Season 3 Episode 10 "Beyond the Bootcamp" is now available. Listen now.
Dec. 22, 2022

Candid end of year reflections with three design leaders

Three design leaders reflect candidly on the year 2022 and share their biggest challenges, learnings and advice for designers

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#026 - To wrap up the year, I had a candid chat with 3 friends who are all design leaders and creatives. Egle is a designer, researcher and lifestyle photographer who leads design teams for a global corporation. Rafa is a Design Director, Product Design Consultant, and Visiting Lecturer at The Bartlett (UCL) and London College of Communication (UAL). Sinem is a Principal UX Designer and Design Lecturer. We talked about how the year 2022 was for each one of them and their biggest challenges, learnings and advice for designers.

In this episode:

  • Active listening and trusting people first before trying to solve problems with design
  • Importance of alignment, trust and connection
  • Letting go of methodologies and building your agility in a cross-functional team
  • Not trying to control all the outcomes
  • Thinking about the long-term impact on product and people
  • Being comfortable with uncomfortable feelings and uncomfortable situations


Happy Startup School

Brene Brown

Amy Edmondson

The Comfort Crisis by Michael Easter

The Making of a Manager by Julie Zhuo

Design, When Everybody Designs by Ezio Manzini

Brave New Work by Aaron Dignan

Four Thousand Weeks

F*ck It by John C. Parkin

Egle Beliunaite

Rafa Prada

Sinem Erdemli

Show credits

Illustrations by Isa Vicente

Music by Brad Porter

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[00:00:00] Nirish Shakya: ​hey, how's it going? This is the penultimate episode of Season two of the Design Feeling Podcast. And this time I've invited three good friends of mine to the show. They're all design leaders and talented creatives and people who at the top of their game, Is a designer and researcher who leads design teams in a global corporation. She's also a lifestyle photographer as well. Rafa Prada is a design director, product design consultant, and visiting lecturer at the Bartlet at UCL and London College of Communi. And Cena Air Deley, who is a principal UX designer and a design lecturer.

[00:00:34] I wanted to find out from them how 2022 has been for them as designers and design leaders and what they would take away from it. And I certainly didn't expect the conversations to go so deep into things such as trusting people and letting go of expectations and being comfortable with uncomfortable feeling. Definitely not the kind of conversation that you'd have in a design team or or an organization. Are you ready? Let's get started.

[00:00:59] Shivaun: This is the Design Feeling Podcast with your host Nirish Shakya. 

[00:01:13] Nirish Shakya: Hi, I'm Nirish Shakya, and I'm a designer, educator, and the host of my new podcast Design Feeling. Most of the time, you'll probably find me helping organisations put their customers first, or you might find me teaching design thinking and creative innovation, but I'm on a slightly different quest here - to explore the human behind the designer - who you are, what drives you, what frustrates you and why, and ultimately how you can bring more impact and meaning into your work.

[00:01:47] On this podcast, my expert guests, and I will be uncovering ways to increase your self-awareness, creative confidence and meaning.


[00:01:58] Nirish Shakya: Egle, Sinem and Rafa, welcome to Design Feeling. 

[00:02:03] Egle Beliunaite: Thanks for having us.

[00:02:05] Nirish Shakya: now? Great to have you all today. So go guys. How are you arriving this? 

[00:02:09] Rafa Prada: No, good, good, good.

[00:02:16] I'm actually happy to see your face.

[00:02:21] Nirish Shakya: Yeah. It's been a while. It's been a while. What about you, Eley? How are you arriving? This moment.

[00:02:26] Egle Beliunaite: Oh, I'm trying to take it easy, but, uh, today was a full day of work. so arriving here, just after, but I managed to get in a little walk with my dog, so even if it's very cold, just had a little chill, chill, nice walk, and now I'm here.

[00:02:44] Nirish Shakya: Nice. Nice. Thanks for joining us and sym, how are you arriving?

[00:02:48] Sinem Erdemli: Maybe a bit distracted. A lot's been going on in life. and also it's the end of the year, right? Where we all wanna get everything done within a week, it seems. yeah, a lot of things going on. So,

[00:03:07] Nirish Shakya: especially the last couple of weeks before Christmas seemed to be a manic for a lot of us. So now let's cast our mind back at the years that's just about to pass, which is 2022. What is the one word that you would use to describe 2022 for you as a designer? 

[00:03:28] Rafa Prada: I would say from my end it would be patient

[00:03:31] Nirish Shakya: Patience.

[00:03:33] Rafa Prada: patience. Yeah.

[00:03:34] Nirish Shakya: Could you elaborate?

[00:03:37] Rafa Prada: Well, it's been a bit of a, of a, of a crazy year in different ways. mainly my, the last client has been data transformation and, a lot of change have been in the place. Patients in terms of, what can come next, try to activate stuff, try to move forward, but at the same time, keeping the pace with, with a traditional company, so patient life as well.

[00:04:05] At the same time, balancing those two things out, uh, made it, quite kinda a strange kinda situation because I needed to be patient, but at the same time things were happening in the way that should happen. But I guess I made me realize I'm patient, so my mom says all the time. So that exercise of inpatient is, is been quite important.

[00:04:32] I guess this.

[00:04:34] Nirish Shakya: Love that. Love the, the practice of actually proactively, trying to be more patient, especially if that's not something that comes to you naturally. Great. What about you, cna? What's the one word for you?

