$30 off During Our Annual Pro Sale. View Details »

Seniority in design

Ben Holliday
March 14, 2019

Seniority in design

Talk from UX in the City, Manchester (March 2019).

Where are you on the path to being a senior designer? How do you think about seniority, and what really makes a designer 'senior'?

Ben Holliday

March 14, 2019

More Decks by Ben Holliday

Other Decks in Design


  1. wearefuturegov.com Seniority in design UX in the City, Manchester -

    March 2019 Ben Holliday, Chief Design Officer @benholliday
  2. hello hello

  3. We reform public services by supporting organisations through digital transformation

    and service design. We believe in the power of 21st-century organisations to deliver the highest quality services that have a lasting impact for all.
  4. This talk is built from the experience of hiring and

    working with over 100 designers in the last 5 years. And from being a designer.
  5. Question: Where are you on the path to being a

    senior designer?
  6. Question: How do you think about seniority, and what really

    makes a designer senior?
  7. Check in: What is your job role?

  8. Let’s start with job titles...

  9. Job titles... Digital Designer (in house) Product Designer/Front End Developer

    (agency) UX Designer (agency) UX Researcher (Government/contract) Head of User Experience (Government/in house) Deputy Director, Design (Government/in house) Design Director (agency) Chief Design Officer (agency)
  10. Job titles... Digital Designer (in house) Product Designer/Front End Developer

    (agency) UX Designer (agency) UX Researcher (Government/contract) Head of User Experience (Government/in house) Deputy Director, Design (Government/in house) Design Director (agency) Chief Design Officer (agency) Junior Senior Senior Senior etc.
  11. Hypothesis: the pressure to be ‘senior’ happens from early in

    your career. It’s about validating your role, and feeling valued.
  12. Hypothesis: job titles don’t mean very much in reality. It’s

    more what you do that counts.
  13. A design state of mind bit.ly/design-mindset

  14. A design mindset is how we respond to our immediate

    surroundings and work. This means asking different types of questions, and requires a different set of responses to the challenges we face.
  15. What makes you a senior designer? (8 things to start

  16. More focus on outcomes than process (as a way of

    navigating complexity). What makes you a senior designer?
  17. Complex (complexity) means something that consists of many different and

    connected/ component parts.
  18. Service map (navigating something more complex)

  19. An outcomes based approach to complexity: - Creating simple models

    to communicate component parts of a bigger picture/system. - Framing challenges and priorities without being drawn into detail too early or in the wrong places. - Having a clear goal/vision/proposition to work towards that helps us stay focussed on user-based and/or policy outcomes.
  20. Not over-complicating (and being able to visualise and communicate clearly).

    What makes you a senior designer?
  21. Complicated is what things can become if we don’t design

    the tools, or have the ability to create the right conversations at the right touch points.
  22. Storyboarding

  23. User Experience (impact) Safeguarding outcomes (impact) Organisation capabilities Data security

    Service/systems view
  24. Prototyping

  25. Asking more questions (inc. more obvious questions). What makes you

    a senior designer?
  26. Asking the right questions to frame the problem bit.ly/framing-the-problem

  27. Being prepared to take more measured risks and being accountable

    for what happens. What makes you a senior designer?
  28. Design is about imagining what the future could look like.

    Putting sticks in the ground bit.ly/sticks-in-the-ground
  29. A big idea is better than having a big plan.

    People get behind ideas, and are inspired, engaged and take action because of ideas.
  30. Being able to deconstruct your work in order to teach

    or coach others. What makes you a senior designer?
  31. First principles is about breaking something down to its most

    fundamental component parts, or the things that you believe are true. Then you work from there.
  32. “…[a framework or model] is purposefully reductive. It takes things

    away, emphasising only a small part of a large whole, so that we can focus only on what remains. A world map is a model of earth that removes nearly everything about the planet, leaving only relative masses, names of countries and cities, and overall proximity.” Jon Kolko
  33. Letting go of perfection. What makes you a senior designer?

