👋 I lead design at Automattic. I enjoy being outside in and around Seattle. This site is a bit of a playground and changes quite often. Take a look around and say hi.

Proposing instead of asking

I recently joined a team of designers to lead. One of the patterns I noticed was a lack of ownership over the product areas some of the designers were working in. This came about in a few ways, but the biggest and most common sign was how someone approached a problem. Some designers propose a solution and others ask how something should be solved.

“Should the settings be in a modal or the sidebar?”

“Where should I show the error message?”

When I see a question like this being asked without an accompanying design, I reach out to the designer to learn more. I go about it differently depending on the person, but overall I remind them that this is their project. They are the lead designer on it and they were put on it for a reason! I ask them to use their experience to first ask the question to themselves and start exploring possible solutions. Then, when they had a good grasp and handle on the problem and many designs that solve it, to propose the best solution (or two) instead of asking others how to.

This is a small shift but I’ve seen it have a big impact over time on my previous teams. It leads to more thought out designs, fruitful collaborations, and a sense of pride and ownership over the final design that gets shipped and used by millions of people.