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Posts from the ‘Ethics’ Category

No Job Is Too Mundane

November 12th, 2015

Some people understimate regular 9-to-5 gigs. While it’s true that there are more options to sustain yourself and achieve your dreams, and to stay out of the corporate rat-race, there is something very substantial about working for someone else.

First, not everyone is keen on pursuing lifetime goals with starting their businesses. We understand you can take risks more than anyone. However, not everyone is entitled to taking that risk. Family issues can force someone to take any job they could to sustain themselves in the short and the long run. If you have a family that is basically peaceful and have enough financial means to support themselves without disturbing your life-changing dreams, then be it. Take the different paths. Be different.

But, please, don’t just think anybody should do it.

I see career as two-way goals. First, it sustains you, mostly financially. Second, it helps you achieve your creative goals, particularly if you are passionate about something. Of course, you can work on something solely on financial goals, or solely on doing something you love. Your choice. However, I don’t see any problem in people taking whatever means they want to achieve the two sides of career goals, including if they can bear the 9-to-5 thing, and not do some breakthrough entrepreneurial endeavours.

I agree that people ought to have passive income and asset and whatnots, especially when they bear kids and they get older. However, we can achieve it without breaking our bank accounts or sacrificing our family.

Yes, you can go to India to help poverty and live very simply. Yes, you can go to Laos and be a monk and forget about life. Yes, you can go to the south of France to live remotely and drink wine to contemplate on life, then write an epic novel. Yes, you can travel the world and live like a nomad and advocate people to leave their cubicles to break free. But no, you can’t think your only way is the only way that other people should live their lives.

I find it a bit selfish to be out there in the world of your own and claim it a success or a way of life, while the closest people around you are suffering. Imagine helping to help people in other countries but you don’t take care of your family. Of course, if your family is happy about you doing all that, it’s totally fine. Just think of them first.

So, just remember that your parents might have worked the “regular jobs” that you hate now to be able to allow you to enjoy what you wish for. Never take anything for granted, and every small step towards sustaining life, whether it is a boring or a euphoric adventurous job, counts towards the continuity of human lives.

Stop Caring about the Analytics

May 16th, 2015

I have two blogs. One is this, and the other one is a travel blog — which I think is doing quite okay.

I installed analytics in both, with Jetpack for WordPress. Well, honestly, I have removed it temporarily for this blog because of some server issue before. But I have a hard time deciding to put it back.

Once in the past I was obsessed with stats. That was something that propelled me to produce new content and improve the quality of the content. When I used to have comments in my blog, it was even worse. I gauged post quality by the number of comments.

In the heyday of web design, you had page hit counters and a remotely-hosted stat site that detected demographic information of your site’s visitors.

It does apply to my tweets, too. I have my personal Twitter account and the travel blog’s Twitter account. I would obsessively check the follower count, the favorite list — whether someone, somewhere have favorited my stuff and how many times. Then, once in the lame past of my tweeting history, I also signed up for a service that detected when a user on Twitter has unfollowed me and it will notify me. I was that paranoid.

Then, came the silly Klout score.

I was dead obsessed about these things.

I decided then not to care about things like those anymore. There are several reasons.

First, obsessing about analytics takes away my focus on creating quality content. Or at least, genuine content. A content that is true to yourself, and one which you do with the ways you believe in. The mission is to have the constant motivation and trajectory to increase the quality of your content without worrying too much about what people say.

Second, analytics is mediocrity. If the content or product is genuinely good, people will come to you no matter what the analytics say.

Third, analytics is “business tell-tale”. It’s everything to do with selling & convincing. See point 2. Good content or product don’t need convincing. You can have fewer audience but greater potential.

You can have analytics tool installed or whatever, but don’t spend your time on that every night. Spend your time creating good content and product instead.