[00:04:48] Sinem Erdemli: I feel like a negative Nancy. I'm gonna say, uh, trying for sure, uh, both in terms of personal family health stuff, but also career wise. I think I ended up in a bit of a self-inflicted existential crisis, , um, cause I started listening to your podcast and feeling,

[00:05:14] Nirish Shakya: take that as a compliment then.

[00:05:16] Sinem Erdemli: yeah, no, definitely do that. yeah, I think it's like, what do I want?

[00:05:20] What is important? A bit of prioritization and it's not always easy to, let go of stuff or, make space for. Creative destruction, inspired by the recent fireside chat from the Happy Startup School. And it's quite, still going. I don't usually start with like start my year in January. My year is very much aligned with school year, so I already started like a new year in September in my head and kind of right it bang on in the middle of it at the moment, trying to find a way, out hopefully upwards. Yeah, a lot of experimentation is hopefully in the horizon.

[00:06:03] Nirish Shakya: Nice, ugly. What about.

[00:06:08] Egle Beliunaite: I can only replay what the, what the guy said. but the word for me would be, I think puzzle.

[00:06:17] Nirish Shakya: Puzzle.

[00:06:19] Egle Beliunaite: There has been a lot of and downs, generally speaking, in the, in, in the year culturally, personally, health-wise, emotional. as well as as kind of professionally. and it's always this kind of feeling where you're trying to put a puzzle together and, and some of, of the pieces that were fitting together don't fit anymore

[00:06:47] Nirish Shakya: Hmm.

[00:06:49] Egle Beliunaite: and you get these blocks and, and obstacles and you're trying to kinda like redo your puzzle, which never really ends.

[00:06:56] And, and really trying to make sense of things, pieces together. Some works, some.

[00:07:07] Nirish Shakya: I love that. I love how you've used the metaphor of a puzzle and, it's, it's a lot more complex than getting like a, a box of jigsaw puzzles and, spending a Sunday afternoon trying to put them all together because you know that at the end, all the pieces are gonna come together. But I guess that's not how life works.

[00:07:27] Cause some PE pieces are never there. Like you, you might, it might not be there for you right now, and it might only show up sometime late later in the future.

Biggest challenge of the year

[00:07:36] so I'm really curious to know what's been the biggest challenge for you guys this year? Something that's kept you on your toes, something that's really frustrated to you, something that's maybe helped you grow. Does anything come to mind?

[00:07:55] Rafa Prada: So I guess that from my end, for this has been a bit of a, of a year of publishing myself a little bit, in a same leadership position in itself. and that's always challenging. one of the things that helped me out a lot is, is, liberal literature, and, uh, and try to understand and spend a lot of time with people and kinda talking.

[00:08:17] Yeah, some of you actually here, in the call about, about stuff, all of you, in fact. but, uh, but that's been really challenging and uh, and it showed me things that I, as a designer or as a practitioner or as you

[00:08:33] don't want to do, from, from looking back to you, and things that I do wanna do a little bit more practically, spaces where I want to be,relationship that I wanna foster for me, and for people and, kind of way, way a of joy that I found in some of those kind of situations to try to kinda share that joy, and allow or kinda try other people to, enjoy those things as well. It's been kind of quite, quite, quite big, quite big for me. let things go. It's been complicated as well sometimes. no, in terms of, being in busy position and uh, not controlling outcomes, I'm not really that much interest in any stuff, to be completely honest. I think outcome is just, something that could be, anything I'm not really that worried about it.

[00:09:19] It's more about Lego in terms of, fights that you, you shouldn't be fighting basically. So that been a massive, massive learning curve for me. Um, yeah, 

[00:09:30] Nirish Shakya: but what about, you alay, what's, what's been. The biggest challenge for you this year?

[00:09:37] Egle Beliunaite: I think, I think communication. Generally speaking,personally and, and professionally, I realize that, a lot of the emotions that I go through in, personal situations or might it be professional situations because nothing really as at a stance is at a standstill. everything changes, constantly and we have to adapt to change, and a lot of that might cause frustration of some kind.

[00:10:08] And me as a designer and as a, as a manager now growing in the teams, it's extremely, extremely important that I've realized that I need to be able to communicate. Things in a way where I not only kind of anticipate what's going to happen because it can never properly be done. You cannot anticipate anything that's gonna happen, but you need to be really well aware of where you put your opinion and your bias and your, preconception out and how you do it.

[00:10:48] this has been kind of like a trial and error for me this year, especially. Uh, I'm, I'm going through this journey quite intensively this year, and then I'm pretty sure it's gonna go just more intensely next year. but I've learned a lot, from this because active listening, as I realized can be way more efficient and way more beneficial than, or trying to. Kind of have this and, and really act upon this of, okay, we can do this and we can do that. And, there's a way out, sometimes letting go of things and just, trusting people around you is more beneficial than really being at the front solving all the problems. And I really have to fight myself inside not to do it, because it really does take a toll on, on myself.

[00:11:47] and it might even take a toll on people around me. And, it's been a really big learning for me this year.

[00:11:54] Nirish Shakya: Hmm. 

[00:11:54] Rafa Prada: I, I do believe that trust is just, it's just is, is, I always thought that it's important. cause when, especially when you work with people, do nothing like what you do in terms of engineers or product managers or, executive or financial.

[00:12:13] I, I, there's nothing you can do other than trust. That's what I feel. it's like, I don't, I don't even know what EBIDA is or Cups or Apex. It's like, whatever. I, I really don't mind. what is, what's happening

[00:12:27] Nirish Shakya: so you gotta trust people who know what they're talking about.

