Distilling what you believe into a rallying cry can do a lot. These are mine.
quality over quantity
This is the one that proved the value of a rallying cry.
When tasked to lead the redesign of a 20 year old product, with large teams across 6 countries, getting people to buy into unified vision felt impossible. This is a surprisingly common problem for products with larger teams. Distilling a core message into a memorable and understandable mantra greatly improves how well a point sticks. Instead of constantly explaining why perception of our product, Wall Street English, suffers when we add more features and stop iterating on the core experience, I started using this mantra “quality over quantity”. As I was trying to build buy-in around a dramatic redesign, this proved to be the tipping point. The message started to sink in and we redesigned and refocused the entire UI. This rallying cry alone certainly helped achieve the recent $300M sale.
People dwell on the negatives - stand out by focusing on what your product does best.
context over dogma
In economics, there's a insightful (and lame) joke that a single answer works for all questions:
Meaning when you're trying to figure anything out, context is king. This is even truer in design! Rules of thumb are a great place to start, but it is critical to not blindly follow trends or dogma.
All great design bucks dogma to serve contextual needs.
diversity over homogeneity
Variety is the spice of life!
Words to live by but we can take it further. Consider diversity from the strength of ecosystems. From the complexities of food webs to genes to a successful stock portfolio, diversity equals longevity. Variety is the spice of life - and its guardian!
If we accept that the design of things has real-world implications, is there a bad outcome from having the same experiences over and over again? Yes in two major ways:
1) Fewer unique experiences leads to fewer unique ideas
2) The expectation of homogeneous experience strengthens the status quo.
The creative strength found in the USA is a direct result of our diverse melting pot. When someone approaches a problem differently and more successfully, they win. Others notice and are free to copy or modify that approach even further, enriching society with new thought.
Steal what works but don't be afraid to try something new.
listening over defending
Even when someone is wrong, their perception exists for a reason. Defending why you’ve done something can only change one person’s perspective. If you understand why their perception exists you just might change it for everyone.
Keep an open mind to all feedback.
outcomes over justice
Cause and effect rule reality - but can this idea be applied to more than just the physical world?
In every specific moment of our lives, we make decisions. We make very specific decisions. These are, at the very least, influenced by everything that has happened up until that point in time. Influences like a great-grandparent's genes to how sunny it is at the specific moment a decision is being made. Neurons fire and we act.
How can anyone be 100% personally responsible for anything? They can't. So, where do we draw the line? It almost doesn’t matter. If we can overcome the desire for blame and justice, there is a more productive answer: focus on outcomes.
Move past blame and work to improve the future.
people over users
If you create something for other people, you also create a connection with those people. By impacting their lives, they become more than faceless users, they become your people. This increase in empathy may just lead to better decisions.
Saying “people” instead of “users” makes them more real.
short over long
When explaining anything, in UI or IRL, make it as easy to understand as possible. In the twitter age, this means it has to make sense before your short window of attention is lost.
“If you can’t explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough” - Albert Einstein.
Thanks Albert! In addition to understanding your subject and audience well, simply figuring out how to shorten your message will distill it to the most relevant parts.
To convey a message, strive to be clear and concise.
teach over tell
“Give a man a fish, he’ll eat for the day. Teach a man to fish, he’ll eat for a lifetime.” This is true of design as well. If you take the extra effort so that your product owner, developer, and other designers truly understand the rationale of your design decision, you head-off the unhelpful questions and invite the helpful ones.
Helping others understand your design logic, enhances your future collaboration.
truth over greed
Confirmation bias has enriched companies, like Facebook, who profit off tweaking your “feed” to capture your attention. Attention equals Money, and confirmation bias is one successful behavioral trick to do it.
This is how it works. Most people, probably you and me, are more interested in stories that might confirm what our gut is telling us. This feels natural: we have a hunch and we want to know if we're right, not if we’re wrong. Let’s say you have a hunch your team is going to win - wanna click on that listicle explaining why your team is awesome? Probably. Facebook’s algorithm preys on this so we stay engaged as long as possible. Even if this behavioral trick causes us to build bubbles around ourselves - which is does.
What we create matters. Real world consequences result from even the smallest detail. Default selection of a subscription checkbox seems innocent enough but that’s just the tip of “dark patterns”. Don’t hide the truth. Don’t be a scumbag.
Helping people experience the truth is a necessary long term strategy.
why over what
Designers are constantly making decisions and people are constantly being affected by them. Not only is it a good idea step-back and question what you’re creating with why, but others will buy-in if you communicate the why more than the what.
When making and describing your choices, build upon a foundation of why.