Surviving as the Lone Designer <> Tian-Yuan Zhao

Surviving as the Lone Designer <> Tian-Yuan Zhao

Be prepared for the stress of constantly needing to level up

If you're the only designer in an organization, be prepared for the stress of constantly needing to level up your skill set.

Follow Ivy on Twitter (@ivyquinz3l)

Follow Tian on Twitter (@TianysaurusRex)

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Ivy Quinn 00:00

Hello, my name is Ivy, and you are listening to designers out. Designer Tao is a place where we talk about everything web and design. Hi, and welcome again to designer Tao. Today I want to dig in, and we're gonna have to talk about being the only designer. A lot of times when we're getting hired for projects in web three, a lot of times, we are the only designer or one of the very few designers on the team. And we kind of want to explore that and, and, you know, share experiences and tips for people who are facing some hardships with that. So don't

Tian 00:38

do that stuff again. So, Dan, I guess, do you want to open with if you've had a long career being the only like, how do you kind of how did you start that was like kind of your journey? It's been to end to I mean, you can just, you know, go through your general background on those. I want to quickly say, though, I have had experiences where I wasn't the only designer. But yeah, the most of my career, I've been a solo designer. So how I got started and how I got in into what three was way back in 2015. Actually, okay, my educational background is in human factors engineering at the University of Toronto, which is a degree that's all about scenario design. So that's, that's the simple how,

Tian 01:25

though, okay, actually, a little bit more is growing up, I've always been very artsy fartsy did a lot of creative stuff, ranging from Creative Writing, to singing, dancing, playing the piano, to creating I made music videos way back when that was the thing to drawing, sketching. And, and yeah, just opened up to these creative things. But I was also very good at the stem subject. So when it came time to deciding what to study in university, human factors, engineering was the best of my left to right breaks. And yeah, so that's how I got into product design. As for web three, it was way back in 2015, when I went to this hackathon in Waterloo, run by some students at u r, Lu. And at that hackathon, a Mr. Vitalik, Buterin, was there. And he gave a talk all about it theory of the global supercomputer. So that was my intro to that world, or to this world that we're in the world of web three. Now, obviously, I've heard about Bitcoin before then. But I didn't really do anything with Bitcoin, unfortunately, I I just let you know, heard about it as much as any other average person has back then. And but then the theory started much more interesting. And I, that was the same year, he got accepted to this thing called the teal fellowship, the top 20, under 20. And when I found out about that, I also found out about this thing called the field, which was the conference series that was run by the same organization, the teal foundation. At that time, I, when I found out about that I wanted to apply for the Terminator 20. But I was actually already past 20. So I couldn't qualify, I felt like I wasn't part of my brain. So instead, I have to stop because at least that did not have the age limit of 20. Its age limit was 24. So I did qualify and get accepted. And so when I went to that conference, Bellagio in Boston, the author of the network state was there and then he gave the keynote. And his keynote was all about blockchain. And he basically said blockchain would enable the next evolutionary step of the internet, ie web three. So he said went through without saying it. And that really piqued my interest. And so ever since I came back to Toronto, from that conference in Las Vegas, I just had a hunger to do as much design work in the 3d space as possible. But those were clearly the early days. 2015. So as a designer, I wasn't able to get much of any opportunities, except I did get one. So my very first, that opportunity, or job that I got was with this startup called primitive. It was a crypto startup all about trying to create like an asset management solution for accounting firms. Unfortunately, though, it wasn't product design, it was more so marketing. Anyway, I actually I don't think I need to go into my entire history right now. But because it's quite a long history, but generally speaking, yeah, I've been a solo designer for most my career where it was, because it was working with a lot of early stage startups, though, I mean, yeah. Yeah. So there were, however, like a few different experiences where I wasn't. And one of them was where there was a lead designer, and it was claros. That was my very first experience where I got to work on a doubt by but the lead designer at claros was pretty hands off. So it felt like a solo designer experience. Yeah, and I guess

Ivy Quinn 05:49

why would you say that early stage startups is typically the situation? What do you find yourself as a web designer? Like? I mean, one could say is because of resources, or do you truly believe it's resources? Or do I guess, how did you find yourself? Or what is your interpretation of why that is a common situation for that particular type of organization?

