Design Better Podcast

de Elijah Woolery

Uncover insights from the world’s top design leaders in every episode


Spotify’s Vicki Tan: Learning from new voices

por Elijah Woolery

Vicki Tan has worked at companies that change the way we travel, think about our mental health, and access music from around the globe. To each of these roles she has brought her background in psychology, to better understand the needs of the people using these products.

We chat with Vicki about some of the things she has learned over the course of her career, from Lyft to Headspace to Spotify, the ways that the pandemic has changed her work and her creative process, and how her team does research. 

Vicki also talks about why she regularly takes a sabbatical from her work, and why “finding umami” is important to figuring out the core mission of a company. 


Vicki Tan is an Associate Principal Product Designer at Spotify Earlier in her career, she was a senior product designer at Headspace, worked on communication and UX design at Google, and product design at Lyft. According to Frank Yoo, design director at Lyft, Vicki “is positive and thoughtful and puts as much care into people and teams as she does creating the artifacts themselves.”  

Judy Wert: Navigating career changes

por Elijah Woolery

The way that we work has been disrupted by the global pandemic, and for those of us who are fortunate enough to have kept our jobs, it’s also caused many of us to question why we do what we do, and wonder if there are ways we could have a more positive influence on the world.

We thought it would be great to speak with Judy Wert, co-founder of the executive search agency Wert & Co, who has guided many leaders through navigating career changes, and who shares her perspective on knowing when it’s time for something new, and when it might be better to stick it out.

We also chat with Judy about pay transparency, the kinds of skills that individual contributors should cultivate to advance in their career, and tips on negotiating your salary.


Judy has been working with the leadership of innovative companies for over 25 years. She has earned an international reputation as a pivotal force in executive search. A trusted authority in the world of design and business, Judy is also known for bringing an added dimension to her work—a humanistic approach—fostering deep relationships through empathy, intuition, and curiosity.

Rewind: Airbnb’s Benjamin Evans on the power of inclusive design

por Elijah Woolery

Benjamin Evans, Inclusive Design Lead for Airbnb, is part of a new kind of problem solvers tackling issues like racism, sexism, and bias in digital product design. In this episode of the Design Better Podcast, Eli and Aarron chat with Benjamin about using techniques like design thinking, research, and storytelling to ensure a more inclusive experience for all your users.

Scott Berkun: How design makes the world

por Elijah Woolery

Do you have a colleague who just doesn’t get what design is all about? Or maybe you’ve tried explaining it to your parents, but they just respond by asking you to fix their printer.

If that’s the case, then Scott Berkun has written a book for you, to give to them. It’s called How Design Makes the World, and it’s a great beginner’s guide to how design shapes just about everything we interact with in modern society, for better or for worse. 

It is also a good refresher for those of us who are more well-versed in design. Scott—who has written other bestselling books like The Myths of Innovation and Making Things Happen—does a great job of distilling design concepts down into everyday examples that are accessible and engaging.

In our conversation, we chat with Scott about the differences in thinking between designers and engineers, what UX design has to do with deep-sea anglerfish, and how good design is often shaped by understanding the constraints on a product.



Scott Berkun is a bestselling author and popular speaker on creativity, leading projects, public speaking, design and many other subjects. He’s the author of eight books, including  How Design Makes The World, The Myths of Innovation, Confessions of a Public Speaker, and The Year Without Pants. His work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, The Economist, The Guardian, Wired magazine, USA Today, Fast Company, National Public Radio, CNN, NPR, MSNBC and other media. His popular blog is at and he tweets at @berkun.

Ford’s Sandy Fershee: Driving innovation with human-centered design

por Elijah Woolery

The most innovative electric car announced in 2021 was not a Tesla, but a Ford. The new Ford F-150 Lightning, a fully electric version of the best-selling vehicle in America for the past 30 years, is the culmination of thorough user research and fresh thinking on a familiar product.

We were curious to learn how design and innovation are playing a role in Ford’s transformation, so we’re excited to bring Sandy Fershee, lab director at D-Ford Detroit, on to the show. 

Sandy talks about her role at D-Ford, and we also discuss the challenges of doing research & development in a large organization, how her team shares their design and innovation tools with the whole company, and how they approach design at the intersection of hardware and software.



Sandy Fershee leads a human-centered design team at At D-Ford Detroit, pushing the edge of Ford’s future strategies. They design new products, services, and ventures that customers love and drive business profitability.

Prior to this role, Sandy was the global leader of Experience Design at Ford, transforming Ford’s ways of working through human-centered design and creating new possibilities for future customer and business value.

Sandy was also Managing Director at the agency Punchcut, and Design Manager at Motorola.

Astra CEO Chris Kemp: Bringing talent into your orbit

por Elijah Woolery

Over 50 years after humans first landed on the moon, it’s still extremely difficult—and expensive—to get anything into orbit. But imagine if there were a more affordable way to give scientists and entrepreneurs access to space. We could develop more efficient agriculture to feed people more affordably and sustainably, or more closely monitor the evolution of dangerous storm patterns to save lives.

