A conversation on everything related to digital product design, with hosts Tanner Christensen and Jasmine Friedl. Discussing design careers, tools, education, critique, and much more. New episodes on Wednesdays!
When you start a new job, take on a new challenge, or join a new team, you probably find yourself experiencing some form of doubt. Worse is as you progress in your career and that doubt remains. When do career professionals stop doubting themselves, if ever? In this episode of New Layer, Tanner and Jasmine share their experiences with career doubt, dive into the true meaning of the word, and spotlight techniques and tools anyone can use to take advantage of doubt and turn it into a superpower.
What is a "strategy" and why does it matter? What responsibility do product designers have to be good strategists? In this episode Tanner and Jasmine discuss the meaning of strategy, why it's important to invest in, and how anyone—at any level—can become better strategic thinkers.
Have you ever been wrong? Of course you have, we all have. What matters more than being wrong or right is what you do when you're wrong (and therein after). In this episode of New Layer, Jasmine Friedl and Tanner Christensen talk about what it means to be wrong as a product designer and leader, and why building cultures where "strong opinions, loosely held" is optimal for teams and individuals alike.
What's the value of being a certified designer? For designers interested in getting certification or those hoping a certificate program will help them land a job, what should they know before signing onto a bootcamp or similar program? In this episode Tanner and Jasmine share their personal—spicy—opinions on the subject.
How do designers track their work? Should they? In this episode, Tanner and Jasmine discuss the importance of tracking your work—through journaling, screenshots, video, and more. When it comes time to reflect on your growth, your toolkit of processes and knowledge, or sharing with peers or stakeholders, tracking work plays a major role.
What do you do when you get blocked? That is: what's the best course of action when something is obstructing your path forward, to success? In this episode of New Layer, Jasmine and Tanner share examples of times they've been blocked in their career and the variable ways to get unblocked. From naming the block to exploring the landscape around it, this episode is packed full of what we hope to be helpful tips (and some very unhelpful jokes).
What are you responsible for at your job? To find out you'll have to talk with your team, your manager, and even your customers. But often we don't have those conversations, why? To do your best work you must understand not only what your role and responsibilities are, but what those are for your team too. In this episode of New Layer, Jasmine and Tanner discuss responsibility as it relates to expectations and the ever-expanding circle of responsibilities we each have when it comes to the work we do.
Mentioned in this episode: How to define roles and responsibilities, a playbook from Atlassian (https://www.atlassian.com/team-playbook/plays/roles-and-responsibilities).
What should you look for when choosing a manager? What type of manager would you work with best and what signals might you use to determine as much? In this episode of New Layer, Tanner and Jasmine discuss their past experiences with good (and not so good) managers, as well as what types of managers are out there and how to identify the right manager for you.
Recruiters are a vital, but often neglected or otherwise belittled, part of the job-finding process. In this episode of New Layer, Jasmine and Tanner share what it is exactly recruiters do, how they do it, and why it's so important that designers treat recruiters as any other member of the team. From being your authentic self to getting to know the recruiters, negotiating, and more.
Personal values are how we measure our lives and evaluate trade-offs. They enable us to quickly and effectively make decisions while ensuring a high quality of work and livelihood. In this episode of New Layer, both Tanner and Jasmine share their personal values and how each came up with them. Spoiler: there's no right or wrong way to define your personal values. What matters is that you identify what matters most for you in your life and career so you can ensure you're making decisions toward those values.
For more on values check out: https://www.lifehack.org/866227/personal-values
What does remote communication offer that in-person can't? What challenges, opportunities, and unique value does communicating remotely provide designers and the teams we work on? We discuss all this and more in this episode of New Layer!
Looking for your first design job? Thinking of making the switch to a larger or smaller company? Moving from freelance to in-house? Each type of job has different benefits and drawbacks, as with most things we discuss today: the right type of job for you is going to depend a lot on who you are and what you want from your career.
In this episode, Jasmine and Tanner discuss some of the tradeoffs they've observed with each different type of job designers might consider. Personal stories, lessons learned, and skills (plus a reminder) all designers should be mindful of no matter what stage of a career they're in.
Is there space in the product design industry for older designers? What should designers do as they reach ages 40, 50, 60 and beyond? A New Layer listener recently asked and in this episode we answer. Jasmine and Tanner talk about what it means to be an older designer: the advantages and disadvantages faced, who to look for as an example, why you should keep designing no matter your age, and the role biases play in the hiring of older designers. This and more in this episode of New Layer!
