Season 4

|

Episode 11

8 key insights from season 4

Ridd

Founder @ Dive

Feb 22, 2024

Feb 22, 2024

|

23 mins

23 mins

music by Dennis

About this Episode

This episode expands on 8 key insights that I took away from interviewing designers like Soleio, Kevin Twohy, Molly Hellmuth, Soren Iverson, etc.

  1. A unique way to stand out as a design candidate

  2. How to grow as a vision caster

  3. The question every freelancer should ask clients

  4. The curse of knowledge in web design

  5. When systems thinking is most important

  6. Strategies for Figma variables

  7. The Craft Flywheel

  8. How to know which details matter

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Show Notes

Deep Dives

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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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Deep Dives

Get our weekly breakdowns

Free lessons from 👇

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

HC

HC

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

HC

HC

HC

HC

Transcript chapters

[00:00:01] 1 - A unique way to stand out as a candidate

Ridd: It's kind of insane. How many incredible designers got their start at Facebook and Soleil hired a lot of them. So one of my biggest goals going into our interview was to try to figure out what exactly is he looking for when he's interviewing these different candidates. And his answer is unlike anything that I've heard before.

Soleio: it's just figuring out like, what is the time to proficiency? Name a thing you're proficient at. When did you start learning? Something as simple as that, right? Sometimes you'll find slope just in the simple question of like, you're really good at guitar. Like, when did you start playing guitar? You know, just something as basic as that. with new grad hires, I also felt like one of the things I always enjoyed about recruiting within that set is in your final 2 years, they're working on projects, and it sort of provides data points along the way on, like, new skills that they're developing and how they're kind of applying the skills.

, just see how prolific they are. In these new skills, how quickly can they kind of get things made or done? And then ask the question of you know, what are you learning now? Where are you early in the curve? , over the next two years, what do you wish to learn? I found that that's often a consistent heuristic for people who have actually put any thought into it whatsoever. That they're like quick to answer rather than like, let me think of something smart to say. and I think that that's been a reliable signal, it gives you a sense of, like, their appetite for learning.

Ridd: Since hearing him say that I've been asking myself, how can I flip it? How can I strategically communicate the fact that I'm a fast learner? In an interview process. Take this podcast, for example. Previously, there's no way that I would have talked about this experience when I'm presenting myself for a new role. But when I reflect on the last few months, pretty quickly, I realized, man, I've had to go zero to one on a ton of new skills in a short amount of time. So how can I use this experience to point to my Metta abilities to learn new skills quickly? Designers love to talk about how we're people that can wear many different hats. So now my challenge for you. Is to ask yourself, what's a story that you can tell to sell yourself as someone who can figure out how to wear a new hat that you've never worn before more quickly than the average candidate.

Soleio: it's almost as though, one's ability to learn new things. Quickly is like a meta skill in and of itself.

[00:00:01] 1 - A unique way to stand out as a candidate

Ridd: It's kind of insane. How many incredible designers got their start at Facebook and Soleil hired a lot of them. So one of my biggest goals going into our interview was to try to figure out what exactly is he looking for when he's interviewing these different candidates. And his answer is unlike anything that I've heard before.

Soleio: it's just figuring out like, what is the time to proficiency? Name a thing you're proficient at. When did you start learning? Something as simple as that, right? Sometimes you'll find slope just in the simple question of like, you're really good at guitar. Like, when did you start playing guitar? You know, just something as basic as that. with new grad hires, I also felt like one of the things I always enjoyed about recruiting within that set is in your final 2 years, they're working on projects, and it sort of provides data points along the way on, like, new skills that they're developing and how they're kind of applying the skills.

, just see how prolific they are. In these new skills, how quickly can they kind of get things made or done? And then ask the question of you know, what are you learning now? Where are you early in the curve? , over the next two years, what do you wish to learn? I found that that's often a consistent heuristic for people who have actually put any thought into it whatsoever. That they're like quick to answer rather than like, let me think of something smart to say. and I think that that's been a reliable signal, it gives you a sense of, like, their appetite for learning.

Ridd: Since hearing him say that I've been asking myself, how can I flip it? How can I strategically communicate the fact that I'm a fast learner? In an interview process. Take this podcast, for example. Previously, there's no way that I would have talked about this experience when I'm presenting myself for a new role. But when I reflect on the last few months, pretty quickly, I realized, man, I've had to go zero to one on a ton of new skills in a short amount of time. So how can I use this experience to point to my Metta abilities to learn new skills quickly? Designers love to talk about how we're people that can wear many different hats. So now my challenge for you. Is to ask yourself, what's a story that you can tell to sell yourself as someone who can figure out how to wear a new hat that you've never worn before more quickly than the average candidate.