Tian 06:14

I think it Yeah, apart from the obvious, which you've mentioned, as being resources, or lack thereof. I think a lot of the times early stage startups think that design is, is one of those things that one person can handle everything. And I think they might think that just because then they might think design is easier than then donating. So I don't know. I don't really fully know. But yeah, I think they may think it's not as technical and therefore, one person can handle it, though. Yep. Throw my experiences, I think there really shouldn't be too, one specializing in research and the other specializing in design. And it is unfortunate that Yeah, most startups even in the web world, in their early stages, they believe that one person can handle it all. Now,

Ivy Quinn 07:26

yeah, I think it's just it really depends on the experience of the founder, how they decide to resource and I think, like you said, because of, especially in web three startups where the founders expertise is probably more on the engineering side. They tend to underestimate the amount of work that goes into design. And it's really only those, those more experienced founders who tend to adequately resourced design because of the lessons that they've learned in previous projects and startups. I will say, like, I started my career, I was not the only designer at a ecommerce company. We own several different like E commerce, storefronts, and I started out as a graphic designer, as I've shared in other podcasts. And the way I found myself being the only designer is like, as we started to grow the technology behind our platform, we started to use Salesforce, and some other tools, it became very clear that we needed someone who was who was thinking about the experiences on our website. And who could like implement improvements to our template and design without us having to like basically pay for a whole nother ecommerce template, our front end. So the need kind of like presented itself and I was the only one on the team who had who was like, you know, leveling up and had experience doing UX design. So then, I was basically the only UX designer, and it was actually for the most part when we had resourcing a pretty okay job. I think people started to trust my opinion, because I was constantly running, you know, we had So I was able to run like a B type testing in addition to like, you know, just like exploratory research, and it really kind of leveled up our organization's like understanding, or at least a marketing side understanding of like, our customers and how they shop. But the thing that I ran into was like an E commerce, we found that it's hard to create a robust user experience when you're not in partnership with a merchandising team, meaning the people who are actually buying the products and they're buying the product. It's based on a myriad of factors. They're buying products based on like business needs, they're buying based on, like what they can get ahold of, they're buying based on the actual physical stores, not only the ecommerce stores, and we found ourselves in a position, especially when, when a company started to go sideways, was that no matter how no matter how good or user experience we could do, from a digital standpoint, if we didn't have the products that the customer needed, there was a limitations to user experience from a digital standpoint. And I was being asked to like, basically, you know, change the digital experience to make up for the lack of product, essentially. Um, and that was a very hard predicament to be in, where the goalposts was constantly changing for UX, like, oh, we need to have this now we need to have, you know, this initiative, this button needs to change the cart, it was like it was basically we were like, the black sheep of the organization, or the the department that they love to put throw under the bus as to why sales weren't, weren't where they needed to be. Which, what sucks when you're the only person and UX and you have all the numbers and facts, and especially being told this, this, the sky is green when you know, it's blue. So that sucked. Um, yeah. And then actually didn't find myself being the only designer again, until recently at coordinate. I'm the only designer and the part that my experience being the only designer is your kind of like the beacon of design sensibility and every context of the organization, which is very hard. It's hard to be the the point of contention for branding, the point of contention for UX product, the point of contention for UI, you know, the void potential for marketing, like design touches, so many things that people don't realize, and it's really hard to do that, as the only designer, like for instance, I mean, I happen to be, they happen to be lucky, because, you know, my, my training is in graphic design, which lends itself to branding. So I know a little bit about branding. And then also I know, you know, my expertise as a UX R and UX research. So they have that. But there are times where, like, I have to admit, I'm like, I'm not an expert, at this particular part of design, you know, yeah. And it's really hard to be in that position, you know,

Tian 12:44

yep. Yep. No, I can totally understand and relate, I've definitely, well, I will say though, right now, where I'm at,