What is interaction design, why does it matter, and how do you go about it? In this episode of New Layer, Tanner and Jasmine outline what interaction design is and why it's a core part of digital product design; from mapping out comprehensive user experience to defining and understanding the underlining architecture of a digital experience, interaction design is a core part of the product design skillset.
Resources for learning more about interaction design:
Interaction design basics from usability.gov
A visual vocabulary for describing information architecture and interaction design
NNGroup Journey Mapping 101
How do product designers build a portfolio when they don't have much work to show? Jasmine and Tanner explore the question in this episode of New Layer, highlighting the importance of creating work for yourself, diving deep into whatever work you do have, and always being honest in your portfolio.
What does the next few years hold for product design? If you're starting out in design today, or studying to work in product design, what should you focus on in order to get ahead of the curve? In this episode, Jasmine and Tanner explain why predictions are often silly things to focus on, and what you should look to instead.
Related: Morgan Housel's The Psychology of Prediction https://www.collaborativefund.com/blog/the-psychology-of-prediction/
A question designers ask at one point or another: when is a design actually done? In this episode of New Layer, Tanner and Jasmine discuss what it means to design, how that definition helps define when the work is done, and why that definition is going to be different for each individual, team, and company. If you want to better align your team (or just yourself) around design work, you'll want to listen to (and share!) this episode.
When it comes to taking breaks: are you proactive or do you wait until you're burned out and need it most? In this podcast episode, Tanner and Jasmine discuss the importance of proactively taking breaks from work. Whether small breaks throughout your day or work week, or larger breaks during a quarter or year. Hear from their experiences and insights on why breaks matter, how to make them effective, and what to do when the break is over and you're transitioning back into work.
Each December presents itself an opportunity to reflect over the past year as well as look ahead to the next. Both activities are prime for defining success, for yourself and your team. In this episode of New Layer, Tanner and Jasmine discuss the different factors that go into defining success and what it means for leaders on a design team: both formal people managers and individual contributors.
Mentioned in this episode:
Intercom's five core competencies for leaders: https://twitter.com/Padday/status/1237753130911174656
Mind Over Water by Craig Lambert: https://www.amazon.com/Mind-Over-Water-Lessons-Rowing/dp/0618001840/ref=as_li_ss_tl
What is systems thinking and why does it matter for product designers? Tanner and Jasmine share why they believe systems thinking is a critical skill most designers today are missing, and what the root cause of that might be. Join us to hear anecdotes and examples of systems thinking in practice, as well as the relationship between systems design and service design, and much more.
When it comes to working in the modern design industry, there are challenges all designers must face. Tanner and Jasmine talk about the two most daunting challenges from their own career experience, as well as what to do when facing those challenges. This episode is a must-listen for all product designers, new and experienced.
How do we, as product designers, ensure the work we do is responsibly designed? Tanner and Jasmine share lessons learned in the world of ethical, moral, and responsible design during their time working at Facebook. From learning from past failures to building systems and habits of designing responsibly, this episode is meant to be a provoking one for all designers.
Meetings: we love them or hate them, but it doesn't have to be that way! In this episode of New Layer, Jasmine and Tanner share insights and examples around what makes a meeting effective. If the meetings you're running or attending don't have a clear (aligned upon) objective and outcomes, agendas, defined roles, and include everyone who might need to be there, they're not going to be effective. Similarly, in these days of mostly remote meetings the same lessons can apply, or can they?
What is a personal brand and why does it matter? Should you care about building your personal brand? In this episode, Tanner and Jasmine answer these questions and more, to underline why a personal brand—how you show up every day, in any format—matters whether you've deliberately invested in one or not.
How do you design for accessibility? Accessibility means "access ability", the ability for an audience to access and interact with a design. We're not accessibility experts, but throughout our careers we've worked closely with or led design teams that have focused on accessibility. In this episode we share insights, resources, and tips for designing with accessibility in mind, and why it's easier than you might think. As Tanner says: "Great design is accessible design."
From Directors and VPs of Design to Heads of Design and Design Managers, what do these formal leaders do all day? In this return episode of New Layer, Tanner and Jasmine talk about the various responsibilities and areas of focus for formal leaders. Everything from working with their product, engineering, marketing, and sales counterparts, to headcount and financial planning and ensuring the work of the team is having an outsized impact on the business.