Soleio: it's almost as though, one's ability to learn new things. Quickly is like a meta skill in and of itself.

[00:02:33] 2 - How to grow as a vision caster

Ridd: As designers it's. It's really, really easy to get caught up in near term work. There's always that next quarterly objective, and there's always that next PRD, but one of the best ways to make an impact on your team is to dedicate some chunk of time to step outside of those short run constraints. And to cast vision for where the company might go. A year more from now. So here's soar and Iverson explaining how he used to do that at cash app.

Soren: Using design as a way to paint a picture of the future and help align people towards that. So while you're still doing work on whatever your quarterly objectives are or the sprint that you're currently working on, you need to do that work and you need to do it well. But then I think also really Using PM as a thought partner and then showing them, here's what our product could look like in a year or two years or half a year.

I think showing people that you're thinking strategically about what the product can look like in the future and mapping that back to how it will help the business and how it will help the customer, I think will go a long way in being able to. Kind of insert your influence with a product partner.

Ridd: You probably shouldn't expect that those vision casting designs will ever actually get built. It's probably a pretty good chance that they won't. All you're doing is creating an artifact to orient the team and help them imagine what the future might look like. Even if it's just a Figma prototype that you use one time in the meeting and nobody ever looks at again. Think of it like planting a high fidelity seed of an idea. But you're probably going to have to be a self-starter on this one. It's pretty unlikely that your PM partner is going to send you a PRD titled. Imagine the future. But you got to do it. It's a valuable exercise and it's one of the best parts about being a designer.

When I was talking to the head of product design at Webflow, Kevin Wong, there's a reason. He kept talking about the importance of creating these visual north stars that Webflow could then use to help strategize about where the product might head. Even if they're largely conceptual and there's a pretty good chance that they're never going to translate directly to production work.

Kevin: Yeah. North Star. It's a great term. Basically, , we wanted to have a design, something that looked and felt real, that allowed us to internally align on what it is that we wanted. when we think about like building products, there's like kind of two conversations you can have.

There's what you can do and there's what you want to do. and, and the North Star helps articulate what it is that we want to do. it's a end future state that is, , more idealistic. it, does try to, say, yes, we understand there are constraints, but for one second, if you could suspend disbelief, what is it that we are trying to achieve and strive for?

and it can be aspirational, it should be ambitious and it should be a little bit uncomfortable. and the whole point of it is to serve as a point of reference to anchor ourselves, you know, not just as a design team, but as a company, so that we know, where we're going and that we can always revisit this over time to help us guide and steer, many conversations and decisions that we try to make on a daily basis.

[00:02:33] 2 - How to grow as a vision caster

Ridd: As designers it's. It's really, really easy to get caught up in near term work. There's always that next quarterly objective, and there's always that next PRD, but one of the best ways to make an impact on your team is to dedicate some chunk of time to step outside of those short run constraints. And to cast vision for where the company might go. A year more from now. So here's soar and Iverson explaining how he used to do that at cash app.

Soren: Using design as a way to paint a picture of the future and help align people towards that. So while you're still doing work on whatever your quarterly objectives are or the sprint that you're currently working on, you need to do that work and you need to do it well. But then I think also really Using PM as a thought partner and then showing them, here's what our product could look like in a year or two years or half a year.

I think showing people that you're thinking strategically about what the product can look like in the future and mapping that back to how it will help the business and how it will help the customer, I think will go a long way in being able to. Kind of insert your influence with a product partner.

Ridd: You probably shouldn't expect that those vision casting designs will ever actually get built. It's probably a pretty good chance that they won't. All you're doing is creating an artifact to orient the team and help them imagine what the future might look like. Even if it's just a Figma prototype that you use one time in the meeting and nobody ever looks at again. Think of it like planting a high fidelity seed of an idea. But you're probably going to have to be a self-starter on this one. It's pretty unlikely that your PM partner is going to send you a PRD titled. Imagine the future. But you got to do it. It's a valuable exercise and it's one of the best parts about being a designer.

When I was talking to the head of product design at Webflow, Kevin Wong, there's a reason. He kept talking about the importance of creating these visual north stars that Webflow could then use to help strategize about where the product might head. Even if they're largely conceptual and there's a pretty good chance that they're never going to translate directly to production work.

Kevin: Yeah. North Star. It's a great term. Basically, , we wanted to have a design, something that looked and felt real, that allowed us to internally align on what it is that we wanted. when we think about like building products, there's like kind of two conversations you can have.

