Skip to main content


By Tom Cunningham, Craig Phillips
A podcast about working in design.
Where to listen
Apple Podcasts Logo

Apple Podcasts

Google Podcasts Logo

Google Podcasts

Overcast Logo


Pocket Casts Logo

Pocket Casts

RadioPublic Logo


Spotify Logo


Stitcher Logo


32. A Bid Farewell
After 32 episodes, Tom and Craig record one last episode of Opacity in Jan 2022. In what we hope is an on-brand move, we explain our reasons for wrapping the podcast up. Thank you so much for all the listeners and guests we've had over the past few years. We hope that you found something interesting, insightful or just plain fun about the content we've put out. We've both really enjoyed doing this podcast and getting to know each other in the process. If you're new to the industry, we hope some of the words we've shared will help demystify the industry for you. There's so much to learn and so much room to grow. We hope your journey through the world of design is a fulfilling one. Farewell, From Tom & Craig
January 14, 2022
31. Generalists and Specialists
Welcome to the new year. In the first episode of 2021, Craig and Tom jump into an evergreen topic on the minds of designers everywhere. Should we be generalists or specialists, and why? Specialization and generalization are tough terms to define. There are generalist designers who have a breadth of skills that cover the full design process. And then there's a wider definition of generalist that includes knowledge, skills, and experience outside of design. Similarly with specialization, it can be narrow, or wide. There's no standard way of saying what is general and what is specialized. But saying "it depends" isn't too helpful. It can be a real conundrum in a designer's professional life. In the episode Tom and Craig talk about how they approach the topic, and some pros and cons of each. And in the end, it's all about recognizing you're unique "shape" as a designer.  If you enjoyed the episode, make sure to share it with your friends and colleagues. You can support the podcast by leaving us a review or rating wherever you listen. You can subscribe to Opacity anywhere audio is distributed. Connect with us on twitter @opacitypodcast, and by checking out our new YouTube channel.
January 21, 2021
30. Wrapping up 2020, Lacing up for 2021
We've made it to the end of 2020, a year unlike any other. Putting aside the roller coaster of the past year, we wanted to take some time to reflect on what's changed for designers in the workplace, and what these changes may mean for us in the coming year. A major theme for this episode was on the move to remote work and it's far reaching impacts, for good and maybe-not-so-good.  We also get into some of the following topics: Global asynchronous work, and ways to communicate effectively and efficiently The dangers of a more output-centric work environment for designers Remote facilitation as a designer superpower Finding balance and setting boundaries when everything has blurred together ...and more! This episode was fun to record, and we really hope you enjoy it. As you close out the year, take some time to reflect on the new work-reality we find ourselves in, and how you can make it work best for you in 2021. Here's to wishing you all a very happy new year, and all the good things in the year to come.  If you enjoyed the episode, make sure to share it with your friends and colleagues. You can support the podcast by leaving us a review or rating wherever you listen. You can subscribe to Opacity anywhere audio is distributed. Connect with us on twitter @opacitypodcast, and by checking out our new YouTube channel. 
December 31, 2020
29. Starting your design career (part 1)
Starting out is hard. We've all been there, and have all had different experiences of this time. Regardless of how well or rough your entry to a design career is going, it takes real work. In this episode, Tom and Craig get into the topic, reflecting on their personal experiences as well as some suggestions for how designers starting out can grab the proverbial bull by the horns. They talk about job titles, transferable skills from other types of work, and creating your own work experience when starting from scratch. They also share about what stands out in the interview room, such as authentic interest and an ability to learn, good presentation skills, and the undoubtable benefit of investing in building your network. There's a lot still so much to talk about (it could be its own podcast!), so we're calling this "part 1".  If you're starting your design career, we'd love to hear from you! Tell us about your successes and failures, struggles and joys, or questions for us to cover on the air. Tweet at us @opacitypodcast or reach out to Tom (@tomcdesign) or Craig (cp5446) Please share with anyone you know starting out! And subscribe to Opacity wherever you consume audio. 🎧
December 07, 2020