[00:12:30] Rafa Prada: exactly, right? Oh, this is CapEx level. Well, okay. I mean, I mean, to be honest, I actually did learn a couple of things. I sometimes don't agree with them, but , but you know, terms of what it is, it's like there's not,

[00:12:42] I guess this is kind speaking to what I was saying a little bit about,having a team and having a team that you trust I think is important. And then it's like empower them right to of know people appreciate it, but also things that you'll never think about obviously. Cause it's kinda stuff.

[00:13:05] Rafa Prada: So I, I really, I really like that when you were saying about trust, important to do together, but, we, we together, a little bit this year and, and you were saying this thing about try not to be biased in the communication. from the design perspective, how would you, what would you say that there's been biased from you and how you been biased in some ways?

[00:13:30] Nirish Shakya: Oh, that's a deep question. Hey. That's what, that's what this podcast is all about. Ley, . Let's go deep. Let's go deep.

[00:13:36] look, it always starts from a position that a product designer always has for the. They kind of have an expectation from the, for themselves to work twice as hard to show the value that they can bring to an organization, to a team, to a project, to a product, whatever it might be. and whether we want it or not, uh, we still have that pre misconception that trails, uh, way beyond, our, our times.

[00:14:03] it, it's definitely from the past, that we're doing, pretty UIs and we're creating these tiny little cute buttons and all of that in a way, we're working with teams to create something together, and as designers we always have this understanding of, okay, well, Have we talked to the clients? Have we talked to these people? Have we talked to those? Who are the stakeholders? these, all these probing questions that we in and we're to figure stuff ourselves within organization, whatever the project might be. what we might actually forget, and that's coming from my own personal experience, is that looking at that problem we need to solve within a project or a product, we forget that a cross-functional team might be as much of a mystery as that product or that job to be done. We need to solve or that whatever it's, we need to solve for a product. Because if we start kind of going in with methodologies, stakeholder mapping, all of these processes, that might actually create. a a preconception in our minds that, okay, we're gonna do this and that's how we're gonna add value. But those people on the other side, they might not think that way. They might not be where we are in our, in our minds. And those frustrations that might arise in cross-functional teams could be from maybe us as designers, bypassing the communication and the connection with those cross-functional teams, with whoever is in a team, whoever is the stakeholder bypassing that even, seemingly, let's say meaningless two minute conversation about something that may not matter for that specific project could be so fundamental for. The rest of our working together, if we miss that communication, if we miss that connection even for a little bit, we start working within our own minds. We start working within our own kind of bubble of, we're gonna do this workshop and we're gonna do that workshop, and we might actually, try and, and jump over that key key connection with people that we work with.

[00:16:44] Egle Beliunaite: So these are the biases that I, I kind of had in mind because that has created a lot of frustration this year and this is one of the communication pieces that, kind of made me learn.

[00:17:01] Nirish Shakya: Nice. And there's some, really fascinating topics there around Yeah. How do we communicate to build that trust? And a lot of times, it's, it's scary to trust other people, especially when you don't know them. and it's, it, it can be like taking that leap of faith. Faith sometimes, especially when you come in as a designer and you, there, there is a methodology that you know works, but other people have not bought into it.

[00:17:24] or other people don't even know why you're there. a lot of the times. Um, 

[00:17:30] Egle Beliunaite: will question you on this

[00:17:34] yeah, we've all been there. definitely. before we kind of, uh, dig deeper there, cna, I wanted to get back to you and ask you what's been your biggest challenge for the year?

[00:17:45] Sinem Erdemli: Now I'm thinking about alignment and like cross-functional alignment and how, we all need to know where we're coming from before we can actually go away and work independently and autonomously and, freely to explore all the things that we wanna, I think it's both necessarily from like, personal life, but very much the causes of friction and the causes of friction within, within like professional life has been around. Wait, does this per, like, what are we doing again? Where are we? Like, what is the goal? Why am I here? And like I'm asking myself why I'm here. No doubt. Everyone else who doesn't know what, like how they've just met me like half an hour ago, they probably are thinking the same thing as well. And being like a shy person who doesn't jump in at every opportunity to, create connections and, not everyone can be,that kind of like fire start starter kind of, uh, vibe. So I think I've found myself thinking, okay, I just need some, like a, an anchor some place where like I can feel, yeah, like we're all working on this before I. Can trust myself and trust the team. with, without that, I've found myself just kind of looking a bit over saying, oh hey, like, what have you done?

[00:19:23] What have you done? Should we have another meeting about the meeting that we just had, which is about planning for that other meeting? I'm like, mm, yeah. Cool. Yeah. Um,yeah, it is, it is classic and it's like, the content process model that's like stuff like, roles and responsibilities, vision North Star, the, alignment workshop that I cannot for the life of me pronounced.

[00:19:50] Um, 

[00:19:51] Nirish Shakya: Claron, is that the one.

[00:19:53] Sinem Erdemli: yes. Yeah, that's the one. yeah, those, those things like they are, they are valuable. , but they're not creating, like what was saying, like they're not creating pretty things that we can look and, show other people. So they're often seen as a waste of time. and this year has been about, I guess not necessarily this year, like my whole life, my whole career has been about, A lot of self-reflection going on here. Um, a lot of it has been okay, like this is why this is important. This is why, design is important, this is why you do research, but this is also why you kind of have to align with your team before you start building that awesome stuff, before you start building, the product that's going to change everyone's life.

