Steve Johnson @ Jacobs Institute for Design Innovation

Steve Johnson @ Jacobs Institute for Design Innovation


– Alright, everyone. Welcome to Jacobs Hall. Thank you for coming,
even despite the rain, and, in fact, to celebrate the rain. Hashtag, get rid of drought, basically. This is all good. So, welcome to Jacobs Hall. Who here is their first
time in the building? Alright, well, welcome, by all means. My name is Eric Paulos. I’m faculty here at electrical
engineering computer Science. I’m also the chief learning officer here at the Jacobs Institute
for Design Innovation. We’re gonna start. We have this Design Conversations, which you are attending,
I want to tell you, we’ve started this
series last semester, and it’s gonna be continuing on
throughout this semester. Yeah, that’s mine. No, that’s mine. I can dance to it while I’m going. And it features a wide range
of designers that come in and have conversations and
provoke us with questions around design and critical
thinking around design here at Berkeley. We try to look for a diverse range of visions and perspectives. Also, I just want to
give you a little bit of foreword pointer before we get
started with today’s speaker. Next Friday will be another one of these design conversations with Yoon Lee, he’s the vice president of
Insight Concept and Portfolio at Samsung Electronics, and
he leads the home appliances products division, so you’ll want to also see the perspective that Yoon is bringing to this as well. And then I know people will have, will we run off, do things
during spring break, think deeply about design? But right when you come
back from spring break, the very next Friday,
we’ll have Greg Petroff, who’s the chief experience
officer at GE Software, and general manager of
the User Experience Center of Excellence at GE. Those of you that are a little
less familiar with Jacobs, we offer a host of classes here. There’s about 25 classes in the building. We support student groups. There’s also a lot of
events and activities. You’re attending one of them. And for those of you that
have your calendars out, you’re gonna want to definitely mark May fourth and fifth, that’s
a Wednesday and a Thursday, during RRR Week, because there will be a huge design exhibition here. You get a chance to see all
of the fabulous student work that’s gone on. I also want to thank the staff that’s been really helpful in bringing all the programs, particularly
this one, together. Laura, Emily, Amy, Roland,
Aleta, to name a few, so thank you, and thank
them on the way out, ’cause they really pulled
this whole program together. And today is a special speaker, and I’m honored to be presenting Shannon Jackson, who will be actually
introducing our speaker. Shannon, as many of you
know, is a professor in rhetoric and performance studies. She has numerous acclaimed books on sort of performance
media and social practices. And her own research passions kind of lie at this intersection of visual
performing and media art and the role of arts
in social institutions and social change. She directs the Arts Research Center, for those of you that have
hopefully had a chance to interact with it. In fact, I was very honored to be kind of participate more as
an audience member in a small but interesting activist
performance just last Wednesday during her noon Big Ideas lecture series which is down at the Berkeley Art Museum with The Yes Men art collective. This is quite interesting. And perhaps most exciting for us also at Berkeley is the fact that
Shannon’s recent appointment by our chancellor to newly created and important leadership role here as associate vice chancellor
for arts and design. And here at Jacobs, we’re
obviously really interested in furthering the role
of creativity and design, and we’re really excited about
the ability to participate in the emerging vision of arts and design under her leadership. And with that, it’s a
pleasure to introduce Shannon. (applause) – Thank you. Okay, thank you to Eric. I’m really thrilled. First of all, I’ll reiterate
the thanks to the staff and the thanks to Eric,
including the staff of Berkeley Center for New Media
and the Arts Research Center, who collaborated with Jacobs today. It is a real thrill to welcome Steve Johnson, who’s come up here from Mountain View to share his time with us. Some of you may read a
bit about his biography if you looked at our
website ahead of time. Steve is a truly innovative
and path-breaking design executive in the Silicon Valley, and someone who, as a leader, is beloved of everyone who works with him. I have inner knowledge there. If you also read that
biography, you know that Steve is currently the vice president of user experience design at LinkedIn and that he got his start when he was privileged,
in one of his first jobs, privileged to be a skills trainer for autistic children. And it was in that
environment that he began to derive a design
philosophy based on watching human patterns of behavior and thinking innovatively and expansively about the assumptions we use to interpret and navigate our world. And I think we’ll hear
a bit more about that design philosophy today. You might also know that
he moved from that post to the kids’ division at
Electronic Arts, where he was lead designer in user experience for many of its important products, including the family album creator. And from there, he moved on to become a senior product architect at Adobe, leading design for some of
its most important products, including the Elements suite, the Acrobat line, and the Creative suite of Adobe, which I hope all of you know that thanks to the efforts
of people like Jenn Stringer, and Bill Allison, and others in this room, we, at Berkeley, any student and any
staff member at Berkeley has access to the full Creative suite thanks to our partnership with Adobe. This man was partly responsible for creating it. Since 2009, Steve has been
head of user experience at LinkedIn, making that
harrowing process of job searching more fun and more meaningful for many of us, and also has worked from there to think more expansively about
the nature of design and about the techniques
of great designers. I know he’s gonna talk
more about that here. Obviously, Steve’s
specialty is in the creation and the design of, you could
say, experiential forms, user forms, but I happen to know he’s also just as interested in physical and designing physical
forms and material forms, including the design and
function of automobiles. And he has very deep and absolutely staggering expertise in that area. I actually am the daughter
of somebody who also, my father also had a lifelong fixation and love of automobiles. He built them, he read about them, he tinkered
with them all his life. He was also, incidentally, a
mechanical engineering major here at Berkeley. And so when I think, actually, about welcoming Steve today now
as this campus administrator in the arts and design here
at my dad’s alma matter, I also find myself reflecting
about our commitment to explore, here at Jacobs and elsewhere, all things design, and to create, in our student body, a lifelong love of creative innovation. So as we continue that
grand and wide pursuit, whether we’re talking about
the creation of graphics, or products, or fashion,
or buildings, or apps, or cities, or murals, or
sculptures, or performances, and experiences of all varieties,
I hope that you’ll join me in welcoming Steve Johnson,
who shares, I think, an abiding interest in all things design and, in the capacity of good design, to create new patterns and new behaviors that might change the world. Steve. – Thank you.
