Mia Blume’s leadership motto: design, or be designed

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I wanted to be a marine biologist as a kid. Actually, the first thing I wanted to be was a “dinosaur dentist,” which was my interpretation of paleontologists using dental tools to unearth delicate fossils.

But as I got a bit older, I spent more time drawing sea creatures and dinosaurs than thinking about how I might study them or discover new species. And by the time I got to college, a large part of me wanted to go to art school and pursue a career as an illustrator.

My parents nudged me in a more technical direction, and I ended up choosing the only engineering major that also had a requirement for art classes: product design.

As a designer, I’ve always loved the craft of building new products, from sketching concepts, through prototyping, to bringing those products into manufacturing or development and seeing them alive in the world. I worried that if I lost this connection to the hands-on part of the process, my heart would no longer be in it.

Based on the conversations we’ve had with design leaders, this is not an uncommon sentiment. And in our last episode of this season, design leadership coach Mia Blume spoke directly to this challenge.

She also has a brilliant solution: treat design leadership like you would approach any other design project—with research, empathy, and creativity.

Mia Blume

“I actually think leadership is a creative role…it went from hiring designers to designing a design team”
– Mia Blume

In this episode, Mia talks about her own journey from individual contributor to leading teams at companies like IDEO, Square, and Pinterest. She shares how she uses learnings from those experiences to coach other design leaders to successful careers today.

Mia also touches on many other interesting topics, like:

  • How strong design leadership influences the quality of products, operations, and ultimately the bottom line of a business
  • How design leaders can reach out to other company leaders to be more effective
  • Her advice on how design leaders can cultivate new leadership talent
  • The traits designers should develop to become good leaders

Get ready to level up your leadership skills, and take a listen to our episode with Mia.

This is the final episode in our first season of the DesignBetter.Co podcast. We hope you’ve enjoyed what we’ve done so far and look forward to next season, where we’ll be exploring the topic of designing at scale. If you want to hear conversations with more design leaders like Mia Blume, David Kelley, and Irene Au, it would help us out a lot if you subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or Google Play and leave us a review.

Thanks for listening, and keep designing great products.


Eli Woolery, Director of Design Education at InVision
Eli is the Director of Design Education at InVision. His design career spans both physical and digital products, and he is a lecturer in the Product Design program at Stanford University. You can find Eli on Medium or on Twitter.

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