Waterfall Designer and Agile Designer: An Experience

April 29th, 2014

For at least four years of my career, I was in the waterfall process — creating mockups from requirement documents. These were static mockups that would be uploaded to an internal folder or directory to then be shared with the developers. We had to produce the assets, but that was minimal and was fairly easy because the web was the only medium we worked on. My primary tool was Illustrator, and not Photoshop, as many other designers use to design interfaces. It was the tool used by the team, a fairly small team: one design director and one design manager, with me as the junior designer. What I liked from this process was that we focused on a single tool: Illustrator, which was very easy and comprehensive. It exports things seamlessly and symbols were helpful in many cases. Passing around .ai files is a breeze. Also, we focused on the user experience and the visual design, not the front-end or prototyping. This allowed us to experiment with colors, shapes and text within a specific timeframe in the waterfall process and not worry about going back and forth with the developers. Also, by the time the requirement documents arrived to us in the design team, there were hardly any changes. We were free from worry that it’s going to be changed on the fly.

When I finally moved out of the corporate design life with the waterfall method, I was quickly (and abruptly) introduced to agile method. This was totally new and a strange creature to me that time. Not only visual design and user experience, I was asked to prototype my design in HTML and CSS. This was not that easy. My HTML and CSS skills are basic-to-intermediate, and they are not production quality. Also, I had to do small fraction of things, often simultaneously, and sometimes with minimal requirement definition. Things would quickly change after I’ve done something, and I was asked to move to a different direction. There was no comprehensive requirement document, just a simple meeting and sketching on the white board. I had to formulate everything by myself. Often, I don’t have the time with the details, the visual details, as I have to move fast to delivering. Also, I had to learn HTML prototyping. It was frustrating. Everything moves so fast and I had to move away from all the design details to catching up with delivery.

I understand that, from business perspective, agile method is potentially better. It minimizes risk, as we try to shape a working product from the beginning, even if it’s just a simple version of the whole vision. So, if you take an example of creating your own bike, you don’t deliver only the wheels in the first iteration. You deliver the simplest, working, ride-able version of it: probably a monocycle or a skateboard, even. Then, you iterate it to be a simple two-wheeled bike, probably with a hard seat. You continue to perfect that to be the high-end bike that you can sell for $5,000. With waterfall method, you don’t ship from the beginning. You probably ship by the end of the year, because the product is still in development today, and you cannot ship until it has all the 50 features that are planned for version 1.0. With agile, you only have to ship 2 features within 2 weeks, but you can start selling it and make money, even only for $1 per user per month.

Probably the biggest difference is how waterfall and agile handle changes and user needs. By the time we release a version on waterfall, user’s needs have shifted. They might not need that camera feature after all. Then, you need to plan it out in the next 6 months or 1 year before you figure out things don’t match the current needs again. With agile, you know faster. Within 2 weeks, you know the users don’t need the camera feature after all — and adapt very quickly.

However, how agile and waterfall works can often frustrate designers. Designers are used to experimenting with details — and we surely want to talk about different roles of designers. UI/UX designers we know today are fairly demanded to do HTML/CSS prototyping after they designed the mockups, for the reason of efficiency and that “mockups aren’t real”. Sometimes they are demanded to just mock in HTML/CSS (and jQuery) and iterate from there. There are other job description of UX designers or product designers that focus solely on the user experience and visual design, like what I did in my first career years. This way, they are able to perform user research (a phase away and earlier even before visual design), experiment with layouts, colors, branding, iconography and other visual design application before actually coding this stuff. And by the time product designers come to the need to code the stuff, they’re probably burnt out and/or the requirement has changed to start from the research.

The question is, if UX or product designers are required to code, who would do the research phase and how would they experiment and discuss? You might argue that, that’s why we need to prototype in HTML or CSS — we can iterate things on the fly and not lose time. But then, we should differentiate between production-quality codes and prototype-quality codes. Prototyping requires a fast, birds-eye view perspective, while production requires semantically- and well, “politically”-correct codes. In my opinion, front-end or production code is more to engineering and efficiency, while prototyping is more about exploratory activity. Requiring UX or product designers to do both production and prototyping quality codes is a tough challenge. I know, there are some rock star product designers out there that can do stacks like this but how many out there, really?

So, with that in mind, when I enter a new company, I always ask beforehand if the company truly differentiates between production and prototyping quality work, and if they separate design exploration and design implementation. If they do, I believe they do support good quality design, with good quality research and a focus on experience.

