Jason Mesut - Shaping Design

Jason Mesut - Shaping Design

My guest in this episode is Jason Mesut who many know from IXDA conferences and his writing on Medium, particularly Shaping Design. Here we talk about design’s role in helping cope with the complex wicked problems facing us, design leadership, design teams and how they self-reflect, direct their future and develop others.


Note: This transcript is machine-generated and may contain some errors.

Andy Polaine 00:09

Hi and welcome to Power of Ten – a podcast about design operating at many levels, zooming out from thoughtful detail through to organisational transformation and on to changes in society and the world. My name is Andy Polaine – I’m a service design and innovation consultant, design leadership coach, educator and writer.

My guest today is Jason Mesut who many of you may know from IXDA conferences and especially his writing on Shaping Design.

Jason helps people and organisations navigate their uncertain futures and has spent over 20 years working within UX, Design, and Innovation consulting worlds. He works closely with people and organisations to consider and combine multiple perspectives to challenge their own. With these rich perspectives he helps people find positive opportunities and clear paths forward, whether developing new products or services, building teams, or finding new direction for their careers.

He runs his own coaching, design and innovation consultancy, Resonant. Works as a Design Partner at Group of Humans, a network of global creative leaders. He also co-hosts monthly events for IxDA London.

Jason, welcome to Power of Ten.

Jason Mesut 01:10

Thanks so much for having me, Andy.

Andy Polaine 01:12

So the first time we met was interaction 2011 in in Colorado, in Boulder, Colorado. And I think I’d given a talk or we’d been doing a thing around design to the power of 10. Or this idea, I think both running the student competition then and this quite a lot about, you know, climate change, and all those kinds of things and sustainability, that the projects were looking at. And we met I think was a party or something afterwards. And you said something to me, but I’ll make the do the polite version of it, which was fixing climate change or global financial crisis is not your effing job, as in designers, and I then started to use it in a in this talk about design to the power of 10, about looking at the scaling up and connectedness of everything as a slide and I followed it by this question of whose job is it? Because I think on there, those original slides, David Cameron, who was then the Prime Minister of the UK, he had his a whole kind of, I guess it’s called big government, and it wasn’t called Big Government was called government, you know, trying to get people kind of involved in government and society. Society. That’s right. Yes. Yeah, there was that kind of aspect of it. And I remember Stefan Sagmeister, saying to me, you know, it’s not, I don’t have any particular responsibilities as a designer, but I do have a responsibility as a human being for these things. So whose job is it?

Jason Mesut 02:33

Well, I guess what my short answer, and it’s funny, you brought that up? I can’t actually remember saying it. But it might, it is a sort of thing. I would say. I’ve said back then, I think it depends on if it was briefed to you, as a designer, I guess that’s the tension around whether it’s your, your role as a human to be aware of these things. And to do something about it is somewhat separate to your role as a designer to I always considered designers answering a brief. And that’s me from a kind of professional services perspective, looking at a designer. And often, that is not the brief there might be that might be the wider context to a brief. But I think too often, maybe in terms of the student challenges is like going well, no one’s going to ask a student, or we’re kind of a very junior designer to kind of solve that problem. Because it’s, you know, it’s a huge systemic challenge. And they’re going to talk about one particular part of it. But even now, days, when people are really focusing on climate or more meaningful things, it’s really hard, because that’s such such a huge space. So what’s your specific angle on it? And I think probably the root of my concern around it at the time, if I’m reflecting back to that conference was the balance of sort of designer hubris, where, you know, designers felt like they could affect that very, very large change, and do it within a short period of time. I think that that was the problem. And I was probably talking to you about service design, and where there was a lot of aspiration to change these really, really big things, whether it’s from an airport with hunger or whatever. Yeah, and just going not yet. There’s not going to be a project you’re gonna do in three months. It’s gonna take you a decade.