[00:20:43] Let's just get our ducks in a row before we can start even considering adding value as a collective.

[00:20:50] Nirish Shakya: What I find really fascinating, with what all three of you said is, all your biggest challenges has not been a around, the the craft of design, but more around the people that you work with as designers or design leaders. is that because you are at a certain level in your career where it's less about actual, design or, and more about the people you design with

[00:21:13] Sinem Erdemli: Or is it because we don't like people

[00:21:15] Nirish Shakya: that

[00:21:18] Rafa Prada: Also because we don't like Design , we don't wanna design anything.

[00:21:23] Sinem Erdemli: Oh,

[00:21:23] Nirish Shakya: question.

[00:21:25] Sinem Erdemli: yeah, yeah. I've, I've, I've thought about this quite a lot. and even got me thinking, oh, do I wanna be a manager? Because I'm not doing much thinking about, design, and I'm doing a lot of thinking for. About, people decide I don't wanna be a manager leader is a better, uh, terminology, which is a bit cringey.

[00:21:48] Yes. But I think like management is, assumes that you have some control, whereas it's, I think about letting go of that control. but one thing that has really become very, very clear is with work. It doesn't matter what, what the project is, what the thing is. To me as a designer, the first thing I ask is like, it, it isn't who's the client or what is the product? What is the brief, it's who's on the team. that's I think why I've kept a lot of my. Uh, brain power and energy thinking about, okay, how do I, enjoy the time I'm spending with all these people that I see for hours and hours every day.

[00:22:40] Nirish Shakya: But I, I can see what you're saying there in terms of the importance of having a great team or people that you enjoy working with. But a lot of times, I guess we don't have control over who we get to work with. What would you do in that kind of scenario?

[00:22:53] Sinem Erdemli: Yeah. That's where alignment comes in. That's where you wanna kind of short circuit the familiarity that you may have with someone who you've worked with for ages. You do. There are tips and tricks, such as the alignment canvas one that, or, you know, not, not, create. Okay, let me have a think a lot.

[00:23:22] The work of, Brene Brown and Amy Edmondson around like psychological safety, vulnerability, all of that is all about, like, it's about teaming. and it's the short circuits of how we, as social animals create that kind of tribe. Vibe is repeatable, uh, tricks in a way. If you have hostility, like if you have hostility towards your position or if you feel hostility towards your value or identity, you're probably not gonna do much work.

[00:23:59] Even if that's your friend from, primary school and you've known them for a long, long time. having that comfort to say, Hey, this doesn't look right, or, Hey, I need some help. Getting to that place is more important than, picking your favorite people, which would be ideal as, as we all may agree.

[00:24:18] But, not always the case.

[00:24:20] Nirish Shakya: Hmm, my experience of this year as well, like, a lot of times,you start a project, but you know, most people who are there, prioritize the work over building those connections or building the trust. Cause for them, their KPI is measured just based on their outputs that they produce.

[00:24:39] Right. And hence, building these connections or building trust might not be a, uh, very relevant output for the team or for the business. what's been, what's been your experience in, in that, for example, or Rafa or

[00:24:52] Rafa Prada: When I'm, when I'm hearing this, I keep thinking about a, a, something that a colleague of of my action mentioned as well is like, oh, I'm not that much anymore, just. Agility, which I find it extremely fascinating agility. So it's like

[00:25:10] Nirish Shakya: agile or is it like something different?

[00:25:14] Rafa Prada: as agile, but you know, like, kinda, uh, support teams to be more agile in a way, not from the agile perspective or but from perspective how, how can we transform the way we work or not transform, but, and this is what I'm liking from hearing align towards that agility. in terms of outputs, in terms of outcomes we need to get, we need to deliver something.

[00:25:36] Yes, we do in eight months. So it's like, it's a very long time until we have to deliver something. We do need to do incremental deliveries. Absolutely. But, we need to get there to, having the product or or service developed towards the end of that particular assignments. and the, of those things and the level of agility towards those things.

[00:25:58] I like a lot what you guys saying as well, like having those checkpoints when you can kinda shortcut and then come back together. In my experience, I've, I've always found finding those shortcuts quite challenging. I have been in teams smooth, when you're working and you're the same level of agility and, uh, there's no conflict in terms of how far you go.

[00:26:19] Rafa Prada: Uh, developers or engineers that go way far beyond you do, but sometimes they, they, they do an estimation and they finish a given or whatever the thing is, and then there's kind constant, they don't just kind of continue to add more value and then there's a massive backlog of a law stuff because they've been so deep into the tech that it's just, hard to productionize that, translate that into a product, translate that into use of value.

[00:26:47] It's always kind a bit of. Conflict and you know how to get, I've been in places where they're, quick close, they're quite tight, cross-functional teams and so, you don't have a spike. So furious development because you're late that doesn't happen. Actually, in fact, on Thursday after lunch you will be going for and it's totally cool delivering now.

[00:27:10] Yeah, we're not gonna have a massive spike in spring one, but then after, I dunno, like seven sprints of doing this, curve.

[00:27:17] I'm, I'm telling all this as well cause I'm like, when you saying something about finding shortcuts and like a of

[00:27:27] that. Again, trying to get those alignments towards level of agility, deliverables is just like fine. It's what, it's, at the end of the day, you have one week and this is, you can't deliver a worth of work. It's just, there's nothing else you can do. Could be more work, could be less.