(applause) Hi, everybody. Can everyone hear me okay? Yes, yes. So she just covered like
40% of my presentation. So, I’ll try to go fast, but hi, I’m Steve. I do talks in a fairly simple way. I always tell people a
little bit about me, just so you know who I am. And then I talk about what I’ve done so that I can hopefully establish
some level of credibility, and then we jump into the talk. I also love it when people
jump in and ask questions, so please, just feel free, chime in, or we can do a Q and A after. So, about me first. My wife and I, I’ve got one wife, one kid, and one cat. And I always make sure
to specify that order. We had two cats, but now
we only have one, it’s kind of sad, but our little boy, Bryce, he thinks that he’s a DJ. He’s 11. So he’s always kind of trying to mess with DJ equipment. He’s also a black belt, though. So what he does is he mixes his own music to do routines to, but
it’s normally stuff like TV commercials, et cetera, and it’s kind of odd. You guys can go to my Facebook
page and look at that. I love fashion, but I hate couture. And I always bring that up, because I think that if it’s
pretty but it’s not useful, it doesn’t make sense, it
makes it pretty useless. And I think that when you’re
talking about fashion design, specifically, there’s a way
that people want to look, and then there’s how
they’ll actually be able to function and be careful, I’m sorry, and be comfortable. So if you go to New York Fashion Week or those kinds of things,
you can normally find me with some of the lower-end designers. The high-end couture ones
really don’t do anything for me. I’m a massive music fan, I love music. And just to make sure we’re
all on the same page here: music does not include
Taylor Swift or country. And it’s just it doesn’t. And we can debate this later. I was giving a talk at a university once. Young lady walks up and says, “I’m really mad about your
Taylor Swift comments.” And I asked her if she
was into Demi Lovato. She said, “Yeah.” And I said, you’ve got
no credibility with me, so my comments stand. We can do that later. But here’s the reality, though. Look, this is Foo Fighters, right? And this is 100,000 people at Wembley. And if there’s anything that
I’ve always wanted to do, is just imagine that I
could expose my passion to 100,000 folks that would stand in line for 3 1/2 hours and tolerate me for six. So, these guys rule. I’m really into interior design, even more than exterior architecture. Interiors is where you live. It’s what you actually touch and feel. It’s the way that you actually are. And I think that exterior
architecture is amazing, but that’s just how it looks. You can have a gorgeous building that, once you guys
inside, doesn’t feel right. So what’s great about this hall was when I saw it from outside,
I’m like, oh, that’s pretty. But then I was very
interested to actually walk in and feel it. Now that I see the room and the space, this is amazing to me. So that’s the kind of thing
that really resonates. Yeah, I’m a car guy. And when I give these talks at work, everyone kind of laughs, but I like to change that. I tell my wife that I’m an
automotive design aficionado. And it doesn’t work on her. There’s something very
interesting to me about transportation in general. And especially when you’re
talking about car companies that start with the drivers’ seat first and they work their way out,
and that’s been something that I’ve seen with a
lot of companies lately. And then the very last one is tech. I love technology, but more importantly, how I believe we are
going to interact with it. I’m a firm believer
that life imitates art, and not vice versa. And with that, I always ask this question, ’cause I get asked a lot
who I think the greatest design mind of all time is. It’s this guy, so here’s my quick tangent. Does anyone know who this is? No? Out loud. Gene, who said that? – [Woman] Gene Roddenberry.
– Right. It’s Gene. Okay, so here’s the thing. I’ve given so many talks about this. There’s all these kids, they’re like, “Who are Gene Roddenberry?” I shall tell you. This is the greatest
design thinker of all time as far as I’m concerned. Here is why. Gene invented the Motorola flip phone. Gene invented the iPad. Gene invented Google Glass. Right? Hold on, there’s more. Gene invented the taser. Gene invented the Bluetooth headset. Gene also invented Oculus for Facebook. Gene invented Skype. And what I’m waiting for
Gene and Elon to invent is the transporter. Now, my point, though, is this: all of these things were
from the 1960s Star Trek. And I am absolutely convinced that it was the inspiration
of young men and women that saw that show back
then that made them say, “We can do more, we can build more.” As I’m seeing these amazing 3D printers, even in this environment, I’m thinking back to all the
sci-fi films I used to watch when all of that was just
normal, and I’m saying, somebody in that room had to have said, “Well, I can do that, let me build that.” So if there’s anything that
I can pass on to all of you, it’s, really, look to
Hollywood and all these things that you think are amazing,
like the Iron Man suit, and then just go, “How do we do that?” And you may not be able
to build the exact thing, but that’s what people are
really kind of expecting from experiences, so that’s
kind of the end of my tangent. Alright, so let’s talk about my career. I’ll go fast since
Shannon already told you. So, I worked with autistic kids when I very first got started, and that was incredibly fulfilling to me. And I never thought that
I was gonna be a designer from that. Okay, good, I’m making sure
the video’s up, I’m sorry. But I started working in group homes. And what we learned quickly
was what I was actually good at was redesigning attributes
of the group home for the autistic clients. So if you don’t have full
dexterity in your hands, if you can’t move things, et cetera, even if you have problems with a knife, with lots of Velcro, wood, and duct tape, we modified things, and that’s
what got me into design. I started realizing that was something I really wanted to do. From there, I went to EA, and I was part of EA
Sports and then EA Kids. And what was great about that
was learning multi-platform before there were lots
of different platforms. Like now, we have Android, iOS, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Back then, you just had
all the gaming consoles. And how you had to actually
develop for the PC, the Mac, or, then, with the Sega Genesis, yeah, I’m aging myself, that’s alright. When the Genesis was out. Nintendo’s box. What was Nintendo’s
first box called again? It wasn’t the Wii. The N64? Right, yeah. N64, that kind of thing. It was really interesting in how we had to make sure we developed
those games differently. Adobe is where I learned the most
