Slack Senior Product Designer | Diógenes Brito | Making a Design Super Team
Hi. There. Good. Morning it's. Good to be here very beautiful, place, my. Name is Diogenes. Burrito or Johannes. Brito if you're my mother or want, to say it in Spanish most, folks call, me do, I'm. A designer. And an engineer I say. Engineer. Because I studied. Product, design that's physical product design mechanical, engineering major at. Stanford and, I've, been paid to do software engineering, from time to time and I. Say designer because for the past, seven. Ish years, I've been a professional, digital interface, designer of some sort or another. First at Squarespace, where I was a design. Engineer doing front-end, development and, design. Web, Squarespace. Is a website. Publishing platform, then, I was at LinkedIn, on as a user experience designer, on the profile team and, now I'm, at SLAC I'm. A Senior Product designer there have been there almost four years now and these. Days I work primarily with, the platform team and I. Want. To talk a little bit about some. Knowledge that has sort of coalesced, in my head in my time, at slack. Particularly. Because of, how. Hectic. It's been basically. When. I was at Squarespace, I didn't work, with any product, managers, because they hadn't hired any at the time at. LinkedIn. I worked with exactly. - and, in. My time at slack I've worked I'm on my twelfth and. It's. Been about 15 or so large, initiatives, or projects, launched, and a bunch of smaller. Stuff so, it's been, you. Know growing gangbusters, it's been a little crazy it's, the slack, as the fastest growing workplace software ever and. Hopefully. You've heard of it but if you haven't it's a messaging. And communication, tool for teams, that's, hoping, to make your working life simpler. More pleasant, and more productive, and I think people. Like it because, at. Least you, know they proposed to us very frequently. They say other nice things and. Just. To give you a sense of how fast it's been changing, it feels like it's been a different company every, couple of weeks because, in. My time there it's gone from 40 to over, a thousand, employees very. Very quickly so I've. You. Know, seen. Some, things okay. And I'm gonna try to, pass. On a little bit to you so. One. Thing I think a lot about maybe. It's impostor syndrome I don't know it's what, should a designer, be doing anyway I'm not going to talk to you about what is design because, that is a trap it's a waste of time, I'm, gonna talk, think, about what a professional, designer should, be doing once they get hired and. What. They should be doing that, is. Unique to not. Just being a good employee but being a designer specifically. And what. They should be doing that. Means. That they deserve this, fabled. Seat at the table so, to, get real specific about what I mean there I'm gonna use John, Schlossberg definition, which is when. Someone has a seat at the table they can influence the influence. Of businesses, high-level, decision-making, to, make sure that it succeeds so the, whole business is better because, you're there, in, as. Part, of the decision-making process. And. My. Theory here, is that the, reason that a designer would be, should. Belong, in that you know room with all the other bigwigs, is that they can empower their, teams to make better decisions. Faster. You. Add a normal team. With. A designer, and you end up with a super team great, okay, so. What. Is it you're supposed to be doing how is this, the, case. Anticipation. Okay. Let's say that, you are a designer, this is you and, you. Probably just. To get the common denominator common. Denominator here you probably have a set, of, hard. Skills. Most. Likely you can put pixels, together in some arrangement. On screen, that's, pretty cool most. People could probably learn that though so, not. Totally. Special and you, can you. Have some creative process, for figuring out what the exact arrangement of the, pixels on the screen should, be going from blank to something. That's pretty cool your haven't crossed the, threshold into, you - you know belong at the table but, I think you. Would if you, function, in. These. Three roles that I described that I'm about to describe and these three roles are roles that anyone could assume but I think a designer, is uniquely, suited to make. These primary. Roles they are primary, concerns, on an ongoing basis, and this. Is how they can turn their teams into, super teams so, the, first role is that of, a facilitator and, that's. That means assisting, others in refining, and transmitting. Ideas, and, I'm. Very careful. To say assisting, others, in refining. And transmitting, their ideas the whole team because, most of the ideas that you should be helping, to refine and transmit are actually.
