… And five other de­sign lead­ers of­fer their best ad­vice

Six in­dus­try lead­ers on serv­ing clients, cus­to­muers, and de­sign it­self.

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●MAKE THE COM­PLEX CLEAR BY MARIA GI­U­DICE The VP for ex­pe­ri­ence de­sign at Au­todesk on cre­at­ing busi­ness prod­ucts that pro­duce emo­tional con­nec­tions

En­ter­prise prod­ucts can be so dis­re­spect­ful to the user. The mes­sage is, “You gotta use these prod­ucts, so screw you, suck it up.” There’s this as­sump­tion: “Oh, our prod­ucts are so com­plex, they can’t be sim­pler to use.” It’s all about be­ing se­ri­ous, sta­ble, per­for­mance-driven. Hey, that’s ta­ble stakes! We have this op­por­tu­nity to re­ally think about those prod­ucts in a new way and not hide be­hind the com­plex­ity. Our job is to make the com­plex clear. This is where we need to go.

I grew up in a time when we were just grate­ful if things worked. We live in a world where a whole pop­u­la­tion ex­pects good, fluid ex­pe­ri­ences. This is where con­sumer and en­ter­prise are mesh­ing. We al­ways saw a line be­tween en­ter­prise prod­ucts that were pow­er­ful and con­sumer prod­ucts that were lightweight and emo­tive. There’s a whole

pop­u­la­tion that doesn’t see that. They work at home; they play at work. That’s why I’ve been think­ing about emo­tions and prod­uct de­sign. That con­nec­tion goes way back in the world of phys­i­cal prod­ucts. But emo­tion is still not con­sid­ered much in dig­i­tal prod­ucts. There are ex­cep­tions—Uber shows the tiny cars mov­ing around your phone’s screen. I might hate Uber as a brand, and I know that the in­ter­face isn’t even ac­cu­rately map­ping the cars on my screen, yet it’s so com­fort­ing and de­light­ful to see the lit­tle cars! That’s a prod­uct where peo­ple are con­sid­er­ing hu­man emo­tion.

When we think about de­sign­ing prod­ucts well, the sci­ence be­hind cre­at­ing emo­tional con­nec­tions to our prod­ucts is called an­thro­po­mor­phism. We should be de­sign­ing in­ter­faces as if they were peo­ple. That changes the re­la­tion­ship you have to the prod­uct. With ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence, ma­chine learn­ing, the rise of ro­bots—all these things—the re­la­tion­ship you’re go­ing to have with dig­i­tal de­vices will be less di­rected and more about co-cre­ation. With tra­di­tional prod­ucts right now, we don’t know enough out of the gate, so we give cus­tomers a 10-course meal all at the same time. The more we know about our cus­tomers, the more we

know about what they need next. The ma­chine is go­ing to know so much about you and your be­hav­ior that, rather than you telling the ma­chine what to do, the ma­chine will of­fer up what you should be do­ing.

●THE WORK IS NEVER DONE BY MICHAEL ROCK The co-founder and cre­ative di­rec­tor at de­sign firm 2×4 on learn­ing to love open-end­ed­ness

Crushed in the scrum be­hind the sound­board at Madi­son Square Gar­den, wreathed in smoke (the­atri­cal and oth­er­wise), in the mud­dle of Kanye West’s epic al­bum launch-cum-fash­ion show— an en­gi­neered spec­ta­cle that man­aged to in­ter­weave mul­ti­ple pop cul­ture nar­ra­tives (Bal­main-clad Kar­dashi­ans, Cait­lyn Jen­ner, West’s feud with Tay­lor Swift) with high-fash­ion roy­alty (Anna Win­tour, Carine Roit­feld), ran­dom su­per­stars (50 Cent, Gigi Hadid), and high-con­cept per­for­mance art (Vanessa Beecroft’s refugee-camp-in­spired mis­een-scène), all into one mind-bog­gling ag­glom­er­a­tion—I had an epiphany. And like any good epiphany, mine came punc­tu­ated by a bell.

