you have some kind of an idea that you're so excited about. You're like, I think I, I, you have some kind of a direction to run with in this problem space. Can you walk us through some of those tangible next steps that you would take to get other people in the org energized about this idea? Like practically you open up your laptop on a Monday morning. What are you doing with this little nugget of an idea?

Rich: At least very often for me, it was, it wasn't very often that I would start with, like, that I would just like come up with like the idea, a lot of times it would, the, the, like the aha moment for me would actually be less the idea and more, this sounds like ridiculous to say, but even just like getting your hands around what the problem is, like in a way that feels tangible.

So as a, as an example, for the bulk of the time that I was in IC at the company, I worked on stories consumption. So basically the viewer side of watching stories. during that whole time, the thing we're trying to drive is getting people to watch more stories. that's not a problem you can solve.

Like, I can't solve, make people watch more stories because there's no, there's nothing that compels them to do it. You need to understand why are they not watching stories. And once you understand why, at that point the problem actually becomes pretty easy to solve. Like, the solution becomes quite clear.

but you spent, like, we spent like the bulk of the time trying to dig into exactly what the issue is. so as a, as a tangible example, like, there was a project we worked on where we thought the issue, um, was that the stories were too long and then people weren't able, like they were losing interest or whatever. and it wasn't until later that we realized that the issue in reality was that even though they have lots of stories available to them, their closest friends weren't posting them.

And the reality is like, that's the only person's story you're interested in. And so once you realize that's the problem and the solution becomes a lot clearer, like the solution is like, we need to get people's friends to post more, uh, and that could be something like, close friends could be a solution for that, you know, something where you limit the audience or whatever.

and at that point the process becomes okay, like we have the solution, we have the problem, you start designing it, you probably get it into origami at some point. present in a design crit, and then at some point you'll take it to a design review. And that's usually the big barrier you need to cross, um, at least at Instagram, like design reviews are pretty hard, so if you can get buy in from the design leadership, the rest of the approvals start to flow more easily, and then you'll move into like, you know, probably research or, or, or testing from there.

Ridd: Is there just like this graveyard of pretty interesting ideas that never shipped because they didn't make it through that

Rich: Oh, yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Especially at IG, like my joke was always it's significantly harder to test things there than it is any other place I've ever worked. once you get to a test, you have to be pretty confident you have at least something pretty tangible to hold on to.

So a lot of ideas like die before they even get to that because you know, the story is not there or the research isn't there, I think you have to be very thoughtful about, what you introduce to people, because you, you know, you exist in people's lives in a way that's, potentially very sensitive, and so you have to be very thoughtful about, what you're actually getting out there, which means You often end up erring on the side of, safety, and a lot of stuff ends up sitting in Figma files.

There are times where, people in tech have the ability to delude themselves into thinking that people want something that they don't actually want because. It would be better for you if you shipped it. in those situations, at least Instagram in particular was a very, like, or is, principled, uh, company when it comes to decision making.

And so there were lots of projects where, like I sat on the review board for, this, like, review process for basically any changes for home and profile and stories. And there is like a bunch of work that would come through there that would, I principally disagree with. And I think very often when I came up, those projects just stopped or we were able to turn them into something else.

but you know, like we have things, for example, like there were projects that came through through Facebook where, people were floating the idea of being able to expand, like if you post a story, having it expand the audience to maybe include Facebook people. those ideas were, were stopped, but, like, the reason why we were able to stop them is because you could talk yourself into just testing it and seeing what will happen, but, like, sure, the number will go up, and, uh, it's the kind of thing where if you screw this up, you know, one time out of a hundred thousand, like, you could, you could permanently screw up someone's life, You could, like, ruin someone's relationship with their family, their family, their, their, like, their spouse, whatever.

It's, inappropriate to, like, be irresponsible with it. So it's always, like, we were always very thoughtful about saying, you have to justify this as a thing that people actually want and will improve the product for them in a way that is thoughtful and not just trying to juice a number.

Ridd: Yeah, I like that. It puts an emphasis on having real vision rather than almost using testing as a crutch to kind of incrementally get there.

