Rally cries

 
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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.

 
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context over dogma

In economics, there's an insightful (and lame) joke that a single answer works for all questions:

‘that depends’

Meaning when you're trying to figure anything out, context is king. This holds up just as well in design! Everything is unique in someway and often full of nuance. Rules of thumb are a great place to start, but blindly following trends or dogma can blind you to a better solution.

All great design bucks dogma to serve contextual needs.

 
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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 to your vision if they truly understand your reasoning.

When making and describing your choices, build upon a foundation of why.