O’Reilly Design Conference—Insights on growing, hiring, and more

4 min read
Kayleigh Karutis
  •  Mar 27, 2017
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Design’s a pretty popular topic these days. Whether you’re talking chatbots or virtual reality, enterprise software or sustainable internet usage, design is part of the conversation.

Expert speakers explored these topics and lots more at the O’Reilly Design Conference in San Francisco last week, and InVision was on hand to talk with attendees, hear from the experts, and get a gain deeper insight into the topics and issues that designers are tackling now and will continue to tackle into the future.

Here are some insights we heard.

Image courtesy of O’Reilly.

The power of design

“Design is coming into its own. But how did this happen? How did our professional practice evolve from packaging electronics to addressing some of the most fundamental challenges of the 21st century? Designers are tackling an extraordinary range of problems that cut to the core of where we are going. Organizations are applying design methodologies and principles to solve some of our most intractable problems… and this is astonishing.”

–Barry Katz, professor and IDEO fellow

Designing with data

“How many of you have felt like a bad decision was justified in the name of metrics? Data can be overwhelming, but the way to get started is to think, ‘Where do I want to go?’Twitter Logo Using data makes you a more informed designer. Start, then, with your purpose—what gets you out of bed in the morning. Don’t derive your goals from what you can measure. Derive what you should measure from what your goals are.”

–Julie Zhuo, Facebook

Related: How to get started with data-driven design

Designing for diverse audiences

“We need to be thinking about designing for inclusivity (for enterprise). Different font sizes, internationalization, color friendly for the colorblind—let’s start thinking about these not as edge cases, but as majority cases, because we are all unique.”

–Amanda Linden, Facebook

“Make everyone at your organization a researcher.”

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Make research accessible

“(When conducting user research) capture findings quickly, while they’re still fresh in your mind, and then discuss and debate the main themes together. Make those findings easy to find, and then workshop them for even deeper understanding.”
–Amy Silvers, Nasdaq

Everyone’s a researcher

What happens when you ignore the research? Your product fails.Twitter Logo It doesn’t reflect your user’s needs, and then management doesn’t want to do research again. One solution is to make everyone a researcher. The truth is, anyone can learn how to conduct good interviews and ask probing questions. Now, you have more people to do the research, and everyone will understand it.”

–Amy Silvers, Nasdaq

Amy Silvers. Image courtesy of O’Reilly.

Sustainable design

“To better design for sustainability, think about everything you produce as being part of a larger system.Twitter Logo Putting things online requires electricity and storage and produces CO2. So think about the entire lifecycle of your product, not just the design and hosting of it. We can help our clients make more sustainable choices by framing things in terms of speed and efficiency—a page with a lighter page weight will load more quickly and give their users what they want. And that’s something clients respond to.”

–Tim Frick, Mightybytes

The future of enterprise software design

“Right now is the best time to be working on enterprise products. It used to be you won a deal by having the most features. Now companies are making an investment in design, and customer expectations are rising even with for their work products. It’s not enough to just be functional or look good, because people are still people at work. We need to create tools that make it feel better to be working.”

–Amanda Linden, Facebook

“You can’t attract top talent with mediocre people.”

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Building better teams

“[When mentoring junior designers] be willing to show your mess. Invite others to help you do better, and bring your work forward for critique. Lead with vulnerability. If your junior designers aren’t showing you their messy projects, you are missing an opportunity for creative tension, and creative tension is essential for effective design.”

–Billie Mandel, Design Equation

Your greatest legacy will be the people you hire.Twitter Logo Not just the right people with the right talent, but people with the potential to grow. Mediocrity begets mediocrity—when you hire people who are pretty good, but not the best or most talented, because we have a timeline to make a product and need it now, their mediocrity will become a problem. It will attract more mediocre people and tell others that mediocre work is okay. You bring the whole team down… and you can’t attract top talent with mediocre people.”

–Aarron Walter, InVision

Aarron Walter. Image courtesy of O’Reilly.

“Throw your junior designers a little bit in above their head. If you’re checking in with them regularly, they won’t break anything. Give them a little more responsibility than they are comfortable with, and never take the pen out of their hands—when you do that, you tell them you don’t believe they can do it themselves.”

–Billie Mandel, Design Equation

Check out O’Reilly Design’s roundup of the event for even more topics worth exploring. We couldn’t attend every session, but the conversations we were a part of were inspiring and thought-provoking, and reinforced the increasing prevalence of design in business today.

We have a seat at the table—now the question is, what will we do with it?

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