Andy Polaine 04:04

No, no, no, this is true. You know, and there’s definitely, you know, we wrote at the end of our book, actually about this, there is definitely opportunities because I think, you know, fundamental, I’m gonna defend services. I’m briefly here. But the fundamental to service design is a systems way of looking at things. And I think back then, particularly those UX conferences, you know, I kept hearing UX is say, UX is everything and I bet you’re but I’m only seeing websites and apps. When you present your stuff at conferences. We made use of Jason Bruce showed a kind of smart a building that was a kind of amazing display built on the side of it. But otherwise, it was very sort of individual touch point focused and didn’t really connect with everything else. And I think we’ve come there is the has, and still is that kind of hubris, and you know, and some of it is I think a you know, a career pathway thing. We’re going to talk about data that you know, when you first start most a lot of people get into design, you know, because they see it things and they think, why is that done this way when it could be done that way? This seems to be, you know, this could be done better, I could make people’s lives better. That seems to be a fundamental driver of why, you know, a lot of people get into design. And I do see it, you know, I see it in my service design students still now have, I want to tackle this big thing. And I, you know, it’s just so well, now that the designers are here, everything’s going to be much better. And I guess that’s why your comment? You’ve been provocative at the time. But your comment really kind of resonated me because I think it is a useful question. But I think then the follow up of whose is it is also an important one. And then the question becomes how does design sort of how can design facilitate that differently perhaps, to other forms of running projects and things like that? Do you think that’s fair? Or yeah, no,

Jason Mesut 05:48

I totally think it’s fair. And I do love service design for trying to bring that that wider, systemic perspective in. But I do think that way, I guess the the early days of service design, emergence and popularity growing, that there felt like a lot of naivety around that, I think there was and probably still is, yeah, but I think people have realised more recently, and I just remember the only service design conference I went to, and Joel Bailey was talking about kind of grit. And, you know, the, the actual effort required to do some of these things, was quite considerable, like and took a lot of time. And there’s a lot of organisational change and facilitation and support, and you’re having to interact with many different parts of the business, in order to kind of do this great customer experience across all these channels.

Andy Polaine 06:32

Yeah, and I think, you know, one of the things I try and teach my students, especially these days is, you know, if you’re going to be frustrated by the fact that there’s a lot of resistance to what you’re trying to do. It’s like being a firefighter complaining that you get burned and smell of smoke in the evenings. It’s just part of that job. And I think part of the craft, if you like of service design is, is less to do with, you know, blueprints and journey maps and all that stuff, then it is much more with the blend of organisational change and design, I guess, and how you, you know, make that or not make that happen, but enable it to happen. I’ve probably become a little bit, you know, I definitely have become less and less naive, but I kind of think probably is less less kind of evangelistic about that. Because as we see, you know, it is everyone’s problem, the thing that I always wanted to try and get across with this idea of connectedness. And I think, yeah, I used to find it really hard to find examples or analogies of this. But COVID has been this amazing thing to show how the smallest connected to the big everything from you know, social distancing, and what that means in terms of stuff you can’t do anymore. right the way through to global supply chains and all that stuff. And yeah, I mean, it’s not a thing that design tackles on its own. And we were talking actually before because at that conference, Bruce Sterling gave this a brilliant talk, you can still find it online, just sort of really gave I kind of felt like he gave a brilliant dressing down of design hubris in the in the audience, because he, he kind of set up this, he sort of pulled the rug from under people’s feet, because he talked about kind of all this amazing design stuff and things and he’s described himself as an AR victory condition and then talked about this old lady, I think trying to kind of operate a force at the tap in a in a hotel, in this highly designed thing, just had no idea what’s going on and sort of pulled the rug from underneath this. Did you have any other takeaways from his talk?

Jason Mesut 08:26

Mostly about? Henry Dreyfus surrounds kind of designers. Okay. Yeah, yeah, that one, I just know that. It was just a round, kind of like, if you run the course of, I don’t know, really kind of designing and controlling everything. You could take it that far. But maybe that was the wrong takeaway. I do remember it being an amazing tool. It was amazing. There were amazing talks. But it had me that particular conference had had me really engaged and really curious, but also really, really frustrated at the same time, partly because of what you were saying is like you’re talking about all this great stuff. And then you’re talking about screens and interfaces. And turns out some of those screens interfaces did ultimately have an impact on some bigger things. But I think interaction design and the ICA community, we struggled with what is interaction design in this context. And sometimes it’s been kind of played out into a wider systemic context and service design. And sometimes, often rarely these days actually talking about user interface design of various sorts.