There's what you can do and there's what you want to do. and, and the North Star helps articulate what it is that we want to do. it's a end future state that is, , more idealistic. it, does try to, say, yes, we understand there are constraints, but for one second, if you could suspend disbelief, what is it that we are trying to achieve and strive for?

and it can be aspirational, it should be ambitious and it should be a little bit uncomfortable. and the whole point of it is to serve as a point of reference to anchor ourselves, you know, not just as a design team, but as a company, so that we know, where we're going and that we can always revisit this over time to help us guide and steer, many conversations and decisions that we try to make on a daily basis.

[00:05:52] 3 - The question every freelancer should ask their clients

Ridd: Now, if you're interested in freelancing, then episode four of season four with Kevin Tuohy is probably one of the highest time to value pieces of content on the entire internet. It was very, very hard to pick a single highlight. But one of the most practical takeaways from that conversation. Is that Kevin has a question that I think every freelancer should consider asking their next client.

Kevin: another thing that I would ask up front is if this project goes wrong, if it goes off the rails and it's a failure, why do you think that might have happened?

And the answers to that are very, very telling. It might surface things that you weren't even thinking about. Not even concerned about. And you learn that's the client's number one fear. And a lot of times it's something that, Oh, that's not an issue at all. And as I take this project on, I'm always going to have that at the back of my mind.

Client X is really worried about this failure mode. Like it may be that they're worried that as an external vendor, you won't be integrated enough with their team. So I'm going to make sure to be talking to their team all the time.

[00:05:52] 3 - The question every freelancer should ask their clients

Ridd: Now, if you're interested in freelancing, then episode four of season four with Kevin Tuohy is probably one of the highest time to value pieces of content on the entire internet. It was very, very hard to pick a single highlight. But one of the most practical takeaways from that conversation. Is that Kevin has a question that I think every freelancer should consider asking their next client.

Kevin: another thing that I would ask up front is if this project goes wrong, if it goes off the rails and it's a failure, why do you think that might have happened?

And the answers to that are very, very telling. It might surface things that you weren't even thinking about. Not even concerned about. And you learn that's the client's number one fear. And a lot of times it's something that, Oh, that's not an issue at all. And as I take this project on, I'm always going to have that at the back of my mind.

Client X is really worried about this failure mode. Like it may be that they're worried that as an external vendor, you won't be integrated enough with their team. So I'm going to make sure to be talking to their team all the time.

[00:06:52] 4 - The curse of knowledge in web design

Ridd: As designers, we're the only ones with the 10,000 foot view necessary to spot these macro design trends.

And it's the reason that you always see these screenshots on Twitter of people ripping the next linear copycat. But if there's one thing that I took away from episode five, with Tommy Joco it's that novelty is scoped by industry. If you're designing a marketing site for a new supply chain management startup. I think it's pretty safe to say the dark mode with purple gradients and Godrej lighting coming from the top left of the page is going to feel pretty fresh to potential customers. And if we get caught up in designing for other designers and our own personal desire for novelty.

Then we miss out on the opportunity to capitalize. And what we already know is resonating with people. And that's why I so appreciated. Tommy's take.

Tommy: So many people, designers especially, we want to create the new and novel thing. And I used to want to do that all the time some people view, Oh, you know, the linear trend is this big, bad thing, gradients and dark backgrounds you know, and there's so many people who push back on it and I get it, you know, we have all of us as designers have the curse of knowledge because we're seeing this every day, but the majority of the world's not.

, and so the thing is, when we look at what's happening out there, whether it's a visual design trend or , a competitor in the market, Being cynical will prevent us from being able to synthesize the real free learning that's happening right in front of us. We'll say, ah, I'm not even going to explore that.

I want to be new and novel. I'm going to go over here and create the new thing. And I'm like, okay, you have a good time with that. Look at all this free data in front of me right now. There's so much free stuff. Like I can learn this new visual style like that. I can learn how what's working in the marketplace. I don't need some super secret sauce or source to get this data. It's right there in front of me. So let me dissect the heck out of that. And that's what I do now. I am such a proponent of looking at what exists , and making that a core part of , my curiosity.

[00:06:52] 4 - The curse of knowledge in web design

Ridd: As designers, we're the only ones with the 10,000 foot view necessary to spot these macro design trends.