Rich: I mean, you'll, you know, it, when you see that every designer can open products and you'll see them and you'll say like, this is a product that is just the sum of 10, 000 tests that did like a 10 percent better than the alternative and nobody, nobody likes it, nobody actually enjoys the thing, but it's just optimized to, to take advantage of your dopamine receptors, you know,

Ridd: I want to talk more about that. I'm going to hold it just for a few questions. Cause I want to kind of zoom out a little broader, uh, consumer social landscape. But I do have a specific question about early. Instagram stories, because it's kind of this interesting use case where obviously Snapchat had stories and it was freaking working like people liked stories.

[00:12:43] The early days of designing IG Stories

Ridd: I mean, you knew that the format was there in many ways. A lot of the core interactions had been validated. So my question is as a design team, how did you think about or identify the right product surface areas to innovate?

Rich: That's a question. I think at least from what I recall, like the competitive advantage we felt like we had, at least on the consumer side was For most people, their audience was not on Snapchat, or their friends were not on Snapchat.

For a certain segment of people, they were there, or they used it occasionally. primarily younger people, but like, if you were over the age of, 25 at that point in time, definitely far, far more of your contacts were on Instagram. and so for most people, Instagram Stories was their introduction to the format rather than, than Snap Stories.

the goal basically became like, how do we just get people to post more? Because that's the, that's the harder barrier. Like, how do we get people to under, like, you know, see the value of, this sort of transient content that, like, will disappear? everything else will come afterwards because if you can get people to post, like the fact that like, it's fun to watch them and it's like fun to reply to them and it's fun to get replies, all that becomes self evident.

It's just a matter of, you know, can you start the flywheel of people giving this ecosystem a chance.

[00:12:43] The early days of designing IG Stories

Ridd: I mean, you knew that the format was there in many ways. A lot of the core interactions had been validated. So my question is as a design team, how did you think about or identify the right product surface areas to innovate?

Rich: That's a question. I think at least from what I recall, like the competitive advantage we felt like we had, at least on the consumer side was For most people, their audience was not on Snapchat, or their friends were not on Snapchat.

For a certain segment of people, they were there, or they used it occasionally. primarily younger people, but like, if you were over the age of, 25 at that point in time, definitely far, far more of your contacts were on Instagram. and so for most people, Instagram Stories was their introduction to the format rather than, than Snap Stories.

the goal basically became like, how do we just get people to post more? Because that's the, that's the harder barrier. Like, how do we get people to under, like, you know, see the value of, this sort of transient content that, like, will disappear? everything else will come afterwards because if you can get people to post, like the fact that like, it's fun to watch them and it's like fun to reply to them and it's fun to get replies, all that becomes self evident.

It's just a matter of, you know, can you start the flywheel of people giving this ecosystem a chance.

[00:13:57] Don't let data be the designer

Ridd: Post more is interesting because it's such a clear metric. I think with consumer products, oftentimes you're operating at this scale where there are these like clear activation points where it kind of just does trickle down to a numbers game at the end of the day, and you're trying to move these specific needles.

But then you have this interesting line that I saw you share, which is, uh, the importance of not letting data be the designer.

Rich: Mm hmm.

Ridd: unpack that a little bit and how it shapes your own philosophy as a designer?

Rich: in general as an industry, I think we have a. Bit of a tendency to take a dogmatic approach to data where, , just throw four or five things out there and the one that spits out the biggest number must be better. And I think that's like an abdication of responsibility on our part.

it gives you an excuse not to think, , it's not to say data doesn't have value. Of course it does. Like It will tell you the general area where a problem exists. It may be, and it won't tell you exactly what the problem is, but it will tell you, maybe where the gaps are.

but I think actual innovation requires a bit more thought, , and a bit more of a creative leap to be taken. So, uh, and also I think I just finally found the numbers will Probably like lead you to a, like the kind of product we were talking about before, where it's, it's unopinionated and nobody knows, why they should be using it.

and so with things like, stories or like, honestly, any like consumer social thing where the, the core thing you're actually optimizing for is fun, honestly, you know, you'll use data to, like, get you in the ballpark, but ultimately, like, you kind of just need to, try and get your hands around a problem that feels tangible that you can solve, and then creatively problem solve for it.

Like, you know, do the actual, job that design is actually quite good at. very often, data is not going to actually, by itself, tell you the right answer there.

