From the issue feature, "Living by Design in the Pacific Northwest." 
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long lonely road

Photo: Chuck Abbe

The below is adapted from a talk given at a PechaKucha Night Seattle event, Designing Leadership, which was hosted in collaboration with Design in Public for their Seattle Design Festival. Over the coming weeks, we'll release more adaptations of presentations given that evening.  —ARCADE

Design is about making choices. We constantly strive to make the right ones in our work, to balance the constraints with the possibilities, to see where we can go, to expand, to dream and to create solutions that will move experiences forward. We design the product, but we also need to design the way. As design leaders, we need to help our teams find direction and make choices that will create the best products and the best customer experiences. It’s not just about managing the work or deciding what to work on, and it’s never about the org chart. It’s finding the right trade-offs and making the tough choices that are usually not clear or well defined.

Here are ways to help you navigate as a design leader:


Always start with why? (but don’t end with it). Help frame the reasons and goals for the work. A good brief starts with why?

One Agenda

Be clear on the team’s agenda. Is there a greater goal you’re striving for? Some call it vision—North Star. It’s where we want to go together.

One Team

Make it ours, not I’s.

One Voice

Agree to disagree, but once the group decides, everyone’s all in.

Culture Change

It’s not those guys, it’s us. Make it about your culture and not about them.

Design Thinking

Expand, diverge, go wide and help converge and iterate on the ideas. Never settle. Strive to make it better.

Design Advocate

Communicate the design intent by inspiring and provoking.

Structure and Essence

Balance the rational with the emotional in your team’s design work.

Our Way

Define who, what, when, where and how and write it down. Make it a technique, not just a process.

Celebrate Constraints

Define the box and then work on the outside of it.

User at the Center

The customers decide what is great and what is real.


Think big. Create with possibilities.

Road Ahead

There’s always more; the next version, the next iteration, the next . . .