Andy Polaine 09:24

Yeah, I mean, I, before we get on to the shaping design stuff, actually, I think, you know, we were talking about you’ve been involved in interaction design and UX for 20 years of AI. You know, now we’re in this umbrella term and world of product design, which is this kind of the big catch all and you know, obviously the hot thing as well, at the moment, fueling rather overheated market, I would say in in jobs and salaries at the moment. But you know, I remember a few years before that 2011 interaction conference, there was one of the information architecture conferences about you know, what is information architecture and everyone, there was a competition to make a video or something I think of of what information architects do, you know, and then there’s interactions, and then there’s UX and so on. Plus, there’s obviously things like, you know, research, design, research, UX research underneath and so on. What’s your view on where things are out as if we’re going to be sort of two old guys sitting on a porch kind of complaining about the kids on our lawn? And we might as well just do it more explicitly. So what’s your view on where things are at?

Jason Mesut 10:23

Oh, it’s, it’s still messy. It’s messier than ever. There’s just more factions, it’s more confusing. And this probably does play into the whole shaping design thing, I think, a lot of ways and why I wanted to create the book because the titles are becoming ever inflated or tried to be collapsed and dismissive of the past. So that said, the product that I wanted, let’s take that one came up again, the other day, I studied industrial design that I had that was doing alongside product design courses, most of the people who graduated with my course, and went into making physical products would call themselves a product designer, sometimes an industrial designer. So just the term itself, product design was, was really dismissive of this whole industry, and a lot of industrial science got really pissed off of it. That’s one thing. I on the other hand, I liked it from the point of view of it, trying to be a partner to product management, and to kind of do more strategic stuff, because the UX thing was getting too confused with just doing interactions and digital interactions, and not necessarily considering the business. So maybe more legitimacy to kind of be considering that product thing made some sense. But in reality, most product designers seem to be more from a user interface designers just jumping over UX to do call themselves product designers. So they miss a lot of the rigour and certainly Information Architecture just got lost in all of that. They got it faded away, there’s still people talking about it a bit, but they’re clinging on content strategies, much more popular, probably more similar to a than anything. And so I think it’s just got really confusing. So what I tell people is going yes, this title of what you call yourself into action, designing product designer, service designer, whatever, shouldn’t matter as much as actually the practices and skills that sit underneath that title, because that’s where the real differentiation lies in who you are versus someone else.

Andy Polaine 12:14

Yeah, that leads us nicely on to shaping design, I think. So, you know, a lot of people might well know, you actually, from the writing you’ve done on on medium, you’ve got kind of a couple of different categories. But one is shaping design we’ve got we’ve put up there a lot of things around self reflection tools, and looking at yourself and things you’ve, you’ve run these in workshops and stuff. A lot of people I know and especially as it’s true of me, right, kind of to scratch their own itch or right in order to put their own thoughts in some kind of order. What was the genesis of all of this for you?