28. The moments that matter most
Looking back through your career you'll find a series of memorable moments that stand out. Highs, lows, and transitions likely make up the bulk of those memories. These memorable, defining moments are some of the most impactful on your career. These ideas are explored in depth in the well-known book, The Power of Moments, by Dan and Chip Heath. Knowing this, how can we think about creating defining moments for others as a form of design impact? When thinking along these lines, how can we broaden out perspective on what it means to bring impact as a designer? Hope you enjoy the episode! To read more on this topic, we recommend The Power of Moments, as well as checking out Craig's recent article, Designing for impact through defining moments on the Shaping Design blog.
November 23, 2020
27. Ethics on the Table
It's easy to assume that UX design is inherently ethical. After all, designing with people's interests in mind is a big part of what we do. So why then, are certain technologies driving the downfall of civilization? ::cue ominous thunder:: Technologies that designers have played a big role in creating. Regardless of what we're designing, ethics needs to be on the table. No product is immune from ethical dilemmas. And every product—or perhaps the companies that build these products—wants to be something. It wants to grow, get more users, increase market share, make more money, keep investors happy, buy more pool tables and give employees free massages. But at what cost? In this episode, Tom and Craig scratch the surface of this big, important topic. tl;dr -- actively think about ethics, and interrogate your work, your employer, and yourself about upholding ethical standards. Enjoy the episode! If you do, please share with your friends and colleagues. And subscribe to Opacity anywhere audio is served.
November 16, 2020
26. Embracing Serendipity
Our careers (and life) are made up of cross-roads and decisions we make on where to go next. We can approach these moments through detailed calculation—trying to find the right way to go based on the information we have available. Or, we can embrace a bit of randomness, and follow our gut.  In this episode Tom and Craig talk about their experiences with key decision points in their careers, and how they calculated (or rather, didn't calculate) them. Really, this is about much more than career, as it gets down to what we all believe is a life well-lived.  How do you approach career and life decisions? What do you intentionally calculate, and when do you embrace randomness.  If you enjoy'ed this episode, please subscribe to Opacity anywhere, and share with others who might like it. 
October 26, 2020
25. Designing Design Systems
We all know about them. Probably even dipped our toes into making one. Everyone wants one. Many are willing to sell their souls for the chance at designing one. They're a lot of work, but they're worth every drop of blood, sweat, and tears. Of course, we're talking about design systems. There are a million books, blog posts, and podcast episodes about design systems. In this chat, Tom and Craig speak a little about their experiences building design systems. Tom coming from the "design systems at scale" perspective, and Craig from the "scrappy small team trying to make it happen" side.  Hope you enjoy the conversation! If you do, please share with your fellow designers, and subscribe to Opacity wherever you consume audio.
October 19, 2020
24. Accessible Analogies
Accessibility and usability are core to our profession. Despite this fact, they often don't take center stage. Many designers even feel that putting too much emphasis on them can take away from pushing creative boundaries. In this episode, Tom and Craig chat about the tensions that exist between these aspects of our profession.  We all love a good analogy. So why not explore how these topics can be further understood through the analogy of construction, architecture, and interior design?  Check out Accessibility for Everyone by Laura Kalbag (one of our fellow Ireland based designers!) for a great read on accessibility. 
October 12, 2020
23. Getting to Know Yourself
The experience of work is evolving faster than ever in this era of extreme uncertainty. In ways we're all still trying to make sense of. In this episode Craig and Tom get into it, talking about how working remotely has opened up a reevaluation of what we do, what we're good at, how we work, and where we struggle. They reflect on hard vs soft/professional skills, the "Conundrum of Self-Awareness", the impact of words, and challenges of communications.  All in all, a good jump back into the podcast after a long break. Hope you enjoy. If so, subscribe to Opacity wherever you consume audio, and share with your friends and colleagues. 🤗 And here's a link from the discussion: The Johari Window
October 05, 2020