What matters most when hiring or being hired: experience, expertise, or eagerness?
In this live recording of New Layer Tanner and Jasmine explore each facet as they relate to new and experienced designers. From how experience can bias us each, to why eagerness is often the most important (but also detrimental) skill for designers to develop.
This episode was recorded in front of a live audience as part of Chicago Camps Leadership By Design August 2020 event.
What's a one-on-one and why do they matter? Who should you be having one-on-one meetings with and what should you talk about? Should you come prepared or not? In this episode Jasmine and Tanner share insights and anecdotes into what makes for an effective one-on-one meeting and how to plan for them.
Tanner and Jasmine share their must-read books for designers. Spanning everything from how to conduct design critique or present your work, to what makes a good manager and how learning about org design can help your understanding of the work you do.
The full list of books mentioned are:
1. The Design Method, by Eric Karjaluoto
2. The Shape of Design, by Frank Chimero
3. The Design of Everyday Things, by Don Norman
4. How Design Makes the World, by Scott Berkun
5. The Creativity Challenge, by Tanner Christensen
6. The Making of a Manager, by Julie Zhuo
7. Org Design for Design Orgs, by Kristen Skinner and Peter Merholz
8. Sprint, by Jake Knapp
9. Radical Candor, by Kim Scott
10. The Advantage, by Patrick Lencioni
11. The Messy Middle, by Scott Belsky
12. Redesigning Leadership, John Maeda
13. Discussing Design, by Aaron Irizarry and Adam Connor
14. Don't Make Me Think, by Steve Krug
15. About Face, by Alan Cooper
16. The User Experience Team of One, by Leah Buley
17. TED Talks, by Chris Anderson
18. Loonshots, by Safi Bahcall
19. Just Enough Research, by Erika Hall
20. Principles, by Ray Dalio
21. The Dance of the Possible, by Scott Berkun
22. The Elements of Typographic Style, by Robert Bringhurst
23. Thinking With Type, by Ellen Lupton
24. The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, by Edward Tufte
25. Why are we Yelling, by Buster Benson
26. Resilient Management, by Lara Callender Hogan
27. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, by Patrick Lencioni
28. Articulating Design Decisions, by Tom Greever
29. Start With Why, by Simon Sinek
30. Mastering Collaboration, by Gretchen Anderson
If you pick just four books to read from the list, Tanner and Jasmine recommend: The Design of Everyday Things, Org Design for Design Orgs, Discussing Design, and The Making of a Manager (even if you're not a manager!).
Joining a new team or company? There's a lot you can do up-front to ensure you set the stage for your career. More than that: the insights shared here are applicable for everyone, not just those joining a team for the first time. From dedicating time to meeting those on your team (and learning about them as individuals), to digging into understanding the history and context around the team, company, or projects. Jasmine and Tanner go into depth on what you can do when you're first joining a team to make sure you're successful, as well as what resources you can use to make the process of onboarding easier.
When everyone on your team is working remotely—physically apart—how do you ensure you stay productive? How do you avoid burning out, unnecessary distractions, or worse? In this episode of the podcast Jasmine and Tanner share tips and insights into the world of working apart from your team. Why it's important to create a dedicated work space, how to create that vital transition from "home" to "work", and ways to stay connected when it's so easy to be removed.
What's the best way to present your design work in a critique? There are a number of designers can do to ensure the feedback they get in critique is helpful, actionable, and levels-up not only themselves but their team too. Things like preparing by considering the feedback you're looking for, the stage of work, who will be attending the critique, and more. As well as learning how to be a great facilitator and using critique as a means for not merely sharing work but also uncovering new or different ideas.
What is self awareness and why does it matter? In this episode of New Layer Jasmine and Tanner explain how the more you understand yourself, the more impactful you can be. If you're going to be an impactful designer you have to know how you work best and why, as well as how and why your peers do their best work. Thankfully there are a lot of things you can do to build your self awareness, like building an environment of feedback, taking a persona or archetype personality test, journaling, or getting a coach. All will help you improve your understanding of yourself as others see you, which is a powerful key to doing impactful work.
How do you scope the work of a design project? What do you do when someone asks: "How long will this take to design?" An important component of product design is the ability to estimate how much time and effort a task or project will take, but estimations can be tricky to determine. In this episode Tanner and Jasmine discuss everything that goes into project estimates and why they can be so daunting for designers just starting out (and why estimates can be tricky for experienced designers too).