And it's the reason that you always see these screenshots on Twitter of people ripping the next linear copycat. But if there's one thing that I took away from episode five, with Tommy Joco it's that novelty is scoped by industry. If you're designing a marketing site for a new supply chain management startup. I think it's pretty safe to say the dark mode with purple gradients and Godrej lighting coming from the top left of the page is going to feel pretty fresh to potential customers. And if we get caught up in designing for other designers and our own personal desire for novelty.

Then we miss out on the opportunity to capitalize. And what we already know is resonating with people. And that's why I so appreciated. Tommy's take.

Tommy: So many people, designers especially, we want to create the new and novel thing. And I used to want to do that all the time some people view, Oh, you know, the linear trend is this big, bad thing, gradients and dark backgrounds you know, and there's so many people who push back on it and I get it, you know, we have all of us as designers have the curse of knowledge because we're seeing this every day, but the majority of the world's not.

, and so the thing is, when we look at what's happening out there, whether it's a visual design trend or , a competitor in the market, Being cynical will prevent us from being able to synthesize the real free learning that's happening right in front of us. We'll say, ah, I'm not even going to explore that.

I want to be new and novel. I'm going to go over here and create the new thing. And I'm like, okay, you have a good time with that. Look at all this free data in front of me right now. There's so much free stuff. Like I can learn this new visual style like that. I can learn how what's working in the marketplace. I don't need some super secret sauce or source to get this data. It's right there in front of me. So let me dissect the heck out of that. And that's what I do now. I am such a proponent of looking at what exists , and making that a core part of , my curiosity.

[00:08:55] 5 - When systems thinking is most important

Ridd: Systems thinking is one of those things that for years, I would say that I have as a skill and you see it on job descriptions all over the place. But if you would ask me to sit down and articulate what it actually is and when it actually matters. I don't think that I would do a very good job. That is until I had a conversation with real Lou who's one of the O G designers at notion.

Ryo: It's almost like there's two ways of designing, .

One way is you design the system. Ideally, the system has the fewest parts that does the most things you want. , the other way is , you design more, typical SAS companies. Or, where it's like, they have this group of users, this set of problems. You design specific solutions for those problems.

It's like the default mode for a lot of designers when they work on problems is they want to kind of okay, let's focus on this one problem and then make a really really good solution for that. And then we add all the delight and all the crazy craft on top of it. They focus on this thing, they come up with like a, Ideal single model that does everything within that bubble. But I do think for a , more general purpose tool like Notion. One single model doesn't really fit with everyone. It's almost like the only way to do it is with a generalizable system that ideally most people can understand.

Ridd: That last idea is really key systems thinking is most important when you're designing for a really broad set of use cases and jobs to be done.

Take a second to think of your product as a collection of feature blocks.

If you solve each problem in isolation, then you'll end up creating a new feature block for each solution.

And if you're designing a single use tool where it can be a little bit more opinionated, that's totally okay.

Take linear, for example. They're building project management software, but they're doing so around a really opinionated methodology of how good software teams should work.

They bake these opinions into the UI itself, but that's also a big part of what makes the product special.

But other teams are doing the bulk of the project management in notion, which as a product has to count for a seemingly endless amount of other use cases. In addition to all of those project management jobs to be done.

Success isn't even about solving all of the problems at that point.

It's figuring out this higher level product puzzle while using the fewest number of feature blocks possible.

This is systems thinking and it's what makes designing it notion is so special.

Ryo: When Notion started, it was mostly, , system thinking, building the blocks, but then when people kind of click and figure out how to use these building blocks to do the things they want, they fall in love with the tool.

When you're building a product that serves so many different groups of users, so many different use cases, you need to come up with good systems to tie up all this, different people's needs, people's mental models of how their tools work. Different variations of doing, say, project management. But then it's like still kind of built with the same ideas, primitives, building blocks.

You can't build single purpose features in Notion and try to slap it on top of it. Because it will make the systems more complex.

[00:08:55] 5 - When systems thinking is most important

Ridd: Systems thinking is one of those things that for years, I would say that I have as a skill and you see it on job descriptions all over the place. But if you would ask me to sit down and articulate what it actually is and when it actually matters. I don't think that I would do a very good job. That is until I had a conversation with real Lou who's one of the O G designers at notion.

Ryo: It's almost like there's two ways of designing, .

One way is you design the system. Ideally, the system has the fewest parts that does the most things you want. , the other way is , you design more, typical SAS companies. Or, where it's like, they have this group of users, this set of problems. You design specific solutions for those problems.

It's like the default mode for a lot of designers when they work on problems is they want to kind of okay, let's focus on this one problem and then make a really really good solution for that. And then we add all the delight and all the crazy craft on top of it. They focus on this thing, they come up with like a, Ideal single model that does everything within that bubble. But I do think for a , more general purpose tool like Notion. One single model doesn't really fit with everyone. It's almost like the only way to do it is with a generalizable system that ideally most people can understand.