[00:27:45] Work, could be harder. It doesn't matter, the values in a different place, the amount of how you spends, on something is different story. but you know, you have one work, one week of work. So, dunno, there's lot, I guess like things to adjust between teams and management stuff to, into smooth place some.

[00:28:07] Nirish Shakya: Hmm.

[00:28:08] Sinem Erdemli: Yeah. One, I think smooth teams or smooth running teams. not that they wouldn't have conflict. I think it's good that they have conflict. It's what they do with that conflict. Does everyone get. Upset and start blaming each other. Or do we be adults and talk about, okay, what went wrong? How do we change this?

[00:28:38] Maybe we sold the project in a way where we raised expectations to the whole board. They were expecting a functioning, fully functioning high fidelity prototype, or sorry, product in, eight weeks. Great. That's where we are. Let's, come together, say, okay, this is what we wanna deliver now, but at least we all are, clear on what is expected from us, what is priority for us. And then next time around, maybe we add in a buffer when we're creating those ex expectations. And this is probably the like rage against the machine type. flavor and vibe that I bring, bring in. It's like we're not, except for exceptions, obviously we're not practically saving lives with, by missing, one button for a product that's not launched. Let's just, reduce our self importance a bit and say, okay, maybe we messed up fine. What are we gonna do about it? And having that, what are we gonna do about it kind of approach. Like, difficult because it has consequences, it has like monetary consequences, I financial impact. but I think moving away from like short-term thinking to long-term thinking when it comes to this type of stuff is more.

[00:30:14] Like that's the difference is what I, am perhaps, uh, optimistically, assuming it's, let's think long term. Let's think about, the impact this is going to have to the product, the people who are working on this team.

[00:30:31] Nirish Shakya: Yeah. And for me, that ties back to what LER you said earlier around, the pressure that we add to ourselves as designers to get things right and perfect. from, from day one. and I think how you mentioned around sometimes we might better to let go of some of those expectations because, uh, well first of all, ultimately we're not actually saving lives most of the time.

[00:30:51] And we do have that, that is not the only iteration or sprint that we'll be working on, and in fact, even. For example, any one of us were to leave that role. Some of 'em else, else, we will, take on the bat and then keep working the product and make it better. Um,I think what Rafa said around adaptability, right?

[00:31:09] there, there are some fixed structures that are difficult to move within any, organization. how can we,swerve around those, fixed strong pillars that we can't necessarily move in a year or two and do what we can do, uh, within our capacity. 

[00:31:26] nare, I think that's very important, to, to kinda internalize generally speaking. So, we've heard quite a few, great inputs. So actually mentioned full vulnerability as well. Being vulnerable and not being afraid to be vulnerable in a team, can actually do great things and, and be kind of preparing you for kind of, I don't know, maybe.

[00:31:52] Egle Beliunaite: Maybe having a friendly conversation with the team, trying to align with the team. But there are challenges generally, in many, many companies that you guys have mentioned and you've mentioned that multiple times, cross-functional teams that, have their own processes, business goals that might not move, strategies that might change all the time.

[00:32:15] And all of these unexpected things in our way, in, in the designer's way to actually try and do something and bring some kind of a value because, in. Quite a few situations I've seen how, um, and I've actually, I'm, I'm guilty that of myself and I have led,designers into a trap of kinda doing these alignment activities and, and trying to map the stakeholders and trying to see who we're actually working with and who does what.

[00:32:46] which we pointed out as kinda the fundamental part that we need to achieve before we actually do the work. 

[00:32:52] Nirish Shakya: But I can, I can hear a, but there

[00:32:56] Egle Beliunaite: a, but can always appear unexpectedly and that, but will be something around the lines of,I, I already know what this product is about. Why are you even asking these, basic questions of discovery? why are you going down into that depth of the beginnings of.

[00:33:13] the fundamentals of the product. I already know how this works. Why are you even doing this? Or like, situations like,developers might be thinking along the lines of already do three or four jobs, talking about who does what. frustrations and, and thoughts can arise in such situations where alignment exercises actually are not theedy.

[00:33:35] and I think as designers, we really have to become comfortable with uncomfortable feelings and uncomfortable situations and to, to kind of see how an unexpected turn of. Something that we, we put a lot of work into this project and nothing has gone this way. Strategy has changed. things are not working out as expected.

[00:34:02] Egle Beliunaite: They're not using my design. They don't have time for my design. all of these things I, treating unexpected turn of events as kind of that problem, that obstacle we can actually solve as we do problem solving in our actual line of, of professional work could actually make us better designers. Because if, if we look at an obstacle that is in our way that is blocking us, somehow we could look at it from a different perspective. Now we can train ourselves to kind look at crossfunctional teams at Align as that mystery puzzle

[00:34:42] product at problems when. Try to solve some kind of an issue or a challenge for a client. And, aligning with the teams might be the same, kinda a problem to solve and a mystery. And sometimes we gotta let go of certain methodologies we apply and just try and go with a flow and, we'll figure out those stakeholders and we'll figure out who does what and how about realign what we actually need to achieve.

[00:35:14] And then let's go, let's do this, uh, step by step and, and try and earn the, the trust this way, instead of forcing it. because if, if somebody doesn't wish to be part of that, within that team, the only thing we can control is our emotions. The only thing we can control is our actions, not everybody else's.

[00:35:38] Nirish Shakya: And what's your advice for how we can do that in terms of managing your emotions? How, what's, what's worked for you?