About 20 min­utes into the mu­si­cal por­tion of Yeezy Sea­son 3, as West

pre­viewed his new al­bum, The Life of Pablo, a fa­mil­iar Macin­tosh alert chime blasted through the mas­sive PA sys­tem. At first it seemed like a ran­dom sound ef­fect, but then it was clear: All 18,000-plus of us crammed into ev­ery inch of the arena— many pay­ing hun­dreds of dol­lars for the honor— were lis­ten­ing to a guy play us some songs from his lap­top … and he just got an e-mail. The seem­ingly un­planned ping lent an un­ex­pected air of intimacy to the ex­pe­ri­ence—as in­ti­mate as any event can be when it’s break­ing In­sta­gram and the New

York Times cov­ers it live on its home page—and un­der­scored the ad hoc qual­ity Beecroft set up with her ragged, tarpaulin-draped sets. West had gath­ered his friends to­gether to ca­su­ally share his lat­est work in progress, with a de­cided em­pha­sis on “in progress.” For months lead­ing up to the event, the artist had opened up his fre­netic process through a stream of Twit­ter post­ings, pub­lic ap­pear­ances, pro­nounce­ments, feuds, ten­ta­tive ti­tles, playlists, cover art, and boot­leg tracks. Col­lab­o­ra­tors were an­nounced and reshuf­fled. En­tire songs were floated, dis­carded, and re­worked. The fi­nal down­load was de­layed, can­celed, then of­fered in mul­ti­ple it­er­a­tions. Tick­ets for the event were an­nounced on­line, then dis­ap­peared en­tirely, then sud­denly went on sale three days in ad­vance.

Although it’s easy to dis­miss this as (a) ge­nius mar­ket­ing or (b) mas­sive dis­or­ga­ni­za­tion, by re­veal­ing the mul­ti­tude of rad­i­cal re­vi­sions and mi­nus­cule tweaks that go into craft­ing each work, West draws his fans (and crit­ics) into his cre­ative process and re­wards close, mul­ti­ple lis­tens while re­in­forc­ing his rep­u­ta­tion as a hy­per­per­fec­tion­ist crafts­man. The blur of in­for­ma­tion and process sur­round­ing the re­lease of The Life of Pablo also sug­gests a shift in the fo­cus from fin­ished ob­ject to some­thing more ephemeral: a de­signed re­la­tion­ship.

It was purely co­in­ci­den­tal—I think; you never know these days—that as West was ar­rang­ing and re­ar­rang­ing the dizzy­ing ar­ray of el­e­ments that would be­come the mor­ph­ing co­her­ence of The

Life of Pablo, the Metropoli­tan Mu­seum of Art was putting the fi­nal touches on its own ex­e­ge­sis on the sub­ject of the “non finito.” Un­fin­ished: Thoughts Left Vis­i­ble, the in­au­gu­ral exhibition of the Met Breuer, the Metropoli­tan Mu­seum of Art out­post ded­i­cated to mod­ern aand con­tem­po­rary aart, opened a few weeks af­ter Yeezy Sea­son 3 but could hhave eas­ily been tt heh setup f or it. The Unfi ni s hed show in­cludes ss even cen­turies of art his­tor­i­cal ex­am­ples—par­tially com­pleted paint­ings, dis­carded sketches, rough stud­ies, and in­ten­tion­ally dis­con­tin­ued works—to of­fer glimpses into artis­tic process and ques­tion the no­tion that art can re­ally ever be done. The exhibition, notes Met cu­ra­tor Sheena Wagstaff, “throws into sharp fo­cus the on­go­ing con­cern of artists about the ‘fin­ished­ness’ of their work, which, in the 20th cen­tury, they co-opt as a rad­i­cal tool that changes our un­der­stand­ing of mod­ernism.”

The Un­fin­ished exhibition pro­poses that un­fin­ished­ness in it­self is a dis­rupter. In­com­ple­tion opens a work and re­veals the al­ways quest­ing cre­ative mind, be­fud­dling our de­sire for sim­ple end­ings. As artists, writ­ers, and de­sign­ers, we can work to dis­guise the fact that our work is never re­ally done, or as West does, co-opt it as a “rad­i­cal tool that changes our un­der­stand­ing.”

That link be­tween in­com­ple­tion and dis­rup­tion is at the heart of a widely cir­cu­lated pre­sen­ta­tion by Kleiner Perkins Cau­field & Byers part­ner John Maeda ti­tled “#De­signInTech Re­port 2016.” On Slide 14, Maeda draws a sharp dis­tinc­tion be­tween what he calls clas­si­cal de­sign and #De­signInTech—read: old­fash­ioned de­sign­ers vs. those who code. He imag­ines the clas­si­cal de­signer as one for whom the at­tain­ment of a per­fectly fin­ished state is the goal, whereas the #De­signInTech lives only for the next it­er­a­tion. Fur­ther, he imag­ines the clas­si­cal de­signer’s level of con­fi­dence is “ab­so­lute and self-val­i­dat­ing”—he must know dif­fer­ent de­sign­ers than I do—while the #De­signInTech’s is “gen­er­ally high but open to an­a­lyz­ing test­ing/re­search.”