Ridd: If data doesn't give you the answer, but it shines a light on the general ballpark that you should be looking in, what are some of the strategies that you use to then carve out where specific opportunities might exist?

Rich: I think in general we could probably do a better, concept level research. I think we have a tendency to rely more on usability research, which I think is actually not super useful.

I think most designers know if something's good or not, or if it's working or not. I mean, you can tell. There's like, obviously, like, things on the margins, but you can get in the ballpark just using your intuition on that. Yeah. It's more trying to like deeply understand an issue. in the case of we worked on something at Instagram, uh, which ended up not shipping, but, we tested this group stories concept at the time.

the data told us that people didn't have good inventory, but it didn't How to solve that didn't tell us, uh, you know, what the actual levers of getting people to share more often were, and required us going through the research and understanding, what do people get out of stories?

What's the reason why they don't post, why for people who occasionally use stories, but only post maybe once a month, like what's the, what are the barriers? many people post stories is they only care about it being seen by maybe like five to 10 people.

and they want to have like a conversation around it. So the idea was like, can we basically set up private group stories so that just a group of people can share with each other? that was the, the insight that led us to that, but the data didn't actually tell us like that that was a solution to a problem, but just told us, Hey, there's an issue somewhere here around inventory.

Ridd: I want to return to something else you said too, which is you said actual innovation requires a creative leap, which is. Especially when you do kind of zoom out and look at the landscape of social apps right now, because it kind of feels like every app can do everything because it's so easy to see what's working and then copy it.

And at the end of the day, you're only competing on social graph and that's it. And the result as a consumer is you get a bunch of products that look and feel largely the same. my question is, what do you think it's going to take to design the next breakthrough social app?

Rich: That's a, that's a good question. I actually don't know. I always, uh, I struggle with this quite a bit cause you see, you know, there are companies that get traction and then you're exactly right that the, the graph is the product. And so you have something like be real, which, you know, was a interesting

idea and it's great.

Yeah. It was like, it's, it's a, like, it's, it actually feels like to some degree it feels a little bit like what I, miss about Instagram in a lot of respects. but then, Not enough people post, and then so you post less, and then so you check less, and then you post less, and you end up in this death spiral.

and you see this with a lot, like, you know, Laps did this, I think, a little bit.

Ridd: bring up laps next. Yeah.

Rich: what's the, what was the one, Dispo? Um, the same thing, it's like the, it's ultimately like, the thing you need to differentiate is you need some sort of escape velocity with audience. I guess like TikTok is probably the most recent one that was able to really achieve escape velocity and anything even remotely approaching social.

And you know, you know, that could just be because like it basically landed here with a tremendous audience already. So, even that feels like a little bit of a cheat code. and I guess in that case, like the actual, innovation was just, the algorithm was just very, very good. And the algorithm isn't something you can just.

it's not a, a format, you know, it's a, it's, it's tech. so social in general is a tough place to like create, well, at least like creatively innovate and not be swallowed up. in general, I think the, the, like our industry could do better at more creative innovation, but social in particular is like a very, very difficult space right now.

Ridd: Yeah. I saw a tweet, I think maybe even yesterday from Greg Eisenberg, that was basically calling for the next breakout social app and I, in general, I'm such an optimist. Like, I want to believe that the future is only going to keep getting better. It's difficult to see the path forward in social right now.

It really is. It kind of feels a little bit like there was a heck of a lot of opportunity in the beginning when all of the, the graphs were being laid and now they're kind of cemented and I mean, you're right. Like Dispo. I remember when Dispo came out and it was like going through that onboarding for the first time.

And it's like, man,

Rich: Yeah.

Ridd: so creative, so creative. And you're rooting for it and you want it to succeed. And then it's like six months later, it's like, where did this go?

Rich: I always think about this because, uh, it's, I know this is, I guess, a bit of a less of a thing now, but at least while I was at IG, I felt like this, that was the period of time where Congress was really cracking down on, or attempting to crack down on places like Facebook and things like that for, monopolizing, like social products.