The company Astra is on a mission to do just that, by creating a lower-cost platform that offers smaller, more frequent launches to get satellites into space. We sat down with Astra co-founder and CEO Chris Kemp to learn more about how his teams collaborate on the immense technical challenges involved, and how design is playing an increasingly important role as traditional control room roles become automated.

Chris has an impressive background, from founding 3 companies to being the CTO of NASA, and we dive into the arc of his career, the lessons he has learned in leading people, and how he communicates mission and vision to his teams.


Chris is the Founder, Chairman and CEO of Astra. Previously, Chris founded several tech start-ups and served as the Chief Technology Officer of NASA, where he introduced new technologies into America’s space program and founded OpenStack, the largest and fastest-growing open-source project in history. While at NASA, Chris worked at the White House to develop the cloud strategy for the United States.

Chris has been recognized in the Silicon Valley Business Journal "40 under 40," the CNBC Disruptor 50 list, and received the prestigious "Federal 100" award for his service at NASA.

Rewind: Julie Zhuo: Learning to manage like a leader

por Elijah Woolery

Listen as Julie Zhuo, VP of Product Design at Facebook and author of The Making of a Manager, recalls some of her earliest professional experiences at one of the fastest growing companies on the planet.  She reveals how she got her start and grew to be a highly influential design leader renowned for building top-notch teams. Julie talks about the difference between leading and managing, and shares personal examples that can help you advance your career.


Julie Zhuo is one of Silicon Valley’s top product design executives and author of The Making of a Manager. Aside from her day job as VP of Product Design at Facebook, Julie writes about technology, design, and leadership on her popular blog The Year of the Looking Glass and in The New York Times and Fast Company.

RISD President Rosanne Somerson: Transformation through education

por Elijah Woolery

In its 144-year history, the Rhode Island School of Design—also known as RISD—has graduated numerous notable designers and creatives, from graphic designers Shepard Fairey and Tobias Frere-Jones, to painter Kara Walker, to cartoonist Roz Chast, to Airbnb co-founders Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia.

Rosanne Somerson became president of RISD in 2015 after a distinguished teaching career there (and after John Maeda’s departure). We speak with her about some of the common traits of RISDs most successful graduates. We also learn what she brings from her own studio practice of furniture design to her current work, how COVID has changed higher education, and about the power of a degree in the arts.

Rosanne also talks about how the overlap of disciplines leads to innovation, and the importance of staying connected to your craft. 


An accomplished educator, academic leader and furniture designer, and a sought-after speaker and juror, President Rosanne Somerson is an advocate for the arts and the relevance of RISD’s unique type of studio-based education. As the 17th president she is committed to expanding inclusion, equity and access to enhance a genuinely rich learning environment full of diverse experiences, viewpoints and talents. Somerson is also a practitioner with three decades of experience directing her own furniture design studio.

Somerson has deep roots at RISD—extending back to when she was an undergraduate student at the college in the 1970s. In 1985 she returned to campus to teach furniture design, and in 1995 became the first leader of RISD’s new Furniture Design department, helping to establish its strong reputation in the field. After subsequently serving in several academic leadership roles on an interim basis, Somerson emerged as the top candidate in two separate international searches, which led to her appointment as provost in 2012 and then president in 2015.

An interview with Somerson is included in the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art Oral History Project and she has earned fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts along with the James Renwick Alliance Distinguished Crafts Educator Award and a 2019 Pell Award for Outstanding Leadership in the Arts.

Sara Seager: Pushing boundaries through collaboration

por Elijah Woolery

If you’re lucky enough to look up into a clear night sky and see the thousands of stars visible to the naked eye, it’s hard not to wonder, “are there other planets like ours out there?” Our guest for this episode, Professor Sara Seager, is on a mission to discover potentially habitable planets outside our solar system. 

Sara is an astrophysicist and planetary scientist at MIT, and to discover these exoplanets, she relies not only on her own brilliance—she’s the recipient of a Macarthur Fellowship, otherwise known as the “Genius Grant”—but also on some pretty extreme collaboration across different disciplines.

In the course of our conversation, we talk to Sara about how these teams push beyond initial friction, and how giving herself permission to fail has driven much of her success. Sara is also the author of a memoir titled The Smallest Lights in the Universe, and we talk to her about the book and bringing her full self to work


Sara Seager is the Class of 1941 Professor of Planetary Science, Professor of Physics, and Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Her past research is credited with laying the foundation for the field of exoplanet atmospheres, while her current research focuses on exoplanet atmospheres and the future search for signs of life by way of atmospheric biosignature gases. 

Professor Seager is involved with a number of space-based exoplanet searches including as the Deputy Science Director for the MIT-led NASA mission TESS, as the PI for the on-orbit JPL/MIT CubeSat ASTERIA, and as a lead for Starshade Rendezvous Mission (a space-based mission concept under technology development for direct imaging discovery and characterization of Earth analogs).