  34. Being pragmatic (you can’t win every battle today), while still

    being optimistic (everything is worth fighting for).
  35. Work to an 80% rule… You can be reaching for

    high standards but getting in the way of making progress.
  36. Working with increasing levels of ambiguity. What makes you a

    senior designer?
  37. Ambiguity means being able to hold opposing or different ideas

    in tension at the same time.
  38. Working with ambiguity in design is: - not having the

    answers before you start - taking intuitive leaps to explore different ways of solving a problem or shaping a product, service or experience - being bold enough to hold strong opinions and ideas while working to prove yourself wrong - holding and developing ideas that are in tension with how the world and existing models work today - being confident enough to let go of detail when dealing with complex systems - being prepared to work around or challenge existing constraints and how things work right now (using creative thinking/methods).
  39. None
  40. Seniority, anxiety and dealing with confidence issues

  41. “People assume that I’ve always been confident and comfortable speaking

    in front of a room full of strangers… Nothing could be further from the truth.”
  42. Everyone can have an on/off switch, but you have to

    find it first (we’re all different).
  43. Some working principles (for coping)... - Lean on other people

    ie. knowing when and how to trust others to take the strain for you at the right times. - Have a drawbridge i.e withdraw from situations that don’t help you manage negative feelings or worry. It’s okay to retreat occasionally. - Know your own coping mechanisms i.e. if you can’t work through anxiety you need ways around it. But don’t ignore how you feel. - Be yourself
  44. There isn’t a leadership style for senior designers that always

    works or defines ‘good’. Finding your own voice and style is important.
  45. Find an outlet for your thinking. Working in the open

    is a reflection of your leadership, and seniority.
  46. Design is about constraints, so this is how we should

    shape how we lead.
  47. Build on your limitations and make them your strengths.

  48. The importance of feedback (and how to manage/ask for feedback)

  49. As a designer, you’re only as good as your feedback

  50. Self reflection. Be your own feedback loop - make time

    to reflect on how you lead design, and make adjustments.
  51. Progression, or taking on more senior roles (in design and

    elsewhere) is about personal responsibility
  52. - Autonomy i.e taking responsibility for how your use your

    time, energy and focus (recognising any constraints around this). - Asking for support when you need it i.e not waiting for someone else to notice that you’re not okay (focus on how you are). - Asking for feedback when you need it i.e not waiting for feedback from other people (focus on your work inc. outputs, way of working and communicating). - Looking out for other people i.e. always being aware if the person working alongside you is okay (focus on how other people are). - Being proactive i.e. not waiting for someone else to offer you a promotion/opportunity.
  53. Don’t mind the gap(s). Work in the gaps around you.

  54. Getting unstuck. (Something practical)

  55. Design a tool that helps you have the right conversations

  56. Capability Canvas: Service Design (example)

  57. Working principles (things that work): - No checklists i.e. avoid

    progression conversations based on job descriptions/lists of skills and tasks only. - Understand where people start i.e. benchmark a foundation level. - Talk about what it means to be increasingly senior i.e. be clear about responsibilities and behaviours you expect. - Use different lenses
  58. Different lenses for a capability canvas: - Outputs The things

    you are actively doing e.g. designers should make things, and be able to make things happen. - Self-presentation How you present yourself when working with others e.g. designers needs to think about energy, focus, confidence and communication. - Time/projects How you manage your time and responsibility for tasks that you own. - Responsibilities Your responsibilities as part of a team. - Feedback/progression How you manage feedback and the personal responsibility you take.
  59. Capability Canvas: Service Design (example)

  60. Leading design (and not just being a senior designer)

  61. “…design leaders are still designers, but they design different things.

    Teams, processes, and culture. ” Kim Goodwin UX London (2016)
  62. Design leadership is making sure that other people have as

    much space and time to do their best possible work.
  63. Proximity is where you position yourself in relation to other

    designers. Closeness is the distance you are from the work itself. The attachment to solving the problem.
  64. Empathy both ways. How we can start to understand decisions,

    motivations and even the politics that we don’t agree with.
  65. Things I haven’t talked about… - Money - Equity (when

    things are not equal) - Toxicity (when you should leave)
  66. Some final advice… - Be interested - Focus your time

    and energy - Be prepared to say ‘yes’ - Work at being a better communicator
  67. Thanks Ben Holliday, Chief Design Officer, FutureGov @benholliday wearefuturegov.com

  68. For more, read and follow the blog posts at: medium.com/seniority-in-design

    Get in touch: benholliday@wearefuturegov.com @benholliday