about product design. And everything you hate about Photoshop’s my fault, I’m sorry. It’s true. It’s my fault, it’s still there, too. I downloaded CC a couple months ago, I’m
like, that’s still there? I don’t believe that, they
don’t get rid of anything. But the Creative suite was one of the hardest things I’d ever done, because we did CS one and
two, bringing together Photoshop, Illustrator,
ImageReady, Dreamweaver, and Flash. We had just purchased
Macromedia, et cetera. That taught me a tremendous amount about standardization,
thinking about patterns, pattern alignment, and also
one size doesn’t fit all. And then there’s these guys, LinkedIn. I’ve been with LinkedIn for seven years. And that’s been interesting, because that taught me a lot about hypergrowth. I was employee number 360, and
we’re at 10,000 people now. My team, when I joined, was 18 people. It hit a height of 340. It’s been a massive ride, but it’s also been interesting
to watch the web develop and then think about how mobile does that. Speaking of LinkedIn, this talk
will not be about LinkedIn. This is not a recruiting exercise. I’m not gonna answer questions about why we send so much email. Yes, I can, it’s okay. You can ask me. Everything that I’m talking to you about is just the way that I feel about design. So please don’t think that
this is a LinkedIn talk, because it’s not. Alright, so I’m really big on this. People talk about great designers. And I don’t believe that
greatness is so much about the what, it’s the how. And that’s literally what this
entire talk’s gonna be about if I don’t trip over this cord and fall in front of all of you. This whole talk is going to be
about the things that I think great designers do and how they do it. I’m not gonna go into
skeuomorphic versus flat, or if you should be using
Sketch or Photoshop, and all those kinds of things. I don’t really care. I will talk about the person
that I believe you need to be to build great products. And, again, any time, please, raise your hand, we can have conversation. So here’s the first thing. This is really, really, really big. I believe great designers look
for competing perspectives. And it is the word, competing. I think that, normally, you
can get into group think, so where everybody around you is a fanboy, and they’re like, “Yeah, this is great.” And that’s all you guys
do, and you move forward, and you don’t think about
competing perspectives. I’m also really big on, if
you’re in a capacity to hire, you should look for people that, A, are different than you but are also representative
of your target audience. Right now, in the Valley,
there’s lots of conversation about diversity and inclusion. I think that all of
them are very powerful, but I like to take the
conversation to different and just say, hire people
that have different perspectives, because your audience most likely has different perspectives. So I spend a lot of time
asking people that I know hate my stuff, “What do
you think of it and why?” And if any of you are
connected to me on LinkedIn, you’ll see me quite often asking people that I know are
very upset about the platform if they’d be interested in
having coffee or a conversation. And I probably do about 10 a week simply because I want to
hear that perspective. I think really, really,
really great design leaders that I’ve met in my entire
career, they do that, and I think it’s something that all
of you should think about. Don’t assume that what you’re doing is the best idea in the entire
planet, because I’m positive you think it is, but the
person next to you may not, and they may offer you something
that makes it even better. So, teamwork needs to
be a natural behavior. And it sounds very cliche, but it’s very, very, very important. So something that I look for is hardcore collaborators. And, again, I think that you probably hear this kind of thing all the
time, but it’s so important. I make this as a hiring mandate. When we’re working with people, I always want to find
out how they collaborate. Zappos, for instance. Does anyone know the Tony Hsieh Zappos story about the shuttle? So what Zappos did, and this is just amazing, they’re in Vegas, so
everybody has to get shuttled in from the airport. And no matter how well that person did on the interview, they go and they talk to the shuttle driver, they do, and they say, “How did
that person treat you? “How were they? “What kind of a person were they?” If that shuttle driver doesn’t
say this person was genuine, that person doesn’t get the job. There’s something about
that level of saying it’s that important for us to
have people that collaborate that’s really inspirational to me. And I think that when
you’re working with a team, especially when you’re
coming out of college and you’re going into the workforce, you really kind of have to put aside that, “This is just for me to get the grade.” It’s for us to score,
if that makes any sense. I love people that are
hardcore bridge architects. And I know that most
people say bridge builders. But bridge builders are
people that can just hammer the thing together,
I mean architect. Someone that really thinks about, this is the goal, this is
the thing that we have to do, this is the goal that we have to achieve. How are we going to architect success? But then also, how are
we gonna architect it across these divisions and departments if it’s a company, if it’s
school, if it’s whatever. When my wife and I had Bryce, we had some medical complications
when he was being born. And watching those surgical
teams work together as one was amazing, and that’s where
I got this philosophy of bridge architects. I want to meet the person that trained four different medical
teams to make it so that my little boy could be born and then annoy the crap out
of me for the next 11 years. I love amplifiers. And I’ve only been called
out on this video clip once. Somebody asked me if this is Step It Up 4, and I said, of course it is. They also asked me if I’d
watched the movie enough times to remember this clip, and
I said, of course I did. I’m okay with that, it’s okay. It’s alright. Amplifiers means people that
understand the natural talents of everybody on the team, and they know when it’s time
for everybody else to come in. And it almost comes across as choreography when it’s done super, super, super well. It’s like jazz, it’s
improvisation, but it’s knowing that like if the trombone
player really knows that this trumpet player is
gonna be able to hit this lick, they back off in unison, in time. No one practiced that,
but it just comes across. That kind of thing is what I
believe makes great designers, but you can only achieve
that if you are honestly invested in the people
that you’re working with. And if you know them
well enough to know what they’re good at and when it’s time to amplify their skills. – [Man] I have a question.
