As a designer, feedback from people outside my direct team helps expand ideas and challenge groupthink. It’s essential for building diversity in to the core of what we create. It helps build bridges and discover allies across large and mysterious teams. It’s one of the biggest culture shapers I know, and it applies to much more than design. But let’s be real, opening up for critique can be daunting.

Picture of two people in motion looking at spreads and logo iterations.
Picture of two people in motion looking at spreads and logo iterations. Credit: Brands&People via Unsplash

Ask for it

The best way to pressure test decisions and gut check work is to share it early and often with trusted peers. …

Intentionality with team culture will directly impact customer experience. It can even get us to the moon and back.

Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin walks on the surface of the moon on July 20, 1969, in a photograph taken by Neil Armstrong.
Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin walks on the surface of the moon on July 20, 1969, in a photograph taken by Neil Armstrong. Credit: History in HD via Unsplash

Space, the same old frontier

The way your team meshes together will be felt by your user at the end of the day. Whether your user is a child trying to learn online or an astronaut walking on the moon for the first time in human history.

The story of how a man travelled to the moon is captivating, even in the mundane details like how the first lunar spacesuit was designed and constructed. It was only possible through an intense collaboration between engineers, seamstresses and the astronauts themselves. A tireless back and forth was required for elite technical engineers to work together with expert…

Steal ideas, try them, find out what works and check your assumptions at the door. Treat the way you collaborate like a prototype. Find low-cost, low-risk ways to experiment and optimize.

Image of The Basilica of Sagrada Familia in Barcelone, Spain.
Eclecticism in architecture, The Basilica of the Sagrada Família in Barcelona, Spain. Credit: Med EDDARAMI via

What is Eclecticism?

“Eclecticism is a conceptual approach that does not hold rigidly to a single paradigm or set of assumptions, but instead draws upon multiple theories, styles, or ideas to gain complementary insights into a subject, or applies different theories in particular cases. However, this is often without conventions or rules dictating how or which theories were combined.” — Wikipedia

The beauty of Eclecticism is that it trades rules for understanding value in different approaches. It looks at beauty, design, and process and doesn’t ask if certain ideas fit a mold or existing culture. It examines the benefits of what’s different. It…

In order to find true, unbiased insights in your research that result in better products, you cannot work alone. Design research is not successful when it’s owned solely by Design. I’ll walk through how a collaborative design research practice can benefit all stages of research from planning to outcomes.

We’ve come a long way

First, a look backwards. Research has not always been in the designer’s toolkit. According to Dan Formosa, Smart Design co-founder, back in the ’80s there was huge resistance to Design breaking in to the world of direct user interaction. Market research or consumer interaction belonged to Marketing. Renaming it “Design research” was met with resistance from designers who felt it was outside their skills and responsibilities.

Read Formosa’s full interview in Brand Thinking and Other Noble Pursuits by Debbie Millman

Today, design research is often left totally on the plate of the designer. If you’re a design research unicorn, maybe…

Design Thinking is a tool to tackle any problem involving people, their pain, and a brighter future. We put our users first, and let them guide our actions and outcomes. At IBM Kenexa, our product design and support teams collaborated to understand the pain around customer-facing mass communication. Our “users” became our customers and our own internal team as we sought to know what both camps value. Designers are encouraged in IBM to focus on all 6 experiences, with #6 being “Get Support.”

We’ve all had experiences with support teams, whether for better or for worse. Our goal was to…

What does Donald Trump do well? He cuts through the slew of words and plans enveloping the presidential race in an untangle-able mess. He says simple, understandable sentences with obvious kickers like…

I will build a great, great wall on our southern border and I will have Mexico pay for that wall. (watch for yourself)

While in the meantime, Clinton uses massive strings of prepositional phrases like this…

I think we need to go after a company like Johnson Controls that is trying to avoid paying taxes after all of us bailed it out by pretending to sell itself in…

The Rhythm Behind Interaction Design

I’m part of a team that builds responsive enterprise web apps contained in a single suite. You could think of it in terms of Adobe products. Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign are all independent tools that are better together. Our users constantly move between our various products, and because of this, what we build must feel consistent. We’ve arrived at the solution of a pattern library to boost consistency and speed up the way we work. Our pattern library currently breaks down our designs into smaller chunks; buttons, typography, color palette, droplists, etc. …

I’ve been educated in the US, and interned for 3 months in Switzerland. The internship cultivated my design skills and progression just about as much as my time spent setting foundations in school for 4 years. But along with a new level of design sense, time spent in Switzerland brought to light a few key differences between the Swiss view of design and the American sense of the occupation. So often, the Swiss and American views of design and designers seem to be opposed, but can often work beautifully together.

To sum up our differences with line and color

I first realized the big split between how a designer…

Beau Ulrey

I use empathy and good design to help people reach their goals.

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