I have beef with this “rate your teammates” assessment all team-based project courses employ. For awhile, I was being somewhat critical, and picking out one trait which my teammates can improve. No one is perfect, so it seemed like the right? thing to do.
However, once you factor in grades, I saw that giving anyone a less than 5/5 score hurts their grades. That’s unpleasant. So how do we solve this? By going down the 5 (out of 5) and giving everyone a 5 in every category.
The better solution is to perhaps facilitate a means of giving direct feedback to each other, in person not in survey, if there so happens to be suggestions. And, if our professors want, we can keep the survey too. After all, straight 5s feel good to have!
— Disclaimer: This opinion is specific to the teams I’ve experienced starting from college. My feelings about high school teams are VERY different.
These are the tenets I give people when they ask me how to evaluate a product designer for their startup. It’s not perfect, it’s not a guarantee, but this is my approach:
Visual portfolio.Gut check ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Either you like it or you don’t. If you’re not sure what good is, my first filters are information priority (are the first through fifth most important things on the page obvious from the visual weight), information organization (are related ideas near each other), intuitiveness (what you’re supposed to do next), and clarity of copy.
Process.“This portfolio looks great, how did you get there? What problem were you given? How did you approach solving it? How did you iterate from idea to final product? How many concepts did you try? How did you decide which one to go with? Who was this designed for? Did you talk to them?” And so forth. The key here is to derive a rational, thoughtful design process that balances business needs with user needs— and empathy with those users. This separates designers from artists making pretty pictures.
Intellectual curiosity.Nobody knows everything about design, or anything else. “What do you read? Who/what inspires your thinking around user experience? What’s an example of a good user experience and why? How will you improve over the next year?” Granted you need to know some things up front, such as the definitions of user experience, design thinking, and perhaps something about various design philosophies like user-centered, activity-centered, etc. Wikipedia is your friend.
Trial and error.Give him or her a UI component to redesign, or present a problem you’ve been facing and ask for some ideas on how to solve it. I feel a discrete UI component is reasonable, not a redesign of an entire page UI. Deliverables should be low fidelity sketches. Adaptive Path actually teaches that 10-15 minutes is optimum for sketching rough interface elements on a 6-up template, with no more than a few minutes per concept. They haven’t found that significantly more time improves the end-result at all. An exercise like this could even be done on the spot, or you can treat it as a take-home.
This being said, I’m not sure if I would have nailed this test when I was hired at Mint in early 2007. I had the portfolio (but no consumer UIs), I had an engineering background so I could build what I designed, but my process was immature, and my user experience understanding was lacking. However, I grew in the job, learned from everyone around me, from practice, etc. Coming from an ad agency was also a plus because I knew how to persuade, think about brands, and write copy. (Valuable skills for startups, hence why I encourage raiding the agency world for talent.)
So I think these principles will allow you to compare individuals with a common framework, but if you find someone smart, passionate about the problem you’re solving, a culture fit, and hungry for a win, you might get more than you expect.
Well, that depends: the right design depends on the context. But, for an in class presentation, where we are sharing with peers and faculty, I believe a more storyboard, humorous approach is the way to go.
I’ll save the black-on-white document styling for the stakeholders.
Everyone in class had to write one notecard’s worth of feedback per team. The mandatory factor made everyone a little bit more attentive, though it was obvious that some people were disinterested.
What I found interesting is that the feedback was truly a mixed bag.
For example, one of the things I tried out was BIG text. Heard loud and clear, the big text was a success. And, everyone can read it.
Text as motion was also well received. On a side note, admitting that we didn’t really know what to do at first was a good decision. Somewhat risky, but making the audience chuckle does wonders.
Though, one of the repeating critiques said that the remnants of the previous slide were distracting. The intent was that they’d build to simulate motion as well as work as reminders of the context.
Also, another strategy I tried using was employing as little text explanation as possible, making the presenters the main focus while explaining. I am lucky to be paired with some truly strong presenters, so we delivered. On the other hand, some were bothered by the lack of bulleted main points. It is conventional, and comforting, to have those at hand I suppose.
Okay, I had to agree on a kerning choice comment: it’s cheesy. It was late and seemed like a clever idea at the time. Out of those who commented on this kerning choice, there was a halfway split between love it and hate it. So, even if I had agreed that this was the lesser choice, there were those on the other side!
Overall, we had one person say the palette was reminiscent of the “blue screen of death” while others were bothered by the lack of formalism (logos in the footer, date of last revision, team name on all slides, etc.) But, I assure you both of these did not happen because of conscious decisions, and not because I/we were careless.
Ultimately, this is pushback was very similar to that I’ve received in “the real world.”
As a designer, you need to learn how to effectively integrate feedback. And, somewhat unfortunately, it all comes down to the phrase you might be tired of hearing: it depends. But at the same time, it’s that openness and freedom that makes me enjoy the design experience.
Credit where credit’s due: I took a ton of inspiration from NoteandPoint.com while making this. I can’t wait to try another approach for our next presentation. Seriously, these are fun to make. I just wish I could deliver them as well as I could in my head!
This was just a little peak into what I’ve been up to for the MHCI Capstone Project.
P.S. I prefer not to post the entire presentation. However, if you are an employer, I’d be happy to show it off to you during an interview ;)