– Please. – [Man] How would you
differentiate between a bridge architect and an amplifier? – One more time. – [Man] How would you
differentiate between a bridge architect and an amplifier? – Yeah, okay, so the question
is: how would I differentiate between a bridge architect
and an amplifier? A bridge architect, to me, is before we actually build the bridges, in the planning stages, I’m saying, how are we going to do that? How are we going to loop in
other departments, other teams? And how are we gonna
make sure that we have really solid collaboration? The amplifier, to me, is at runtime. Because no matter how good that plan was, it’s not gonna work. So, at runtime, when the fit hits the shan and all these anomalies come
up that we didn’t think about, that amplifier is like, “Wait
a minute, I know who to get.” Instead of, “We just
keep on trudging forward “no matter what.” Does that make sense? I love this clip of MJ, because as far as being inspirational goes, these are all of his mess ups. And I learned a lot. I watched a documentary on him and he was talking about
how much he had failed. ‘Cause when you think about
like great sports stars, it’s always about
winning, winning, winning. Like, I would love to
meet Steph Curry and say, talk to me about when you lost. I don’t care about when you won. I’ve seen all that on ESPN 100,000 times. What MJ was talking about that was great, and it’s very inspirational to me, is he’s very big on the
fact that he was horrible as a three-point line shooter. Greatest basketball player of all time, horrible from three-pointers. He was practicing one day. ESPN came in and said,
“Hey, we saw you practice. “You’re not doing any
three-pointers, how come?” MJ said, “‘Cause I’m not
good at three-pointers.” Something about that
was inspirational to me. And I think the more
that you can tell stories about failure but then show
how you learned and how that became success, that’s the
makings of a great designer. Also, I believe great
designers seek that out. Go ask the story. Figure out what’s a product
that you absolutely love, then don’t fanboy out about it. “Oh my god, I love Instagram
so much, it’s so awesome.” No, wait a minute, what
is it that you guys did that you learned from Instagram? We had the founder of Insta
at LinkedIn a month ago, and we asked him, “So, what’s
up with the square photos?” And he said, “Well, we
were coding it ourselves “and we couldn’t figure
out how to do portrait “and landscape, so we made them square.” And the whole room’s like, “Oh.” (laughs) Like, we wanted like some innovative like, (heavenly choir call) hearkens back to like
the Hasselblad, right? “No, no. “We couldn’t figure out how to do that.” And what I thought was just
so inspirational about that is I’m like, yeah, yeah. That works, and I hate you now. Alright. Another thing about
great designers, to me, look, they have to be highly
engaged, but they have to be emotionally available. Now I want to make sure I’m very clear to the introverts in the room. I’m not asking any introvert
to become an extrovert. Be an introvert, be yourself. Being emotionally available
is something you have to become an extrovert. I happen not to be bugged standing in front of
100-and-some-odd people. I’m an extreme extrovert. My wife would not be here right now. She’d be somewhere underneath the closet, hiding with her head. But she’s still emotionally available. Why does that matter for great designers? I think that if a great designer is emotionally available, two things happen. One, that comes out in his or her work. It really does. That’s the how, and I mean that. For some reason, when
it comes to products, people challenge me on that a lot. But when it comes to restaurants,
fine food, or fashion, no one says anything. If we go to a five-star
restaurant, you have this idea that like the chef in the back is like so into the food and like
just loves it, right? It’s like this entire Ratatouille thing going on. That availability for that master chef to be emotionally available
for all the other chefs, not only to be a mentor and a coach, but to help people along,
is incredibly important, and that’s what makes him or
her better at their trade, because they allow themselves
to talk to other people, to mentor other people, and
to educate other people, and it’s not a competition. Alright. That one did work, sorry. Humble. Does anyone know who this kid is? No? Only had one person be able to… No? This is Jake Barnett. There’s an old saying, “Don’t try to be the
smartest person in the room.” Jake’s the smartest person
in this room right now. He is. His IQ has been logged as being he has surpassed Einstein
and he is currently redoing some of Einstein’s theories. Jake is 15 years old. He also has a hard time tying his shoes because he’s autistic. This is one of the most
humble kids I’ve ever met in my entire life. I had the pleasure of meeting him at a TEDx talk a long time ago. I didn’t know who he was. I was in line to get some
chocolate chip cookies. He’s like, “Can I cut in line?” I said, no, we start talking about music, I gave him one of my cookies. Five minutes later, he’s
on stage, and I’m like, oh, you’re Jake. No. (laughs) Well, I didn’t know. You know, little kid, dirty jeans, the little UCLA hat on, I mean, Cal hat on. Anyhow, the thing about him, though, is he is so humble as an individual that, back to my emotionally available, it makes it so that you can
walk up and talk to him. I think, as a great designer,
you really need to learn that. You need to understand
that no matter how great… No matter how great the product
is that you’re working on, or the skills that you have,
you still need to be humble. Because if you’re doing
your job correctly, you’re learning, you’re
teaching, and you’re sharing, which means that you’re passing this on to somebody that might be
able to surpass you one day. And, again, these are all
the attributes that I think go into the work. So for those that are saying,
“Ah, I was really hoping “on hearing about how
materials come together.” Materials come together well when you have people that understand them and are humble about asking questions to try to figure out what two
things we can put together. You need change agents. This goes back to my
whole thing about music. And it sucks, ’cause I showed this slide, half the people in the
room weren’t even born when Madonna started out,