22. Content & Conversational Design with Grace Hughes, Fjord
Content is integral to good quality products and services, but doesn't always get the attention it deserves. In this episode Grace Hughes, Content Design Lead at Fjord joins Tom & Craig to discuss the role of content design, conversational design, content strategy and much more. You'll never use Lorem Ipsum again! Connect with Grace on Twitter at @GraceHughes22 or on LinkedIn While you're at it, check the rest of us out as well. Tom, Craig, and the official account for Opacity. And, of course, subscribe to Opacity everywhere audio is distributed.
July 01, 2020
21. Research & Plan Your Career, with Sinead Davis Cochrane, Workday
In this episode Tom sits down with Sinéad Davis Cochrane, a User Experience Manager at Workday, where she lead a team of designers and researchers. We discuss her education, career path from researcher to manager and views on planning your career. As well as advice for listeners who may be finding the current COVID situation difficult. What if you suddenly find yourself out of work with an out of date portfolio? How do you navigate these uncertain waters? We discuss that and much more! Connect with Sinéad on Twitter at @sineadcochrane or on LinkedIn While you're at it, check the rest of us out as well. Tom, Craig, and the official account for Opacity. And, of course, subscribe to Opacity everywhere audio is distributed.
May 04, 2020
20. Looking After Yourself - From Burnout to Pandemic
It's been a while, but we're back! After taking a few months off from the podcast, Craig and Tom are back in the saddle to discuss the state of being a designer (and person) in troubling times. We discuss Tom's burnout—which led to us taking the break in recording—as well as the situation we're all dealing with as COVID19 spreads globally. Self-isolating,  working from home, managing kids, and the importance of looking after ourselves, our families, and the world.  And very importantly, finding some good in all of it. Enjoy, and let us know what you're thinking about with all that's going on!  You can reach out to Tom, Craig, and the official Twitter account for Opacity. And, of course, make sure to subscribe to Opacity everywhere audio is distributed. Share with others who you think would enjoy too. 
March 23, 2020
19: Baking your Design Roll, with Mindaugas Petrutis, Invision
Helping designers have more fulfilling careers is like being a baker. An artisanal bread baker, where the designer is the dough in your hands. Or maybe the job is the dough... Regardless, the analogy is oven-proof.  This week, we talk with an expert baker. From hospitality, to design recruitment, to building a design community with InVision, Mindaugas Petrutis has baked a lot of loaves over the years. We talk about the insides of design recruitment, the concept of dream jobs, and other related ideas. Connect with Mindaugas on Twitter at @MindaugasLT or on LinkedIn.  While you're at it, check the rest of us out as well. Tom, Craig, and the official account for Opacity. And, of course, subscribe to Opacity everywhere audio is distributed. 
October 15, 2019
18. Making a Design Podcast
With over 700,000 podcasts in the world, why make another one? Early in 2019, Tom and Craig decided to get together to create Opacity, a podcast framed around the general topic of working in design. 18 episodes and 8 months later, they reflect on how it started, what they've learned along the way, and why they keep doing it.  Podcasting is technically simple, but many things about it aren't that easy. If you've ever wanted to start your own, or have enjoyed listening to Opacity, this episode sheds more light into how they've tried to learn with each step of the journey. And, most importantly, how they keep it fun and interesting. Thanks to everyone who listens. For newcomers, subscribe to Opacity anywhere you get podcasts. 
September 24, 2019
17. Dazed & Composed, with Ben Taylor, Hubspot
Is composure underrated? One thing's for sure. Working nicely with others can be a challenge. And when we lose our composure, we can lose a lot more in the process.  The modern work environment is full of tense moments, difficult conversations, and unreasonable egos (our own included). When passion is high, inter-personal tension can follow close behind. Maintaining composure amidst your own strong opinions and lizard brain impulses is a skill worth developing. In this special episode we talk about all this, and more. Ben Taylor, Senior Product Designer at HubSpot, joins Craig and Tom. Ben brings a composed self-awareness, and some great insights on ways he's developed this over the years.  (You can find Ben on Medium or connect with him on LinkedIn.) Enjoy the episode, and don't forget to subscribe to Opacity anywhere you get podcasts. Follow us on twitter at @Opacitypodcast. And leave us a review on iTunes!
September 03, 2019