Us­ing Maeda’s def­i­ni­tion, West would eas­ily qual­ify for #De­signInTech sta­tus. He reaches hun­dreds of mil­lions, his work is de­liv­ered over the Net, he’s con­stantly evolv­ing, and he’s open to real-time feed­back. But then again, doesn’t that de­scribe the state of con­tem­po­rary de­sign in gen­eral? Per­haps what Maeda mis­un­der­stands is that clas­si­cal de­sign is fast dis­ap­pear­ing, if it ever re­ally ex­isted, and the it­er­a­tive na­ture so em­blem­atic in tech has worked its way into ev­ery­thing we do. The av­er­age life span of a con­tem­po­rary build­ing is not mil­len­nia but some­thing short of 70 years, dur­ing which time it will be re­pur­posed over and over again. No re­spon­si­ble de­signer can cre­ate a

prod­uct with­out at least some plan­ning for its ul­ti­mate demise and re­com­po­si­tion. And if we have learned any­thing about de­sign­ing a brand, it’s that the work is never done but in­stead is a con­stant, it­er­a­tive battle for rel­e­vance and cur­rency.

What West so vividly demon­strates is that fix­ity is one of the ca­su­al­ties of our cur­rent moment. The un­fin­ished is in­her­ently desta­bi­liz­ing. It makes us—the au­di­ence, con­sumer, lis­tener, reader, what­ever—ques­tion our own role in the no­tion of com­ple­tion. In the end, maybe that bell wasn’t an epiphany af­ter all; maybe it was just a high-tech death knell for some­thing we used to call clo­sure.

●HOME­LESS­NESS S IS BAD DE­SIGN BY ROSANNE HAG­GERTY The CEO of Com­mu­nity So­lu­tions, a non­profit that com­bats home­less­ness, on de­sign­ing a sys­tem that ac­tu­ally puts roofs over peo­ple’s heads

Home­less­ness is what hap­pens when peo­ple fall through the cracks of dif­fer­ent sys­tems, so if we’re to put an end to it, we need to cre­ate in­te­grated teams—the U.S. De­part­ment of Vet­er­ans Af­fairs, the mayor’s of­fice, the non­prof­its, the hous­ing au­thor­ity. It’s only when you get every­one to­gether in the same room that you can con­struct a well-per­form­ing hous­ing place­ment sys­tem that isn’t send­ing vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple down all sorts of dead ends.

Every­one at an ini­tial meet­ing would say, “We get that we need to col­lab­o­rate, but how?” We need a per­for­mance man­age­ment sys­tem that helps a col­lec­tion of lo­cal or­ga­ni­za­tions fo­cus on a com­mon goal and test their way into a so­lu­tion, but that’s grounded in per­son-spe­cific data, so you can see if a sit­u­a­tion is ac­tu­ally work­ing for cer­tain users of the sys­tem.

Another de­sign prin­ci­ple is the no­tion of hous­ing first—you re­design your ap­proach to get­ting peo­ple hous­ing as your first or­der of busi­ness, then help with the other is­sues that have been con­found­ing them. Mov­ing a sin­gle per­son from home­less­ness would re­quire more than 50 steps. We worked with de­sign­ers to cre­ate a mag­netic board that looks like Chutes and Lad­ders. We asked peo­ple to map out what’s re­quired for a sin­gle per­son to move from the point where you iden­tify them on the street to a sta­ble home. You’d see this crazy, wind­ing trail.

Wash­ing­ton, D.C., looked at the amount of time it was tak­ing from when

an apart­ment be­comes avail­able to a lease-sign­ing and turn­ing over keys. They cre­ated a day where they’d have all the land­lords and all the peo­ple who had been matched to them show up and sign their leases at the same time and get their keys. Imag­ine that.

●EM­PA­THY IS RE­QUIRED BY KEN WONG The de­signer of the cel­e­brated game Mon­u­ment Val­ley on what’s dif­fer­ent about work­ing in vir­tual re­al­ity

Our idea at Ustwo was to make a vir­tu­al­re­al­ity game timed to the re­lease of the Ocu­lus Gear VR head­set. But af­ter eight months, the game, Land’s End, wasn’t com­ing to­gether as a story or an ex­pe­ri­ence. There were miss­ing skills on that team. There was no art di­rec­tor; there wasn’t a voice say­ing, “You’re go­ing to en­counter this beau­ti­ful moment, and here’s how we’re go­ing to con­vey it.” Even­tu­ally I felt the need to put my hand up and say, “Guys, I don’t think you’re mak­ing the thing that you want to make.” And we voted to kill it. For like 10 min­utes, we were just re­ally sad. And then I said, “I think what might be best for the team

is if I come in, change up the skill set, and bring a new per­spec­tive to this.”