Ridd: That last idea is really key systems thinking is most important when you're designing for a really broad set of use cases and jobs to be done.

Take a second to think of your product as a collection of feature blocks.

If you solve each problem in isolation, then you'll end up creating a new feature block for each solution.

And if you're designing a single use tool where it can be a little bit more opinionated, that's totally okay.

Take linear, for example. They're building project management software, but they're doing so around a really opinionated methodology of how good software teams should work.

They bake these opinions into the UI itself, but that's also a big part of what makes the product special.

But other teams are doing the bulk of the project management in notion, which as a product has to count for a seemingly endless amount of other use cases. In addition to all of those project management jobs to be done.

Success isn't even about solving all of the problems at that point.

It's figuring out this higher level product puzzle while using the fewest number of feature blocks possible.

This is systems thinking and it's what makes designing it notion is so special.

Ryo: When Notion started, it was mostly, , system thinking, building the blocks, but then when people kind of click and figure out how to use these building blocks to do the things they want, they fall in love with the tool.

When you're building a product that serves so many different groups of users, so many different use cases, you need to come up with good systems to tie up all this, different people's needs, people's mental models of how their tools work. Different variations of doing, say, project management. But then it's like still kind of built with the same ideas, primitives, building blocks.

You can't build single purpose features in Notion and try to slap it on top of it. Because it will make the systems more complex.

[00:12:17] 6 - Strategies for Figma variables

Ridd: For this next one, I wanted to get a little bit nerdy in Figma and talk about different strategies that we can use when adopting variables. So I asked Molly Helmuth, the creator of UI prep. What's the thing that we're doing in Figma right now that we might regret six months down the road because there's going to be something

Every time, Figma releases a blockbuster feature designers go crazy. Right. We try to find ways to take it to the extreme and how we can use it in absolutely every part of our workflow. But the reality is that V1 of that feature is pretty half-baked to start. The trap that we fall into is wanting to create all of these hacky ways to extend the new feature.

Molly: I often remind my students, like, hey, remember base components? And when we thought making a button with, a hundred variants was like a really cool idea.

And then like a few months later, it wasn't. I think that's going to be a similar case here. Hopefully not as extreme because the base components were a little painful to undo. , but at the time they were the best practice given that first wave of the feature sets for our new components and how we were building them.

So at the time it did make sense, but we were using an incomplete feature and I think that we're I guess variables are incomplete in terms of they don't even have, , text variables or images or gradients or all the categories, but even just the best practices for how to use the variables that we do have really haven't been established.

If you look online for a good guides on them, there's not much to be honest because we're all still kind of waiting for those, you know, that second, main, third wave to drop on how we're going to use these a little bit differently, how we're going to like add to them.

Ridd: I think the biggest way that my personal approach to using Figma has evolved over the last few years. Is that I'm not as gung-ho to adopt all of the new features. I don't get me wrong. I am still very quick to tinker and to explore. And I've already learned so many tactics that pointed just how powerful variables can be in our UI kits and prototyping. But when it comes to overhauling, my company's Figma org. I'm a lot more patient these days.

Because I felt that pain of having to undo. Bay's components or deconstruct these super components and rely less on different properties. So now my strategy for adopting new Figma features is that slow is smooth and smooth is fast

Molly: So I think it's important to start exploring and experimenting early, but maybe Adopt a bit slowly, and just be really cautious. Start experimenting, see what's possible, have some practice projects.

Think about what might be possible, and like how the current features might serve your team, , long term. But maybe don't apply them just yet, maybe apply them in small stages, in small steps, or just in like ways that feel safe.

What's the small little 20 percent of this feature that's going to provide you like 80 percent of the value? And just start there and see how it goes versus trying to adopt everything at once.

[00:12:17] 6 - Strategies for Figma variables

Ridd: For this next one, I wanted to get a little bit nerdy in Figma and talk about different strategies that we can use when adopting variables. So I asked Molly Helmuth, the creator of UI prep. What's the thing that we're doing in Figma right now that we might regret six months down the road because there's going to be something

Every time, Figma releases a blockbuster feature designers go crazy. Right. We try to find ways to take it to the extreme and how we can use it in absolutely every part of our workflow. But the reality is that V1 of that feature is pretty half-baked to start. The trap that we fall into is wanting to create all of these hacky ways to extend the new feature.