Jason Mesut 12:47

Probably around sort of 2005, I joined a company called oyster partners, which you may remember from this London digital design days, and it kind of became fanfare, but and eventually I’ll be it just has one of these big machines grows, grows. And we had a fairly large user experience team. And it grew larger with more information architects that came from the firm hub side. And a couple of things happened. One was a few people went to an Adaptive Path conference in Amsterdam and came back with this framework that either Jesse James Garrett Peter no holds, or someone had created that had these four kind of quadrants. And my colleague and friend Warren Hodges started kind of like, you know, using shapes to kind of draw people over overlaying this. And I was like, Oh, that’s interesting. So I started using that. And that became what what some people call blob mapping or amoeba mapping. But then also, I was a UPA before UX pa event. And someone was talking about like, Who do we who are inspired by who do we look up to in our industry. And at the time, coming from more of a designer background, there was really only sort of people like Jacob Nielsen, and those people were not really Designer Friendly, a lot of my colleagues kind of found it really annoying, not necessarily positive, and very restrictive in his approach. And as a designer, he wasn’t very inspiring to me. So I thought, Well, who do I look up to? And I found it really difficult. So I did some investigation research and into, you know, what makes a good user experience person and I created a poster basically around that. And a lot of the the attributes were the kind of softer side to things and team working sides of things. And aspects of strong backbone and creative mindsets, attention to detail, all sorts of things. They weren’t really about the specific craft and practices that the the Adaptive Path portrait had. And anyway, I just kind of started using both those tools actually, in interviews with my team and, and started to develop more and more frameworks over the years just to kind of help to kind of understand people either in an interview situation, or when they were kind of looking at their career development. And I kind of kept it internally a lot. And I occasionally put some of these frameworks in presentations and people always sort of grabbed towards them. And I guess what happened was a recruitment consultancy got in touch and said we’d want to do an updated version of this and have these new categories in it. And I worked with them a little bit. And we created a tool called the UX spectrum. So online little tool you can do things on. And it just reignited my interest in IT. And I thought, Oh, I could do some of these workshops publicly and start to explore this more, and got some good responses and, and then decided, I would write a medium article a day around the different tools and force myself to do that, and push it out there and got lots of really interesting feedback and hearing stories about people using it. So I was like, Okay, I need to do something with this and make it more navigable, more easy to process because it’s, like, badly structured, badly written.

Andy Polaine 15:48

And so that’s where you’re at, at the moment how far I’ve I mean, obviously seen the work in progress as you are at the moment, how far away? Are they you not put a date on it? I don’t know. You tell me. What you put into it,

Jason Mesut 16:02

yeah, true. I want to release it this year, they’ll probably be a beater in the next two, three months. So hopefully, it’s the end of q1, q2, but I have a lot of tools, ready, refine, I’ve got an introduction, I’m working through recipes, which are just a way to navigate people to the different tools based on different circumstances. And then there’ll be some copy edited. And, you know,

Andy Polaine 16:23

there’s a lot of a lot of sweeping up the parts I was finding, in the end of a book, it really kind of surprised me how long that took, actually, there’s bits. But you know, a medium article a day is not to be sniffed at either, actually. That is impressive.

Jason Mesut 16:37

Yeah, it’s hard work

Andy Polaine 16:38

Yeah, that is hard work. Useful, though, to kind of set yourself that habit, because it, it probably there are times when you’ve probably thought I have no idea what I’m gonna write about, and something came up, you know, eating it, too, you’ve got I mean, the recipes lead to or there’s a whole bunch of templates you’ve got, I mean, it’s, there’s a lot of them, they’re really great, I can really imagine using them in my coaching with design leaders, but also, you know, recommending the people, I coach using them with their teams. And we sort of talked about this a little bit the other day, we know a lot of them around kind of self reflection, and are more of a sort of a qualitative estimation, if you like, or self estimation of where you are. And I, what I talked about before, is I’ve seen things where, you know, there’s been some survey that you fill in, and there’s all this stuff, and then you get the results back. And it says something that, you know, you score, certainly in the 73rd percentile of self actualization stuff. And I kind of seen those reports and think why now, what does that even mean? That is a kind of, how would you rank self actualization at all, really, and, you know, and put those things in numbers and the numbers I think, give us sort of our apologise to anyone out there who really loves these things. But I must have experienced this as they can give a bit of a pseudo sort of rigour to them, and sense that these things are defined a definite not always changing. And I really liked the fact that you heard us these things, which are much more, what’s the kind of shape of me, he’s sort of more important than my three points above my, you know, my pier or something? Is that sort of coming from your sense of instinct about the stuff? Or is these things emerged in workshops? I got the feeling like a couple of these things, were things you fairly quickly initially did work, try this out, you know, how did those things develop?