One thing to also ask is how they integrate design within their agile methods.

Do they provide a separate design sprint? How much do the whole team think a good visual design and user experience can bring a positive relevance to the end product?

As a designer myself, I am often confronted with coping up with the quick deliveries of agile methods. I always have issues with the production quality codes done by other developers who implemented my design. But, I have this dilemma: if I code, the alignment, fonts, sizes and shapes could be perfect, but the quality of the code wouldn’t be. If I trust the code into someone else, especially those who don’t focus on front-end development, I risk him or her jeopardizing my details. What I do is to take things a little bit lightly, and request for separate design polishing sprint or story when I could talk with the developers to fix the small details. But still, it wouldn’t be perfect — just at least a consensus. That is, after all, what agile is, a consensus for each sprint, and to battle for it in the next. The perfectionism within as a designer can really turn you to a wildly impatient person, but agile method can sometimes calm you down.

What makes a good leader

January 24th, 2014

Lately I have been thinking about leadership a lot. Some quotes:

A good leader can be determined by their followers. If a leader has a good following its for a reason. What is a leader without people to follow their leadership? A good leader has to be relational as well as positional. (via)

A strong leader knows that it is often better to be on “stand-by” and be a good listener, than to rush around trying to prove a point and overshooting the goals of a group. (via)

There were few others who were known to be hard task masters, authoritarian and at times were supercilious in demeanor not desirable traits. I remember one supervisor who was so popular with his workers, that they missed him, when he transferred to another location. One of the qualities evident in this supervisor was that he consistently demonstrated excellent interpersonal skills. He was easily accessible to his workers, and perceptive to their needs. He trusted and delegated a lot of responsibility to his subordinates, while maintaining accountability for their actions. Many other supervisors regarded this as a somewhat high risk behavior. The trust that he reposed in his subordinates made them feel empowered to make decisions in their job tasks. They assumed proactive behaviors towards work, and this facilitated a positive attitude, leadership and greater confidence in the employees. It was a rewarding experience for them, working for such a supervisor. Understandably, they were quite disappointed by his absence. (via)

A harmonious and well balanced interpersonal relationship between a supervisor and employee is essential to success. A supervisor who has these qualities will make a positive difference. (via)

There are three main things that make a good leader. The first is that a leader must practice what he preaches. The second is that he has to look after and protect those around him. The third is that he must be able to develop other good leaders. I will go into more detail about how to implement all three of these characteristics, so that you too can become a good leader. (via)

Too often we do focus on processes or the lack thereof when try[ing] to improve the overall efficiency and profitability of our organizations. Instead, we should try to have a real conversation for a change. (via)

Good leaders are able to provide emotional support for those for whom they are responsible. They recognize the importance of encouragement and inspiring confidence and also give recognition of a job well done. (via)

What Startups Can Learn from the Corporate World

April 2nd, 2013

Last year I resigned from a corporate job and started working for two startups. From what I’ve gathered, there are a couple of things each spectrum can learn from each others. What corporate world lacks, startups can fill the gap. While most people believe “the startup ways” can help change the world, there are some things that startups can learn from the corporate world. Startups think they are the best bunch of people around, but in reality, we need the best of both worlds.

Flexibility can overkill, manage it

Even though startups strive and pride on their flexible working hours, flexible places and flexible time, this can be a bit of an overkill. Based on my own small experience alone, the corporate world can be much more flexible than startups. Early-age startups can be quite a drill, people need to stick together to make a solid team. My advice is that startups need, from early stages, to define standard operating procedures, such as how to submit bugs, working hours, allowable amount of “flex office” times and more, including seating arrangements in the office.

Garage office isn’t the way to go for the long run, design your office

We all know the romance of starting things up in a garage. Bands do it, tech companies did it. A “garage office” today can take many forms, not only in the real car garage, but practically in a deserted room or unused space, or a small room in a posh co-working space. However, it can get very crowded and messy. Even though you have a small space, make it “workable” and “livable” in terms of ergonomics. Provide enough lighting, privacy, space, and if you can, design it. A good working environment is a good prerequisite for employee retention. Also, do not ever consider a home office for all your employees. Rent a space in an actual commercial space. It doesn’t have to be in the CBD, but it needs to be in a strategic location. It boosts up mood of your employees and get them to start believing that they actually do some serious stuff.

