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DesignDrivenNYC: Creating a good #Design, #CorporateCulture, #Networks and #Skills

Posted on January 13th, 2016


01/13/2016 The New School, 66 W 12th St, NY

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The four speakers were

Soraya Darabi – spoke about the importance of good design, saying that much of what differentiates unicorns from others is design. It matters what the founding team was thinking and that is reflected in the design of the produce/experience.

She was attracted to work for Foodspotting by the vision of the founders to highlight beautiful presentations of food. ZADY is designed to a beautiful web site emphasizing the sustainability and ethical production of the products. In this way, their luxury products are differentiated from mass marketed clothes. The design becomes the foundation for a sustainable brand encouraging millenials to vote with their dollars. Transparency with the supply chain is a key part of the brand.

Hullabalu, has immersive games for children and is designed by asking questions such as “how does a five year old interact with the main characters, a panda”. This then leads to design questions such as the color of the panda and what the panda’s friend should look like, etc.

A good designer thinks about choices to get an appropriate reaction from people. This is more than just differentiation or following the crowd.

Next, Aaron Weinberg talked about the importance of culture in motivating people and what TED does to encourage a productive environment.

  1. Cultivate Culture – who is around you and what are their traits? Gender diversity helps. Absence of ego is important.
  2. Find the right people – they get people who have an affinity for TED content. Look for nice, motivated people and then evaluate their skills. They hire people who are already motivated and then work to inspire them. Money is not the compelling reason to work for TED – it’s a non-profit. Not a deep company so not a lot of ladder climbing.
  3. Stay connected – the team goes to the TED conference where bonds are built as the team works together. They also have an annual 3-day retreat, all hands quarterly meetings. off-site tech summits.
  4. They want people to believe in why they are doing what they are doing.

In the third presentation, Gary Chou talked about the goals of Orbital – part co-working space, part incubator,… and a home for launching new ideas.

Orbital was the culmination of his thinking on networks which started when he worked at Union Square Ventures. He talked about the entrepreneurship course he teaches and how the class project (raise $1000 using networking, kickstarter, etc.) is designed to raise the student’s awareness of the power of the network. Orbital was founded with a similar goal.

Gary talked about what it takes to be successful creator today?

  1. Deal with failure.
  2. Need to think about the conditions and environment you are in

One then adds

  1. Need constraints – constraints eliminate decisions and allow you to concentrate
  2. A way to mark time – some metric needed
  3. Access to dialogue – engagement with other people.

To build something we combine

  1. Product
  2. Process
  3. Network – the infrastructure you need

Finally, Joel Califa spoke about the conflicts that he, as a designer and as a developer, faces when trying to keep up with the rapidly changing workplace requirements. Specifically, trying to keep up with trends in multiple areas creates what he calls “full stack anxiety”: his list of things to learn grows bigger and he must decide what to learn and what he can no longer keep up with.

To ease his anxiety he proposes the following path

  1. Look at the big picture. What kind of work do I want to do in the future?
  2. Create some structure – don’t treat everything you learn at the same level. Write them down to get them out of your head.
  3. Take the decision out of the moment: if ___, then learn it. What is more important to learn? This ordering reduce your cognitive load. Create a list and then do it. Constraints are good as they eliminate anxiety
  4. Stop following trends – There is always a new (and better) thing. Use the tools that are convenient for you and you need for your current role. Prioritize transferable skills
  5. Prioritize happiness – don’t be anxious. Work can be fun. If you really enjoy doing it, then learn it.

Joel neglected to say that we all face this issue, even those who are just developers. It’s also something that is not new in the world: in the past it just took longer to become obsolete.

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