And obviously like I'm sympathetic to that to some degree, but it also feels like it could only be replaced by another monopoly. Nobody wants 10 different networks. Like you kind of just want the one that does the thing that you want it to do. And obviously we'll end up having a couple, but, more so than other, other industries, like, again, because, because the network is the product.

It's very hard to shift the network the the network all always wants to congregate in one place uh, and so Yes, you could always like, you know throw some Restrictions on a facebook or a tiktok or whatever it is But then it will just it'll just pop up on something else and eventually it'll like coalesce around like one product again Just by the nature of what it is

[00:13:57] Don't let data be the designer

Ridd: Post more is interesting because it's such a clear metric. I think with consumer products, oftentimes you're operating at this scale where there are these like clear activation points where it kind of just does trickle down to a numbers game at the end of the day, and you're trying to move these specific needles.

But then you have this interesting line that I saw you share, which is, uh, the importance of not letting data be the designer.

Rich: Mm hmm.

Ridd: unpack that a little bit and how it shapes your own philosophy as a designer?

Rich: in general as an industry, I think we have a. Bit of a tendency to take a dogmatic approach to data where, , just throw four or five things out there and the one that spits out the biggest number must be better. And I think that's like an abdication of responsibility on our part.

it gives you an excuse not to think, , it's not to say data doesn't have value. Of course it does. Like It will tell you the general area where a problem exists. It may be, and it won't tell you exactly what the problem is, but it will tell you, maybe where the gaps are.

but I think actual innovation requires a bit more thought, , and a bit more of a creative leap to be taken. So, uh, and also I think I just finally found the numbers will Probably like lead you to a, like the kind of product we were talking about before, where it's, it's unopinionated and nobody knows, why they should be using it.

and so with things like, stories or like, honestly, any like consumer social thing where the, the core thing you're actually optimizing for is fun, honestly, you know, you'll use data to, like, get you in the ballpark, but ultimately, like, you kind of just need to, try and get your hands around a problem that feels tangible that you can solve, and then creatively problem solve for it.

Like, you know, do the actual, job that design is actually quite good at. very often, data is not going to actually, by itself, tell you the right answer there.

Ridd: If data doesn't give you the answer, but it shines a light on the general ballpark that you should be looking in, what are some of the strategies that you use to then carve out where specific opportunities might exist?

Rich: I think in general we could probably do a better, concept level research. I think we have a tendency to rely more on usability research, which I think is actually not super useful.

I think most designers know if something's good or not, or if it's working or not. I mean, you can tell. There's like, obviously, like, things on the margins, but you can get in the ballpark just using your intuition on that. Yeah. It's more trying to like deeply understand an issue. in the case of we worked on something at Instagram, uh, which ended up not shipping, but, we tested this group stories concept at the time.

the data told us that people didn't have good inventory, but it didn't How to solve that didn't tell us, uh, you know, what the actual levers of getting people to share more often were, and required us going through the research and understanding, what do people get out of stories?

What's the reason why they don't post, why for people who occasionally use stories, but only post maybe once a month, like what's the, what are the barriers? many people post stories is they only care about it being seen by maybe like five to 10 people.

and they want to have like a conversation around it. So the idea was like, can we basically set up private group stories so that just a group of people can share with each other? that was the, the insight that led us to that, but the data didn't actually tell us like that that was a solution to a problem, but just told us, Hey, there's an issue somewhere here around inventory.

Ridd: I want to return to something else you said too, which is you said actual innovation requires a creative leap, which is. Especially when you do kind of zoom out and look at the landscape of social apps right now, because it kind of feels like every app can do everything because it's so easy to see what's working and then copy it.

And at the end of the day, you're only competing on social graph and that's it. And the result as a consumer is you get a bunch of products that look and feel largely the same. my question is, what do you think it's going to take to design the next breakthrough social app?

Rich: That's a, that's a good question. I actually don't know. I always, uh, I struggle with this quite a bit cause you see, you know, there are companies that get traction and then you're exactly right that the, the graph is the product. And so you have something like be real, which, you know, was a interesting

idea and it's great.

Yeah. It was like, it's, it's a, like, it's, it actually feels like to some degree it feels a little bit like what I, miss about Instagram in a lot of respects. but then, Not enough people post, and then so you post less, and then so you check less, and then you post less, and you end up in this death spiral.

and you see this with a lot, like, you know, Laps did this, I think, a little bit.