Game de­sign is a dis­ci­pline that you can get good at. It’s not about a per­son get­ting their way all the time. It’s about be­ing tuned in to what makes a game work, what makes an ex­pe­ri­ence fun. With our pre­vi­ous game, Mon­u­ment Val­ley, we made it short in­ten­tion­ally so peo­ple could get to the pay­off at the end. For a lot of peo­ple, it’s the first game they were able to fin­ish. We got a nice let­ter from a guy who had sus­tained a brain in­jury; he used to re­ally en­joy com­puter games, but af­ter that most of them were too in­tense.

With Land’s End, we started fresh. We threw away lev­els. We found that peo­ple have a much poorer sense of space in VR than they do in real life, so we had to get bet­ter at cre­at­ing land­marks and mem­o­rable places and mix­ing things up, so you go out­side to inside, from cliff to gorge. Orig­i­nally, we had way more fan­tas­ti­cal lev­els, with float­ing chunks of rock. But it felt like you were in a com­puter game. We don’t want to re­mind you that you’re in a game; we want to fool you just enough that you’re like, “Oh, this is real, but it’s the most fan­tas­ti­cal real I’ve ever seen.”

Ev­ery­thing that you de­sign in a video game, it feels stronger in VR—hav­ing a water­fall or a tower right in front of you. Eye con­tact is a re­ally in­ti­mate thing. Chris Milk, an artist who works in vir­tual re­al­ity, called VR an “em­pa­thy ma­chine”—it has the po­ten­tial to show you how some­one else lives. Games are just one ap­pli­ca­tion, and it’s kind of ob­vi­ous, but imag­ine how pow­er­ful VR can be for ed­u­ca­tion, train­ing, de­sign, tourism. We’re re­ally happy to be here at the ground level. That said, my next game won’t be in VR. I’ve had my taste, and I want to go and have another ad­ven­ture now.

●GOOD IDEAS TRANS­LATE BY MIGUEL McKELVEY The co-founder of shared-workspace com­pany WeWork on his res­i­den­tial project, WeLive

When we started about seven years ago, our plan was “We ev­ery­thing”: WeWork, WeRes­tau­rant, WeBar­ber, WeRe­sort. We started with WeWork be­cause the only build­ings co-founder Adam Neu­mann and I were able to get were of­fice build­ings. The re­sponse was so pos­i­tive we kept go­ing. The WeLive build­ing at 110 Wall St. was sort of knocked out by Hur­ri­cane Sandy. We had a re­la­tion­ship with some­one, and they said, “Are you guys in­ter­ested?” When we saw it, we were like, “Yeah, we’re in­ter­ested, but we have this other con­cept we’ve been plan­ning.”

A lot of things we’ve done at WeWork carry over to WeLive—the pri­mary one be­ing try­ing to un­der­stand how peo­ple can have the per­sonal space they need but share. It’s shar­ing that goes be­yond the space, that flows into peo­ple’s so­cial en­gage­ment. It’s about try­ing to make those op­por­tu­ni­ties part of daily life.

Let’s say there’s some­one who’s 35, and she’s suc­cess­ful, but she’s like, “I’m ready to make the leap to start my own com­pany.” We want to give her a workspace and a liv­ing so­lu­tion that al­lows her to take that chance and to be sup­ported by peo­ple who are go­ing to be like, “That’s amaz­ing! What do you need help with? Who can I in­tro­duce you to?” Be­ing in that en­vi­ron­ment is def­i­nitely go­ing to help you be­come more suc­cess­ful.

In the of­fice, what we start withh is rel­a­tively sim­ple. You have a desk, chairs, and light­ing. In an apart­ment, of course, you need a liv­ing room, a kitchen, a sleep­ing area, a bath­room. We had to fig­ure out a way to cre­ate those spa­ces in our 200 units and give them enough char­ac­ter that they feel nice and com­fort­able and warm and invit­ing. But we didn’t want to go too far with the de­sign that they felt par­tic­u­lar. We didn’t want some­one to go in and say, “Oh, I hate that color. I don’t want to be in that unit.” So that was the nu­ance to the WeLive de­sign.

We had ar­gu­ments about whether peo­ple would do their laun­dry in the build­ing, be­cause there are all these new ser­vices where you can have your laun­dry picked up. That was one where it was back and forth. Like, what’s go­ing to hap­pen? Is it go­ing to be an empty room, and no one is ever go­ing to be in there, and it’s go­ing to be­come a to­tal fail­ure? So far, it’s been great. We have a cool laun­dry room that also has a pool ta­ble and a ping­pong ta­ble. It’s be­come one of the beat­ing hearts of the build­ing.