Other People's ideas because it turns out that most of the people on your team are not you. A. Good. Designer is also a steward, they support. And protect, empathy. And the creative process, this. Is something. That we're uniquely suited to do and they. Are also, connoisseurs. Maintaining. A high bar of quality so I'll talk about each of these a little bit. Facilitation. What does it mean even, I think, the. Way I would describe it is that you. Can be a facilitator, for your, team, if you help, make, your. Team communicate, by making ideas, tangible. Making, them real concrete, and specific getting, them out of people's heads and clarifying. Them by virtue of that process, so you. Clarify, and you specify, goals, and non goals and I think. If. You've been in the design industry, for any length of time you realize the, large set of problems that always comes back to not, having properly, defined the goals you, were optimizing. For upfront and. Checking. For understanding, making sure that you're paying attention to, make sure everyone, on the team knows. Exactly. It has the same pool, of shared knowledge and understands, it completely so there's a little bit of you know watching out for those slightly. Confused. Neutral faces where people don't want to look like they don't understand, but actually, don't and. I. Like. Julie shows the. Way. Of describing what a designer can do which is that you have a superpower that, can show other people the future most, people don't necessarily, have this ability to imagine. In such concrete detail, the ideas, that they're thinking about and that's where, a designer can come in and add real value as a facilitator, this, is an example of a. Way. I did this a couple years ago which is I was a lead designer on the slack app directory, and apps, are things that you can install, on your slack workspace, that integrate other tools and after. We finished all the design I went. Back and made, this diagram, to help the team understand, exactly which pages were new which were different which were behind authentication, which, weren't, and, this was all about facilitating. Engineering. Conversations, and understanding, this is another example where. Early, on in the process before we had any idea what the design would be I made, a long series, of these wireframes, purely, so that the engineers could, have some.
Options To talk about and really nail down the technical, design early on in the, process, another. Example here is when. We were looking. Back. In the day to. See where a new feature would, appear, in the product there, was a lot of sort of hand-wavy vague. References. To where it might be and I went through and I made these sort, of slightly, higher fidelity. Than, wireframe, mock-ups, to show hey these are a bunch of entry points where we could put this, feature so your. Facilitator, you're making ideas concrete. Tangible, your clarifying, goals and, your checking for understanding. The. Next role is that, of, stewardship. So. I mean, this in both, senses of the word of, supporting, and protecting so. Protecting. And promoting the creative process, that thing that hopefully all the designers, should. Be intimately, familiar, with and something, that actually most other functions, are not necessarily, very familiar with there's sort of a time, early on around, kindergarten, where you either like can, do math, or draw, or something and then it Forks, and from then on like there are creatives, and non creatives, don't know why it's for everyone. And part, of that is protecting, nascent. Ideas, that. What ed catmull, calls ugly, babies and this one I I think, it's super important, because when you have a, team. Of people with a bunch of diverse opinions, you. Can this. Actually will help you work together more. Effectively because. Protecting. These on, you. Know these raw and, not yet fully baked ideas, it really makes it increases. The psychological. Safety for the whole team and makes it a more an easier, place to work in a more sort of inclusive, environment, not only that but you get the. Chance. To let ideas mature, and a. Designer can is uniquely, suited to help with that and then there's the spreading, the user perspective I think the, creative process, or you, know the preferred one is really one that's very in touch with. The, user a user centered creative design process, all. The, rage these days I know but, worth saying. That designers. Are the ones who should who should always be keeping this at the forefront of their mind as one of their primary concerns. I. Mentioned. Being the designer on the first version of the app directory. No I go back here. Here. Is an. Example. Of. The many, many iterations that. Led up to the final version of the directory, and you see there's plenty of horrible. Garbage in here but everything. Was, changing, all at once there's a lot of different ideas and a lot of different versions, and. Part. Of the creative process is letting this happen and letting. Some of these ideas come, to the forefront and bake a little bit more and. There's. A lot. Of different kinds of creative process is one of my favorites, this is the one I learned at school pretty much the IDO style. You. Know empathize, with the user first, and kind of sink, into research and then define. The problem, id8 prototype, test but. It. Really doesn't matter what specific, framework