Employee benefits = (at least a consideration of) employee retention, be ethical

In today’s fast and changing world, nobody in the intellectual or technology industry wants to be paid only salary. They have health considerations, life quality goals, career advancement prospects, and some of them are experienced and are running a household with kids. They want to be good citizens, too. So, my advice for startups is: pay their taxes, pay their health insurance (including their immediate family member), pay their pension savings. Those three are the most basic. If you can provide more like education or transportation incentives, it will be more attractive. Do not say that you’re still in early stages, so every employee has to understand to keep up. No, employees don’t always share the same vision as you, they work for money and compensations. They also need sustenance. Be an ethical employer!

If you produce creative work, you need to respect other’s, too

Nobody wants their work to be copied without consent, moreover if it’s for the financial benefits of others. Stop using pirated software and believe in the power of the industry. Invest in original software, respect copyright, do not just copy, and produce work yourself as much as possible. And yes, don’t start with “everything is not original in this world anymore” stance. I didn’t say anything about originality, but at least when you cook a dish, you try to reinvent something from the cycle.

Communication is as important as code

Establish a proper communication protocol from the start. I don’t mean this as setting up Basecamp or paying for domain names. They are the technical parts, I’m talking about the contextual part. Establish a good brand for your company, not only the visual identities, but the way you communicate. The way you use words in your emails, the way you negotiate, the way your customer service talks to your customers (and potential customers). Also, establish a sensible standard for hiring and interviewing candidates.

Startup is not a play thing

It is not entirely an experimental lifecycle. Only the products are experimental. Do not experiment with your resources. Mean serious business from the start. Don’t just quit your job and try because you believe it’s energizing and preachable.

Organization policy vs. design solutions

March 5th, 2013

A great post by Leisa Reichelt, a UX consultant:

It’s been my experience that the main reason most designs go unsolved is not the lack of talented designers or their interest in solving the problem. Instead, the problem is with the organisation themselves—their inability to allow themselves to implement the right design, or even any good design.

Great employees are not replaceable

February 18th, 2013

One of the most important lessons I learned during my years as a CEO was that great employees are not replaceable. It isn’t the technology or the product that make a company great, it’s the people. And companies who see their good employees as ‘replaceable’ are wrong. Good employees are not replaceable. Let me clarify what I mean by ‘replaceable.’ Can a company hire someone to fill a position to replace someone else? Of course they can. In today’s market, the world is ripe with candidates who are eager and willing to take the job. But putting a behind in a seat doesn’t replace a great employee. It simply puts a new behind in a seat.

(via Forbes)

A blend of science and art

February 4th, 2013

Bill Moggridge said:

[Academia is] all about explicit knowledge. And design, by definition—along with the other arts like poetry or writing—is mostly not so explicit. It’s mostly tacit knowledge. It has to do with people’s intuitions and harnessing the subconscious part of the mind rather than just the conscious. And the result is if you try and couch the respectability of a professor or some form of research grant in terms that are normal for science, then it looks very weak. And so you have to have a different attitude, really, in order to see the strength that it could offer or the value that it could offer. And that’s a big difficulty both in academia and in terms of foundations.

(via Brainpickings)

How to give proper feedback

December 26th, 2012

If you are a manager, a dad or a mom, or generally anyone who is responsible for anybody else, most of your time is spent giving feedbacks to your coworker or your children. Even friends in the same level give feedbacks to each others. We give feedbacks to a work, a result, a behaviour.

However, a feedback is often highly bound for subjectivity and emotional standpoint. When you give feedback, it is important to step back and realise that depending on what you’re giving feedback to, it is important not to judge the person itself. You’re basically giving feedback to the manifestation of that person, be it a work or a behaviour. Even mistakes are the products of the thoughts or the personality of a person. Thoughts and personality are built over time, over experiences and backgrounds (economic, social, cultural).