Ridd: bring up laps next. Yeah.

Rich: what's the, what was the one, Dispo? Um, the same thing, it's like the, it's ultimately like, the thing you need to differentiate is you need some sort of escape velocity with audience. I guess like TikTok is probably the most recent one that was able to really achieve escape velocity and anything even remotely approaching social.

And you know, you know, that could just be because like it basically landed here with a tremendous audience already. So, even that feels like a little bit of a cheat code. and I guess in that case, like the actual, innovation was just, the algorithm was just very, very good. And the algorithm isn't something you can just.

it's not a, a format, you know, it's a, it's, it's tech. so social in general is a tough place to like create, well, at least like creatively innovate and not be swallowed up. in general, I think the, the, like our industry could do better at more creative innovation, but social in particular is like a very, very difficult space right now.

Ridd: Yeah. I saw a tweet, I think maybe even yesterday from Greg Eisenberg, that was basically calling for the next breakout social app and I, in general, I'm such an optimist. Like, I want to believe that the future is only going to keep getting better. It's difficult to see the path forward in social right now.

It really is. It kind of feels a little bit like there was a heck of a lot of opportunity in the beginning when all of the, the graphs were being laid and now they're kind of cemented and I mean, you're right. Like Dispo. I remember when Dispo came out and it was like going through that onboarding for the first time.

And it's like, man,

Rich: Yeah.

Ridd: so creative, so creative. And you're rooting for it and you want it to succeed. And then it's like six months later, it's like, where did this go?

Rich: I always think about this because, uh, it's, I know this is, I guess, a bit of a less of a thing now, but at least while I was at IG, I felt like this, that was the period of time where Congress was really cracking down on, or attempting to crack down on places like Facebook and things like that for, monopolizing, like social products.

And obviously like I'm sympathetic to that to some degree, but it also feels like it could only be replaced by another monopoly. Nobody wants 10 different networks. Like you kind of just want the one that does the thing that you want it to do. And obviously we'll end up having a couple, but, more so than other, other industries, like, again, because, because the network is the product.

It's very hard to shift the network the the network all always wants to congregate in one place uh, and so Yes, you could always like, you know throw some Restrictions on a facebook or a tiktok or whatever it is But then it will just it'll just pop up on something else and eventually it'll like coalesce around like one product again Just by the nature of what it is

[00:20:37] How Rich would build a design team in consumer social today

Ridd: I want to throw another hypothetical your way, which is a little bit of like a David and Goliath, like you mentioned LAPS. That is a product that I've kind of been giving a chance and we'll link it in the show notes. It is really cool. Let's say hypothetically, you accept a role as the head of design at LAPS.

Super early stage, you are tasked with making it something that lasts. What are the qualities of the design culture that you would want to create? And what traits would you be looking for in candidates that you're hiring when you're building this team?

Rich: first of all Shout out to the previous head of design at Laps. I'm very sorry that you lost your job in this scenario to me. You are a better designer than I am. I think, uh, in terms of the, culture, probably like really related to some of the things we've been talking about, this sort of culture of, uh, of like storytelling and narrative and.

being principled and taking big swings like on on creative ideas, I think is what leads to a better product overall. I think that's like the right design culture. in terms of designs role in the company. a company like laps is the perfect stage for this kind of thing.

But you really want to try and make me and set up design. in the role of design, uh, to not just be an arm of product, uh, which I think is what ends up happening in most companies. And once that's set in stone, it's, it's very hard to unwind that. I really think of design really more as a partner team there.

And so that means that like, you know, when product writes a PRD, for example, like you're not handing A designer, a solution, you're handing them a problem, design's job is to go find the solution to it. the ability for design to, stop work that they don't agree with, or that they, they don't think is gonna lead to a better outcome for people.

having that set up initially I think is, is very important. in terms of what I would look for in designers, I think, probably the hardest. Thing I think to teach designers is the, that sort of product thinking, you know, skill and that like creative problem solving skills, the other things like visual design, interaction design, like obviously it's great if you can do it and you want like some baseline competency there, but like I can teach someone good visual design.