you're using as long as you're using a, creative. Process that is user centered and that you're sharing that with the rest of the team at SLAC we tend to do it more in this structure this is I. Think, what's it called double diamond method essentially, your your, your, diverging, and converging, twice. In the process first around what the actual problem is and then around the solution and that's what we how we tend to structure it that's like now. A, steward. You're promoting and protecting a creative process. Protecting. The nascent. Ideas, and, spreading. The user perspective. The. Last primary. Role of a designer I think, is being. An arbiter, of taste, this is the one that is maybe the most the, one that draws people the. Least important, but, also. A primary role but though and the one that people love to do the most they say hey this thing sucks how. Bad is this thing let. Me explain to you why this is the best and that's, part, of the job you have to elevate, your, team's tastes find, what's, good share. It and teach, them why, not it's not just for you it's for your entire team and you're also holding. The quality line which I'll talk a little bit more about in a bit what, that means and. You. Know the medium as. A kind of sore you have to know what's, out there what's possible, in your. In. The medium, in which you're working. So, speaking. Of quality because, of being a connoisseur, is, not being an arbiter of taste and that means you're finding what the best design, is that's. Kind of a tricky question because, what. Does the best even mean there's a lot of different ways to define that in fact here's. A fun example these, are ice, cream shoes they. Don't. Make these anymore unfortunately this, Pharrell design, means I think with adidas anyway, they're super dope they're my favorite and you'd, think we, would, have figured out shoes, by, now. But.
This. Is just, a small subset of what I, found when searching, specifically. For ice cream shoes. And. There's. A lot a lot, out there this is just barely scratching, the surface so obviously. There's, some. Subjective. You. Know there's a there's a point of view here, that's specific, to people but, I think that what, we can all agree on is that. It's. About quality the being a connoisseur, is detecting, quality, and quality, is subjective, too you say well, I think it. Isn't as insofar as quality. Is considered. Quality. Is. The. Idea that every detail of something is deliberate. And on purpose and represents some specific, point of view and some, sort. Of goal, that you're optimizing for and trading off for, and that, and when every detail, is considered, that. Is when you can tell something, is of high quality so, when I say that you, are taking part in connoisseurship but you're taking the role as a connoisseur, as a, designer. You, are elevating your team's tastes you're holding, that quality, line and, you. Know the medium so. You. Should be a facilitator. A steward. And a. Connoisseur, you. Do these things and you'll. Probably, you, know get a chance to affect the. Businesses. High-level, decision make decision-making, for the better and this is a good thing because, if, you're, super charging your team it's good that you're in there now. This. Is the subtitle, of my talk and I, haven't talked anything about salsa music so far so why, is this a subtitle. Really. I just want to get the chance to to. Talk about salsa music to you folks but how, it came up is that. I have I was, eating dinner with a couple of friends of mine shoutout to to red Iggy boo and drama here and they I was looking for a metaphor, to kind of describe how. A, lot. Of, what. A good designer, should. Do or the output, of a. Great, designers, work is not readily apparent and not necessarily, what you would initially. Pick up on by just looking at the output or looking. At the surface level and I, wanted something a little better than the you know you old iceberg, metaphor. And 90% of the mass is beneath the surface it's a good metaphor but they. Pitched the idea of, hey what about salsa music you explain that to us one time it I've been a dancing. Salsa music for about 10 years now and. It. There's. A lot more than meets the eye so let me tell you a little bit about the structure of salsa music and to do so I'm. Going, to enlist, the help of Chaka Khan now, she's. Not a salsa. Musician but I chose a. Song. You may have heard of because a, it's in English and more people will understand. It and I have both the normal version available and the salsa version so it'll. Be easier to pick up on the changes in the structure. Here. Is. It's. Not musical notation but it should be an accessible way to, represent, time, there's two measures here you. Know and if you're a musician listening. To a metronome, to kind of keep timing, you. You'll hear it on every downbeat 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 and the original, ain't no body song is structured, around that. Metronome. Good. Son good song. Okay. Cool. Now. Salsa. Music. Salsa. Music is, actually. And. Structured. Around an uneven. Metronome, a rhythm, called the clave a the, club a has. Five. Hits here a three. Side and a two side, and. There's a couple of different versions I'm showing you specifically, song club a but, whatever, the point is there's, an uneven. Metronome. Split, across two, measures.