Tian 12:57

even though I'm the only designer don't feel as stressed as they used to. And that's primarily because I've got people that are that I'm working with in the product team, ie, basically my boss, and then the only other person and the senior product manager. They both are really understanding and respectful of, of what my responsibilities are. And there's always a lot of check ins where we where we are level set in terms of our expectations. Like even though, obviously what I mean by that is, like today, I had a one on one with the head of product and we basically went over our, my Okay, ours. And, you know, what's surprising, is, I've rarely had experiences like that, where I go through my OKRs with

Tian 14:03

with my boss. I felt like a weird thing to say, but I think

Tian 14:11

a lot of startups don't have that. That kind of relationship between the head of product and the designers I feel is rare. At least for me it was rare in my career. I don't know about you, but

Ivy Quinn 14:24

I find that because your earliest age that the focus is so much on like getting the product where it needs to be that we don't focus on individual development are like gross, which is like kind of messed up. But it's just so much focus on like, we need to find product market fit we need to do this we need to do that. You know that like yeah, we don't we don't think about the individuals building the product and and how to like mold them or like, you know, personal development So yeah, I think that is rare. I haven't seen that in a startup

Tian 15:06

yet, or at least, but

Ivy Quinn 15:09

yeah, or early stage one now, which is really, that goes back to one of my points is like, it's really hard to level up as the single designer. Without that, you know, and especially if you're, you know, a new senior, or like high admin, you know, you're four or five years in or, you know, senior level five years in, it's definitely harder, the earlier you are in a career for sure. So the next thing I want to talk about is like, what are some tips or things like, if you could speak to an earlier version of yourself, like going into these only designer situations? What are some things that you would, you know, advise are? Or like, you know, are red flags that you would share with that person? Sure. Sure.

Tian 16:04

Yeah. Okay, so I think it really depends on which stage you're at, as well. So one of the biggest mistakes I think I made in my career is, I really should have just had a singular focus on trying to get a job at one of those big established tech companies earlier on in my career. Now, that type of thing I didn't try. I did try, but it wasn't a laser focus. I, I did a, I applied to talk and approach in my, in the early part of my career, where I just, you know, I recently saw this meme, tick tock and or, actually, it's been a mean, across the board. And it's like, it starts with a stick figure saying, Why do you want a job? Or don't know, this thing bigger and apply for a job? And the interviewer goes, like, why do you want a job, or why you want to work for us, and the statement was, like, because you have an opening isn't? Well, that's not and then the employer is not gonna want to work with. But like, the truth of matter is, most times we want to you want to work for X employer, especially if you're a designer. And it's because most lawyers in the design world, they only there is only one opening, right? It's not like there's a bunch of developers, or most companies that hire multiple developers, they don't hire multiple designers, right. So they, in the early part of my career, I just really wanted to get a job, any job, I didn't care where. Anyway, but it really kind of had a laser focus on working for a larger company, because they have more of an established design process, right? They're more design mature. I later on found out about this design maturity model that invention came up with, and I was like, Oh my gosh, yes. Like, I would have greatly benefited if it weren't for a more mature or more to design a mature company that would have given me the knowledge and wisdom to be able to later on be a solo senior designer or whatever. I mean, yeah, but to take up a more of a leadership position, right. So if you're more junior work for a more design mature company, if you are more senior than then then so long as you work for a company that is willing to work with you to figure out that design process within the company to do if they have the patience to work with you to come up with that design process. And, and they I saw your tweet recently, you said I wish you made a tweet or about like, needing a product manager, right? I think

Ivy Quinn 18:55

yeah, I did. Some like those startups. Where as of yet for me to work with. pm was the CEO. Yeah, we'll just like that's a disaster waiting to happen. They don't have time for that. I'm

Tian 19:21

sorry. So like where I'm at right now. Like the advantage that we have we we have the patience to come up with a good design process. But we're still refining it. And we're still working through it because they didn't have any designers before me. Now Oh, why did you they did but it was a full time. It was agencies that they've hired out. Yeah, I don't know. Is that is that like, sufficient?