Molly: I often remind my students, like, hey, remember base components? And when we thought making a button with, a hundred variants was like a really cool idea.

And then like a few months later, it wasn't. I think that's going to be a similar case here. Hopefully not as extreme because the base components were a little painful to undo. , but at the time they were the best practice given that first wave of the feature sets for our new components and how we were building them.

So at the time it did make sense, but we were using an incomplete feature and I think that we're I guess variables are incomplete in terms of they don't even have, , text variables or images or gradients or all the categories, but even just the best practices for how to use the variables that we do have really haven't been established.

If you look online for a good guides on them, there's not much to be honest because we're all still kind of waiting for those, you know, that second, main, third wave to drop on how we're going to use these a little bit differently, how we're going to like add to them.

Ridd: I think the biggest way that my personal approach to using Figma has evolved over the last few years. Is that I'm not as gung-ho to adopt all of the new features. I don't get me wrong. I am still very quick to tinker and to explore. And I've already learned so many tactics that pointed just how powerful variables can be in our UI kits and prototyping. But when it comes to overhauling, my company's Figma org. I'm a lot more patient these days.

Because I felt that pain of having to undo. Bay's components or deconstruct these super components and rely less on different properties. So now my strategy for adopting new Figma features is that slow is smooth and smooth is fast

Molly: So I think it's important to start exploring and experimenting early, but maybe Adopt a bit slowly, and just be really cautious. Start experimenting, see what's possible, have some practice projects.

Think about what might be possible, and like how the current features might serve your team, , long term. But maybe don't apply them just yet, maybe apply them in small stages, in small steps, or just in like ways that feel safe.

What's the small little 20 percent of this feature that's going to provide you like 80 percent of the value? And just start there and see how it goes versus trying to adopt everything at once.

[00:15:15] 7 - The craft flywheel

Ridd: Take a second to think about the design teams that you associate with exceptional craft. I'm talking about the linears, the browser companies for cells stripes. The more that I talked to people on these teams. The more that I'm realizing a pattern they all have dedicated design engineers on their team. And that's why Derek Briggs made it a requirement. When he took over the director of design role at clerk.

Derek: with Clerc, I told them that we have to have a UI engineering team.

If you're going to bring the level of talent that I expect on this team, you have to have folks to be able to write the code. Otherwise, the designs are only ever going to be that good in Figma. UI engineer and watch them level each other up. I say all the time that the users never see the Figma files, like your design quality and your design capabilities of your team is only as good as the UI engineers that are implementing it.

Ridd: Now a critic might point and say, well, yeah, but you have to hire this extra person in order to achieve that level of Polish. So it's really going to make good business sense because you have to spend more per feature that you ship. And maybe I used to fall in that camp, but I'm starting to see how investing heavily in craft can be high ROI for the business. I opening up roles for dedicated UI engineers. You're going to end up attracting the best designers because they get to work directly with people that will guarantee their designs look epic in production. And if you attract the best designers like Derek was able to with James MacDonald, Then in turn, you're going to end up attracting the top UI engineers because they crave these really intricate front end details. They're going to challenge them and cause them to take a deeper level of pride in their work. And when you put these two together, then it fundamentally changes the way that design and engineering work.

Derek: So before it was a designer works with a product engineer and a non technical designer struggles to communicate with a product engineer because they don't understand what to say for them to understand, like an implementation strategy and code. But now you have this translator in the in between that the designers working closely with UI engineer and watching the designs come to life.

And then you have a UI engineer that takes their vision. Together and implements that and then works with the product engineer who's working on the API side of things to communicate everything that they're needing because they're very familiar with the API handoff and the state layer and now you have someone who can translate that

you have a whole lot less back and forth between the engineering and design. There's a lot less throwing over the wall because you have UI engineers that care a lot about making those pixel perfect Figma mock ups come to life And then you have designers who are less concerned about the translation process and having to Hey, will you move that one pixel?

like this is this is off a little bit because they're communicating to people that care

