My Dream Design Curriculum
Now, without fail, one of the most common questions that comes up in panels like these is: what skills should I acquire/classes should I take if I want to be a product designer in the future…

Basics

  • Fundamentals of graphic design
  • Computer science
  • Interaction design
  • Materials and 3-D form

Context is King

  • History of design
  • Psychology — perception and cognition
  • Psychology — social psychology
  • Statistics
  • Visualizations
  • Marketing/Communication

The Softer Side of Skills

  • Public speaking & communication
  • Sketching design ideas
  • Working well with others
  • Critique/giving feedback to other
  • Entrepreneurship/identifying opportunities for impact

Making things

  • creative writing
  • poetry
  • studio art
  • filmmaking
  • photography
  • calligraphy
  • interior design
  • architecture
  • that class where you make a video game
  • that introduction to mechanical engineering class where you make catapults and compete to see whose catapult launches eggs the furthest

The Beginning of your Design Career
This was first published on my mailing list The Looking Glass. Every week, I answer a reader’s question. Over these weeks, many of you have asked about what it takes to get started as a designer…
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  1. Craft and execution: specifically, interaction and visual design.
  2. Product thinking: defining outcomes and how to design toward those outcomes
  3. Influencing: communication, pitching, knowing your audience, collaborating.

How to be Strategic
So you might have heard that the more you progress in your career, the more “strategic” you should aim to be. WTF does that mean? As a result, I tried to do as many of the above as I could. I…
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  • Create alignment around what wild success looks like.
  • Understand which problem you’re looking to solve for which group of people.
  • Prioritize. And cut.

Coffee Chat Series #1: Getting Ahead as an Early-Career Designer
One of my favorite things to do as a design leader is to meet one-on-one with someone in my organization for what I call a “coffee chat.” It may or may not include coffee (sometimes, ice cream is…
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Success Habits:

  • Focus on quantity of work produced
  • Show your work as often as you can, to as many people as you can for feedback
  • Work on your growth areas.
  • Ask questions all the time.
  • Raise your hand and try everything.
  • Read books about human culture and psychology.

Misconceptions:

  • Learning is more important than “proving yourself.
  • Your career is your responsibility, not anyone else’s.
  • Designing well is about solving problems for your intended audience, not about coming up with things you personally like.
  • Mentorship starts with asking good questions, not asking for a mentor.

Reflection questions about yourself

  • Which qualities of people around me do I admire, and how can I learn from them?
  • How can I find out more about my likes and dislikes?
  • What things gives me energy, and what sucks away my energy?
  • What are my unique strengths and growth areas?

Books on psychology

  • Thinking Fast and Slow;
  • The Design of Everyday Things;
  • Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind;
  • Atomic Habits: Tiny Changes, Remarkable Results;
  • Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas and Others Die;
  • Predictably Irrational;
  • The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion;
  • How to Win Friends and Influence People.
  • Must read books for designers and non-designers via TED