but you all know who she is. You really want designers to understand that I need to be an agent of change, and I also need to change with the times as much as humanly possible. And I have a slide coming up that’s talking about trendsetting, but I think that being change
agent and trendsetting is very similar, so maybe
I’ll drop that slide out, but anyhow. It’s super important to understand
where the world is going and how you can help lead it there. But then also, what are the
things that I can do that can maybe pivot the world. This is one of the few
slides that I actually don’t talk over, and it’s
because I want everybody to see one scene, and I think
that it will get to my point of being genuinely empathetic, and it’s the elevator scene. Normally, there’s like soft music. I could hum along if you guys would like. Alright, here we go. (melancholic piano melody) This always resonates
with me, because you have three people in an elevator at the same place, at the same time. Totally different lives. Totally different. If you’re gonna be a great
designer, you need to not only be empathetic for the
people that you’re working with, with the people that you’re designing for. Talk about the people
that you’re working with. You do not know how hard
it was for that person to get to work today, and
you do not know what they’re battling with in the back of their mind that they haven’t told you about. That’s the bottom line. It’s important to think about that. I’ll do design critiques sometimes. Somebody will just bomb. Before I just determine
or just kind of make this judgment call that it’s because they didn’t do their job correctly, I try to imagine that maybe
they just got a phone call that their mom had a stroke. I’m serious. Nine times out of 11,
that’s not the reason why, they just forgot to do the assignment. But, however, there’s
still just that idea of, don’t assume that everybody
is exactly like you and has the same things going
on that you have going on. Be empathetic enough to ask questions and figure it out, your customers. When you’re building products for people, there’s the way that
we want them to use it, and then there’s the way that they use it. The people that can’t
figure it out aren’t idiots. When I was at Adobe, it was
really interesting, because we had this engineering team that’s like, “What do you mean by, they
can’t use the layers palette? “They’re just being stupid. “We’re not gonna dumb it down.” No, the layers palette’s frickin’ hard. Okay? They’re not stupid. We haven’t designed this thing
to make it easy enough yet. And then we added symbols. Never mind, don’t talk to me about that. Anyhow, all I’m saying is, is that great designers are empathetic and they don’t make assumptions
that everyone’s life is just like theirs. Be inclusive. Great designers are super inclusive, and it’s really kind of that camaraderie, and bringing people together, and making sure that it’s a party. I try to have parties as
much as humanly possible, ’cause I’m not the
smartest guy in the room. So I try to create an environment
that like somebody said something really smart
that I can take credit for. And I think that when
you’re inclusive, though, and you’re known for
that, you really become a designer that really
brings out even better ideas. ‘Cause back to my point earlier about introverts and extroverts. I go and I hammer on my extroverts to make sure to pull the introverts up. To make sure that you’re including them. And if you’re ever having a meeting and there’s somebody sitting
at the table that didn’t say something, find an
opportunity to softball something to them so that they
can have their voice heard, or meet with them afterwards
and have a conversation and ask them how they felt
about the conversation. It’s little things like that that I think not only make really good designers, but make great design leaders. And speaking of design leaders, don’t be hierarchical. I think that a lot of
the titles, especially in big companies, came from the military. I love when you have
as flat an organization as humanly possible, says
the guy with the VP title. But before we had to kind of
go to titles, even at LinkedIn, we were just flat. I think that a company gets
to a certain scale to where you have to start doling some of this out, but you don’t have to be that. And I think the really good designers not only don’t have to lead this way, but don’t have to design this way to where every single
thing they’re designing has to fit inside this
nice, neat little box. You got to think outside the edges, and that can only be accomplished if you let the best
ideas surface to the top, regardless of where that
person stands with any of that social environment or
et cetera, et cetera. Alright. Number four, great designers promote, invite, and defend the quirky ones. I hated this movie. I did, man. I sat there, I’m like, what? But, you know what? Just this scene, just I don’t know. And it’s great, because I’ve watched it enough
times to where my son and I do it on Saturday nights
when my wife’s not home, just like this. I think there’s a YouTube
video of us doing this. I don’t know. Anyhow. You want to find… I know, it’s funny. This is not gonna leave your head. It’s gonna be like four in the afternoon, you’re gonna be like, “Vote for Pedro.” Okay, so you want to find a way
that you want to bring out the unique attributes of people, and you want to make sure
that you don’t repel that. You don’t want to be one of the antibodies that gets this guy off campus. Well, no, I do. But you want to find a way to make sure that quirky personalities are actually the thing that is a part of your own team and that you don’t suppress it yourself. I’ve had a lot of designers show me their work later, but not the work that they presented. And the work that they showed me later was 10 times better. And I asked them, why
didn’t you show this? And they were afraid of the critique. And the critique that
they were afraid of was it wasn’t in line with everybody else’s, it didn’t conform. So they were actually fearful that if their work didn’t
conform to everybody else’s, it must be bad and it was crazy. So for the past couple years,
we’ve been making sure that in our design critiques,
we’re actually asking people to think past that, think
past that, think past that. If I see three designs that are
way too similar, I ask them, okay, do me favor. Go to your laptop and pull up the stuff you think that I was gonna
hate, because all of this is just like the last person’s
and it’s not unique enough. So now we have this culture of try to bring this really