If you don’t like a result, you don’t simply say it’s bad. You don’t also simply say the person is bad or not capable enough. It could be your own mistakes. It is important to give feedbacks in a proper, and when necessary, in details.

It is not about the person, it is about the work

Do not judge the person as bad when the work is bad, however bad you think it is. There is no relationship between personality and the work they do. Try to look at how to improve the work, but not the personality. Creatives sometimes have “bad attitudes” (by that I mean they might work in odd hours, do not follow rules, or anything else), but they still potentially produce stellar results.

You might be luckier than your coworker, your friend, or your children

Be reminded that “bad” for you is a result of your own personal judgement and subjectivity. You might have seen enough “good” than your coworker or ther person to be able to tell it a “bad result”. You might have received better education. You’re lucky. Understand that it’s important to mentor and to see things through their perspectives.

It might be a domino effect

Garbage in, garbage out. It could be that you’re a bad manager after all. What you put or invested into your coworkers will result in the same lines. Assess your own managerial style, remember or find those old emails or conversations that might have a lead towards the results. It could be your own responsibility!

Other people spent loads of time to do the work, at least give a detailed feedback

Even if you don’t like a work, you are obliged to state, objectively and in details, what you don’t like about that particular work. More important, it’s not about what you don’t like, but about things that do not work well. You don’t need to write an essay, just list in bullets or numbers if you don’t have much time. Don’t just say, “It’s bad. Change it.”

This is not about you

Some bosses think they’re Kim Jong Il. They want their employees to think that he is always the client to serve. It’s not. Customers or your stakeholders are the ones to serve, and you’re giving your employees full trust to do your cause. So, this is not about you, but your customers.

That said, if you want to give feedback, be it a critic or a praise… remember to:

Give them in details

They’ve spent so much on their work, and now they deserve a detailed attention. Choose the best words and be elaborate.

Research your feedback

Be knowledgeable and research background information on the topic at hand. This is more important if you don’t master the topic at all.

Use neutral tones

Never use judgmental words and tendentious manner. Keep it neutral and objective as you possibly can.

Understand situations

Empathy, empathy, empathy. Understand the difficulties of the people you’re giving feedback to.

Be positive and light-hearted

Any feedback should contribute to the improvement of the work at hand and shouldn’t destroy it. Also, believe that it’s not the end of the world if the work is not 100% working as you expected. Give rooms for future improvements.

What if my manager supports spec work?

August 23rd, 2012

I am a very vocal person when it comes to discussing whether we should use crowdsourced alternatives (read: spec work) to manage a design job. For one, crowdsourced alternatives, sounding good as they may do, only put designers in the last place of the ecosystem. The only ones beneficial are the clients. They get to pay cheaply or under the market prices, and designers risk of not getting paid after hours of hard work.

True, market prices are not the same across the “markets” that this kind of service “serves”. However, it sounds like market prices are put into the same level from one country to another, from one market to another.

More important than that, it makes design works some ready-made commodities, much the same like the groceries you buy in supermarkets.

True, some design products like fashion are ready-made, but also, the real designer fashion products are not cheap. You pay for the brand and design. Also, branding projects are not the same, they have intangible aspects: value proposition, idealism, experience, promise, and the dynamic array of applications on the field. You can’t just “buy” a logo ready-made and put it into perspective.

Think about the hard work (or even, quick work) of the designers. Designers are always ready for some quick works, but then they’re not giving you the best. Even for a one-hour work, it is still an intellectual sweat. Would you want to work as an accountant or doctor and only get paid when the company is profitable or the patient gets healthy? Exactly.

When a manager then continued to counterargument that “creativity can come from anywhere.” What is the cost of this creativity, I may ask?

I would rather hire a design freelancer or an outside contractor to do the job but making sure that they get paid for the process they’ve done, than outsourcing this job into clueless designers out there trying to make a “side” living outside their primary job (or if they have any), risking their talents like a beggar asking for coins in the streets.

Creativity comes from anywhere, but first pick the right sources so it promotes sustainable design process, and hire a designer so they can curate the results from these sources into something meaningful.

Like the Fiji Airways rebranding process below who involved a local Fijian artist. Full respect.