This is the second part of a two-part episode. Previously, Jasmine and Tanner discussed why it's important to give constructive and timely feedback to those we work with, as well as how to best take critical feedback even when you disagree with it. In this follow-up episode the co-hosts dive deeper into examples of good and bad feedback they've experienced in their careers, and highlight why good feedback can often make or break a team, and organization.
As product designers it's important to learn how to give constructive, actionable, and timely feedback to everyone we work with. That means not only feedback for our design peers, but also to product managers, engineers, researchers, writers, and more. Learning how to give (and take) feedback effectively is a powerful skill that will help you and your team grow. In this part one of a two part episode of the podcast, Tanner and Jasmine discuss best practices (and some not-so-great practices) for providing feedback.
What should designers focus on in order to build a future-proof and sustainable career? VR, AR, AI, blockchain, neumorphism, what's next for design? In this episode Jasmine and Tanner discuss emerging predictions about the future of design and why the best designers are more flexible than specialized. Rather than focusing on any one specific area or industry, product designers who excel at the fundamentals of product design—things like product strategy, research, visual and interaction design—are best setup to adapt as the world changes. That doesn't mean you can't focus on an area you're passionate about, of course.
As a designer, how do you pick the right tool for the job? What should you look for in your design tools and what should you avoid? Trending tools might not be all they're hyped up to be, and there will always be a new and exciting tool in the market, so with so many options it can be hard to define what tool is right for your job. In this episode of New Layer, Tanner Christensen and Jasmine Friedl discuss how design tools have evolved and what designers can do to ensure the tools they're using or trialing are best for the job at-hand.
Should you work to become a director-level individual contributor (IC) or work to become a people manager? Both roles are critical in a mature organization, but each has distinctive responsibilities. One focuses on the craft of the product design work while the other is responsible for the team—people working together. Despite common myths around moving between IC roles and that of people management, there are reasons to make the switch or not, depending on what you're passionate about and where your strengths are.
In this episode of New Layer, Tanner and Jasmine shine a light on some of the most important aspects to being a hyper-senior individual contributor or that of a people manager.
What is design research, how does it work, and what can product designers do to integrate research into their process today? In this special episode of New Layer, Tanner is joined by special guest Paul Derby, UX research manager at Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. Tanner and Paul discuss common pitfalls designers encounter when looking to do research, as well as strategies and specific tactics designers can use to conduct better research as part of their design process.
When it comes to interviewing the last thing you want to do is follow a template of questions to ask. Instead, treat the interview as an opportunity to learn the deep truth about the company you're interviewing with and give them a chance to learn about you. When we approach interviewing as a step-by-step, templated process to get through we miss out on discovering ways we can contribute and things we can learn. In this episode of the podcast, Jasmine and Tanner share perspective on how to identify the right questions to ask when it comes to interviews.
Making time for thinking and giving yourself space to think about the work you do as a product designer is crucial. But time away from what we often see as the "work" of a designer—the pixels, the prototypes, wireframes—can feel like procrastination. How can designers make more time for deliberate thinking? What does it look like to dedicate part of the design process to simply think and reflect?
Do designers show more value when they go off on their own to solve a problem, or when they include others in their process? It can feel counterintuitive to prove value and skills by incorporating others into your process, but the reality is designers cannot do their best work unless they involve others; early and often in their process. In this episode Jasmine shares her insights and perspectives into what it takes to be a team player in order to do your best work, while Tanner shares his past struggles around working transparently and collaboratively.
In an industry that is growing more every day, how do product designers set themselves apart from the competition? The answer, as Tanner and Jasmine discuss in this episode of the podcast, might be in specializing, looking at niche spaces to work in, and worrying less about how to stand apart and more about how to just do good work. The type of work that energizes you and ensures you're learning and growing, no matter what phase of career you're in.