unique thinking to the table and don’t be afraid to be quirky. And then also, though, as a design leader, and I always go back to this,
you can be a great designer, but you’re a great
design thinker and leader if you’re amplifying others. If you saw that somebody
else was doing something that was super cool, but
then during critique, they didn’t show it, get ’em to, because in a lot of cases, that might be the thing that wins, or at least it’s funny to look at. Trendsetters, this kind of
goes back to the Madonna clip. I think that it’s important
for you to also think about being around and getting
people on the team that you think are trendsetters. It’s so important. Like, right now, we’re having
all these conversations about, how do you design for millennials? And what I think is interesting is that these are just people. It’s not like millennials are different, they just grew up differently. There’s different trends,
different things that they use every single day. There’s different
applications that they use in concert with LinkedIn, and
most of them don’t actually use LinkedIn for certain reasons, so we need to figure out why. What are the trends that
are currently going on that this person is growing up with, and don’t try to force them
into using things our way. Figure out what they’re
using and just adapt. I love gutsy people. It’s funny, I’m a total X Game fanatic who won’t get on a dirt bike ’cause I’ll break every
bone in my body and my wife will say, “I told you so.” I love people that take
risks and they go big. And when I say big, I mean big. I love folks that can hit that. And even if you fail,
the fact that you tried is ridiculous. And I think that that’s how you can help move a business forward. Companies that get my attention were ones that took such a crazy risk. I remember, when Snapchat
first came out, I said, dude, I just don’t get this. And then I started playing
with it, and then i went, oh, I understand. And I think that in this world of, you want to keep an archive, everything, this idea of, my communication
disappears in X-teen seconds, what’s that for? So when I had an opportunity
to meet the founders and I was talking to
them about what really motivated them, they said that
they wanted to take a massive risk and disrupt the way that messaging was across the ecosystem, and it’s paid off. That, to me, is a massive gutsy move. Adaptive. We need people that are adaptable. And I believe great
designers are adaptable. In a lot of cases, it means
breaking their own mold and getting out of their own comfort zone but not being afraid to adapt, depending on what the environment calls on. And, obviously, this goes in line with some of the previous points. But the reason I always just kind of go into this animation from the VW Group is because, when they’re
thinking about car design, they’re literally just
thinking about the ability for people to have transportation, and then it should be able to adapt to whatever their current needs are. I think that’s a really great way just to think about your design. Here’s my design for who? This particular user. Well, if it was for a different user, how would I adapt it and modify it? Oh, I might do something different. Don’t be married to it. I’m a kid at heart. My son and I still play in the dirt. It’s great, ’cause I love that he’s 11. But when he was four,
he was so much more fun, ’cause whatever I said, he’s
like, “Yeah, that’s great.” Now he like challenges
me on crap, it sucks. But you really need to
stay and remember this. You need to remember what it was like when you played in the dirt. You really need to remember when your imagination
was going completely wild and when that little mound was a bridge, and when this little stick
was a car, or whatever. Whatever the thing was, find that element in your
life to where you were absolutely super creative and keep that. Because all the best
designers I have ever met, they have kept that. And when you talk to them, you hear it. It comes out, it oozes. And you can almost like
imagine seeing baby pictures of them, and you’re like,
“Yeah, that’s pretty much “what I thought you were doing.” ‘Cause they really
haven’t changed that much. They’re bigger, they’re taller. In some cases, they don’t have hair and they’ve gained weight, but they’ve really just
kind of adapted and kept that creativity, and I
think it’s very important. Alright, two more points. I believe great designers
understand the difference between urgent and important. I’ve been asked several times what I believe the difference is. It’s kind of simple to me. I think that urgent is super
important to someone else. I think important is
super important to me. And the reason why I think that
that’s important is because, in a lot of cases, if you
have a really good designer that has to work on
something that’s urgent, if he or she does not find
that thing to be important themselves, they are not
going to do good work. Which means that you need
to make sure that you give them the reason
why this is important, what the goal is, and get
them to be super passionate about it, or they’re
just gonna phone it in. There’s very few people that
I think know the difference, but I’ve met some wonderful ones. One of the chief designers
at the Volkswagen Group really, really, really, like
every single one of his tasks are what’s in the urgent bucket, what’s in the important bucket, and he only works on things that are important, ever. So when his team is
pitching him on things, they literally use language like, “The reason we believe this is important, “and we want you to also, is because…” Then nothing ever becomes
a panic, it’s never urgent. You never need to call
in the fire department. Last thing. I believe great designers
are direct reflections of their company culture. Direct reflections. And, of course, I’m gonna
show Apple’s work here. Any time you hear Jony talk, after my wife gets over the
hotness factor and the accent, you really kind of see,
this guy lives this. He is a direct reflection of it to the extent that the past
four or five Apple events, it’s the Jony video that
we’re all like waiting for. Oh, what’s Jony gonna say about the watch? Which Jony should say
a lot about that watch. But you need to be a direct
reflection of your work, the company that you work for, the institution that you’re working with. At LinkedIn, we have three values. Jeff says that he really
kind of values three things. So one of the things that