I could teach someone origami or whatever. as part of like the Facebook design process, and honestly, I think in most places now, they do like the whiteboard exercise. And far and away, that was always the one that told me the most about whether or not this person would be successful.

[00:20:37] How Rich would build a design team in consumer social today

Ridd: I want to throw another hypothetical your way, which is a little bit of like a David and Goliath, like you mentioned LAPS. That is a product that I've kind of been giving a chance and we'll link it in the show notes. It is really cool. Let's say hypothetically, you accept a role as the head of design at LAPS.

Super early stage, you are tasked with making it something that lasts. What are the qualities of the design culture that you would want to create? And what traits would you be looking for in candidates that you're hiring when you're building this team?

Rich: first of all Shout out to the previous head of design at Laps. I'm very sorry that you lost your job in this scenario to me. You are a better designer than I am. I think, uh, in terms of the, culture, probably like really related to some of the things we've been talking about, this sort of culture of, uh, of like storytelling and narrative and.

being principled and taking big swings like on on creative ideas, I think is what leads to a better product overall. I think that's like the right design culture. in terms of designs role in the company. a company like laps is the perfect stage for this kind of thing.

But you really want to try and make me and set up design. in the role of design, uh, to not just be an arm of product, uh, which I think is what ends up happening in most companies. And once that's set in stone, it's, it's very hard to unwind that. I really think of design really more as a partner team there.

And so that means that like, you know, when product writes a PRD, for example, like you're not handing A designer, a solution, you're handing them a problem, design's job is to go find the solution to it. the ability for design to, stop work that they don't agree with, or that they, they don't think is gonna lead to a better outcome for people.

having that set up initially I think is, is very important. in terms of what I would look for in designers, I think, probably the hardest. Thing I think to teach designers is the, that sort of product thinking, you know, skill and that like creative problem solving skills, the other things like visual design, interaction design, like obviously it's great if you can do it and you want like some baseline competency there, but like I can teach someone good visual design.

I could teach someone origami or whatever. as part of like the Facebook design process, and honestly, I think in most places now, they do like the whiteboard exercise. And far and away, that was always the one that told me the most about whether or not this person would be successful.

[00:22:54] What Rich looks for when evaluating product sense

Ridd: Can I double click on that? What were you looking for in those moments?

Rich: the playbook is a little bit out on that type of test. And so I think, uh, you know, at some point I think schools started teaching to the test. And so you see people now who come in. And they do, you know, they have a process and they build personas and, and they like, uh, had this like very structured idea of what they're going to walk through.

And I never cared about that at all. The only thing I cared about was, upfront that you have the ability to at least come up with some coherent problem for the thing we're trying to solve. I care that your solution is, intentional, that it like speaks to the problem you were solving.

Yeah. And then it's creative. I actually don't care at all that it's good. I care that it's creative and smart. as an example, like I was funny, I was just talking to a friend of mine yesterday, about what her problem solving exercise was at, uh, when she got hired at IJ, the prompt she was given was, design, like, design ATM.

I think if the average person were to walk in and get that prompt, what they would do is say, like, Okay, the problem with an ATM is that, the interface is difficult to use, and so then they just redesign the interface. And you start from the, you know, the place of it's art, it's still a box, it's still a touchscreen, and this is how it looks, and it spits out money like this.

her idea was, actually the hardest part of an ATM is that it sucks finding ATMs. And so her idea was, what if you go into any bodega with a QR code and you just show them the QR code and they give you cash in hand and they get paid on the back end by the bank. which like, listen, is that a great idea in practice?

I don't know. Probably not. Is it harder to find? Is it easier to find a bodega than it is an ATM? Probably not. But it's a very interesting, intentional solution to a problem. And it shows a kind of creativity that. Um, I don't think, like, the average person on the street could, could bring to the table.

Ridd: It says a lot about a candidate and I think there's probably somebody listening to this and they're inspired by this, they want to grow in this area and yet it's like a very wishy washy thing at the end of the day. So maybe you can even. Speak to your own journey a little bit, or any other general advice that you have.

[00:22:54] What Rich looks for when evaluating product sense

Ridd: Can I double click on that? What were you looking for in those moments?

