How applying design thinking to the feedback process ultimately helps your designs (and your team’s culture).

The design community educates quite a bit about delivering good design feedback — how to articulate the exchange of crit in a fruitful and healthy manner. My teammate Maggie has framed aspects of this into a helpful (and creative!) framework called Feedback Heroes and Villains, which we incorporate in the onboarding of new members of our product design team at WW.

Another aspect of design feedback that we need to talk about, though, is setting ourselves up to receive good feedback — “good” as in feedback that meaningfully shapes the design thinking closer to the goal in a more effective way. Figuring out the optimal ways for receiving good feedback is like a design problem in itself: You need to consider the goals, context, and people in order to shape the right execution and then iterate on the feedback process itself.


Reflecting on 2020’s monumental impact on my design career.

All of us experienced immense changes, challenges and uncertainty in 2020 — the surreal year of COVID-19. For some time, 2020 was feeling like “the lost year” thanks to all the dread, drear, prolonged restrictions and isolation from people who make life more meaningful. But as we kick off the new year, I am fortunate to reflect back and see so much gained from this unique year. There’s personal impact, like gaining time with my husband to fix up our basement or go for afternoon walks together. …


Looking back with gratitude on eye-opening moments that have made me a more inclusive teammate and designer

Binoculars looking towards the light with “turn to clear vision” option
Binoculars looking towards the light with “turn to clear vision” option
Photo by Matt Noble on Unsplash

1. “The dark blue or the light blue?”

Years ago when working on a data visualization centric dashboard, one particular review opened my eyes to how others’ eyes might see differently.

I remember being huddled in the SVP of Product’s office with him and the core team to review the latest, higher-fidelity iteration of the key data visualization. When talking through it, he asked one clarifying question that made us all pause: “the dark blue or the light blue?” …


The art of attracting partners for your projects, and getting invited to be part of theirs.

We all know how crucial collaboration is to design great products. It’s emphasized in every related job posting, interview, team charter, conference, and podcast out there. But let’s face it: Sometimes the people you need to collaborate with just don’t want to! It could be situational, like busy timing or coming off a bad experience. Or it could be human nature at play — those psychological barriers like distrust, self-preservation, competitiveness, or fear.

Two designers holding the mouse together, one looking disgruntled and the other smiling while praising collaboration.
Two designers holding the mouse together, one looking disgruntled and the other smiling while praising collaboration.
Image: https://creativemarket.com/blog/designer-problems

So how do you win them over? Retroactively looking at what’s fueled my best partnerships in the past, here are some practices I’ve found to effectively Jedi mind trick people into wanting to collaborate.


On finding ways to rekindle the practice of rotting skills

In the product design world, we’re all accustomed to the concept of tech debt and design debt. As we skyrocket towards the next product release (while putting out fires along the way), we inevitably sacrifice some quality and consequently accumulate a pile of things to improve later.

So we track these extra things to do — refactor some code, tweak an animation, make a component reusable, standardize some UI copy— and ideally sprinkle these items throughout future sprints and releases. We do this because without the practice of continually addressing the debt, we’re left with an unobtainable mountain of it.

I think we need to be applying this thinking towards our own personal skill debts, too. (Or at least I need to work on it! …

About

Liz J Rutz

Principal Product Designer @ WW (formerly Weight Watchers)

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