I do every single year where I’m deciding if I’m actually going to stay with the company is I ask myself, am I emulating these behaviors? So, here they are. Behavior one, he says, “Dream big.” Dream the biggest dream humanly possible. So is that something that
I believe that I still do? So if I get up every single
morning and go to work, if I believe that I can still dream big, then I’m in the right place. If people that meet me believe that I am still a huge dreamer, and if we’re collaborating
or if I’m giving a talk, or if I’m whatever, if they still say, “Steve, we think that you’re a dreamer.” I’m still in a good spot. Have fun. This is my favorite clip to show ’cause I don’t have to see it and I’m gonna watch
half this room get sick. It’s amazing. It is important to have
fun as a great designer or a great design leader. It’s one of the most important
things in the entire world. I see a couple of you
getting woozy, it’s great. No, I’m serious, right? It’s like, “I don’t
want to watch.” (laughs) And, again, these are literally
questions that I ask myself, since our company culture is based on, dream big, have fun, and then
I’ll go to the third one. I ask myself, am I still having fun? And then I ask my employees,
are you still having fun? And the question that
I ask lots of designers that I meet that I admire, I ask them, so what do you do for fun? And when they say, “I’m doing it.” I know that they’re in the right spot. Alright, last one. Get shit done. This is Jeff’s big thing. Depending on what room
I’m in, I either say get stuff done or get
shit done, it depends. This room seems mature enough. Nobody, aah’d, or, “(gasps) He cussed!” Anyhow. It is super important
that we get things done. That doesn’t mean that we get things done quickly without quality. We get things done quickly with quality. And we don’t make that trade off of, well, you either have speed or quality. Whatever engineer made that
up, I want to meet that guy. You can have quality and speed. You can have them both, as long as you just understand
what the requirements are. So back to my thing about every single year, January
first, I make a decision if I’m gonna do another
year at my current company. As far as this criteria goes, in order for me to make sure that I emulate the company values, I ask myself, am I dreaming big? Am I having fun? Am I getting shit done? And that’s all I got, so we can open it up to Q and A. That’s my contact info. Thank you very much for your time. (applause) – [Eric] We have time for questions, and we have a microphone that
I think is moving around. So we have time for some questions. – Any questions? Hi! Hold on. Mic’s coming your way. And I’d love to know your
name, ’cause you all know mine. – [Emily] I’m Emily. I’m the program director here at Jacobs. I just have a quick question. Is there a story on your Twitter handle? – Oh, yeah, it’s my… (laughs) I wish there was like more behind it, it’s my license plate on my car. I know, it’s just I was thinking about license
plates and I’m like, bydisgn, oh, I like that. And then it, yeah, I’ll make something up. But that’s it. Any thoughts? Questions? – [Anna] So, my name’s Anna. I work in Berkeley at Central IT. I love what you were
talking about as far as being as inclusive as possible and talking to as many different people as possible. And I wanted to make sure
the audience considered users with disabilities
when they’re thinking about that kind of audience. Specifically for the web, users who can’t use a mouse or have trouble using a mouse, and that could include folks who maybe broke their wrist
last week going skiing, or someone who’s blind and
uses a screen reader to access the web, and my coworker, who’s
blind, wanted to be here and talk about this, so
I’m speaking on her behalf. But if you were at Berkeley,
and this is a shameless plug, you have a free resource
available to you for that, and that’s the Web Access Team. So keep that in mind, ’cause I think that you’re gonna make the product even better if you take that into consideration. – Yeah, so that wasn’t a
question, it was a comment. It’s a good one, I’ll
actually comment to it. One of the things that I did was, a gentleman that works
with me, Vinay Dixit, when we were looking for a person to head up our
accessibility department, we interviewed all these folks. And then one day,
Jenasena Akshay walks in, and he’s blind. And we’re like, oh, yeah,
that kind of makes sense. So what Jenasena has been able to bring us in a lot of cases is not
only how do we make our own application more accessible,
but how do we make collaboration sessions more
accessible, reader notes, there’s a lot of things
that we used to use to even where maybe text
was embedded as an image, now we make sure that it’s
real text, the whole bit. So it’s an incredibly good point. You need to be as accessible
as humanly possible to everybody that you’re working with and make all those voices heard. Great point. – Another question.
– Sure, hi. – [Darrell] I’ve been designing
products for 40 years. And the question is, how do you deal with presidents of companies,
VPs of engineering who think they’re designers? And also companies that don’t have the insight for good design based on me-too design,
it doesn’t cost too much, won’t take the risks? And also, I seem to do, 20% of my time is doing their design.
– Advocating. – [Darrell] Just to prove it doesn’t work. And it’s a little tricky.
– It’s very tricky. – [Darrell] To keep your job. – And then. (laughs) What’s your name, I’m sorry? – [Darrell] Darrell Hunger. – Hey, Darrell, I’m Steve. So, I’ll give you two answers. There’s the answer that I’ll
give from when I started my career, and there’s the answer now. The reason I’m gonna give you two is because the world changed. The world changed
significantly because of this. And I think that, in a lot of cases, what I have seen, convincing companies, engineers, VPs, the whole
bit, about good design is now an ROI thing. So I think it’s become a lot easier. I can show you the return on investment. We’ll be able to have
better customer acquisition. We’ll get more eyeballs
and make more revenue if that thing’s easier to use. You don’t believe me? Apple versus Microsoft. So I don’t have to have
that debate any longer. I did three years prior ago. And what I would do with any
organization that I joined is that was one of the
things that I would spend a lot of time doing, was not educating the executive team, because that didn’t make any sense, finding out where their head was at and really kind of asking
them questions about, so, who are we building for?