Ivy Quinn 19:49

Yeah, I mean, I mean, don't get me started on my career. Like, when you're it took me the longest. I think it took me a year, maybe a year and a half after college to find my first job and it's kind of same thing like, is Junior roles are so hard to get and come by, like, I was not focused on where to where I was working, I was like anybody, somebody gives me a job because I need, you know, to start working in my field. And then the like the out of college to your first job, like jump is the hardest jump to make. And so you can't really, unfortunately be that picky about what your first job is. Um, I mean, if I can speak to my younger self outside of the context of you know, this podcast is like, a lot of my friends out of college, they, you know, I mean, I come from a very, like, humble background, like my, I'm one of the first college graduates in my, in my family. And so I didn't really know how the game was played, and what what now, in retrospect, watching my classmates, most of my classmates, were making connections with professors and with companies, like their junior and senior year, they're kind of like, you know, getting their first job, essentially, a lot of them were already started, like, starting their senior year at a job. Um, and I did not know the game well enough to like, oh, shit, I'm supposed to be making connections and like, trying to secure my next job. And my senior year, I was so focused on just trying to finish the shit. I didn't think about setting myself up for success over so my, I have alumni, friends that like work at chime, and Facebook and a lot of big tech companies that the past because they were making those connections, then, um, and that's why I mean, if I could go back in time, like if you are coming out of design school, or if you're in your junior and senior year, yes, your first position does, it would behoove you for it to be at a design mature company, because that's going to set you up for what real design looks like. I say that because when you go to these lower maturity companies, they kind of indoctrinate you into a poor design process, you need to know good, but you need to know good. So you know what bad looks like? Yeah, that makes sense. Yeah. And so because I did not have that that company, my first company that I worked for was like, design maturity was in the frickin ground, I had to do a lot of external research and learning. And, and like leveling myself up by like reading books, going on informational interviews with like, other designers in my field. You know, I, you know, don't I like hired a mentor at one point to look over some of my work I. So I did a lot of work to like, level myself up into understanding what real design looks like. But even then, it took me a while to start to apply that in the context that I was working. Yeah, you know, and, and being the only UX designer, you're trying to advocate for all these, like, you know, good design and good UX processes. But if you're in a low design maturity company, you're fighting and and also, you're not, you're not experienced enough to know how to adapt, yeah, good, adapt, like what should be done to the organization that you're working for. And that is, you know, really hard to do. And so that's what I would give like a junior designer, like, yeah, set yourself up in college, start looking for jobs, your junior and senior year, try to get that thing on your resume, if you're good enough for it, like, yeah, that that unfortunately, in our industry, pedigree does matter. Um, and if you are able to, you know, work your ass off and get funding on your resume, as soon as you know, as early in your career as possible. That's gonna set your entire design career up. And I mean, to this day, I don't have a saying in my resume. And I'm, and I feel like, because I don't, I have to constantly prove myself and I don't like feeling like that, especially as the older I get in my career, you know, Hey, um, so. So that sucks. And then I would say, if you are going to go into the position where you're going to be the only designer, I'm really fill out the people that you're going to work for, and like assess their design maturity, who is the founder? Who have they worked for in the past? What is their other work look like? Who isn't who are they in network with? Do they know other designers? Are they familiar with design? Because if you're not to say that don't work for somebody who doesn't understand design, you need to know what you're walking into, and, and create a game plan. So if you have to take that job, I'm not going to frighten Like sometimes you just gotta take jobs, like know what, what the battle is you're gonna have to fight. And the in the background of the people that you're working with, if you're working with your CEO has, you know, a technical background, and your colleagues have engineering backgrounds, and no one is really familiar with marketing, research and design, know that you're going to have to step in and advocate for those things and get ready to do that. And, and a lot of design is knowing who your audience is, and framing your point of view to them. So if you're walking into a situation where your CEO is an engineer, you gotta meet him right there and advocate for these things from the mindset of an engineer and talk about, you know, we're gonna save engineering time talk about the things that matter to them and frame your processes in a way that like, they can see. Okay, yeah, let's do this. Because I don't want to have to redo a bunch of code or whatever, you know, speak their language, essentially. Yeah. Those are my tips. For the most part. Yeah.