[00:35:46] Egle Beliunaite: Look, when things are, are going unexpectedly. there's a lot of different ways. we're all human, right? We, we all have different kind of coping mechanisms and, and different emotions that we display or, or, or even few internally and, and try to kinda mask and hide. But at the end of the day, it can go kind of two ways.

[00:36:13] We can either start to blame, somebody, externally outside of us feel disappointment or we think that we failed. None of that is actually good for. It's our instinct, but our instinct is actually it can be wrong. So what actually did help me this year is to control my fight or flight. If I want to flee and just say, okay, well, I'll flip the table and just, to hell with this, I'm, I'm not doing this again.

[00:36:52] or I, I kind of reflect back on others into, in the emotions of blame or disappointment or, or failure. Just hold that for a moment. Just, just hold that first, a short little second. Ask yourself how that affects yourself. You internally look at it, digest it, and only speak after.

[00:37:18] Nirish Shakya: very wise words, ley from one of the wisest designers I know. Uh, it's, it's, it has been a big challenge for me to do that in practice. Uh, even this year. Like for example, there was a time when one of the, development teams I was working with was,Opposing one of our design concepts, and all of a sudden, like I could feel anger, arising within me.

[00:37:41] Egle Beliunaite: and I just like snapped back at them. Right? And, I think, what you suggested there could have probably resulted in a, in a better approach and an outcome rather than, both of us feeling a bit,animosity, against each other. always a journey.

[00:37:55] Nirish Shakya: absolutely progress over perfection.

[00:37:58] That's my, that, that's no mantra for, for the year Um, cool. There's, there's, there's definitely a lot for us to,dig up here in terms of like lots of topics and, and nuggets. But I wanted to now cast our mind towards the future, to the next year, 2023. Uh, but before, we jump into 20 20, 23. 

Advice for 2023

[00:38:16] Nirish Shakya: I wanted to, uh, find out from each one of you, what's the biggest piece of advice that you would give to a designer moving into the new year?

[00:38:25] I could say that active listening will be, uh, will be the one I know that share that illiterate as a thought, but, active listening. And, consciously for two reasons, right? Like, cause you're actually understanding what they're telling you and you don't, if you don't understand it, you can ask back again.

[00:38:43] Rafa Prada: But active listening also gives you this, uh, this connection with the person. Create a link with someone that you actually listen and the people feel it as well. you clearly know when someone's listening to you, when someone's not listening to you, listening, you yourself, you being that really, which,

[00:39:10] Nirish Shakya: And how do you know for sure that you're actually listening actively Because you might think you are.

[00:39:18] Rafa Prada: well, one thing is like hearing what someone says. Uh, but if you don't see, like, especially if we're thinking about cross teams, right? Like people that is working this. One very clear, uh, connection between all of us when we're working cross this CROSSDISCIPLINARY teams, which is that we all wanna deliver that thing, whatever that thing is, and we all want that, right?

[00:39:44] If we are, if you actively listening, you totally understand where that person's coming from, why they send the things that they wanna say. What are the kinda the context in which this person is saying certain things or trying to share some stuff with you in there. If you don't ask, again, I'm not, don't understand why give always you actually, but, but, but angles, right?

[00:40:12] Like you are least actively listening, but you also show that you, listening to the person. Cause ultimately, especially when we line, we have. Everything is connected, right? Especially, I've always think that design is a medium. Design would never be the in itself, so we all contribute in our ways. Don't

[00:40:36] Nirish Shakya: I love that. I love that rapper. C, what about you? What's the biggest piece of advice you would give to someone who's starting the new year?

[00:40:47] Sinem Erdemli: The year started. You're a bit la . That's not advice. it's too serious. You can clearly tell humor is my way of,

[00:40:58] Rafa Prada: no answer. No answer the question. Humor is the way to not to answer the question.

[00:41:03] Sinem Erdemli: Yeah. Rather. Yeah. advice maybe? Yeah, just slow down a bit. Like just chill. Like, take, don't take yourself too seriously. Uh, yeah. Maybe like it's more than one advice I know, but like, you can pick and choose whichever. Maybe like, try and have fun, like play, find a play workshop, improvs, whatever floats your boat.

[00:41:38] Nirish Shakya: hmm. And I mean they, they might sound like, simple piece of advice, but there's a lot loaded into that. And, know, personally I have found it really difficult to just, be more playful at work cuz everyone and, and everything is so serious. It's, it's work, right. and also, taking things easy.

[00:41:54] it has not come easy to me in my career because, growing up I was always told to always work hard and achieve hard and, be the best and climb that ladder and, there was no room for. Taken easy there, right? So, uh, it might not come easy for you, but again, it, I think it, it is a matter of that kind of conscious well being aware of how you currently operate.

[00:42:17] like, I think someone said it was a term ugly, you said around, the importance of self-awareness around this, how you currently operate, and what you can do to change maybe some of that or make a dent in how you operate.

[00:42:27] Sinem Erdemli: Yeah, and listen to design feeling more

[00:42:33] Nirish Shakya: actively. Um, 

[00:42:35] Sinem Erdemli: actively.

[00:42:35] Nirish Shakya: ley, what about you?

[00:42:36] I'm not gonna be too original. I think for everybody starting the new year and also for myself, Just take it easy, chill. Nothing will burn. like we're, we're always running all of this job is al always serious? No, no matter what organization we're in. and, and yes, designers do work and try to work as hard to value to a, to something, to, to where they work, to be honest.

