March 2018 newsletter: crypto money, culture slacking and here’s what’s next.

Time for another update. Pull up a chair.

Previously on this newsletter: last spring I closed out phase one of my Chalet Workshop experiments in the Rockies. Since that time I traveled for unique design/innovation opportunities in Singapore, Seattle, San Francisco and Dallas. Most recently I wrapped up a four-month stint as interim Chief Creative Officer with a design strategy firm in Oakland.

(A moment to breathe. Once In a Lifetime spins up in the background.)

Now I’m focusing on my next move. Can you help?

I’m slowing down to seek full-time leadership roles (ECD, head of UX, head of design) in Colorado, Seattle and the Bay Area. I build and improve digital products, services, and businesses, and I enjoy giving talented creatives their best opportunities to shine.

If an interesting opportunity appears on your radar, please reach out. Many thanks in advance. In the meantime, I’m available for UX and design consulting.

Some brief observations, mostly from these adventures.

Crypto design
Estonia’s blockchain future is ambitious and contagious. While the tech behind this gets a lot of coverage, the design implications do not. How do we design for digital citizenship? Virtual voting? Or other entirely new behaviors — ones that most people haven’t had a chance to comprehend until now? It’s an important moment for design and designers, yet few agencies or designers are exploring this.

Ugly money
One of my teams recently audited the digital tools we use to manage money, from banking apps to bitcoin tools to payments enablers to investment accounts to trading systems. As we reviewed the massive wall of work, one word surfaced: uninspired. As in Yahoo-Briefcase levels of dated, kludgy interactions, across the board. We may be innovating with money in some ways, but in many others we’re still stuck in 1999. Experience design will be a no-brainer opportunity for fintechs seeking to differentiate.

Clashes of scale
A highly regarded product team I spoke extensively with last fall shared their ambitions with me: “we care about an idea if we know it’s immediately scalable for millions of people.” Contrast that with another that encourages startup founders to “first get 100 people to fall in love with your product.” One of these companies is known for bringing people together, while the other is catching heat for driving us apart. Guess which is which.

Jargon at scale
“Digital transformation” is the buzziest of catchphrases among many tech execs. (See also: “enterprise-level product innovation” and “lean growth at scale.” Drink when you hear these at SXSW.) Yet few consultancies can cleanly articulate what this means in relatable, human terms. We nerds have some positioning work to do. (A good place to start: put human beings at the center of your business, and operationalize to support them. No jargon needed.)

Culture Slack
Last year I wrote this piece on mapping team skills to growing your org culture. People from around the globe still contact me to discuss it. So I’m considering a private Slack channel for those of you eager to design your company’s culture. Let me know if you’re interested, I’ll invite you and we’ll swap insights.

Loooooooooooooooooong haul
That United route between San Francisco and Singapore? It’s an 18-hour flight, the longest-ever flight by a US airline. Li’l tip: if you book this route, confirm a morning hotel checkin since you’ll be landing at 8 a.m. and you’ll need the rest. On the tail end, and give yourself an extra night to visit the city’s myriad hawker centers — adventurous food FTW.

Bonus: free smells
Ten years ago I ran a sonic branding and interaction firm in London and Portand. It was a different era, and now I’m excited to finally see more designers bringing more rigor into crafting our everyday audio interactions. (Thanks Alexa and VR.) Staying in the sensory world, smell may be next. Here’s how to make it as a “nose.”

P.ink update
Our P.ink social impact/healthcare initiative hit an interesting milestone: 5 years of P.ink Days across North America. I love this work for three reasons: 1) we designed for one single person, the breast cancer survivor with her own unique journey; 2) our people are amazing; and 3) helping someone reclaim their identity is incredibly gratifying. Thanks for your support.

Today: popup critiques in Denver
I’ll conducting another popup portfolio review at Denver’s Union Station, Wednesday March 7 from 1-2 p.m. If you know someone who is just starting out in their career or they’re experienced and looking to level up, have them swing by or reach out.

The end

Have we caught up lately? Let’s do that soon. There’s much more to share and I’d love to see you in person or over the Skypes.

Be well,

N