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Podcast: Peter Merholz Talks Product Design
"A recognition that design isn’t the end all, be all of the work to be done. There’s a recognition and an appreciation for understanding the business context in which the design work is happening. An engagement with the technical capabilities and constraints. Not every designer has that interest, right? A lot of designers love the craft of design and want to do design design, and that’s great. But then you find other designers who tend to think a little more systemically and feel their designs are better when they understand the business and technical constraints. Those designers tend to be the ones who then become product managers."


"I still think there’s more value to be iterating in a prototyping, internal mode when you can iterate more quickly, and you’re still feeling your way forward, than trying to ship something sooner and iterate in public. With a lean model you can ship your first build sooner, but it will take you longer to ship the right build. There’s a balance to be struck. It’s a failing if you spend too much time in the earlier kind of definition phase, exploring ideas and concepts, the market can move before you’re done."


"Back when I started doing this type of stuff 20 years ago, design teams were essentially internal services firms, like you had an agency internally. Designers would get farmed out to work on a project, and then they’d come back to the centralized design team and then wait for the next project and get farmed out again.

The problem with that model is it reduces design to an execution function."


"As design is being taken more seriously, particularly in tech companies, design has become embedded in product teams. The example I used in my talk is this idea of the e-commerce experience. You’ll have a product or feature team dedicated to search and browse, and another one dedicated to the product page, and another one dedicated to reviews, and another one dedicated to the checkout flow.

Those teams will have three, four, five, six engineers, usually one product manager, and one designer. The good thing about that model, is you have a designer on that team, dedicated to that team, so that team respects the contributions of the designer. The problem with that model, is that the designer is working on their own, usually not coordinating with the other designers. The people they work with most are non-designers, who don’t understand them, don’t think like them, don’t speak the same professional language. They get lonely. I’ve heard that from folks throughout my career who found themselves in this environment."


"When I give this talk, I use Facebook as an example but I haven’t done it recently. Years ago though, you clicked on the left hand nav of your Facebook newsfeed, to get into Photos or Messenger. Each of those products within Facebook, apart from the blue and Arial, is totally different in its design. Some have left hand navigation. Some have top navigation. The orientation of what’s in the middle is different, how you interact with it is different. There’s no systemic cohesion, and that can be okay for Facebook, if they’re approaching themselves as a portfolio of products. Maybe people are dipping into one or two, by and large and ignoring the rest, that could be okay. In an experience like Groupon, or any e-commerce app, where you’re leading people through a flow very purposefully, you have to make sure it’s coherent."

The centralized partnership, is trying to combine the best of both worlds. At Groupon the whole design team was centralized under me, as the head of design. When I started there were about 30, when I left there were about 60. The 60 people were broken up into roughly 10 teams, so anywhere from 5-7 folks per team. But those teams were dedicated to specific parts of the product e.g a consumer platform team that worked on anything that every Groupon user would touch.

We also had lines of business. We had the Local line of business, that’s about the daily deals, going out, restaurants and spas and all that stuff. We had the Goods business which is more traditional e-commerce business, and then Getaways, which was a travel business. They had dedicated design teams as well, because there’s things that are specific to them, and then this platform business was responsible for the stuff that is common to everyone. There was also a set of product teams that worked on stuff that we just determined was platform. Like what we called “funnel optimization”, which is essentially the checkout flow.

The best of both worlds meant, this team of people, this team of six or seven people, was consistently working against these six or seven products. These six or seven platform people would never work on a Getaways product team. We wouldn’t cross those lines. So you had that degree of commitment and engagement that you want from the embedded designer, people who understand the full life cycle of that part of the product and are deeply wedded to it. But by being part of a team, by not embedding someone in the funnel optimization team and someone in the user-generated content team, and someone in the personalization team who weren’t talking to each other, by being one order above that, we ensured that there was consistency across those product teams.

The product teams were meant to be these autonomous forces pulling in all directions as they saw fit, and then the design team was this counter balance that was meant to kind of cohere that effort and make sure it wasn’t going off in too chaotic and too fractured a mode.

Key to making the centralized partnership work is design leadership. You know, I was a VP, 20 years experience. I inherited 13 product designers who were all in their mid-20s, who were just kind of pinging around the organization like pinballs. What I spent much of my first nine months doing, was recruiting and hiring design managers and design directors that I could form these teams around.

These design directors, they became this kind of crucial leverage point within, not just design, but within the organization. They would manage down to get the most out of the team, manage across, work cross functionally with the director of product management, director of engineering and manage up and make sure the executives and senior stakeholders understood what was going on. Before I had those leaders, I would have a 25 year old product designer talking to a 35 year old product manager with 10-15 years experience, maybe an MBA, and then some dude who’s, you know, a hot shot designer but not a lot of experience, not a lot of gravitas to bring to conversations. I don’t know if this is a fair analogy, but basically it led to an unfair fight. The designer would just basically do what the product manager said because they didn’t have the ability to meaningfully push back.

By bringing in design leadership who could engage those product managers as peers, that allowed us to drive design thinking back into the product more actively."


