Our industry has gotten really good at making living style guides out of parts: reusable components like color, typography, buttons and forms, voice and tone. We’ve also learned how to map skills to these parts by mobilizing the best people to make decisions across platforms. But, argues Nathan Curtis, a third element is crucial to any design system mission: products. What products will use our system? How will we involve them?
Times (and job titles, and platforms) have changed. Agile has the potential to liberate content strategists from obsolete ways of working, and developers and designers can help. Brendan Murray identifies four key areas—iteration, product, people, and communication—where designers and devs can find common ground with their content counterparts and usher them into to an agile world. The open and collaborative approach of modern agile development is a framework within which content work can refine itself, test, and learn.
Workplace drama, coworker and client irrationality: these seem like forces of nature that we have no way to prevent or control. Brandon Gregory shows us the emotional calculus at the heart of the tempest. Try this formula on any behavior that makes no sense, and it will help you understand what’s going on and what you can do to help.
Practice makes perfect, but how do you help your team practice difficult conversations? Senongo Akpem shows how roleplay can help new managers learn useful techniques and gain confidence for those tough discussions ahead.
Doing effective work often depends on the cooperation of colleages. Many of us struggle with this aspect of our jobs. Our very reasonable explanations fall on deaf ears. We’re not charismatic or extroverted, and people tune us out. We’re good at what we do, but we’re not “born leaders.” Actually, it’s not arcane knowledge or inborn talent that gives you the ability to win friends and influence people. Nishant Kothary realized that being influential is a skill that you can (and should) develop.
If you make a living in client services, you know how daunting the estimating process can be. Somehow, you have to predict how much time and work will go into completing a client’s project before it even begins. Clients have to trust your estimates in order to commit funds to a project. You have to trust your estimates in order to commit to the next project on your schedule. Matt Griffin shares some tips to make estimating a bit more methodical and a bit less fraught.
Approaches that are either too general or too specific can easily overwhelm practitioners—and derail budgets. Fresh from recent experiences with two large-scale redesigns, Katie Kovalcin suggests that flexibility and open communication can transform all team members into what she calls “80/20 practitioners,” creating a more effective balance of time and resources.
Heads/Tails, Left/Right, Church/State, Engineering/Design, Logic/Emotion. Oh wait—the flipside of logic isn’t emotion. It’s fallacy. Another fallacy is feeling obliged to join either the faction of the sensibly-clad engineers or the faction of the crayon-toting creatives. Nishant Kothary has found that research is on the side of trusting your gut (then backing up your instinct with testing).
We take it for granted that career progress means moving into a management role. Even people who thrive in the individual contributor role feel the pressure to join management. Shouldn’t both capacities be valued, so we can find where we genuinely fit in and do our best work? Rian van der Merwe has gone scouting up the career path and realized it’s okay to turn back and be the other, oft-overlooked but equally important half of the management/making dynamic.
Specialists? Generalists? It’s not a question of which is better, but about finding the right mix for your team and your work. Specialists offer valuable expertise, but over-reliance on specialization isn’t always good for workflow—too many niches can lead to silos, bottlenecks, and poor communication. Garin Evans recommends that, instead, we build teams that play off the best traits of specialists and generalists, encouraging collaboration and innovation as we go.