Having authored three of her own books (’The Smallest Lights in the Universe: a Memoir’, ‘Exoplanets and the Search For Habitable Worlds’, and ‘Exoplanet Atmospheres: Physical Processes’) and edited a fourth, Sara has experience consolidating years of research into an authoritative resource and is credited with producing a book that “will be a bible for students and professionals interested in exoplanet atmospheres.”

Dan Pink: Creating meaningful connections

por Elijah Woolery

To Sell is Human. That’s the title of one of Dan Pink’s books, and also the foundational concept for his recent Masterclass on persuasion. Dan is also the bestselling author of books like When, Drive, and A Whole New Mind, and we sat down with him to discuss how we’re all tasked with selling something in our day-to-day roles, and why collaboration is the key to being persuasive.

We chat with Dan about creating meaningful connections in a Zoom-dominated workplace, and giving teams a sense of purpose given all that is going on in the world today. Dan also dives into the reasons that design literacy is critical for all business leaders who want to remain relevant.

We hope you enjoy this mini-masterclass with Dan, and thanks for joining us as we kick off the sixth season of the show.

Netflix's Steve Johnson and Rochelle King: Making great stories accessible

por Elijah Woolery

If you’re anything like us, you’ve been watching more than your fair share of Netflix this past year. And with such great original content, from The Queen’s Gambit to more obscure shows like Midnight Diner, we were curious what it takes from a product design perspective to create and deliver these shows to a massive audience, in a way that’s accessible not only to audiences here in the US, but all around the world.

So we sat down to chat with Steve Johnson, Vice President of Design, and Rochelle King, Vice President of Creative Production at Netflix, to talk about how they approach inclusive design for a global audience, how they use a data-informed rather than data-driven product strategy, and why looking for passion rather than for credentials might be the key to your next great hire.

This is the last episode of Season Five of the Design Better Podcast. But don’t worry, Season Six is just around the corner, where we’ll be sharing interviews with guests like bestselling author Dan Pink, who will teach us how to use persuasion to be better at our jobs, and Professor Sara Seager, an astrophysicist and planetary scientist whose research on exoplanets can shed light on how we can be better collaborators here on Earth.

Also, in-between seasons we’re going to do a bonus Q&A show, where you’ll have a chance to record your questions about design, creativity, leadership, or any of the topics we cover here on the show and we’ll do our best to answer them. Just head over to and fill out the short survey there to submit your question. 


  • Learn about the ROI for inclusive design
  • Hear how the design team at Netflix approaches the power dynamics between product and design
  • Understand how to prioritize and say no to work that won’t impact the business

Apple TV+ Home’s Doug Pray and Matt Weaver: Designing spaces that change behavior and create opportunity

por Elijah Woolery

Of the designed objects we interact with on a daily basis, our homes are probably the most influential on the way we live our lives. In Apple’s new series Home, the creators investigate the ways that some of the world’s most imaginative dwellings help their occupants reframe the way they live and work.

In this episode, we chat with Matt Weaver and Doug Pray, who are both executive producers for the show. Matt also produced several other notable documentaries, including Chef’s Table and Jiro Dreams of Sushi. In addition to directing several episodes of the Home, Doug has directed or produced a number of documentaries including The Defiant Ones, and collaborated with Doug on the documentary Surfwise.

We’re always curious how creative folks in different industries address challenging design problems, so we asked Matt and Doug about how the subjects of Home used their own stubbornness and resilience to push their projects forward, how constraints of location and material encouraged creative solutions, and about some of the common threads they see across creative disciplines. 


  • How the creators profiled in Home think about seeing: seeing in detail, seeing the unseen, seeing opportunity where others don’t, seeing a better way.
  • How design can shape behavior by building community, connecting us to nature, and calming and shifting emotions.
  • The benefits of bringing professional life into personal life, and living an intentional life.


Doug Pray is best known as a director of feature documentary films about American subcultures and maverick individuals. He has also directed short films and documentary-style commercials for a wide range of major clients and causes. He received a BA in sociology from Colorado College and an MFA from the UCLA School of Film and Television. He recently wrote, edited, and executive produced The Defiant Ones (2017), a television documentary mini-series that aired on HBO and garnered a Grammy Award and five Emmy nominations.

Matt Weaver is an executive producer of Apple’s TV series Home, and also produced many other notable documentaries such as Chef’s Table, I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead, The First Monday in May, and Jiro Dreams of Sushi.

John Cleese: A cheerful guide to creativity

por Elijah Woolery

The Ministry of Silly Walks. The Cheese Shop. French Taunting. If you haven’t seen any of these Monty Python sketches before, do us a favor and go watch one or two of them. You’ll discover—or re-discover—why our guest for this episode is a creative comic legend. 