Tian 26:05

Oh, those are those are great. I agree. Yeah. By the way, though, I have a different acronym. Not saying that I came up with. Okay. So what we're used to be before Facebook, rebranded, or created that umbrella organization, right of metta. I used to call it the family. So F AAA M, that's Facebook, Apple, Amazon, alphabet, and Microsoft. That was before. And then now, if you're a one P span, which is an enemy, I call it the big bomb. So like, that's a villain in that animate. And so it's m AE, M. First M is meta, you know, the last time it's Microsoft, but, yeah. Anyway, um, yeah, I had any other tips, it would just be try to depends on the goals you have for your career. Like, it took me a long time to decide that I really just like working at an in house. And in my earlier career, I, or being an in house designer, like earlier on for me, I always thought diversity will be fun. So like working at an agency would be great. And I'm not saying agencies are bad, I think it to each their own. There's different. It is a different experience. We're an agency versus in house, right? I always thought, oh, agency will be great, because I get a lot of diverse products product experience. And that will make it easier for me to get an in house later on. Turns out though, that's not always the case. It also depends on the agency, too. I mean, there are certain agencies that are definitely go back to the earlier like more design mature. I also always thought like working at a bigger company. No big companies, too, are good. Like, I haven't experienced that Contensis existence would be a great launchpad for me. Bad, but it wasn't great either. Because I was in a sudden, I was in a small team. And I was still the only designer. I thought if I worked a conservative, I get to work with a whole bunch of different product designers, because they had a whole bunch of different problems at the time. But I did not have that opportunity to collaborate with those designers because I was in a small team that was still trying to even convince the higher ups that their product was worth funding, or continually to be funded for whatever. Anyway, but it was a fairly bad I think, thrown on my little experiences, some of the, or the major positive takeaway I took out of it was just morally more. My top skills definitely improved in terms of communication and leadership and organizational skills, time management, and all that. And then also just, I definitely improved a lot in terms of my ability to actually know it's really, ultimately, communication skills, communicate, not as verbal communication to visual communication, like communicating. Oh, no, I think the biggest one is just being able to justify design decisions. That's what I do

Ivy Quinn 29:47

recommend doing at least one time in your career, probably when you're more established, because I think it like you said it helps with communication skills, but also it gives you a cross team exposure. Yeah. In a way that you don't typically get at a high at other, like at another organization, and typically, if you're working for a regular, you know, mature organization, you have your, your senior level designer, you know, he's there managing all the, the design work, they're reporting to the PM, the pm then reports to like the executives and it's like this like hierarchical kind of situation. So you're kind of isolated, and design team unless you work for a company that like encourages, you know, cross team like collaboration, but it's not like really common your work is a lot of times gated. And so because of that, you don't have the language to often articulate things to engineers and front end, um, because you don't you lack like that back and forth. And I think that the one thing that has benefited me being the only designer, a lot of times I've worked directly with engineers, pretty much from the start of my career, when I became the only UX designer, we had a external engineering company. And it was like, Milele, me my pm and, and the company and I had to talk to, you know, offshore devs, were there, you know, there's a lot of barriers between our communication. And so I had to learn really quickly how to be very clear about my design, and you know, the specs and things like that. And I think the more and more you will learn, as a designer about how things get engineered, the more you can design stuff that actually will get made. And so there is no big upset, you know, that, you know, there's so many memes on Twitter about like, what you design versus what got engineered, and it'd be all crappy. And it's because you have too much room for interpretation. And you have absolutely no idea how your back end data database model works, you have no idea how you know, what UI system or kit is B, these things are being built on, you have no idea like the current functionality and how the logic works. And because of that, you just like dumped a whole big ass design, that's going to require way more way too much work to implement. And now you're upset that it didn't get implemented, when you could have just had that conversation throughout the design process. And being the only designer you have to have that conversation. That's not something you can avoid. You know, you're the only one between engineering and shit that goes out of the door, you know. So that is extremely valuable. Um, I guess for our last point, what are some common pain points that you run into? Being the only designer and like, how do you recommend overcoming each of those pain points?

