Takeaways from 99U
“The loudest voice in the room does not always have the best ideas.”
The 10th Annual 99U Conference is ostensibly about creativity, but it often felt like a seminar about empowerment, inclusion, and holistic self care. That’s a wonderful thing.
Our design team met a lot of interesting people and heard from some heavy hitters at Netflix, Lyft, Adobe, Google, CreativeMornings, and many more. Here’s some of what we learned.
Make Room For All Team Members And New Ideas
The loudest voice in the room in the room doesn’t always have the best ideas. Todd Yellin, VP of Product at Netflix, holds meetings where, instead of shouting over one another, people raise their hands to speak, and a moderator calls on them individually. The result is a more civilized meeting environment where all ideas are given airtime.
Don’t design by consensus. Too many meetings have one loud voice that makes all the decisions. If you have something to say, stand up for it, because life is short — right?
Creating a safe environment where everyone feels like their ideas count is part of your job as a good leader. You can’t do it all yourself. As a designer and a generally particular person, I know I find myself wanting to do everything. You need to figure out what it is you personally need to do and trust in your team to get the rest done.
Be Mindful At Work And At Home
Mindfulness techniques allow us to live in the moment in a world where we are constantly bombarded. Sarah Kalick of SYPartners went through some helpful techniques to become more mindful in our work and home lives:
- Take time to reflect on things you are grateful for, even if they’re small, like your morning cup of coffee. Doing so has been shown to increase willpower and improve sleep.
- Don’t let setbacks or conflict cloud your perspective with anger. Take a moment to consider the gravity of any tough situation. Ask yourself, is this a tragedy, or just an inconvenience? Chances are it isn’t a tragedy.
- Having a generally rough time with life? Try to name your feelings out loud and share them with others. Naming a difficult feeling can make it feel less intense and sharing with your colleagues will foster trust. It will also reduce the distraction your emotional state can cause.
- Remember, mindfulness is a skill, it is something that can be learned and honed.
Go To Meow Wolf
In Santa Fe, New Mexico there’s a pretty special place called Meow Wolf. Think, installation art meets pillow forts, meets Alice in Wonderland.
The immersive experience starts in a seemingly conventional family home, until you discover you can enter a whole world of pure fantasy by walking through a refrigerator. I know I will be planning a vacation here! PS — it’s perfect for kids too!
Make Your Upstrokes Thin and Your Downstrokes Thick
Dirty Bandit’s Annica Lydenberglet us know some key tips for hand drawing type. One of our favorites was for drawing high-contrast lettering (think Bodoni).
When you draw an upstroke, or away from you, the stroke should be thin. When you draw a downstroke, or toward you, the stroke should be thick. So with an A, the left would be thin and the right would be thick.
Figure Out What Is Most Important and Deliver On It
What will your eulogy will be? What do you want others to say about you? Tiffany Dufu encourages us to ask these questions to work out what is most important to you in your life. And stop participating in imaginary delegation, or assigning a task to someone in your mind, but never asking explicitly. Tiffany admitted being guilty of this too. There’s no use in getting annoyed with someone for not helping if you never asked for help in the first place.
Interesting note from Tea Uglow, Creative Director of Google’s Creative Lab in Sydney — the Mandarin translation of “Creative Director” is “experimental person in charge.”
It’s Alright to Ask for Help
What if we made a list of everything we wanted to get done in a day, and assigned xamount of time for each task? Odds are, we wouldn’t have enough time in one day to get everything done.
Get over that fear of asking people for help — Ashleigh Axios reminded us that part of being human is wanting to help others. Use that to your advantage! Delegate tasks, even in personal relationships, to take some of the pressure off yourself.
Focus On the Objective at Hand, Not Just Long-term Vision
Sure, it’s great to have a goal, but what happens when you start towards it and end up wanting to go in a completely different direction? The middle journey of a project is just as important as the beginning and the end. It’s a burden to process the uncertainty of how the project will end, which makes course correction difficult.
Scott Belskypoints out that “resourcefulness” trumps resources. You can burn through resources in a day, but being resourceful is a skill that you will always serve you
A lot of the time, problems don’t get solved because it’s easier and faster to blow through the small tasks. Scott and Audrey Liu both talked about taking the time to make impactful work — the right thing is worth much more than the most measurable thing.
How to Give and Receive Feedback, by Ustwo
- Give feedback throughout the process.
- Suggest a next step, and be specific. Speak directly to the goals of the project.
- Be human. Affirm what’s working first and signal that you’re giving your personal opinion.
- Let your peers know the context of the project and what kind of feedback you need
- Be an active listener
- Don’t take it personally. Examine your reactions … it’s not a personal attack against your work, you asked for their help.
- Keep the goals of the project in mind, and put them first.
Sequence Your Information
What if you spend years on a project but then people only look at it for 5 seconds? As a journalist and data editor at The Guardian, Mona Chalabi sees this a lot when users open a web page and bounce in under ten seconds. As a designer, we need to guide the reader’s experience. Break it down for them so they can digest it appropriately.
Stephanie Casper is a Creative Director at Small Planet. She’s worked on all kinds of things: mobile apps, food trucks, charity events, board games, TV spots, a bib for a bull riding contest … you name it. She has an awesome dog named Lucy and has an obsession with hot sauce.
Sam Watson is a designer at Small Planet. An expert napper and award-winning pie baker, she can often be found practicing her lettering or staying up past her bedtime tinkering on various projects.