[00:43:05] it will come. Perception changes. It's just not that fast. So if you think that you can, design overnight and like spend another six hours on your design and that will change something, it won't, it absolutely won't like it then that's okay. That's totally okay because you can spend those six hours going out for a walk with your dog, with your loved one and do something else because nothing will burn this fast. Things will change. Things will come back to where they were. strategies will circle back. It's okay, we can let go.

[00:43:47] Nirish Shakya: Love it. 

Best resource that's helped them

[00:43:48] Nirish Shakya: And what's the one resource that's helped you the most, uh, throughout this year for you guys? Is there

[00:43:56] Sinem Erdemli: Design feeling.

[00:43:58] Nirish Shakya: well, that's definitely one of the number one resource, obviously . Anything else?

[00:44:02] Egle Beliunaite: For me it was, the comfort crisis by Michael Easter. Always forget his name. I dunno why. But yeah, it's, it's a comfort crisis. really good book. And it's just such a quirky. Honestly, just being comfortable with feeling uncomfortable.

[00:44:26] Nirish Shakya: Hmm. Love that. I'm gonna check that out. Re.

[00:44:31] Rafa Prada: So these two, these two books that I, that helped me with, this year actually. Uh, first one is the Making of Amanda, and this is from Judy, Sue. Maybe not pronouncing that correctly. Find out in notes, I guess. And and the other one, uh, which I'm gonna look really bad right now, I don't remember. The author is, designed when everybody designs, is being, like a produced by the mit and it's just a beautiful, it's a beautiful book where, Actually circl back to one of the points that we said at the beginning of the call, it talks about where is the design, we design in, but, but where is the design?

[00:45:10] And sometimes designing might be only just facilitating the creation of the thing that's already doing the work we're doing cannot resonate. That book resonates a lot with me. so in a we way actually make me feel a little bit less society as a designer cause I'm not designing as traditionally, within what design is thing, something out.

[00:45:38] No, you came from in different ways. And that book helped me a lot in.

[00:45:42] Nirish Shakya: Love it. Love it. And sym, did you have something, a resource that's helped you the most this year?

[00:45:48] I think my friends and family, like, I know they're not necessarily resources but you guys, for sure. Like mentors, mentees, students, everyone. Uh, I really drew energy and wisdom, what shall say, from, from them. And I really enjoyed reading nonfic, uh, like fiction books. Sorry. I think I do a lot of non-fiction reading and the four weeks that you recommended.

[00:46:18] great

[00:46:19] Sinem Erdemli: that's all. Yeah. It, it's kinda like, oh, what's point

[00:46:22] Nirish Shakya: So we are going to, put all these links to the books and resources, in the show notes. Maybe not like Syms, friends and family, but . So all the books and stuff that we've mentioned here. Any other resources? We, you can find that on the show notes on your podcasting app.

Wrap up

[00:46:39] Um, what are you most excited about for the new year?

[00:46:41] Nirish Shakya: Is there something that you are really looking forward to doing as a designer? Uh, in 2023?

[00:46:48] Rafa Prada: Gosh, I'm so looking forward to stop a little bit and then find the right thing to the next, so,

[00:46:56] Nirish Shakya: Absolutely. Absolutely. That, that is a very important thing to do.

[00:47:00] Egle Beliunaite: I have a spa voucher I haven't used. I'm looking forward to that

[00:47:04] Nirish Shakya: nice

[00:47:05] Sinem Erdemli: Again, probably not about design, but I am going Japan in the new year, 

[00:47:11] Nirish Shakya: Ooh, that's 

[00:47:12] Sinem Erdemli: to planning. We're hopefully to go, yeah. And more time with friends and.

[00:47:24] Nirish Shakya: Nice.

[00:47:25] Sinem Erdemli: And finally, let's go and get this pizza oven checked out. RFA, please. Can we,

[00:47:30] Nirish Shakya: The

[00:47:31] Rafa Prada: Has to

[00:47:31] Nirish Shakya: pizza oven

[00:47:34] Rafa Prada: real. It's real promise,

[00:47:36] Egle Beliunaite: I keep hearing about it.

[00:47:38] Nirish Shakya: everyone keeps hearing about 

[00:47:40] Sinem Erdemli: everyone keeps hearing about it. There's no visual contact or no

[00:47:44] Nirish Shakya: Yes, apparently Raf has bought this amazing pizza oven that cooks pizza in in one minute. which we keep hearing about.

[00:47:51] Rafa Prada: That's right. 31 South

[00:47:57] Egle Beliunaite: we need evidence.

[00:47:58] Nirish Shakya: Yep. Culinary of evidence, okay, so, I'm gonna ask you a question that I ask all my guests on this podcast. So imagine this is your last day on Planet Earth and someone comes up to you with a post-it, tiny post-it, and a pen, and asks you to write down your last words for humanity.

[00:48:21] Your last message for humanity. What would you write down on that tiny Post-it.

[00:48:26] Sinem Erdemli: For humanity, is that the audience? Just one post-it.

[00:48:32] Nirish Shakya: Just one. Post-it.

[00:48:33] Sinem Erdemli: What color is the posted?

[00:48:35] Nirish Shakya: Well, I've got a green one here, so there. There's a green one for you

[00:48:39] Rafa Prada: that you already sent it. Huh? I could post it here. There you go. on the table.

[00:48:46] Sinem Erdemli: Be kind and don't be a dick probably.

[00:48:50] Nirish Shakya: Love it. Love it.

[00:48:51] Rafa Prada: Something along the lines of, it has been fun.