Ridd: I was chatting with my engineering friend the other day. And he was talking about how he really, really wanted to land a role at either the browser company or linear. And there's really two reasons for that. The first is that their bar for execution is so incredibly high. And that creates this level of pride that you see them taking their work. That honestly, you don't really see that often. But the second reason that he wanted to work for these types of companies was that in his mind, this was his ticket to ensure that he was surrounding himself with the best builders on the internet. And this is the start for why companies placing a greater emphasis on craft can end up being really high ROI, even outside of any market factors. Because a culture of craft is how you attract a really skilled senior team. And that leads to greater autonomy, which then means you need less process to operate. In the interview. When I asked Derek about the culture that he was trying to create at the clerk design team, he talked about how he was going to have fewer rounds of feedback as a part of the core design process. People are simply trusted to do the job well on their own. And that's a big part of why you see far fewer PMs at these types of companies. It's not as necessary when you have super senior people. And that's why you see a lot of designers and engineers leading projects instead. So zooming out, this idea is what I'm calling the craft flywheel. When a company decides that they're going to hire dedicated design engineers and take craft seriously. They're able to attract people who are very good at their jobs. Which allows them to feel comfortable, giving them greater level of autonomy, which then eliminates a lot of the process overhead that bogs down way too many software companies today. All of this together contributes towards overall velocity, which in turn drives down the cost of each new feature that you ship.

[00:15:15] 7 - The craft flywheel

Ridd: Take a second to think about the design teams that you associate with exceptional craft. I'm talking about the linears, the browser companies for cells stripes. The more that I talked to people on these teams. The more that I'm realizing a pattern they all have dedicated design engineers on their team. And that's why Derek Briggs made it a requirement. When he took over the director of design role at clerk.

Derek: with Clerc, I told them that we have to have a UI engineering team.

If you're going to bring the level of talent that I expect on this team, you have to have folks to be able to write the code. Otherwise, the designs are only ever going to be that good in Figma. UI engineer and watch them level each other up. I say all the time that the users never see the Figma files, like your design quality and your design capabilities of your team is only as good as the UI engineers that are implementing it.

Ridd: Now a critic might point and say, well, yeah, but you have to hire this extra person in order to achieve that level of Polish. So it's really going to make good business sense because you have to spend more per feature that you ship. And maybe I used to fall in that camp, but I'm starting to see how investing heavily in craft can be high ROI for the business. I opening up roles for dedicated UI engineers. You're going to end up attracting the best designers because they get to work directly with people that will guarantee their designs look epic in production. And if you attract the best designers like Derek was able to with James MacDonald, Then in turn, you're going to end up attracting the top UI engineers because they crave these really intricate front end details. They're going to challenge them and cause them to take a deeper level of pride in their work. And when you put these two together, then it fundamentally changes the way that design and engineering work.

Derek: So before it was a designer works with a product engineer and a non technical designer struggles to communicate with a product engineer because they don't understand what to say for them to understand, like an implementation strategy and code. But now you have this translator in the in between that the designers working closely with UI engineer and watching the designs come to life.

And then you have a UI engineer that takes their vision. Together and implements that and then works with the product engineer who's working on the API side of things to communicate everything that they're needing because they're very familiar with the API handoff and the state layer and now you have someone who can translate that

you have a whole lot less back and forth between the engineering and design. There's a lot less throwing over the wall because you have UI engineers that care a lot about making those pixel perfect Figma mock ups come to life And then you have designers who are less concerned about the translation process and having to Hey, will you move that one pixel?

like this is this is off a little bit because they're communicating to people that care

Ridd: I was chatting with my engineering friend the other day. And he was talking about how he really, really wanted to land a role at either the browser company or linear. And there's really two reasons for that. The first is that their bar for execution is so incredibly high. And that creates this level of pride that you see them taking their work. That honestly, you don't really see that often. But the second reason that he wanted to work for these types of companies was that in his mind, this was his ticket to ensure that he was surrounding himself with the best builders on the internet. And this is the start for why companies placing a greater emphasis on craft can end up being really high ROI, even outside of any market factors. Because a culture of craft is how you attract a really skilled senior team. And that leads to greater autonomy, which then means you need less process to operate. In the interview. When I asked Derek about the culture that he was trying to create at the clerk design team, he talked about how he was going to have fewer rounds of feedback as a part of the core design process. People are simply trusted to do the job well on their own. And that's a big part of why you see far fewer PMs at these types of companies. It's not as necessary when you have super senior people. And that's why you see a lot of designers and engineers leading projects instead. So zooming out, this idea is what I'm calling the craft flywheel. When a company decides that they're going to hire dedicated design engineers and take craft seriously. They're able to attract people who are very good at their jobs. Which allows them to feel comfortable, giving them greater level of autonomy, which then eliminates a lot of the process overhead that bogs down way too many software companies today. All of this together contributes towards overall velocity, which in turn drives down the cost of each new feature that you ship.

[00:20:06] 8 - How to know which details matter

Ridd: When you have designers and front end engineers who care deeply about the work that they produce and are excited to sweat the details, you're able to achieve a level of quality. That few teams can. But you gotta be careful. Because it is way too easy to fall into the trap of chasing down details. That simply don't matter. And that's why I asked the layout. When does it make sense for companies to invest in craft?

