My Approach

I follow the principles of user-centered design by working to create systems that are strong in Visibility, Accessibility, Legibility, and Language — while considering the intended audience, purpose, and context of the system.

I work to manifest these principles through the lens of my values and process.

Values

I’ve found the following values to be those that yield the best work and the best environment to work in, and thus strive to embody them in both professional organizational relationships and in the systems that I design.

These are derived from 2500 year old Buddhist teachings described as the four limitless qualities of mind: kindness, compassion, joy, and fearlessness (equanimity.)

They are equally applicable internally to organizations creating systems as well as to the systems that they create.

  • Openness – An open environment facilitates kindness. An open environment is one in which individuals are not subjected to needless judgment or dismissal, and individuals have time and space to express both new ideas and concerns. Since we are routinely judging and assessing situations, patience with both ourselves and others is also critical with regard to cultivating this type of space.
  • Transparency – An environment of transparency facilitates compassion. When we are able to see what is happening, and understand the causes and conditions that have lead to difficult situations, we are more able to empathize and act compassionately. Transparency means clear communication of vital information both within and without an organization, that directly gets to the point. Transparency requires clarity of purpose, goals, and processes.
  • Autonomy – Autonomy provides the conditions for spontaneity and joy in our own work and that of others. When individuals have the space, freedom, and trust to take responsibility and ownership for their work and prove their capability, we can take joy in their genuine accomplishments and contributions.
  • Accountability – To be accountable is to be willing to accept responsibility for one’s actions, be they successes or mistakes. An environment in which individuals hold one another accountable encourages fearlessness. When people are willing to embrace challenging conversations without hesitation so that individuals can learn from the results of their actions, then everyone learns to maintain fearless equanimity, whether an individual’s mistakes are being pointed out or their accomplishments are celebrated.

  • Trust – To have trust in a situation is to have confidence that things will happen in the best manner possible for everyone involved. To have trust in another person means having confidence that they will act in a responsible manner with a certain degree of kindness, compassion, good humor, and fearlessness. This means that there is much less work necessary to check that the four organizational values are being upheld, because we have confidence that this is happening automatically.

Process

My approach to design is about balancing chaos and order with the goal of yielding solutions that are both novel and clear – fresh and easy to use.

I’ve found that thinking about things in terms of these spaces (here represented by the classic yin-yang) and nested phases is a good way to think about this process in a holistic fashion.

The Tao of Product Design

Definition

These phases are about understanding key problems, articulating this understanding to reach team consensus on the problem definition, and mapping potential solutions to the key problems. The principal goals are novelty and consensus.

Production

These phases are about manifesting solutions through visual language and interface designs, copywriting and documentation, and software development. The principal goals are clarity and consistency.