Jason Mesut 18:25

I mean, I think most of them were sort of just quickly try things out and little bit of iteration. I didn’t labour them, because I sometimes kind of, you know, being pretty self deprecation and all that, like I kind of talked about them being in imperfect visual frameworks, right. And that’s partly because often people would want to kind of go would disagree with the categories ago, but you haven’t got this in there, or like, that’s a different level of abstraction and go, you know, what, don’t worry about that for a moment, just kind of play with it. And just and you can develop your own after playing with it. And on the other hand, I did really want to kind of focus on that quality of experience. I think there’s a few things there. One is the biggest contention I often get, especially within groups is, you know, how do I make this comparable across multiple people, and I go, you’re focusing on the wrong problem there. But actually, it’s harder to do unless you define firstly, the categories, and then define clear rubrics to do that. And that’s a big project. So what I’m suggesting is take these allow people to self reflect from their own perspectives. And that’s valuable insights in itself. If someone scores themselves really high on a category, and someone sources themselves really low on the same category. That in itself is another data point in terms of humility or self awareness. And I find that really valuable. So typically, like when doing the blog mapping, this is one of the more famous ones. You know, I used to do this in interviews, and I draw my shape just to illustrate how to do it really quickly draw this like this. And then someone would draw their shape and they would sometimes draw a really tiny one, and they would be like really experienced really good from what I’ve seen in their portfolio. whereas others who might do really, really large ones, and they were typically very junior, and then you say, well, that’s interesting. You know, it’s a kind of Dunning Kruger effect type thing. But it’s another data point. But um, the other side of this, which I, which is why I don’t like to digitise them too much, is because the actual act of drawing the shape is, is you’re you’re inputting and getting the output at the same time. And so that has a different level of connection with you reflecting than writing it down separately in a form. Some of those forms for those surveys are really painful, I find, yes, agree four or five done to the house is going to take ages, this is more instant, right? And you get a feeling of it and go, Oh, that felt weird. Oh, I can adjust that. And so I think you have a different dialogue with it. And then any nuance that you have around why you made those markings you could capture separately or discuss with someone. And often though, you know, a lot of the other tools don’t really enable you to capture that nuanced stuff.

Andy Polaine 20:56

Yeah, yeah, I think so you’ve you’ve written actually, that, you know, these things are better done physically than digitally, digitally. I mean, now we’re, of course, we’re in a remote,

Jason Mesut 21:07

it’s more spatially like. So. What do I mean by that? Because I have, I’ve got some templates I’ve put into procreate on my iPad. And it’s similar experience, right? But when you when you draw it in like PowerPoint, I’ve had to make PowerPoint template versions you kind of do in the notes and moving them around and pulling and pulling in, it’s a bit different to just draw in a shape,

Andy Polaine 21:26

Brian, because it’s the sort of free, it’s the cut through this, obviously, people can’t see this, but you’ve been making this kind of drawing arc, site sign with your hand, that connection to the physical act of moving your hand around is the important bit. Yeah, have you done any of these where you know, someone has done their self reflection of themselves, and then someone else who knows them, or works with them does renew their version of that person. So you can kind of compare what other people how other people perceive you to yourself?

Jason Mesut 21:53

Yeah, and I think that’s an interesting thing to do. If that’s when I did the creating the perfect experience architect poster, I actually, I would do one self reflection, one reflection from a peer within your discipline, one reflection from a project manager, one reflection from a client. And the idea is that you would then sort of, you know, triangulate, and then it’s an interesting discussion to be had there. Because some people will observe your behaviour and your actual and compare against other people they’ve worked with. And, and then you can kind of do it based on everything that you know about yourself, which might be more extensive, but less comparable,

Andy Polaine 22:28

even when it’s one of the things I get to do like kind of lightweight 360 feedback when I start a coaching with people and one of them is really internal self reflection thing. But the other one is that and the thing that’s constantly fascinates me, because it comes up not all the time, but often enough to be a thing, which is often the thing that people think is their greatest weakness is what other people think their greatest strength in, in this feedback and I, I kind of really fascinated by this idea of the My wife’s a union soccer analyst, and Jung had this idea, this concept of the shadow. And it wasn’t always kind of bad stuff. But this, this idea that any skill you have something you’re quite good at has a kind of shadow side when it over indexes. So some you know, classically someone who’s quite orderly and kind of has this back together. And organised can be really, really pedantic when they get stressed. And it usually comes out in in stress times. And it’s fascinating to see how that maps together. That’s why I was asking, because I think that would be kind of really interesting thing to see those overlap.