John Cleese starred in and co-wrote the award-winning series Fawlty Towers, was nominated for an Academy Award for the screenplay of A Fish Called Wanda, and even has a species of lemur named after him (Cleese’s wooly lemur, Avahi cleesei). He’s also an expert on the creative process, and so if you’re looking for a new framework to level-up your own workflow, his book Creativity: A Short and Cheerful Guide is a great resource.

We talk with John about his new book, and also about creative collaboration in the midst of friction, how to be comfortable with ambiguity, and creating boundaries of space and time to get in a creative mode. We also get to ask him a question that’s been bugging us ever since we first watched Monty Python and The Holy Grail.

After everything that happened in 2020, we can all use a little more laughter in our lives. We hope our interview with John sparks some joy, and leaves you with some new creative tools. Thanks for listening.


  • How John’s childhood influences the way he approaches creativity
  • Why John uses writing to explore ideas
  • What “closed mode” and “open mode” are (and how they relate to convergent and divergent modes of thinking).


John Cleese is an English actor, comedian, writer, and film producer. He achieved success at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and as a scriptwriter and performer on The Frost Report. In the late 1960s, he co-founded Monty Python, the comedy troupe responsible for the sketch show Monty Python's Flying Circus and the four Monty Python films, And Now for Something Completely Different, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Life of Brian, and The Meaning of Life. In the mid-1970s, Cleese and his first wife, Connie Booth, co-wrote and starred in the British sitcom Fawlty Towers. Later, he co-starred with Kevin Kline, Jamie Lee Curtis, and former Python colleague Michael Palin in A Fish Called Wanda and Fierce Creatures. He also starred in Clockwise, and has appeared in many other films, including two James Bond films, two Harry Potter films, and the last three Shrek films. He is also the author of Creativity: A Short and Cheerful Guide.

Logitech's Jason Mayden: Leading with curiosity and humility

por Elijah Woolery

As we head into a new year—and leave behind a year that was challenging for just about everyone on the planet, with the hope that this year will be better for all—we wanted to share an interview with one of the most optimistic, creative, and insightful people we know: designer, entrepreneur, and educator Jason Mayden.

When we first interviewed Jason in 2018 for one of our Design Better Conversations, we knew we had to get him on the podcast. He had such a unique perspective on design as a service to humanity that we sensed our audience would love to hear his story.

We spoke with Jason on a wide range of topics, from how a near-death experience in childhood shaped his career and life, to how he maintains his energy and focus, to why being a polymath is an enormous advantage in today’s job market.

We finish the interview on a topic that strays a little from our usual subjects but is ultimately more important: how through all of our individual struggles we can benefit from recognizing our shared humanity. 


  • Learn what drove Jason to create his company SuperHeroic, and what he took away from the process.
  • Hear how servant leadership shapes his work and creativity.
  • Understand how Jason designs his life using tools like creative direction and brand strategy,


In his previous role at Nike, Jason oversaw the design and execution of all conceptual products, data-driven innovations, and inline lifestyle and performance product for Jordan Brand, as the Senior Global Design Director. During his 13+ year career at Nike, Mayden led and contributed to the creation of innovative sport performance products for athletes and cultural icons such as Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, Derek Jeter, and Michael Jordan.

In 2011, Mayden successfully received his Master’s in General Management and Social Innovation from Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business and shortly thereafter he returned to Nike as the Global Director of Innovation for Nike's Digital Sport division where he was responsible for the strategic investigation of new technologies and services, such as the Nike Fuel Band and the Nike+ platform.

Currently, Jason is an advisor, d.Fellow and Media Designer at the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford University, a frequent lecturer at Stanford University’s prestigious Graduate School of Business, and an advisory board member to his undergraduate alma mater, the College for Creative Studies.


Airbnb’s Brian Chesky: Designing for trust

por Elijah Woolery

It all started with a box of cereal. Well, that’s not exactly the beginning, but when Brian Chesky and his roommates had maxed out their credit cards while starting up what would become Airbnb, they had a crazy idea to continue funding the company by designing and selling limited-edition cereal boxes during the 2008 presidential election, and call them Obama O’s & Captain McCain.

Now, 12 years later Airbnb just made its initial public offering—IPO—on the Nasdaq on December 10th, and what a ride it’s been. In this interview we speak with Airbnb co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky, and learn how being a designer has influenced the arc of his journey, leading a company from a 3-person startup to a public company. We talk about what it’s like to design for trust during a pandemic, and the power of having a clear company mission that all can align to.

If— like some of our colleagues— you’re living in or working from an Airbnb right now, or have taken your family on a holiday made possible by them, we hope Brian’s story will be especially inspirational. As always, thanks for listening, and enjoy the show.


  • Learn how Airbnb designs with a mission of belonging, to counteract the loneliness so common in our digital-first era.
  • Hear why Airbnb organizes their teams by customer journey
  • Learn about Project Lighthouse, Airbnb’s effort to combat discrimination.