16. Is anyone a designer?
How do you feel when you hear these statements and questions?  Everyone's a designer Should designers code? Jay-Z is a member of the Illuminati If you're like most, you probably get a little too worked up. We all do, and that's natural. In this episode, Tom and Craig talk about these questions. They try their best not to fall into the trap of actually giving their stances on them (and fail a bit in the process). Instead, they reflect on why we ask these questions to begin with. And, why so many of us foam at the mouth when these topics come up.  Let us know what you think about these questions, and what it says about us as individuals, our identities, and our industry.  Find us on our new official twitter handle, @opacitypodcast. You can also connect with Tom @tomcdesign and Craig @ycphillips over yonder. ALSO! Tom is speaking at Glug Dublin on August 22nd, 2019, at The Sugar Club. Come say hi! Learn more about the topic and other speakers on the event page. 
August 13, 2019
15: Time & Energy
Time and energy are the elusive fuel for projects, both personal and professional. In this episode Craig and Tom discuss their thoughts on how to deal with finite resources and getting things done. Thanks for listening—share and subscribe! 
July 30, 2019
14: Interview with Kim Lenox, VP Design at Zendesk
Kim Lenox currently heads up the product design organization at Zendesk, a global company that builds software for the best customer experiences. She is responsible for driving strategic priorities and scaling the impact of an international team of product designers, researchers, content strategists, and front-end developers as the company moves upmarket. Prior to Zendesk, Kim led the design of product experiences for 24 years at technology companies like LinkedIn, Samsung, and Palm/HP.  In this episode we were lucky enough to speak with Kim about her career path, how she got to where she is, and the fundamental elements that made her the design leader she is today. It's chock full of sage advice—relevant for designers at any stage in their career.  To connect with Kim, and learn more about what her team is up to at Zendesk, here are some places to check out: Kim on Twitter Zendesk Zendesk Creative _ If you enjoy listening to Opacity, and think others might too, share this episode! Subscribe anywhere you get your podcasts.
July 02, 2019
13. Before we were designers
The jobs that we've had in the past shape the professionals we become. No matter how mundane, low paid, or seemingly inconsequential.  A recent twitter dot com trend had people from far and wide sharing 5 past jobs they had. In the process, we saw people we know (and many we don't) showing how they started out. The result was a lot of random, windy paths. Humble beginnings that showed many of us begin our work like in similar ways. So much of work in these times is impacted by social media, and the FOMO we experience seeing everyone advance and get promoted around us. Some of us think about career switches, but put it on the back burner because it seems too late.  In lucky episode 13, Craig and Tom talk about a few of their early jobs. From Tom's week-long stint as a lounge boy, to Craig's cold winter nights spent pitching for charities door to door—they're tales of hardship and struggle. But also of learning, growth, and the process of maturing into professional designers.  We hope you enjoy the episode. Share your past jobs with us when you share the episode on Twitter or elsewhere. And if you're listening on the Anchor mobile app, send us a audio clip—if we get some submissions maybe we'll start a new segment in future episodes! 🥳 Thanks for listening—share and subscribe! 
June 18, 2019
12: Don't be an Asshole, with Paul Woods, Edenspiekermann
Has your mother ever told you to not be an asshole? In case not, this episode should do the trick.  Paul Woods is Chief Creative Officer at the renowned design firm Edenspiekermann. He has accomplished much in his career as a designer,  working with companies like Red Bull, Google, The City of Santa Monica, Morgan Stanley, and Time Inc.  Now he's written a book to share wisdom on a very important and relevant topic. It's called How to Do Great Work Without Being an Asshole. It's both informative and entertaining, about how we all can be a little bit better people at work. Or at least less bad. But definitely more good. In this episode we talk about the theme of assholes, and learn more about why it's important for designers to think and talk about.  Not sure this point needs mention, but the term asshole is used semi-frequently in the episode. Listener discretion is advised. 😅 If you enjoy the episode please share with everyone you know. And subscribe to Opacity anywhere (and everywhere).
May 14, 2019
11: Banking on Research, with Lar Veale, AIB