And That does an interesting thing to, the music that structure, that's built on top of it so, let's. Hear the salsa version of that same song. So, I think it. Gets a little more interesting because it's not so straight, but. If you're if you're not used to listening to salsa music you're. You're, probably not picking up on the insane. Layers of complexity, that lead to this. You. Are maybe. Hearing you're. Gonna remember the a know about you can remember that part you're maybe gonna hear the horns and you're gonna hear some cool, stuff in the background but you're not gonna necessarily pick. It all up without. A trained, eye so let me break it down for you there is the club a rhythm in the, background played on. Sticks. Called Club is and, that's. You, know this is 3-2 club a. Rhythm called Mady go Mady yo means hammer played, on the bongos, by another person who sometimes will switch to a bell if it gets loud but let's just talk about the mark do rhythm. And. That. Rhythm is played on top of the club a and fits together with it. And. You'll see how these kind of layer on top of each other in a way that's pretty interesting because it's not a straight, metronome. Now there's, also a person, on the, bongos, on, the conga, playing, a rhythm called boom bow and Tumbao, sounds like this. Now. This rhythm is totally, structured, in across, that uneven, metronome it's is even, hard to follow if you're not used to listening to this kind, of beep so, together and. There's, more layers in the percussion section there's a rhythm called gasps Cara played on the impalas and on, the sides of the theme bollocks cascada sounds like this. And. That's another be built. Around this, uneven. Metronome, put. It on top of the others. See. If you can hear, all the different layers together. And. Now. We come, to montuno. Which is the pattern. Played on the piano that's, also, known. As Guaje Oh on the, piano and it's, just a set of chords, that are sort, of played. In sequence, arpeggiated. I believe the term is they kind of walk up and down the chord and then, played like, a percussion, instrument I mean the piano is a percussion instrument but. Played. More, for, percussive. Purposes, than melodic, purposes I think and. These, are the chords you might hear for that song and nobody. So, all together now. That's, the baseline coming in just there which is another layer you'll see on top gear. On top. And. Now. I don't know if you notice all of that but. All of that is here plus the horns. Plus. The voice in, this. Song. You. Hear some cowbell, do. The congas. So. That's. Everything, together now. Hold. Up a moment, what. Does that have to do with design really, nothing. I am trying to stretch this metaphor to its absolute limits, but the, point is. There. Is a lot going on, and. You know teach you a little bit about salsa music there's. A lot going on beneath, the surface that, you wouldn't normally, initially. Think, of or even spot if you hadn't been told, to look for it first. I'm not hopefully. Between the first time you heard the song and I played it and the last time you picked up on a whole set of new pieces and. That. Salsa, structure, is entirely, built up from, the rhythm of the claw beam so the club a is the key but it's not necessarily, the thing that you you, can pick. Out initially, that you know is there, you'll remember the voices, and the horns, up top but, it's all built. From, the bottom up from the claw Bay and this is kind of this. Is a good metaphor I think for good design work and effective, teamwork. Because. You'll see when. A team is working well and good design work is coming out you'll see the super team but you won't necessarily see, all the pieces that, are getting. That's. That. Are making. Up that. Efficient. Work so. Like. Salsa, music. Good. And efficient design work and teamwork is built on these layers of, you. Know communication and, relationships, and shared goals and these roles that a primary designer, can play about a facilitator, steward. And. Connoisseur. And, the. Good quality, output, an effective. Team that, you, know puts, out quality work that leads to business business, success, is. Built on top of all those layers even though you'd really if you tried to copy it maybe you'd only try to copy the, top, part because you wouldn't realize the, foundation, that's underneath so. Thank. You. You.