Design Disruptors (ProductTank NYC) "Product people - Product managers, product designers, UX designers, UX researchers, Business analysts, developers, makers & entrepreneurs February 02 2017 True Design, Disruption, Usability, User-Centric, Ux, Mind the Product Mind the Product Ltd 1163 Design Disruptors ProductTank NYC Product Management 4.652

Design Disruptors (ProductTank NYC)

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Design Disruptors was released by InVision in 2016. The film was created to highlight some of the world’s most influential companies that are putting user centered design first, transforming the way users do everything from hailing a cab or using social media, to banking online, and finding new music.

In January 2017 ProductTank NYC in collaboration with nexTier Innovations and Lifion by ADP, held a special event which included a Design Disruptors film screening and a guest panel discussion about the film and the current state of the product design industry. The panel included six design and management professionals that hail from startups, midsize and large globally known companies, and I had the great pleasure of moderating the discussion.

These six people were:

  • Troy Wood, Founder & Principal Managing Director at nexTier Innovations
  • Jenine Lurie, Founder and Chief Strategist at Disruptive Experience
  • Eric Menzie, Head of Product for the WFS Markets Salesforce CRM at Wells Fargo
  • Daniella Patrick, Innovation Lab Product Manager at Accenture
  • Christopher Fahey, Head of UX at Lifion by ADP
  • John Laberee, Business Development Specialist at InVisionApp, the creators of Design Disruptors.

Initial Thoughts on “Design Disruptors”

Troy begins the discussion by sharing that he thought the film was very good and made many good and salient points, but he adds one by saying that when you have an idea, make sure your idea has value so you don’t end up wasting people’s time. Christopher adds that he found there to be a lot of romanticizing in the film, saying that product management and design can be much grittier than how they appeared in the film. Jenine also agrees, and adds that oftentimes there are nuances between teams in terms of how people lead, manage, and share tasks. She also adds that the energy that goes into the design of a product is the energy that is released.

John from InVision then joins in to understandably defend the film, admitting to the apparent romanticizing but stating that their biggest goal in making the film was to show non-designers the importance of design. Romanticizing is a useful tool in giving people an understandable perspective of something they are unfamiliar with because as John cleverly states, that in many ways, ‘design’ is the heart of the product.

What are the Best Interview Tasks to Figure out if a UX Designer is Right for Your Product?

Christopher starts off by saying that he tends to ask designers if they genuinely care about the product, rather than just being excited to design in general. He states that in order to be a fit for a specific business, you need to know about and care about that particular business and area of expertise.

How Would a Large Organization Tackle This?

Daniella, who is a product manager for Accenture, explains that her company is huge, but is also made up of many small teams. She states that each team would need to consider the needs of the business, the needs of the individual teams, and the needs of their clients, and then decide which team is to hire wich designer.

How do you Feel About Sketch Becoming the new Standard in Product Design?

John expresses his admiration for sketch. He explains that he partly prefers it for certain design tasks because it is easier to learn than other programs such as Photoshop. Chris adds that we are in a “golden age of product design” and there is a plethora of design tools available now, and it is very important to always be learning about new ones as they emerge.

How do you Coordinate Between all the People who have Design Ideas at the Stage Before you Have a UX Person?

Eric Menzie, VP of Product for Wells Fargo, states that it is a different situation at his company. He prefers to use simpler design tools for the speed and simplicity. Also, his team shares a lot of responsibilities, eliminating the need for a specific UX person.

What Should a Junior Designer do to Market Themselves as a Valuable UX Designer?

Eric continues to explain that the most important thing is to listen. It doesn’t matter how good you were at something else if that doesn’t apply to the current product. Troy adds that at his company, he doesn’t hire UX designers; he hires product designers and expects them to understand user experience as well. Product designers at large are best off to have as many skills as possible.

What’s Different Between the top 20% of Designers and the top 1%?

Jenine says that passion, interest, and authenticity are the biggest differentiators. Eric adds that another difference is the ability to step outside of yourself and analyze other perspectives.

What’s the Most Effective way for Product Managers and Designers to Collaborate?

Chris’s favorite method is just whiteboarding together. He says that the sooner you sit down and collaborate, even if it’s just a shallow discussion of ideas, the better off you will be in the long term. He also emphasizes the importance of transparency of the process. John adds that diversity also helps, so everyone, not just designers and product managers, should be collaborating.

What Kinds of Changes or Problems will Define Design Over the Next 3-5 Years?

Chris mentions conversational interfaces as being an interesting future for design. Many designers are now getting more skills in writing, because of voice-based products such as Siri and Alexa. Also, most technology is becoming more robotic, adaptive, and predictive, being able to sense things like gender, age, and fingerprints.

What are the Biggest Conflicts Between UI and UX That You’ve Seen and how Were They Resolved…or not?

Overall, everyone agreed that UI people should be skilled in UX, and vice versa. Conflicts arise from there being a divide between the two areas, and those conflicts are resolved by the designers learning new skills.

In a World Where Disruptions are the Norm, What is the Role of a Product Manager Relative to a Product Designer? Do we need Both?

Chris explains that designers will be more responsible for things like nuances in a visual design, interactions, or brand experience. However, they still need to be mindful of the management side of the project. Product managers, while being equally as important as designers, tend to have more at stake in the company.

Should a Project Manager act More Like a Designer, a Manager, a Salesperson, or a…<Blank>?

Whether you should act more like a designer, manager, marketer or salesperson, everyone agrees that project managers need to be well versed in many business areas, and it largely depends on your team. If you have a very strong designer, than you can focus more on the other areas. The main role of the product manager is to drive the team and product, whether that be through design, management, sales, marketing, or any other area – while keeping in mind the needs of users.