What are we trying to do? What do you believe we
haven’t been doing well that’s making you say that
you need someone like me? I would always make a
business case for it, always. I would also try not to use
the word design a whole bunch. I would say user experience and how people approached the product. There was one company that
I was interviewing for before I went to LinkedIn,
where I asked them if could have a conversation with their call center to get the logs of what
the top 20 most complained about things were and
how long had those things been on the logs. And I said that, through good design, we could actually reduce
that considerably, reducing the overall
amount of call volumes, making it so we don’t need
as many people that are answering the phones,
and raise our NPS score. And by speaking to them that way, where I was talking to them
the language of business, not the language of design
that they think is way touchy-feely and ethereal, I
think that I made a really good impact, got the offer,
went to LinkedIn anyway. Did that answer your question? Super cool. – [Rebecca] Hi, my name is Rebecca. I’m the career director for
the School of Information. Shameless plug, hire our
students, they’re awesome. Question time. They’re over there. The question I have, I’m
stealing from them, actually, is a great question like
to close an interview with. It’s, you go back 20 years in time to yourself, maybe as a new designer. What is the advice you would give yourself 20 years ago when you were starting out? – Never had that question. First piece I think I’d say
is, don’t eat pizza as much. Okay, what would I tell
myself 20 years ago? It’s funny, because I give these talks about dreaming big, and I don’t
know if I dreamt big enough. You know? I think that 20 years ago… Wait, how do you know I’m over 20? (laughing) I just now got that. That’s sneaky. That’s pretty sneaky. I think that I didn’t dream big enough 20 years ago. And I think that I was so concerned about fitting in and being accepted
that I wasn’t being quirky and dreaming big and being gutsy. And it’s the reason why talks
like this resonate with me so much, because I’m not
only talking to all of you, I’m talking about myself back then. I wish I could go back in time
and give myself this talk. There were a lot of things that I was told we would never be able to do,
and we’ve done all of them. And I wish that I had had a lot more guts to say, no, I just believe
this is going to be right, and just pursued it. It doesn’t mean that I
wouldn’t have worked someplace, maybe I would have just
pursued it on my own time. But I spent a considerable
amount of time, back then, trying to conform, didn’t work for me. And I think there’s a lot
of stuff that now I see, and I’m like, I knew it. And my wife’s sick of hearing it. I’m like, I, I, I… She’s like, “No, you didn’t.” So, I think that’s really it. That and the lack of pizza. Hi. – [Eric] Sorry, we’re over here. – [Steve] Oh, I will get to you. I promise, since you’re like right here. – [Rachel] Hi, my name’s Rachel Dzombak, I’m a PhD student here. – Rachel…
– Dzombak. – [Steve] Yeah, that’s hard to spell. – [Rachel] Yeah, but
it’s very Google-able. So, I’m a PhD student here,
and you touched briefly on the challenges with
diversity in Silicon Valley, and we have the same challenges with attracting and retaining
women in engineering, diversity, and electrical
engineering and computer science. It’s a big problem, and I was wondering, one, if you could speak
to a bit more of any success stories that you’ve
seen through your contacts, or also how you, in your
own teams, make sure that… Or how have you changed
your hiring processes to really ensure that
diversity is achieved? – Okay, I’m gonna give you
my answer, then you tell me if you think I gave you
a good enough answer, ’cause I don’t want to phone this one in, this isn’t BS. It’s the reason that I said
that I’m trying to change the conversation from diversity
and inclusion to perspective. Here’s why. There’s this infuriating
statement that comes my way when I talk about hiring
underserved minorities. Let’s think about how many
underserved minorities I think about, oh wait, me. And what happens is this. Whenever I say we need to hire
more underserved minorities or women, I always get a man in the room that says, “Well, we don’t
want to lower the bar.” I think he thinks he’s not being the most insulting jackass in the
room when he says that. But he is, because it
means that he is already determined that if we were to hire underserved minorities or women, that they will not do a good enough job, therefore, he doesn’t
want to lower the bar. Interestingly enough, when I say we need to bring a different perspective into the company, you want to build for
millennials? Hire millennials. You want to be an international company? Where do you guys want to serve? Brazil? We should
probably hire Brazilians. People go, “Oh, that makes perfect sense.” Like I honestly have
these out-of-body moments when I’m like, you know I just
said the same thing, right? But I just don’t go there. So, very similarly to the
question I answered earlier about speaking to executives,
one question I always ask is, who’s your target audience,
where do you want your business to go, where do you want to grow? What are the demographics that you want your business to grow in? So when people say to me, “It
would be great if we could get “more women to use our product.” I look around and go,
then the sausage fest should probably stop and
we should hire more women. And seriously, it’s
interesting, because I say we need a female perspective in the room if we’re going to do this. Now, I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but my design team is 58% female, our leadership team is 63. I know those numbers because my HR team and I go over them quarterly. I absolutely make sure
that we have as much a diverse perspective as humanly possible, because we need to build
software for everybody, so that’s my success story. Did that answer your question? Super cool. – [Eric] Alright, we’ll
take the last question– – Wait, wait, wait,
wait, it’s got to be her. I promised.
– Yeah, it’s her. This is her, it is her.
– I made a promise. – [Man] We got you covered. – [Woman] So you talked
about a lot of qualities of designers, and they
sounded a lot sort of like personality characteristics,
which was great. So, in terms of looking at background and things that students could
actively participate in, maybe they have a lot of design demands in their academic program. What way would you
recommend that they sort of round out to become those
people you described? – Yeah, that’s a great question. I’ve actually never thought
of them as being personality attributes, and maybe they are. So I’m gonna think that
through, ’cause if it’s personality, then I’m not being fair. ‘Cause you are who you are, right? I’m talking about the way
that you approach your work. ‘Cause there is the what. So I designed water bottles. How? It’s the how that I
think is very important. So when I’m talking to students, I just ask them, what
was your thought process and how did you consider other people thinking outside the box? What if you didn’t need plastic materials? Just asking yourselves questions. What I see a lot in academia is students look for that list. Like, “I did this, this,
this, this, and this, “so it’s good, right?” And, no, it feels like crap. And, yes, you created a water bottle, but it doesn’t feel right. There was something that
was missing from it. It’s that level of emotion that I think I just always try to inspire
everybody with and say, it is part of the user experience. Emotion is part of the user experience. So don’t be afraid to show it. Find some we to seed that
into what you’re building. Did that answer your question?
– Mhmm, thanks. – Super cool, alright. Thanks for your time, everybody. – [Eric] Okay, in the words
of the humble Steve Johnson, “Let’s dream big, let’s have
fun, and get shit done!” Okay, thank you for a
great visionary talk. (applause)
Thank you, Steve. Also, I want to make sure that we thank all of our staff, and also this was jointly done with the Art Research
Center, and so please. Hopefully we’ll see you back next Friday. So, thank you everyone that helped out.

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