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Design Better Newsletter #4
AMAs, Designing for microbes, and why the job hunt is like dating
Fall is in the air, and for us that means a return to many of the school-related activities we took a break from during the summer: helping out with homework, being a taxi service to sports practice, wondering why my son made that face while having his school picture taken.
As for Design Better, you may have noticed that big things are afoot. If you missed it, we announced taking the show independent, and hinted at some more exciting news coming in a month or so. We also just kicked off our creative process series with David Sedaris.
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Ok, moving on to the newsletter. This month, we have:
A new way to learn: Design Better AMAs
Designing a new material that’s made and unmade by microbes
Margaret Lee on User Manuals, Personal Brand, and Presence…oh my!
April Luelling is back with some more job opportunities, and why the job hunt is like dating
Fun things to read/watch for the weekend ahead
Design Better AMAs
We’ve got a new way for you to learn directly from some of the folks we have on the show: a series of AMAs (“Ask Me Anything’s). Learn more and register for free at the links below.
Learn how to scale digital products sustainably with Dan Mall, Founder of Design System University. Join us for an open conversation with Dan who can help you and your team dial in your design process.
Grow your Career with Judy Wert, co-founder of Wert & Co. Join us for an open discussion with Judy, ask questions, get career guidance, and get perspective on the challenging design and tech job landscape.
Get inspired and learn about the power of consistency with Debbie Millman, host of Design Matters. Here’s your chance to ask one of the best interviewers in the world what inspires her and what she’s learned about creativity over the course of her career.
Designing for Microbes and Sustainability
One of Eli’s former students in the product design program at Stanford, Insiya Jafferjee, is the co-founder and CEO of a company called Shellworks that just released a new material called Vivomer. The material is both made and decomposed by microbes, with the goal of eliminating plastic waste. There’s more detail in her post on LinkedIn, and for the physical product designers out there, now you have an alternative to plastic for many design applications.
User Manuals, Personal Brand, and Presence, oh my!
Margaret Lee, former UX teams and programs leader at Google, brings us insights from her current role as an executive and leadership coach.
Many who find themselves with new levels of responsibility ask the question “How do I show up as a leader?” Some explore writing personal user manuals, building their brand, or cultivating leadership presence. Let’s take a look at these approaches.
Writing a personal ‘user manual’ is a way to share our context, values, and working style. They can be part of our team’s onboarding process, or shared with collaborators to shed light on our preferred style of communication. While user manuals can serve a purpose, they don’t replace showing up as a leader. If we’re more comfortable behind a keyboard than in front of a roomful of people, it can be tempting to hide behind our manual at the expense of building true leadership presence. Over-reliance on a user manual as proxy for live communication and relationship-building can make a leader appear unapproachable or even arrogant. User manuals are merely a tool to augment live and more nuanced forms of connection.
Building a ‘personal brand’ helps us to shape our narrative, how we’re perceived, and how we lead operationally and strategically. What do we want coworkers to say about our leadership style when we’re not in the room? Does it match our intention and our behaviors? 360 feedback can reveal the delta between our intentions vs how others experience our actions. If we’re feeling queasy at the thought of “personal branding”, know that it’s not meant to construct a glorified image that isn’t true to us, but to transparently convey who we uniquely are as a leader.
Cultivating ‘leadership presence’ is a blend of relatability, authority backed by credibility, confidence, and curiosity. Leadership presence isn’t the exclusive domain of “natural born leaders.” It can be developed through awareness of our actions and its impact on others, and through observing and learning from other effective leaders. Authority might be granted through titles and promotions, but credibility is earned through high self-awareness, ability to read the room, and consistent demonstration of values.
How we show up as a leader isn’t about any single action or one-time event. It requires intentional and thoughtful framing of what we want to represent, whether in a document or in person — it’s an ongoing curation of our best selves. At the heart of these approaches is one important skill: communication. Next month, we’ll look at how leaders can have more impact through developing effective communication strategies.
Margaret Lee believes we all have the inner resources to develop towards our greatest potential. As an Executive and Leadership Coach with Design Dept, she brings a wealth of prior experience leading UX teams and programs at Google. Interested in learning more? Connect on LinkedIn.
Job Opportunities and Keeping Faith
Our friend April Luelling is back this month with more job postings, as well as a perspective on how the job hunt can be like dating. Also, April’s got a great new website that you should check out, it’s inspiring for folks out there who aren’t designers but still want to showcase their work.
Monthly job highlight
We’ve found several opportunities for product designers that have a good amount of experience, including:
Elliott Lemberger is hiring a Senior Digital Product Designer to work on the Tesla app and lead design for owners of Tesla Energy products including solar and Powerwall. This is an exciting opportunity for a seasoned designer looking for their next challenge to use their skills to drive adoption of solar and work with a quickly growing and dynamic team dedicated to doing meaningful work for the betterment of our planet.
Tesla's Sr. Product Designer, Energy Products Role
More amazing Design positions available:
We Can’t Lose Faith!
We all know that dating has drastically changed over the years, but the general progression still applies. You connect, you chat, you meet up, you get excited about the possibilities – this might be the one! But then something happens…they aren’t as interested in you as you are with them or they decide to give their someone else another chance or worse: they end up ghosting you. 👻 But when all the stars align and everything goes right, you finally meet your person and live that happily ever after.
Does this sound all too familiar when it comes to searching for a job? That’s because it is! Finding a job is just like dating. We find an amazing job, apply to it, reach out to the hiring manager or recruiter to express our excitement…but only to go through the motions as if we were dating all over again. So we keep changing up our resumes, creating stronger portfolios, and asking our friends for introductions. When we get some attention, we hold our breath that this one sticks.
But the competition is fierce and we’re in an employer’s market right now. Think of it like being single and dating in NYC — there are thousands of amazing people out there looking to find their “one”. This isn’t going to happen over night, it’s going to take time. It’s going to take a lot of rejection and ghosting, and getting so excited about a prospect only to have our hearts broken.
This market is tough, and it’s saturated with the best people right now with not enough jobs to match up with them. But things are changing—slowly, yes—but they’re changing. Historically speaking, employers begin to ramp up on their hiring in the Fall, and we’re starting to see a lot more action on the job boards. This weird market and economy does have a turning point—it has to change. We just need to keep putting in the work, take care of ourselves, and the right one will come along soon.
It’s hard, trust me, I’m with you on this hunt. But things will change. We just can’t lose faith, the right job is out there for us all!
Links for weekend reading & watching
Table creator plugin for Figma (huge time saver)