Google’s Annie Jean Baptiste: Building better products for everyone

por Elijah Woolery

As designers and design leaders, most of us understand the ethical importance of making our products accessible and inclusive for all the people who use them. But we don’t always understand the best way to go about doing this, or the business case for making it a priority.

That’s why we were excited to speak with Annie Jean Baptiste, Head of Product Inclusion at Google. Our recent guest John Maeda said, "If there is one voice in tech to listen to right now, it is Annie's on the material impact of inclusion in business today and in the future." 

Annie recently wrote a book called Building For Everyone: Expand Your Market With Design Practices From Google's Product Inclusion Team. We ask her about what spurred her to write the book, along with some of the strategies she uses for researching, designing, and shipping inclusive products.

We hope you come away from this conversation with some ideas you can bring back to your own team, to make better products for everyone. Thanks for listening.


  • Learn about the "ABCs of Product Inclusion" which Annie writes about in her book
  • Hear about hiring practices to build inclusive teams
  • Get guidance on how to build this role into your own team.

Author Bill Burnett: Designing Your Work Life

por Elijah Woolery

In the wake of a worldwide pandemic and economic catastrophe, many of our friends and colleagues in the world of digital product design are fortunate to have kept their jobs, but there have also been many who were not so lucky. We thought it would be timely to bring in an expert who has been using a designer’s mindset to help people reframe their approach to their careers.

Bill Burnett, co-author of the bestselling book Designing Your Life, has written a new book called Designing Your Work Life. Bill has been the executive director of the design program at Stanford for 13 years and has also taught one of the most popular elective classes there (which his first book was named from). He and his co-author Dave Evans have taken what they have learned from teaching and running workshops for adults in the midst of a career or life transition to come up with a framework for using tools like curiosity, reframing, radical collaboration, and a bias to action to transform your work life and find the best job for you.

In this interview,  we speak with Bill about how adopting a designer’s mindset can help you through your current challenges if you’re searching for work. We also chat about how grit and perseverance maps to happiness at work, and how setting aside time for reflection can help you understand what changes you need to make to find a better job (which may even be in your current company). 


  • How setting micro-goals can help you achieve positive change at work.
  • Why you might think about redesigning and iterating on your role at your current company if you’re unhappy.
  • What the idea of “generative quitting” is, and why asking the question “What am I doing wrong?” might be a good idea before you decide to quit.


Bill Burnett is the co-author of the NYT Best-seller Designing Your Life. He’s also co-director of the Life Design Lab at Stanford University. He’s a designer, educator, and an Adjunct Professor at Stanford University. He’s also the Executive Director of the Design Program where he manages the undergraduate and graduate degree-granting programs and advises 70 -100 students annually.


Debbie Millman: Revealing what matters the most to designers and creatives

por Elijah Woolery

We’re not ashamed to admit that, when we booked Debbie Millman for our show, we were a little intimidated. Not by Debbie herself, who always comes across as kind, smart, and thoughtful in the interviews she does for her own show, Design Matters. 

But just knowing that we were interviewing a pioneer in the podcasting space, someone who has been interviewing designers and creatives for over 15 years, and who spends a huge amount of time and effort researching each of her guests… that had us a little nervous.

That fretting turned out to be completely unwarranted, as Debbie is as gracious and entertaining a guest as she is an interviewer. In addition to her long-running podcast, Debbie is the President Emeritus of AIGA and chair and co-founder of the Masters in Branding Program at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. 

We spoke with her about the role that teaching plays in her learning process, and covered a range of topics from ethics in design to the differences between being a designer and an artist. 


  • Learn why it’s important for design to be personal, even when you’re designing for other people.
  • Hear how digital product designers can learn from other creative disciplines that have a long history.
  • Find out how to stay in better “career shape,” whether you are a recent graduate or further in your career.

John Maeda: Working at the intersection of design, business, and technology

por Elijah Woolery


Over the arc of his career, John Maeda has been many things: a professor at MIT, president at the Rhode Island School of Design, a Design Partner at Kleiner Perkins, head of Computational Design and Inclusion at Automattic, and now Chief Experience Officer at Publicis Sapient. 

In our interview with John, we learn how curiosity and humility have driven his wide-ranging and accomplished career. We also dive deep into his recent CX Report, which was formerly called the Design in Tech Report (we ask him about the name change). We discuss why algorithms have the potential to narrow our point of view, and why digital transformation is so hard for companies that are lower on what he refers to as the “Kardashev Scale.”


  • Why “shipping your org chart” may not be a bad thing.
  • What “L.E.A.D.” products are (Light, Ethical, Accessible, Dataful).
  • How design becomes more important as the frequency of interactions with digital products increase


John Maeda is an American technologist, designer, engineer, artist, investor, author, and teacher. He is Chief Experience Officer at Publicis Sapient, the technology consulting and delivery arm of communications and marketing conglomerate Publicis. Maeda serves on the Board of Sonos and the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum. 