Tian 32:35

Okay, yeah, that's a good question, too. I feel like the number one, or okay. One of the pain points I've had in the past was just, I can only have enough and pass actually, yeah, like, presently, things are so much better now. And it's mainly because number one is, a lot of those early days, early stage startup require you to hit the ground running and just move in a very fast paced, or move back and break things was the philosophy and in most startups, right, both web two or web three, they follow that, right. Zuckerberg about right. And, and so with that kind of mentality, it definitely made it hard to experiment. Or, like, there wasn't much room to experiment, by experiment, I mean, explore different variations of designs, and then having that back and forth with developers and with the product people, whether it's head of product, or product manager, or both, or even the CEO, like there was just not much room to explore different variations and and then that hone in on one of them, and then iterate on that, of course. So that's one major pain point. Number two is not being given the capacity or capabilities or resources to do significant user research beforehand, like a user research, it's a lot of just design its own thing, get it shipped, and then iterate based on user feedback, but allows us to it's like, there's anyone much room to do usability testing. It's more so just like okay, our, our customers have said they need I mean, like, through the grapevine, like a great finding, like mostly customers success or will will get feedback and then you iterate based on what they say. So second hand feedback as opposed to direct. Then, last but not least, I'll just give like three big points. Third one would be just not Being supported as an individual. Yeah, like I said, at the beginning of this podcast, I'm being able to review OKRs with product manager, like, this is not the first time that this happened in my career, but this is definitely one of the rare times that this happened to me. So having someone that is willing to look at quotations and work with you to ensure that you meet them. This is like a relatively new thing for

Ivy Quinn 35:33

me. Yeah, I think the pain points that I've experienced is kind of not to simulate this dissimilar from from you, which is like, people don't realize that design is iterative. So like, a lot of times you're made to work in the same way a engineer works, and it doesn't make sense. For the way this design works. Live, I've had to explain a lot. Like my engineers, like have sometimes been like, No, I just needed to design this one tiny piece. Don't think about the other stuff. This design is one tiny piece, I'm like, No, I need to think systematically, because these pieces are eventually going to fit together. And if I don't know, if I'm using a puzzle analogy, if I don't know what the picture looks like, how do I know how to design the piece that makes and so and so I've had I've had back and forth about like that, but then when they see the whole picture, they get overwhelmed about the how much work each of those pieces, like, you know, will be and I keep telling them, like, hey, I can break this puzzle down. But don't force me to go piece by piece that doesn't, that's not how I design. Um, another thing is, like you said, like, feeling basically outnumbered. So like, if you work in a in the Dow most likely what a bunch of engineers, and you as a designer have an instinct that like the direction that that they're going in is wrong from a design perspective, you're outnumbered automatically, you know, and you can be made to feel like you're being difficult or not seen their point of view, when really and truly is like, what needs to happen is a mutual respect for each other's positions and be like, hey, like, I am a designer, I have design expertise, you guys understand you want to do you want to go this direction. But I'm telling you, from a design perspective, this is not the, this is not the way to go. Um, and that those frictions happen a lot. And after a while, you know, as a designer, you can get beaten down and like, eventually, you just become an order taker, essentially, yeah. Um, and if I, if, if I can give another designer advice, if you're, if you're constantly losing battles, as the only designer, I think you could try, you can try a couple of like steps, the first step would be, like, try to, you know, make your case like, you know, show them different patterns outside of the organization, you know, show them like things that you know about your user, and, like, make a great case for, like, going down the approach that you're suggesting. And even so, if you do that, hopefully, they can see your perspective. And also also offer them a low lip, I always like to offer a low lip option being like, you know, hey, this is the MVP of this idea or this direction, and they're usually more open to low lift solutions. Because less work for them, you know, um, so I would try that. And then if you if you find yourself losing battles over and over again, honestly, I will say leave because if you stay, you are going to sacrifice your whole career to make one small group of people happy. And that's not worth it to me. Um, another thing that you run into as the only designer is that like, yeah, sometimes you're going to be in a position where you're not the subject matter expertise of that particular area of design. Like if you, if you're, if you're a company, all of a sudden needs a bunch of branding stuff. And you're a UX designer, you know, I think you need to be comfortable telling people like, Hey, man, that's not my expertise, you guys are going to need to hire a contractor for that. And I'm happy to work with that contractor to get this x done. And if you find yourself in addition, when you're not getting that support, and they're forcing you to make sure that you're not good at. That's another sign that you probably should leave because it's really hard to fight for somebody to respect you. And to give you basic courtesy for your job, because then that becomes less about you being the designer and more about mutual respect and boundaries. You don't really want to work somewhere that that violates that because it's going to be to your detriment is This, just like in relationships, you can have like baggage and a you know, and scars and stuff that gonna fuck you up for the next relationship. Same thing with work. Yep. You know? Yep. Yeah.