●HOW TO HIRE A DE­SIGNER BY YVES BE­HAR The founder of prod­uct and brand de­sign firm Fuse­pro­ject on cre­ative part­ner­ships

① Hire a part­ner, not a ven­dor

Most clients un­der­stand this, but for a col­lab­o­ra­tion to be suc­cess­ful, the de­sign team they work with shouldn’t be se­lected only for their port­fo­lio, but also for the po­ten­tial for a true part­ner­ship. Any de­sign process is a close col­lab­o­ra­tion, with a sig­nif­i­cant amount of

com­mu­ni­ca­tion nec­es­sary to get the best re­sults. If the part­ner­ship isn’t there, the re­sults will dis­ap­point. If the part­ner­ship is there, a de­signer will grow with you and con­tin­u­ously op­ti­mize your busi­ness. Mitch Per­gola, our chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer at Fuse­pro­ject, says, “The key to ef­fec­tively work­ing with an ex­ter­nal de­sign firm is not only pick­ing the right skills and ex­pe­ri­ence, but col­lab­o­rat­ing with them like a part­ner. Nei­ther of these points are op­tional.”

② Share dreams—and night­mares

The de­sign process is never the same for any two projects, so it’s im­por­tant to be as clear as pos­si­ble up­front. Not only does this mean time­lines, fi­nances, etc., but also what you ex­pect from the process and, cru­cially, con­text. If the client can fo­cus on defin­ing the needs of the busi­ness (which they should be best po­si­tioned for), the de­signer can fo­cus on defin­ing the so­lu­tion (and, where needed, chal­lenge the brief ). The more a client can com­mu­ni­cate their con­text— com­pany cul­ture, past suc­cesses and fail­ures, the pas­sions and aver­sions of their au­di­ence and share­hold­ers—the bet­ter able the de­sign team will be to solve from this foun­da­tion. I of­ten say, “The more con­text the bet­ter.” I per­son­ally ben­e­fit from all the data, the good stuff and the ugly stuff, the re­al­i­ties as well as the dreams.

③ Adopt a healthy sense of aban­don

Here’s an in­ter­est­ing para­dox: Clients come to de­sign­ers to push them out of their box and yet strug­gle when the de­sign feels be­yond their cur­rent re­al­ity. The most suc­cess­ful projects I’ve worked on have come from re­la­tion­ships in which my client trusts me, trusts our de­sign strat­egy, and em­pow­ers us to guide them into the fu­ture. And this sense of risk and in­no­va­tion should ex­ist with ev­ery step of the process—from con­cep­tion through hit­ting the mar­ket. “Trust that we have your best in­ter­ests in mind, be­cause our part­ners’ suc­cess is also ours,” says Kris­tine Arth, our di­rec­tor of brand. Her­man Miller, with whom it’s been a priv­i­lege to work for the last 14 years, pre­vi­ously es­tab­lished long-term part­ner­ships with Charles and Ray Eames and Ge­orge Nel­son by, in the words of Her­man Miller founder D. J. Depree, “aban­don­ing our­selves to our de­sign­ers.” Don Goe­man, the vice pres­i­dent for R&D at Her­man Miller, demon­strated this deep trust when we de­signed the Sayl chair and the Pub­lic Of­fice Land­scape sys­tem.

④ Go long

It’s hard to know when the job is done. But the truth is that de­sign is never done: The value of de­sign grows over time. Com­pa­nies that suc­ceed are ones that con­stantly re­fine their prod­ucts, ex­pe­ri­ences, and of­fer­ings. We cur­rently ex­pe­ri­ence a cir­cu­lar feed­back loop with evolv­ing cus­tomer needs: Im­prov­ing tech­nol­ogy, grow­ing brands, and ex­pe­ri­ence touch points are taken into ac­count reg­u­larly. The best thing a client can do is find a part­ner who un­der­stands their essence—why they ex­ist—and in­vest in a fu­ture to­gether. One amaz­ing prod­uct i s great, but hav­ing a brand that’s co­he­sive, and sus­tain­ably and or­gan­i­cally grow­ing, is what we all need to build. Long-last­ing re­la­tion­ships—that’s an in­vest­ment that pays off hand­somely for both out­sider and in­sider. In this cur­rent era of dis­rup­tion, if a com­pany isn’t ac­tively cre­at­ing its fu­ture, you can be sure of one thing: Some­one else will. <BW>

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