He has held positions with Automattic, the parent company of; the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins; served as president of the Rhode Island School of Design; and began his early career at the MIT Media Lab at the intersection of computer science and visual art. Named as one of the “75 Most Influential People of the 21st Century” by Esquire, Maeda draws on his diverse background as an MIT-trained engineer, award-winning designer, and MBA-community translator to bring people and ideas together at scale. 

He is the author of several celebrated books, including The Laws of Simplicity and Redesigning Leadership. He has appeared as a speaker all over the world, from Davos to Beijing to São Paulo to New York, and his talks for TED have received millions of views. 

Seth Godin: Learning to take risks, be generous, and make a ruckus

por Elijah Woolery

If you don’t know who Seth Godin is, just type “Seth” into Google or DuckDuckGo. The first entry will lead you to his blog, where he writes—every day—about marketing, design, writing, how being a better human will make you better at your job.

Once you’ve started to read his blog, you’ll probably be hungry for more of his wisdom. He’s written over eighteen bestselling books on business and marketing, including Linchpin, Purple Cow, and The Dip.

We’ve been following Seth for a long time, and his writing and speaking have influenced how we think about creating and marketing products. So it was a huge honor to have him on our show, where we spoke about subjects ranging from how to take risks in your career, to why being creative is an act of generosity, to the idea of “creative destruction.”

We hope you enjoy our conversation with Seth as much as we did, and after you finish, we encourage you to go make a ruckus.



  • Why the counterintuitive idea of “surplus” means that, despite everything going on in the world, we all have access to more resources than the last King of France did.
  • Why writing is often the best starting point for almost any type of creative work.
  • Why a company is more like an organism than an organization



Seth is an entrepreneur, best-selling author, speaker and teacher. In addition to launching one of the most popular blogs in the world, he has written 19 best-selling books, including The Dip, Linchpin, Purple Cow, Tribes, and What To Do When It's Your Turn (And It's Always Your Turn). His most recent book, This is Marketing, was an instant bestseller in countries around the world.

Though renowned for his writing and speaking, Seth also founded two companies, Squidoo and Yoyodyne (acquired by Yahoo!).

By focusing on everything from effective marketing and leadership, to the spread of ideas and changing everything, Seth has been able to motivate and inspire countless people around the world.

In 2013, Seth was one of just three professionals inducted into the Direct Marketing Hall of Fame. In an astonishing turn of events, in May 2018, he was inducted into the Marketing Hall of Fame as well. He might be the only person in both.

Seth created the altMBA and Marketing Seminar to transform online education and help people connect with their audience.

Jina Anne, Founder of Clarity Conference, on Crafting a Community for Design Systems

por Elijah Woolery

To celebrate the new InVision DSM, we're sharing one of our favorite episodes in conversation with Design Systems Advocate, Jina Anne.

If you’re engaged in any sort of community surrounding Design Systems, whether it’s the Design Systems Slack, or the Clarity Conference, then you have likely benefited from Jina Anne’s work. A self-styled Design Systems Advocate, Jina has been passionate about creating events, content and resources that bring together communities of people who care about design systems and how they impact product design. In this bonus episode of the Design Better Podcast, we chat with Jina about how she got into Design Systems, what she has learned from building these communities, and how being a hybrid designer-developer influences her understanding of Design Systems.


  • How having a Design System affects company culture.
  • What to consider when deciding to go public with your Design System, or keeping it private.
  • How Design Systems can be effectively maintained.

Designing for Diversity: Project Inkblot’s Jahan Mantin and Boyuan Gao

por Elijah Woolery

In today’s episode, we talk with Boyuan Gao and Jahan Mantin—the founders of Project Inkblot—who have built a practical framework that can help everyone design for diversity, and can also be a guide for challenging conversations.

We discuss how they see design as an opportunity to bridge the divide and bring people into the conversation about designing products and services that address everyone’s needs, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, or religion. We also talk to them about their definition of intent vs. impact, and how to close the loop on making sure your impact is what you intended.

We hope you can use some of their ideas as a way to open the door to difficult conversations, and better understand your colleagues and customers.


  • Understanding why the impact of a product can vary greatly from its intent.
  • How design can act as an invitation to participate in difficult conversations.
  • Learn about Project Inkblot’s D4D framework to start building more equitable products, services, and content.

Silicon Valley Product Group’s Marty Cagan: Why product management is misunderstood

por Elijah Woolery

Are you on a product team or a feature team? After you listen to our interview with Marty Cagan, legendary product management guru, author, and partner at Silicon Valley Product Group, you’ll know just where you stand, and how to become a product team leader if you aren’t already one. We also discuss why product management is misunderstood, the dual track agile process, discovery sprints, and the four types of prototypes that Marty has classified, including user, feasibility, live data, and hybrid prototypes.
  • How dual track agile can help to validate ideas in the fastest, cheapest way possible
  • The four risks for every product launch
  • Why good product teams all have the same qualities

Pinterest's Naveen Gavini: Knitting different disciplines together

por Elijah Woolery

We’ve spoken to a lot of design leaders over the course of the Design Better Podcast, but this episode is the first chance we’ve had to speak with someone who has made the move from being an engineering leader to a design leader. Naveen Gavini, Head of Design and User Experience at Pinterest, spent time as an engineering manager and then as head of product engineering before taking on his current role, and he brings a unique perspective on leading design teams with him from his journey.

