Product Design Insights: Seven Great Reads for February

A curated selection of our team's recommend digital product reads.

Photo: JP Holecka
Published by J.P. Holecka on 02.03.2020

As a digital product studio, it’s our job to stay inspired. That’s why we take time to read widely and deeply — not only in our own field, but across business, digital, and creative landscapes. We don’t just want to be informed; we want to be excited, invigorated, surprised. It’s essential to how we develop products, customize services, and rethink experiences for clients and consumers, and we love to share our learnings with the community. So without further ado, here’s what’s fascinating us right now.

Reframing to See All Sides of the Story

Recommended by: Priscilla Ho, UX Lead

How can we create an effective design if we haven't identified the right issue? Reframing is a great way to diagnose problems — especially when there are several stakeholders who are all deeply invested in a project’s outcome. Too often, solutions are created with too narrow a focus, yet as businesses prioritize innovation, it’s never been more important for design teams to reframe their thinking to consider multiple perspectives. In this article, author and consultant Thomas Wedell-Wedellsborg shows how this can help solve problems new and old.

When TypeScript and React Collide

Recommended by: Brendan Betts, Front End Developer

This isn’t your typical editorial. Rather, it’s a comprehensive cheat sheet on how to use TypeScript and React together — a valuable resource for anyone working on software. There are guides suited to programmers and developers of all experience levels, whether beginners or experts, and it gives best practices for combining the two technologies. Our suggestion? Try building your own small-scale app and give yourself license to experiment. It’s a great way to learn the nuances of how these systems work in tandem.

As It Turns Out, AI is Surprisingly Traditional

Recommended by: Cary Newfeldt, Director of Technology

This blog post is part of “Provocations”, a series of features by the Los Angeles Review of Books that brings a critical eye to the emerging field — and emerging complexities — of artificial intelligence. In this installment, science-fiction author, journalist, and activist Cory Doctorow provides an incisive yet entertaining summary of AI’s built-in “neophobia”. In other words, machine learning hates change — and that’s why you receive non-stop ads for products you’ve already bought, your texts autocorrect to messages you’ve already sent, and algorithms reinforce existing biases. As we look to build better digital experiences, this is an astute and amusing rundown of one of the biggest barriers.

Empathetic Design Principles Lift Everyone Up

Recommended by: JP Holecka, CEO, Founder, Product Strategist

Linzi Berry is the product design system manager at Lyft — and has therefore led its developer team in building many of the apps’ best features. This blog puts her in conversation with Abstract to help us better understand her approach to thinking through the design journey from the perspective of end-users — from the commuters on busy streets to the drivers navigating traffic. She and her team have established a unique set of design systems and principles to better serve these needs, with empathy as a core consideration: as Berry says, “systems design is not only scientific and meticulous, it’s the mastery of interacting with people in a sensitive and effective way.” We couldn’t agree more.

Tech Titans Talk About Handcrafted UX

Recommended by: Priscilla Ho, UX Lead

When Reid Hoffman, co-founder and former executive chairman of LinkedIn, and Brian Chesky, co-founder and CEO of Airbnb, sit down to discuss building a platform or product that will scale, you know it’s going to be good. In this podcast, which includes guests such as Patrick Collison of Stripe and Nancy Lublin of Crisis Text Line, they talk about how it’s necessary to bring a bespoke approach to building your product or service. You can’t grow your business if you’re not delighting at least a single customer, so handcraft the core experience. Perhaps Hoffman says it best: “If you're not getting passionate, detailed feedback from some of your users, you're off track.”

A Personal and Professional History of Design

Recommended by: Priscilla Ho, UX Lead

This piece follows the author’s reflections as he takes a swerving, anecdote-filled path through the recent history of systems design, and his insights are as detailed as they are powerful. Daniel Eden, a London-based design lead at Facebook, describes how any product or service has to put people at the centre: “It’s made by people, used by people, and experienced by people,” he writes. “It’s challenged and broken and shaped by people.” Tag along with him as he recounts the lessons he’s learned, and how his work turns the roles of “organizer and enforcer” into “anthropologist and researcher”.

Resourcefulness, Resilience, and Taking Responsibility

Recommended by: JP Holecka, CEO, Founder, Product Strategist

The end of January brought a new episode of Jason Swenk’s podcast, focusing on company culture in agencies—and POWERSHiFTER CEO J.P. Holecka was the featured guest. Over the course of their half-hour conversation, they talk about the link between process and productivity, why it’s so important for leaders to be open with their teams, and how to get through huge challenges and come out even stronger on the other side. Take a glimpse inside agency life, and see why transparency and collaboration are critical to success.