If you know Lar Veale, and his current role at the bank AIB, then you know the title of this week's episode is a pun.  If you don't know Lar, this is a great chance to hear from someone who has a lot of experience bringing research into the design practice at a big financial institution. And coming from years in an agency setting, he's seen the work from many vantage points. He gets to the heart of why he finds research so critical to make design successful. Tom and Lar go way back, and Craig is clearly a third wheel in the conversation. But Lar brought donuts to the recording session, so we all won in the end.  Enjoy the episode, and share the joy of Opacity with everyone you care about. 
May 01, 2019
10: Learn by Doing
'Twas a dark and stormy night in Dublin... Tune into this week's episode to hear Tom tell a riveting tale of a disaster corrected by the power of DIY.  Experience makes life bigger. It expands our worldview. People decide more and more to pay for experiences than buy stuff. The same goes for learning to be a better designer. Going through the experience, learning by doing, trial and error—it all make us better at what we do. And enjoy the journey a bit more along the way. Here are some highlights from the episode What makes good advice, and when should you take it Learning tools with tutorials and not Milestones in life: houses and kids The case for thrusting yourself into experiences Outsourcing life And some fun facts This is episode 10! I think we're real podcasters now We  planned to record a whole different topic, but changed at the last second after Tom told his car bumper story. We like how it turned out. Hope you enjoy the episode—please share, subscribe, and review Opacity!
April 16, 2019
9: Design Education, with Colman Walsh, UX Design Institute
Colman Walsh's head has been in UX design education for the past decade. Who better to continue our design education topic from episode 4? In 2013 he founded, and ran it successfully as in-person training for individuals to corporate groups. Then came the opportunity to scale this work, and reach a global audience through online education. In 2017 Colman founded the UX Design Institute, fully online courses for certifications in UX. Interestingly, it offers accreditation through Glasgow Caladonian University. In the episode Colman describes this as a type of disruption through traditional education. Here are some of the other highlights from the chat: Importance of student feedback, then and now The decision to go for accreditation  Importance of uncommon common sense for a UX career Gaps in design education Check out the UX Design Institute to learn more.  Subscribe to Opacity everywhere audio is available 🔈
April 02, 2019
8: Imposter Syndrome, with Aoife O'Dwyer, Each&Other
Raise your hand if you've ever felt like an imposter. 🤚 Imposter Syndrome is something we're all familiar with. Maybe a bit too familiar. It shows its face across industries, but for creative professionals it's especially palpable.  In this episode Tom and Craig talk about their personal experiences with imposter syndrome. Both on the struggles, but also things that have helped them work through it. But even better, they're joined by a special guest. Aoife O'Dwyer—visual designer and gif specialist—joins the chat and shares heaping handfuls of insights and wisdom on the topic.  A few highlights include: The art of taking compliments Ireland and the concept of Notions Intro-Extro-Omni-vertedness Gender and Imposter Syndrome And many many more good things Follow Aoife on Twitter and check her out on Dribbble.  And of course, review + share + subscribe to Opacity on the internets.
March 19, 2019
7: Interview with Pete Bowker, CEO of Glug
This is exciting. Did I say how excited I am? We've hit episode 7, and are bringing on a new format with special guests.   In this episode I had the privilege of chatting with Pete Bowker, CEO of Glug. We talked about everything from his childhood eating bee larva in Papua New Guinea, through his career path building creative businesses, and how he's now embarked on a new journey to expand Glug's community around the world. I pick his brain a little on what creatives need, what value we give back, and where we're headed.  Check out the links below to learn more about Glug. Glug is a global creative community connecting, inspiring & educating creatives. Find an event near you, or start a local chapter in your city.  Glug Events Twitter Instagram Subscribe to Opacity wherever you get your podcasts. 
March 05, 2019
6: What's in a Process?
What's in a process? That which we call design, by any other name would still smell as sweet. What's design process, and what's the value in following one? Having a process is a good thing, but does that mean not following one is a bad thing? Tom and Craig get into it, exploring when they're dogmatic, and when agnostic, about design process. Here are some highlights that you'll have to listen to understand 😅 Accordions  Process is a marketing tool It depends Willy nilly Process iteration Process is a people thing Please give us a review with all the stars on iTunes, or wherever you listen. If you liked the episode, please share with your fellow designers, and subscriiiiiibe 😘