Jason Mesut 23:32

I think that’s really super interesting in terms of we were talking last week around the different personas and personalities you might have, depending on how you’re showing up. So say something like Myers Briggs, which I know you a lot of people as well have concerns with, but it’s like, you know, when you answer some of those questionnaires and different surveys, you know, I have to kind of look at it from a particular context. Yeah. Oh, showing up and, you know, I, and this goes back to authentic leadership and, you know, phrases like that, but because I don’t think I’d be a very good leader if I was authentically me, because I am constantly divergent, lateral, you know, maybe mode very much emergent and flowing and, and I had to kind of impose a lot of structure and extraversion into my my personality and stuff, what I felt like I had to, in order to be successful, and now I’m just kind of caught between those two things quite a lot. And I think it’s super interesting cuz I was chatting to someone else, you know, recently about being diagnosed with ADHD and he was naturally kind of imposing lots of interesting structure in order on his work and made him really efficient. Everyone thought he was like a productivity machine almost. And actually is because he was working on that area that he wasn’t feeling confident in. And I was like, God so much like me. I was just like, yeah, so I didn’t realise it was in is related to yoga and shadows and stuff as well. That’s super interesting.

Andy Polaine 24:57

Well, you know, I think that you might be is based on this union unit personality types as well on sort of extraversion, introversion and then thinking feeling sensation and the other one, which I have no intuition. But there’s a richness and depth in there that I think can get overlooked. One of the things I guess I see sometimes when people go through those very sort of structured, whatever it is, surveys and assessments, is this sort of self identification thing where people go, Well, I’m, uh, you know, I’m this kind of person, or I’m this kind of personality type, and therefore, that’s why x y Zed. Sometimes it can be useful for people, I think, where it explains why people struggle with something’s working in court to have Inferior function, which isn’t like, bad, it’s just that this is the your weak spot, right? So my sort of Inferior function might be extra, as a British person extroverted feeling, I’m not someone who kind of emotes very strongly, you know, which can mean that aren’t, you know, when it’s going things are going well, that can mean I’m quite stable in sort of difficult situations. On the other hand, it also can mean that I’m sort of monotone in my emotional responses, which isn’t so great sometimes in a relationship, you know, and so they will have, you know, you can be moved around those things, you know, to say, Well, I am a, you know, en, whatever, I can’t remember the Myers Briggs thing, and that’s me. And therefore, that defines me who I am, feels back to front. And also ignores this idea of, you know, of growth that you you can change and mindsets that you change regarding, depending on the context you’re in.

Jason Mesut 26:31

I think the change aspect is really interesting. But then, I think, in defence of it, to some extent, I think these are all just different sort of frameworks and lenses to look at yourself. And this is why I have so many different tools, because some tools will expose different differences to people than others. And I think like liking certain strategy workers, you know, lots of different frameworks, I might apply to a problem to see the gaps in the strengths in different ways. My thing is around actually having diversity and a range of different tools to throw on the problem and yourself, because the nuances might be very different. And the median and the Myers Briggs things give you some a framework, the problem, I think, is if you just limit yourself to one, when that one doesn’t really help and serve you as well, it might for some, it might for others. But I do think that what it does is, you know, as we pattern match the world like, you know, rather than deal with the infinite nuances and differences between us by having some shared frames of reference, it does help a little bit. For some people, I just think that if you try to kind of like exhaustively cover humanity and everyone’s differences with those, you’re obviously going to be caught out.