Tian 40:13

Yeah. I can't agree more. Yeah. Yeah, like, one great thing about where I work now is my expertise is not in graphic design or vision graphic slash visual design. So when they knew that, but they were cool with it, because they already as your agent had an agency that they've hired out, and they primarily specialize in the graphic slash visual design. And it just feels so great that like, Yeah, I'm not expected to come up with illustrations, we could just those agencies will do it. And yeah, yeah. But there's actually has made me think of another minor pain point. That is a lesson, as I mentioned earlier, like agency life is different, right? So to know that they've contracted out, and it's this agency that designed, they did do product design, but it was like before I got hired. And it was a design for a specific product that is not our main product. And one minor pain point is like, initially, I wasn't given access to the file, and I, but then when eventually I did get access. But I noticed a lot of discrepancies because they didn't create a design system. This agency didn't do that. And I, I figured I assumed that was just because they were expected to move at a fast pace. So the minor point is just like, oh, I, I guess I'm just gonna have to do it. Like, I felt like you're invoking that Thanos meme of, I may as well do it. Right. Or what did he say? Like, it's how does? What does that how does that mean going in, or tunnels says? You got what I mean, though, right?

Ivy Quinn 42:05

Yeah. I totally mentally blocked out that movie, because I've seen it so long ago. But I do do to say, yeah, yeah, you get sometimes it's gotta roll and receive and do sure that needs just needs to be done. Yeah, yeah. I think one last tip is like leaning on external, external sources of truth. So like, if you're trying to advocate for a design process or thing within your organization, have tried to find like, you know, external choices of truth. So for instance, one time, I was running a particular test, it was like, you know, let's call it card sorting test. And my pm did it didn't immediately see the value. He was like, why we're doing this, this is dumb, blah, blah. And I literally had to pull up, you know, Don Norman's, like informational video on my car testing and why it's important and why it helps. And then like, basically educate my team of like, what, why am I choosing this method? Why it wasn't helpful. And after they saw that they're like, oh, okay, now I see, like, where you're trying to do? Yeah, but because, you know, your team is not going to automatically especially in UX, know, all the different methods of testing and, and validation and processes. Yeah, sometimes sometimes you will have to educate as you go. Right? Yeah. Yeah. All right. I think we're kind of at time. I don't want to take too much of your time. I know it's time for you to leave, I guess. Do you have any closing thoughts about this particular subject? Closing thoughts would be

Tian 43:50

okay, I'm going to end with three because we're talking about web three stuff. So love that number three. Okay, number one is stop hiring only one designer Geez. Oh, free. Have a designer be the designer but like to have a researcher write for example? Or, or yeah, you can have like a senior and then have a junior and that way you create room for more designers to enter it to become into web three. One major thing that really gets me off in my early, early part of my career was just like, where are all the internships where all the junior positions and things like that? There was actually a medium article written a while back a little while ago and was like, hire juniors or whatever it was like someone was advocating for juniors and I was like, yes, exactly. And ultimately, to not restrict it is enormous. The students there's a lot of people were, what are they like, are transitioning people out? Right, like, give them an opportunity to be a junior they will Oh, to be a junior. But if you only restricted to university students, it's like, well, then what are you saying? I have to go back and do a bachelor's and then I can intern with you. Right? Like, that's, that's not fair either.