Naveen shares how they “knit” different disciplines together at Pinterest, and we explore what he’s learned from scaling a team in hypergrowth. We also ask about the strategic advantage that co-founder Evan Sharp’s design background has brought to the company from day one.


  • How product magic can happen when the boundaries blur between designers and engineers.
  • Why scaling a team in hypergrowth is a lot like making soup.
  • How design ops serves as the connective tissue at Pinterest.

Atlassian’s Stephen Deasy: How designers and engineers unite the possible with the probable

por Elijah Woolery

“Designers are about possibilities. Engineers are about probabilities.” This quote, from Stephen Deasy, Head of Cloud Engineering at Atlassian, is just one example of how concisely he can describe the relationship between designers and engineers. Our interview with him was our first chance to learn from a leader on the engineering side, and he shared a wealth of knowledge that will help designers work more effectively with their engineering counterparts. Stephen gave us insights about running regular retrospectives and health monitors with your team, and “plays” like Roles and Responsibilities. He also spoke to the mindset and process shift that occurs when teams scale from 15, to 50, to 150 people. Stephen also relayed some great insights on design and agile.
  • How to look across a company to get a pulse on the health of teams 
  • Understanding the mindset shift as teams scale
  • What it looks like when teams are efficient and productive in an agile environment

Author Joshua Seiden: Measuring work and rethinking goal setting

por Elijah Woolery

*** We’re nominated for a Webby 2020! Vote here: ***

Love it or hate it, the agile approach to software development seems to be here to stay. Often, it’s hard to get good design practice to fit within an agile framework, so our next guest, Joshua Seiden—co-author of Lean UX and Outcomes Over Output—may be particularly helpful to those of you who are struggling.

We chat with Joshua about how to fit user research into a sprint, and how he advocates for setting outcomes to guide the work of your team. We also talk about how design teams should think about measuring their work.

You’ll hear:

  • Why it’s important to set goals as outcomes, and not focus on output.
  • How design leaders are uniquely well-equipped to lead the conversation about measuring impact, because of their close relationship with the customer.
  • What mistakes designers make when working in an agile environment, and why going faster isn’t always better.

NASA’s Steve Rader: Redefining the moonshot with diverse teams

por Elijah Woolery

There’s a lot of talk in the tech world about moonshots, and what it takes to build a team capable of achieving them. We thought it might be helpful to speak with someone at an organization that has achieved actual moonshots, and so we were thrilled to get a chance to speak with Steve Rader, who is Deputy Director for the Center of Excellence for Collaborative Innovation at NASA. We chat with Steve about how he communicates across teams where expertise and vernacular might be very different, and the importance of having teams that are diverse on an array of different levels, from personal background to expertise. We also learn how vision gets communicated by leadership at NASA, and the lessons he’s learned in his career about leading people.
You’ll hear:
  • How to counteract fear of change in an organization by setting the right vision.
  • How an innovative solution for potato chip manufacturers (delicious!) was brought about by crowdsourcing input from a diverse set of skilled people.
  • Why it’s important to define the problem before jumping to a solution, to lead people effectively.

Why business thinking for designers matters more than ever

por Elijah Woolery

We’ve just published a new book on called Business Thinking for Designers by Ryan Rumsey, formerly of Apple, USAA, EA, and Nestlé. It’s a challenging time out there, and we know many of you are facing uncertainty in your work, whether you’re in an industry that’s been heavily hit by the current crisis, or even if you’re lucky enough to be with a company that is navigating the current storm more or less intact. Now more than ever, designers need to be able to demonstrate an understanding of the business they work within, and show a return on investment for the work that they do.

This is why we’ve released this book now, and in this bonus episode with author Ryan Rumsey you’ll learn:

  • Why an analytical approach to storytelling is crucial to conveying your vision
  • How to prepare for negotiations after you pitch to stakeholders
  • Ways business thinking can help individual contributors in addition to managers

In the new book Business Thinking for Designers, you’ll get to know how to speak design in the language of business, learn essential strategies to effectively communicate with your business partners, and tools, tips, and frameworks that you can put right to work.

If you’re eager to download the book now, for free, just head over to

Remote Work for Design Teams: Lessons in leadership, collaboration, and culture

por Elijah Woolery

We’ve just published a new book on called Remote Work for Design Teams, to help you make a graceful transition from the office to a remote work environment. In this bonus episode, we speak with the authors of the book (all from InVision): Abby Sinnott, Managing Editor, Greg Storey, Senior Director of Executive Programs, and Ben Goldman, Director of InVision Films.