Burnout is what you experience when everything that fuels you gets used up too quickly. In this episode of New Layer, Jasmine and Tanner talk about what it feels like to have burnout, what typically causes burnout, and the types of things you can do to avoid it. Things like: working to figure out your inner identity, setting appropriate boundaries for yourself, finding mentors or guides to help ground you, and planning vacation or breaks away from work in-advance. To carry on the conversation, reach out to Tanner or Jasmine on Twitter: @tannerc and @jazzy33ca
If you're seeking your first product design job or you twentieth, what exactly should you look for? From compensation and company culture, to responsibilities and job title, what matters most? The answer, as Tanner and Jasmine discuss in this episode, depends on you. Your career ambitions, your skills and knowledge, and where you want to grow as a designer. Listen to hear personal experience and lessons-learned from Jasmine and Tanner's more than 20 years of product design, their suggestions on how to identify what matters most to you, and how to seek out the most important information in any job interview process.
When it comes to your career: how do you set expectations for yourself? How does setting your own expectations for a project differ from that of setting them for a promotion? When it comes to expectations we can often misguide ourselves, much to our detriment. In this episode of the podcast, Tanner and Jasmine chat about lessons they've learned over the course of their careers about how to set expectations and measure career growth without feeling overwhelmed or like you're an imposter.
What are soft skills and why do they matter for product designers? How do you identify what soft skills matter most for a specific role and how do you improve your soft skills? In this episode Jasmine and Tanner discuss soft skills: strong communication, negotiation, prioritization, self-awareness, and more. To set yourself apart from the competition in the job market you need to not only invest in the hard skills to do your job, but also the soft skills that enable you to work better with others.
What makes mentorship valuable, and should everyone have a mentor? In this episode Tanner and Jasmine discuss their experience with mentors throughout their 20+ years of design and why mentorship often doesn't take on the appearance the industry thinks it does. How to find a good mentor, how to ensure the relationship between a mentor and mentee is healthy, and much more in this episode of New Layer.
Rejection can be difficult when searching for a design job. In this episode of New Layer, Jasmine and Tanner talk about the different types of rejection designers often face when applying to or interviewing for a job and how to cope with each. How can you learn where the mismatch was if you aren't given feedback? What does it mean when you get rejected before you've even had a chance to prove yourself? Where do you look for guidance if you aren't really sure why you aren't getting the job? All this and much more in this episode.
What skills go into product design? At its core, product design consists of: product strategy, interaction design, and visual design, but how do new designers demonstrate each of those skills? And what about supplementary skills like user research, programming, and content strategy; should product designers know how to do those things as well? The answers—and more—in this episode of New Layer.
To do our best work we need to get feedback. For that reason critique is a fundamental part of the role we play as product designers. And yet, critique can feel intense for many designers, especially when done poorly. What does the best critique look like and how can we as designers and peers ensure each time we review work it's beneficial for everyone involved? What are the warning signs of a poor critique? How can you get feedback on your work if you work in a small team or if you're the only designer on the team? In this episode Jasmine and Tanner answer these questions and more.
What is the design process? There's a universal, time-tested, overarching process for design that many of us are familiar with, but when it comes to applying that process to any project, you may find it needs to be adapted. In this episode of New Layer, Tanner and Jasmine talk about the different ways the design process must be used to meet specific project needs; including how to identify what part of the process should be changed and how to ensure your process is fluid, not rigid, to ensure you and your team get the best results from your design work.
When it comes to showing your work in an online portfolio: how do you decide what goes in it? How much information is too much and how much is not enough? In this episode Jasmine and Tanner discuss best practices for building a compelling online portfolio, what to do if you don't have enough work to build one, and how to structure your work in a way that tells an effective story.
How do designers communicate the value of design? When it comes to collaborating with business partners or clients, how do designers help others understand what design does as a function? In this episode hosts Tanner Christensen and Jasmine Friedl discuss the evolving role of design, how designers can partner with their peers to make the design process more transparent, and why design needs to build trust in order to have impact.
Should design exercises be used as part of an interview process? Tanner and Jasmine talk advantages and disadvantages of design exercises and take home challenges as part of a comprehensive design interview process. Whether you're a designer hoping to prepare for your next interview or a hiring manager looking to add design exercises to your interview process, this episode is for you.
Hear how Jasmine ensures the interview process brings out the best of all her candidates and how her team prepares for these interviews, as well as Tanner's worst interview experience and how he thinks through exercises when interviewing.
Formal education or self-taught? What's the best way to get into product design today? In the first episode of New Layer, Tanner and Jasmine discuss the various career pathways to becoming a digital product designer. Whether you’re a self-starter or someone who needs scaffolding to learn, we discuss the benefits and drawbacks to different approaches for learning and improving in the world of design.