Rich: the playbook is a little bit out on that type of test. And so I think, uh, you know, at some point I think schools started teaching to the test. And so you see people now who come in. And they do, you know, they have a process and they build personas and, and they like, uh, had this like very structured idea of what they're going to walk through.

And I never cared about that at all. The only thing I cared about was, upfront that you have the ability to at least come up with some coherent problem for the thing we're trying to solve. I care that your solution is, intentional, that it like speaks to the problem you were solving.

Yeah. And then it's creative. I actually don't care at all that it's good. I care that it's creative and smart. as an example, like I was funny, I was just talking to a friend of mine yesterday, about what her problem solving exercise was at, uh, when she got hired at IJ, the prompt she was given was, design, like, design ATM.

I think if the average person were to walk in and get that prompt, what they would do is say, like, Okay, the problem with an ATM is that, the interface is difficult to use, and so then they just redesign the interface. And you start from the, you know, the place of it's art, it's still a box, it's still a touchscreen, and this is how it looks, and it spits out money like this.

her idea was, actually the hardest part of an ATM is that it sucks finding ATMs. And so her idea was, what if you go into any bodega with a QR code and you just show them the QR code and they give you cash in hand and they get paid on the back end by the bank. which like, listen, is that a great idea in practice?

I don't know. Probably not. Is it harder to find? Is it easier to find a bodega than it is an ATM? Probably not. But it's a very interesting, intentional solution to a problem. And it shows a kind of creativity that. Um, I don't think, like, the average person on the street could, could bring to the table.

Ridd: It says a lot about a candidate and I think there's probably somebody listening to this and they're inspired by this, they want to grow in this area and yet it's like a very wishy washy thing at the end of the day. So maybe you can even. Speak to your own journey a little bit, or any other general advice that you have.

[00:24:54] Growing the muscle of creative problem solving

Ridd: Like, how do you think designers can grow this muscle of creative problem solving?

Rich: I think we have this tendency to very quickly want to get to a solution. It's like, it's very scary to like work in, in the abstract. but what that often means is that You start with the most tightly constrained idea in your head.

I mean, you just start making that and I think that's how you end up with the safest version of an idea. and so being able to make the abstract part of problem solving somewhat structured and like easy to get your hand around and like hold in your mind. I've always found that very helpful in terms of being able to like, you know, come up with something creative that is maybe not something that would be a, a, you know, Totally apparent to you up front.

I, I mean, I also think like to some degree, like, you know, it just comes with reps, and like the right space to work in, you know, I'm often very critical of things like sprints, but I think they are very good about, in working in that kind of problem area, if you have like an abstract enough problem, then the, the space and like the ask to go do something that.

Is free of the constraints of like, what could we build in two weeks? Or, you know, uh, what, what are the dependencies on it or things like that? I think it's very helpful. so yeah, it's like, to some degree, I think there's a, like, there's a process and, and like, um, uh, there's like a process solution to it, but I think a lot of it is just like getting the reps in and like being in a position to actually try and do that work.

I do think for what it's worth, that is probably like the most important part of the work in general right now. I, I, my sense is that this sort of purely execution focused designer is going to be, less relevant, uh, as time goes on. And so this kind of abstract thinking, I think is going to be the most important skill a designer can have moving forward.

[00:24:54] Growing the muscle of creative problem solving

Ridd: Like, how do you think designers can grow this muscle of creative problem solving?

Rich: I think we have this tendency to very quickly want to get to a solution. It's like, it's very scary to like work in, in the abstract. but what that often means is that You start with the most tightly constrained idea in your head.

I mean, you just start making that and I think that's how you end up with the safest version of an idea. and so being able to make the abstract part of problem solving somewhat structured and like easy to get your hand around and like hold in your mind. I've always found that very helpful in terms of being able to like, you know, come up with something creative that is maybe not something that would be a, a, you know, Totally apparent to you up front.

I, I mean, I also think like to some degree, like, you know, it just comes with reps, and like the right space to work in, you know, I'm often very critical of things like sprints, but I think they are very good about, in working in that kind of problem area, if you have like an abstract enough problem, then the, the space and like the ask to go do something that.