We chat with Abby, Greg and Ben about their own remote collaboration and teamwork while writing this book, which the team turned around in record time. We also review some tips for leaders during this crisis, and discuss why being productive at work shouldn’t necessarily be top priority for everyone on the team.

If your team needs a little helping hand during these challenging times, you can head over to, and download the book for free.

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • The non-obvious advantages of being a distributed team when creating this book
  • How remote work lends itself to both divergent and convergent modes of creativity
  • Why remote collaboration can build trust through vulnerability

How to run remote design sprints and design reviews: Richard Banfield and Alison Rand

por Elijah Woolery

In this bonus episode, we’re once more focused on remote teams, and more specifically on best practices for facilitating remote design sprints, building trust between teams in a remote environment, and running effective critiques and design reviews remotely.

In the first half of the episode, we chat with Richard Banfield, VP of Design Transformation at InVision, and author of the book Enterprise Design Sprints, who gives us practical guidance on how to run a remote design sprint effectively. In the second half, Alison Rand, our Senior Director of Design Operations, will reveal the inner workings of how our own design teams perform design reviews remotely, and make sure that work is visible across teams.

You’ll learn:

  • How to facilitate a remote design sprints and run effective design reviews
  • The virtuous cycle that you need to put in place to build trust with your remote teams
  • Why preparation is the most critical part of running a design sprint remotely
  • How our veteran distributed team at InVision runs remote design reviews

To discover more remote work resources from InVision, check out

Making remote teams work

por Elijah Woolery

In this bonus episode, we chat about balancing personal and professional demands in a remote environment, especially during these challenging times. Join special guests Jennifer Aldrich, Senior Manager of Design Community Partnerships, and Stephen Gates, Head Design Evangelist, at InVision, as we discuss best practices for remote communication and how to build trust within your remote teams. We hope this episode helps you and your teams as you transition to remote work during this time of change in the face of our current health crisis. You’ll learn:

  • How to set expectations for remote communication
  • Tips for creating boundaries between work and life
  • Establishing documentation and processes for team collaboration
  • The value of soft skills in remote leadership
  • Benefits of working from home in building trust and connection for teams

VMWare’s Jehad Affoneh: Be a business leader, not a design leader

por Elijah Woolery

In this episode, we speak with VMWare’s Head of Design Jehad Affoneh about how he measures the business impact of design, and aligns design goals with engineering goals. We learn why he thinks it’s important to lead with context, and how he goes about ensuring that the diverse voices on his team are heard.

You’ll hear:

  • How OKRs can align goals across design and engineering
  • Lessons from running an internal conference for designers and executives
  • Tactics for ensuring diverse voices on your team are heard

Amazon’s Joanna Peña-Bickley: Bringing more diversity into leadership

por Elijah Woolery

Joanna Peña-Bickley has had an amazing arc to her design leadership career: from Chief Creative Officer at Matter Worldwide and IBM, to her current role as Head of Research and Design for Alexa Devices at Amazon, Joanna has always sought to design things that are “useful, usable, and magical.”

In this interview, we talk with Joanna about working cross functionally with both software and hardware teams, and what she’s learned about building a more connected workflow. We also get Joanna’s take on speaking design in the language of business, and how she works to bring more diversity into leadership at the companies where she's worked.


  • How Joanna approaches building high-functioning teams.
  • What the opportunities and challenges are when designing for invisible interfaces.
  • How to create partnerships that will make your team successful.

The New York Times’ Natalya Shelburne: Bridging the designer and developer divide by building trust

por Elijah Woolery

Natalya Shelburne, Tech Lead for Design Engineering at The New York Times, sits at a fascinating crossroad of design and development. She leads a team of front-end developers and brings her own experience as a designer and art director to her current role.

We chat with Natalya about her move from design to front-end dev, and some of the fears she faced along the way. We also talk about her approach to bridging design and dev, and what she brings from her prior career as a teacher into product design.


  • Ways to approach the unnecessary dichotomy between designers and engineers
  • Why respect is key to developing good cross-functional partnerships
  • How to overcome fear of moving into a technical role as a designer

IBM’s Kristin Wisnewski: Rise of an authentic leader

por Elijah Woolery

In the tech world, it's rare these days to spend more than a few years at one company. So we were curious to learn more about Kristin Wisnewski after hearing she’d been at IBM for 18 years. In her words, she “basically grew up at IBM,” and made a rapid transition from an individual contributor role to a leadership position in 2016, where she now leads an award-winning design team.

We got to know the story of that career transformation, and what it took to get there. We also spoke with Kristin about clearing roadblocks for better work, and how to bring women into more leadership roles at technology companies.


  • How to remain authentic to yourself as a leader
  • The keys to peak team performance
  • The way DesignOps works at IBM