Ivy Quinn 45:12

Yeah, I hated that when I was trying to break in, everything I applied for, actually got to the second round of a Google internship, and then realize halfway through that, it was only for people like I have made it through the cracks, and they didn't realize that I was not a student, and I like, was like, fuck, I'm not gonna make

Tian 45:29

it. There's a little thing I did. And this is the first time I'm publicly admitting this actually did lie about being a student and get an internship. And successfully did it.

Ivy Quinn 45:45

Yay. I'm proliance context you do? What do you got to do? Man?

Tian 45:54

I shouldn't be a senior at this point in terms of like, where my peers are at. But I'm willing to take a step back in order to take two steps forward. And, and it worked. It worked out. Actually, you know what I said, I will do three points. But I have a good point to end on. Yeah,

Ivy Quinn 46:13

um, my closing thought is I'll try to be as concise as possible. But like, at the end, like, if you're walking into a situation where you're the only designer, you got to really love the people, you really do. Because if you don't like the people, you're going to you're going to go into a lot of conflicts, just innately by the nature of the situation, you're welcome to. And if you can't, if you can't vibe with the people that you're working for, that's going to be 100 times harder. Yeah. Um, so I would, I would definitely do trial runs, do grants, do whatever you need to do to feel these people out before you commit to being the only designer at this company? Um, yeah, yeah, I strongly suggest that, if you don't like them just on, take the job out of it, if you don't like them just on a person level, it's not gonna work. Yeah. And I think secondly, I think, you know, unfortunately, you're gonna have to like show your, your best foot forward and really show them what you can do. And because that's how you build trust in the organization. I mean, that's how I've done it. Like, I come in, like, you know, like a mercenary, I get a lot of problems solved within the organization very quickly, I can assess like their problems and what needs to be done. And over time, they start to trust me, in my opinion more often. And that opens the door to hire contractors, that opens the door, to get a second person hired need be like, if they trust you. And in like, you have a great reputation in the organization, you can build a team around you eventually, as resources opened up. So I would say like one like the people and to be ready to roll your sleeves up for that first couple months of work. And really, your job is to do your job well. And to gain reputation within the organization. You're basically trying to set yourself up for success in the future. So so like, be sticky, be dependable, make it to where you're unviable? Because you're too valuable to lose. And then you can advocate for for other designers resources, and things like that. And yeah, so those are my two points. So especially in web three, yeah, because it's going to be an uphill battle. And until they see the need for design, they're not going to naturally want to give you resources for design, there's just not, you gotta show them the problem in order for them to want to address it. And sometimes that means Lastly, maybe that means shipping something subpar. Like you know, you you did your thing you battled, you didn't win, and allowing them to fail and feel it to then be like, you know, now you've got just now to GC. Can we go this other direction, please? Because sometimes it doesn't, it takes failure. It takes a bunch of users complained about the usability of a thing before they want a resource to fix it.

Tian 49:32

Yeah, yeah.

Ivy Quinn 49:36

And there's been plenty of times where I've gone against you know, they've gone against the, you know, my suggestions, things with that hit the fan and I'm in a very respectful way, like, so you know, how I like suggested to not do this. Let's go, let's go revisit that work. And they're like, you know, you're right. Yeah, we probably should have went the other way. way. So yeah, that's those are my closing thoughts. So, thank you so much for tuning in to designer Dow. Um, I'm gonna follow us on Twitter, you can make an account on our website at for future profile. We have episodes every Wednesday. If you're using Spotify or anchor you can also send a voice message I would like to hear if anybody wants to share their experiences, being the only designer in web three, or just simply tweet reply to our tweet when this message when this episode comes out. So yeah,

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