Is free of the constraints of like, what could we build in two weeks? Or, you know, uh, what, what are the dependencies on it or things like that? I think it's very helpful. so yeah, it's like, to some degree, I think there's a, like, there's a process and, and like, um, uh, there's like a process solution to it, but I think a lot of it is just like getting the reps in and like being in a position to actually try and do that work.

I do think for what it's worth, that is probably like the most important part of the work in general right now. I, I, my sense is that this sort of purely execution focused designer is going to be, less relevant, uh, as time goes on. And so this kind of abstract thinking, I think is going to be the most important skill a designer can have moving forward.

[00:26:37] Creative problem solvers vs. execution-focused designers

Ridd: Can you go a little bit deeper on that? What do you mean by execution designer being less relevant moving forward?

Rich: Like if you, if the thing that you're good at is you can pump out ideas, you know, quickly, uh, with like some level of crafting quality, but it's, they're very straightforward ideas. they need a sign up flow. And so you need to pump out, you know, a couple of different forms and, and to map it out, whatever.

very quickly that is going to be commoditized, just by virtue of like, you know, I think Figma is already making this, like, this sort of commoditization a lot more easy. Like, AI at some point, like we'll reach a point where people are able to connect, LLMs to their company's design system.

And then you'll have PMs being able to say, give me a sign up flow. It needs to do X, Y, and Z. And it'll get out, they'll put out something that's pretty close. You know, could you do something? Yes. Maybe something better probably. Yes. But it's probably going to be close enough that it's going to be less important.

being able to own this more. Abstract thinking is, I think, a much more valuable skill and much more difficult skill to develop. But I think it will be the thing that differentiates, thoughtful, creative designers from just like a PM with, with Figma, you know?

Ridd: Not to overuse the cliche thinking outside the box, but I am still kind of subconsciously processing this ATM example. And I think what makes it really interesting is it's almost redrawing Boundaries of the box. And you're right. Like I've been playing with a lot of the different AI tools and like, once you have that box defined, it does feel like a lot of the, at least early ideation work that we're going to be doing is prompt and then select from a list of eight relatively decent options.

And then it on iterate on it super fast. Like I've already done that with some success, even in the last like three weeks, it feels like there's a tipping point where some of these new tools are like, okay, this is getting pretty close. So, yeah, I liked the ATM example because. The real skill is figuring out where do I draw this box to even point to this new wave of tools at, and, and that kind of more abstract level of product strategy is very, very interesting.

[00:26:37] Creative problem solvers vs. execution-focused designers

Ridd: Can you go a little bit deeper on that? What do you mean by execution designer being less relevant moving forward?

Rich: Like if you, if the thing that you're good at is you can pump out ideas, you know, quickly, uh, with like some level of crafting quality, but it's, they're very straightforward ideas. they need a sign up flow. And so you need to pump out, you know, a couple of different forms and, and to map it out, whatever.

very quickly that is going to be commoditized, just by virtue of like, you know, I think Figma is already making this, like, this sort of commoditization a lot more easy. Like, AI at some point, like we'll reach a point where people are able to connect, LLMs to their company's design system.

And then you'll have PMs being able to say, give me a sign up flow. It needs to do X, Y, and Z. And it'll get out, they'll put out something that's pretty close. You know, could you do something? Yes. Maybe something better probably. Yes. But it's probably going to be close enough that it's going to be less important.

being able to own this more. Abstract thinking is, I think, a much more valuable skill and much more difficult skill to develop. But I think it will be the thing that differentiates, thoughtful, creative designers from just like a PM with, with Figma, you know?

Ridd: Not to overuse the cliche thinking outside the box, but I am still kind of subconsciously processing this ATM example. And I think what makes it really interesting is it's almost redrawing Boundaries of the box. And you're right. Like I've been playing with a lot of the different AI tools and like, once you have that box defined, it does feel like a lot of the, at least early ideation work that we're going to be doing is prompt and then select from a list of eight relatively decent options.

And then it on iterate on it super fast. Like I've already done that with some success, even in the last like three weeks, it feels like there's a tipping point where some of these new tools are like, okay, this is getting pretty close. So, yeah, I liked the ATM example because. The real skill is figuring out where do I draw this box to even point to this new wave of tools at, and, and that kind of more abstract level of product strategy is very, very interesting.

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