[00:48:55] Nirish Shakya: Nice. ugly.

[00:49:01] Egle Beliunaite: Oh, for me it would be, something along the lines of let's learn from the past together. Cause learning individually just gets you nowhere.

[00:49:14] Nirish Shakya: Hmm. I love that. The collaborative learning. That doesn't really happen, right? A lot of times you go into training as individuals, you go to universities and in individuals, and you're there to just perform individually a lot of times, maybe in some sort of teams. But I love that notion of learning together with others.

[00:49:38] Egle Beliunaite: You gotta climb that ladder.

[00:49:40] Nirish Shakya: Absolutely. . Or maybe you don't, maybe, you can stay at the bottom and then if you, if that makes you happy, maybe there's other ladders.

[00:49:49] Egle Beliunaite: very true.

[00:49:50] Sinem Erdemli: What would yours be?what, what would I write on that piece of paper?

[00:49:54] Yeah.

[00:49:56] Nirish Shakya: You know what, no one's actually asked me that question.

[00:49:59] Sinem Erdemli: Well, because you've been bullying everyone to answering all your questions,

[00:50:04] Nirish Shakya: What would I write on my, on the tiny piece of paper? I would say it's not as important as you think it is.

[00:50:12] Sinem Erdemli: nice.

[00:50:15] Nirish Shakya: Nothing is really

[00:50:19] Sinem Erdemli: Yeah. Just say fuck. Bye.

[00:50:23] Nirish Shakya: Yes. I'm actually, um, reading a book by, John Perkin, and the title of the book is, fuck It. and it's, it's, it's been, uh, really helpful for me to kind of change some of her minds around caring less about some of the things that, don't really add any joy, to life. Cool. Love it. We've talked so much about, well, we didn't really talk about, design as an output or craft.

[00:50:45] We talked about design as, working with people, the challenges that brings, uh, along in that journey. kind of the value of active listening, as opposed to pushing, your goals and objectives onto people and forcing them to do things your way. aligning with people, and also the importance of starting with people first seems to be a, a key here that we've been talking about rather than, what, what is the, the goal, the success metric?

[00:51:10] Like, let's, let's start with people first and what, what do they care about? Because I think each one of us on the team cares about different things. And it is our job as a designer to know what those things are. And a lot of times, we might have big aspirations and goals around how much of an impact that we wanna have as designers on a team, or in organizations, in an organization.

[00:51:31] But there's so many things in our way,structures, existing strategies, unmovable goals, opinions, right? And sometimes you can't change them. And, and what you can do is to, yeah, just go with the flow. Uh, do what is possible today and leave the rest for tomorrow. Maybe, leave the rest for someone else as well, who can, pick up the pieces after you've left maybe.

[00:51:53] Uh, and yeah, don't worry too much about, giving your 110% every time. Cause ultimately in the end, it, nothing really matters. and then I think that is so true when you kind of zoom out a bit from your day-to-day,in life, in the trenches as a designer. Cool. Awesome. Well, thank you so much, Rafa Elay, and it's been really great to have you hey, how's it going? This is the penultimate episode of Season two of the Design Feeling Podcast. And this time I've invited three good friends of mine to the show. They're all design leaders and talented creatives and people who at the top of their game, Is a designer and researcher who leads design teams in a global corporation. She's also a lifestyle photographer as well. Rafa Prada is a design director, product design consultant, and visiting lecturer at the Bartlet at UCL and London College of Communi. And Cena Air Deley, who is a principal UX designer and a design lecturer.

[00:52:49] I wanted to find out from them how 2022 has been for them as designers and design leaders and what they would take away from it. And I certainly didn't expect the conversations to go so deep into things such as trusting people and letting go of expectations and being comfortable with uncomfortable feeling. Definitely not the kind of conversation that you'd have in a design team or or an organization. Are you ready? Let's get started. for the first time on, uh, design feeling.

[00:53:16] and I can't wait to have a proper beer with you in person. so Rafa, ands, you're in London, UMLA, you're in Berlin. So we're gonna have to, arrange a, a meetup somehow and physically again. Uh, but thank you so much. I hope you've enjoyed the, the chat today.

[00:53:33] Egle Beliunaite: When they had.

[00:53:34] Sinem Erdemli: I have a, I have a correction and I want this aired. It's not the first time I've been on

[00:53:42] Nirish Shakya: That is true. That is true.

[00:53:43] Sinem Erdemli: Can you please confess up to this?

[00:53:46] Nirish Shakya: actually Syne was in the first ever episode that I recorded, which I actually recorded as a trial episode to kind of just test and learn

[00:53:53] Sinem Erdemli: a try. Your, it was so bad, but it 

[00:53:57] Nirish Shakya: I I was really bad in that episode. I, I didn't know what I was doing. It was my first one, so yeah, maybe o one day we might actually, hear that as a bonus episode on the, on the show sometime,

[00:54:07] Egle Beliunaite: I cannot 

[00:54:07] Sinem Erdemli: Glad, glad to.

[00:54:09] Nirish Shakya: Great. Thank you so much guys.

[00:54:12] And, have a great, uh, fester break and a new year and, uh, we'll see you again in, uh, the next year.

[00:54:18] Thank you so much for joining us in this chat. if you are enjoying listening to the Design Feeling podcast, please do consider leaving an honest review on Apple Podcasts. It'll really help get this podcast out to more people. And please do share the podcast with a Design Thinking friend who could benefit from these conversations. See you next time.