Soleio: The details matter in the work that you produce, but not all details are created equally. And sometimes it's easy to fall into the trap of of chasing down details that just don't really matter. , they operate on the margins and, I do think that, 1 of the things that is key is understanding how, , a lack of craft can work against you.

Right, where it's like, , the soup tastes funny. , or the software feels a little janky, , feels clumsy, right? That to me is different than say, Oh, we're gonna make sure that the sheen does all the right things, and that, you know, this time of day, the lighting goes over here, it's like, nobody's gonna notice or care about that.

And if they do, you know what? Maybe you are much for the long term success. You can care about these things. I used to joke about that all the time at early Facebook. I was like, you know what? We do our jobs quickly. We'll be hiring people who will be sweating, you know, these little curves on these little icons.

So we teams that are staffed just to work on icons, right? Instead of us kind of doing it at the 11th hour whilst also dealing with a bunch of other stuff that's on our plate. In these instances, yeah, like , that craft really comes through in terms of like the perceived quality of the product. But that's a, luxury that you don't typically have as a startup.

, but at the end of the day, you need to hone your craft around where the concentration of utility lies. For user, , and sometimes the answer to that question, like, where's the utility light that may produce answers that are counterintuitive or that, , may have little to do with the visual UI. But perhaps more to do with like the perceived speed, right?

, sometimes craft means rolling up your sleeves as I did and getting really familiar with quirky, weird and obscure IE bugs so that all the JavaScript jujitsu worked really well on a browser that nobody used in the States,

all those details really came through where it mattered, where, like, the differentiator is extremely high. And, that I think is important for startups to be able to balance, which is, , what is the strategic import? If craft is necessary for you to be 10x better than the alternative, so be it, right?

, but make sure that that's the right bet to be making because the opportunity costs are highest. At the earliest stages of a business.

[00:20:06] 8 - How to know which details matter

Ridd: When you have designers and front end engineers who care deeply about the work that they produce and are excited to sweat the details, you're able to achieve a level of quality. That few teams can. But you gotta be careful. Because it is way too easy to fall into the trap of chasing down details. That simply don't matter. And that's why I asked the layout. When does it make sense for companies to invest in craft?

Soleio: The details matter in the work that you produce, but not all details are created equally. And sometimes it's easy to fall into the trap of of chasing down details that just don't really matter. , they operate on the margins and, I do think that, 1 of the things that is key is understanding how, , a lack of craft can work against you.

Right, where it's like, , the soup tastes funny. , or the software feels a little janky, , feels clumsy, right? That to me is different than say, Oh, we're gonna make sure that the sheen does all the right things, and that, you know, this time of day, the lighting goes over here, it's like, nobody's gonna notice or care about that.

And if they do, you know what? Maybe you are much for the long term success. You can care about these things. I used to joke about that all the time at early Facebook. I was like, you know what? We do our jobs quickly. We'll be hiring people who will be sweating, you know, these little curves on these little icons.

So we teams that are staffed just to work on icons, right? Instead of us kind of doing it at the 11th hour whilst also dealing with a bunch of other stuff that's on our plate. In these instances, yeah, like , that craft really comes through in terms of like the perceived quality of the product. But that's a, luxury that you don't typically have as a startup.

, but at the end of the day, you need to hone your craft around where the concentration of utility lies. For user, , and sometimes the answer to that question, like, where's the utility light that may produce answers that are counterintuitive or that, , may have little to do with the visual UI. But perhaps more to do with like the perceived speed, right?

, sometimes craft means rolling up your sleeves as I did and getting really familiar with quirky, weird and obscure IE bugs so that all the JavaScript jujitsu worked really well on a browser that nobody used in the States,

all those details really came through where it mattered, where, like, the differentiator is extremely high. And, that I think is important for startups to be able to balance, which is, , what is the strategic import? If craft is necessary for you to be 10x better than the alternative, so be it, right?

, but make sure that that's the right bet to be making because the opportunity costs are highest. At the earliest stages of a business.

[00:22:59] Closing

Ridd: That's it for season four. I hope that you're learning as much as I am in these conversations. And honestly, I just cannot wait for you to see who we have on the schedule coming up next. It is going to be epic and I will see you there.

[00:22:59] Closing

Ridd: That's it for season four. I hope that you're learning as much as I am in these conversations. And honestly, I just cannot wait for you to see who we have on the schedule coming up next. It is going to be epic and I will see you there.

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