February 26, 2019
5: Expectations of the Modern Designer
We started this episode with a simple question. "What's expected of the modern designer?" Turns out it's the perfect topic to uncover rabbit holes.  Tom and Craig have a convo that starts here, and ends somewhere else altogether. From specialists/generalists, to management career tracks, to the worlds of doing design on in-house and agency teams. Listen, enjoy, rate, and share! Subscribe to Opacity wherever you listen to podcasts.
February 19, 2019
4: The Design of Design Interviews
Interviewing is a gentle dance. A staged performance where the interviewer and interviewee meet on the battlefield of employability. In other words, it's hard on both sides of the table. Design challenges are a common component of interviewing for a new gig. But not everyone's a fan. Tom read a tweet last year and just couldn't get the thread out of his mind. In this episode Craig and Tom chat up the spicy twitter exchange, and share their thoughts about design interviews. Here are some of the topics they get into: -About Design Challenges/Exercises -Signs of a Good Interview -Against Design Challenges -Interviews are Theater -Interviews are a Guess -In Support of Design Challenges -Context of the personality, the role, & the company Here's a link to the tweet they mentioned: Theme music by Tom Cunningham
February 12, 2019
3: What's the Future of Design Education?
Should designers learn? Yes, yes they should. But the real question is how. How should designers learn their craft? What prepares a designer and gives them the skills they need to be successful for todays jobs? How about those of the future? There's no shortage of options out there. College degrees, bootcamps, online certificate programs and, of course, the self-taught route. All distinct paths to try and create a successful career. Tom and Craig get into it from their two distinct backgrounds.  Here are some highlights from the discussion— Education highways & scenic routes Bootcamp scepticism New education business models Self-reliance when self-taught Mentors, and why people are important Investment in the soft skills Emoji miscommunication (👍🏼😅) The future of design education Here are some links from the schools we talked about. Note that none of these schools were involved in this episode. General Assembly Lambda UX Design Institute Interaction Design Foundation Theme music by Tom Cunningham
February 05, 2019
2: Hot/Mild Takes on the Year to Come
What does the future hold? We all have opinions on where the coming year will take us. Tom and Craig are no exception. In this episode the guys discuss a few bits and bobs floating in the empty cavern where their articulate minds used to be. The best thing about the future is no one can say you're wrong. Yet, at the same time, it's so easy to disagree about it. Best not to take any of it too seriously. Here are some highlights from the episode. Existential identity crises of today's designer Design ethics and its unclear trajectory The call to remote work abounds Tool fatigue feels The tight hype curve of design trends Ageing designers (present company excluded) And more! Check out the article referenced here at Theme music by Tom Cunningham
January 29, 2019
1: Experience Design—High Horses & Reality Checks
Welcome to the first ever episode of Opacity! Tom and Craig go down a variety of rabbit holes as they think out loud about experience design. Craig tries to instigate, but Tom remains stoic as ever. Everything is on the table, from the designing bathroom experiences to artificial intelligence. In the end, experience design wins, but not without a few scratches. Here are a few highlights from the episode. - Poking at UX Design - The Best Experience is No Experience - Humility & Ego in Computational & Classical Design - The Commodification and Bubblefication of UX - Artificial Intelligence, Creativity Theme music by Tom Cunningham
January 22, 2019
Welcome to Opacity, a podcast about working in design. What does it mean to be a designer? As a craft, design lives and grows. But with growth comes complexity.  Designers today are often navigating their career paths on their own. Forging new ways to do new types of design. It isn't easy, and the rate of change in the industry makes it even harder. Opacity is a podcast about working in design, hosted by Tom Cunningham and Craig Phillips. Designers that live at the intersection of design, product, and strategy. But with distinct paths and perspectives.  Join us by subscribing to Opacity.  Recorded and produced in Dublin, Ireland.
January 05, 2019