"Well, what’s happened is companies have recognized a different order of the value of design. To the degree to which businesses understood the value of design, it was from an execution function. It was to stay on brand. It was to be appealing, to be stylish, to differentiate yourself. But it wasn’t as a key strategic contributor to whatever it is that business is doing. Essentially with the ascendency of Apple, and a bunch of other factors, that has changed. Businesses have begun to realize design is a core competency for any business that has customers, i.e. any business. Design delivers a type of value different from what other functions were delivering so they’re all building in-house design teams."


"There are things that in-house teams, particularly in-house Silicon Valley product tech teams, could learn from agency work and have either chosen to ignore or don’t know about. Things such as user research and personas, prototyping and visions and sketch workshops and all of that, that could make in-house design better. But in-house design can get so caught up in ship-ship-ship-ship-ship-ship-ship, that it loses sight of that ability to pull back and frame the problem, not just try to solve the problem."


"So these big management consulting firms have all caught design religion, and are building design practices, and I am sure they are charging two to three times for that exact same design work that Adaptive Path was doing, but they’re now applying it in these different modes. They’re doing it top down, and they’re doing the Lord’s work from a design standpoint, because they are influencing the highest level of strategy within these organizations.

Then for the more kind of execution-oriented design work, the challenge that agencies are facing is, it’s not just about a boatload of wireframes and then a boatload of mockups, and shipping that to someone. I recently did a podcast interview with some friends of mine who have a small consultancy in Austin called Funsize, and they basically approach agency design in an agile way. They are doing two week sprints, they’re working side by side with their clients. Which is not at all how I worked in a design firm before, but if you’re on that end where you’re helping people execute and ship, those design agencies are having to change how they work, and the relationships they have with their clients. So you’re seeing this kind of bifurcation happen from an agency standpoint where you’re either going way upstream or you’re in the trenches. Whatever that middle thing was? That’s what’s evaporated."
product  process  agile  prototyping  lean  startups  design  teams  agencies  management 
3 days ago by robbiemanson
Mediatel: Newsline: The not-so-odd couple: nu-skool iProspect, old-skool John Brown
With a stroke and few million quid, therefore, Wood has acquired that content credibility he needs, plus an international capability that could be turned global. "We've got to be seen to be serious," he says. "Playing around at the fringes won't do it for us, and our clients."
As Wood sees it, it's an opportunity to reinvent iProspect, broaden its offering and add an extra competitive edge.
But it also works for John Brown. As Hirsch acknowledges, traditional content agencies lack the data and analytics skills that are increasingly demanded. "It's become a more obvious weakness on our part," he says, "but it's where iProspect is very strong." And John Brown gets a platform off which it can expand globally.
agencies  deals  content 
6 days ago by dancall
Home - Work & Co
The work you make and the company you keep We believe in making things. Work & Company was designed from the ground up to make digital products and services that can singlehandedly define a great…
inspiration  design  agencies 
6 days ago by bradbarrish
The future of the digital agency — Medium
via Pocket - The future of the digital agency — Medium - Added May 14, 2015 at 03:27PM
IFTTT  Pocket  agencies  agencylitselect  digital  from twitter
10 days ago by lgalli
LinkedIn Redesigned.
How will business be conducted in the future?
design  future  agencies 
10 days ago by bradbarrish
Home - Work & Co
Work & Co is a digital product design and development company based in Brooklyn, New York.
studio  design  agency  agencies  newyork  brooklyn  nyc  interactive  ny 
11 days ago by bobwassermann
Home - Work & Co
“Work & Co is made up of a team of senior partners who left the agency Huge in 2013 to set up their own shop. They brought in-depth experience working with clients like HBO GO, CNN, and Jet Blue and set out to do something different with their new company by having senior focused teams—each project team includes at least one company partner who is actively engaged doing the work.”
agencies  new-companies 
11 days ago by dancall
Home | Draw
Draw are a strategically-led digital agency from London who believe in making things better.
16 days ago by brendan_rice
How Dentsu Climbed to the Top | Agency News - Advertising Age
The ritual started in 1925. Every July, Dentsu's young hires and newly promoted executives climb Mt. Fuji, elevation 12,388 feet. From afternoon into the night, they navigate volcanic rock and ash to reach the summit for sunrise around 4:30 a.m.
Tim Andree, a 6-foot-11 American executive, climbed in 2007, joining a pack of mostly Japanese 20-somethings. The Dentsu Inc. exec VP recalls awaiting dawn with 100 new hires and a few senior employees in a rest hut.
19 days ago by dancall
What's Next Quarterly – A15 Privacy - Group M
As part of this wide-ranging Q&A, Montgomery delves into data collection by technology and advertisers, control of consumers’ personal data, transparency of digital privacy policies, and much more.
agencies  privacy 
23 days ago by dancall
The King Of Bullsh*t News - BuzzFeed News
BuzzFeed News has previously reported, the story had already been debunked by a local paper in Argentina a full two weeks before the English-language press picked it up. The video didn’t show an underage boy. Although the woman in the video was a teacher, she was from Corrientes, rather than Santiago del Estero, as had been claimed in the incorrect articles. She probably wasn’t even called Lucita Sandoval. Some of the sites have updated their articles, but others remain unchanged (at the time of this story's publication).
hoax  agencies  verification 
28 days ago by paulbradshaw

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