Andy Polaine 27:38

Well, yeah, I mean, it’s also the thing that the map is not the territory, right. So yeah, I think that there’s a thing you said before, that reminded me, I’ve just finished up a set of training that I’ve been doing for a client and in service design and things and one of the things that came up in the discussion at the end, which I was really pleased to hear was these tools like blueprinting. And the few other things we were doing have helped us think around things of fire off kind of difference of neurons than we would normally have. And this idea that the discussion you’re having in front of doing those things in, you know, I’m saying in front of it as if those were on a wall or on a mural now or a mirror, you know, those discussions you’re having whilst you’re making those things with each other, or kind of the work, right, they’re more important than the actual artefact themselves. And I think it sounds like what you’re saying with these tools that the act of reflection that you’re going through, whilst you’re filling in the tool is sort of more important than the final shape of the map.

Jason Mesut 28:32

Absolutely. And that’s the thing where people get get, get it wrong with my stuff. And I certainly would, in terms of, you know, my new experiences as a coach as well, where it’s all about the discussion around it and exploring that side. All the tools are a sort of an initial prop or stimulus, right and an artefact that you like you say, like a boundary object or whatever that brings people together, and has that shared view? Well, on a plate, you can say object, here’s a thing. What does that mean for us and, and it just easy to talk around as humans, I think and like in you know, in terms of research, you know, even when doing generative research, I always find it useful to put a prop inside find someone who might be hard, it might be a prototype, it might be a picture, but it’s going to provoke different things and stimulate a different reaction. Like in a similar way to, you know, a strength scope or strength finder or whatever those tools are going to give or even like a tarot card, maybe even as well, you’re going to have your own associations and leap off in different ways and what that might mean to you. It’s just prodding and poking. And so I think that it does help, like a good question might help

Andy Polaine 29:34

you just give me an idea for design tarot cards.

Jason Mesut 29:39

Well, yeah, maybe speak to Tutti around that. Some other ones recently, which was around the tarot cards of tech

Andy Polaine 29:47

Tarot cards of tech. Oh, there are some? Okay.

Jason Mesut 29:49

Yeah, that’s like, I think it was it was from artefact studio. So I think they did it. They had it. They I think they shared it at one of the maybe in Seattle interaction conference. Since, yeah, I haven’t looked at it a while, but found it because I was doing a Tarot session the other day with someone.

Andy Polaine 30:04

But I think there’s a thing there also, that is quite interesting. I think it’s always interesting from a leadership position in, particularly in terms of a culture of feedback, which is having a third thing I was having an artefact is really crucial. I think John Kolko talks about this, and so does someone whose name I’ve forgotten for a second. But this idea of, we’re not going to have a discussion about your work unless there’s an artefact, then talk to turns it from being a kind of face to face confrontation about this is all about you to a let’s look at this third thing side by side together and have a conversation about what this means is a really nice way of working with people and giving feedback, particularly if there’s a power structure already sort of embedded in, you know, as you’re, I’m your boss, or whatever. And then you can have a conversation about what was your intention here. And then what I’m not really getting that from this is not like you’ve been you’ve done this wrong, but given your intention. It’s, it’s not quite working, let’s have a look at it. It’s and I think there’s things something around those kinds of objects as well, that you’re talking about, we have the third thing engenders a different kind of conversation. My experience has been this also been true of, you know, managing stakeholders and all that kind of stuff.

Jason Mesut 31:20

I think so that makes a lot of sense. Actually, I love that that notion is that thing. I think it because it’s somewhat neutralise it, it takes a little bit more of the emotion out of it to some extent. My friend Andrea Mineola, talks about that, when doing feedback, this notion of a shared plate, and you’re presenting information and you’re going to presenting it looking at it on the plate necessarily, not in us, not in me, it’s between us. And I like that notion of that third thing where it’s on the plate, it’s just like, it’s there. This is a representation, articulate, it’s got all and it’d be great if you had yours and we can look at them together and depersonalised them a little bit, even though it’s a representation of you. It’s not something that can’t change or whatever. But when it’s in you, it just gets wrapped up in all of these other things, these other emotions and self talk and all that.

Andy Polaine 32:03

I think it’s an underappreciated, I know, it’s gonna, I’m gonna sort of make it sound like designers are snowflakes, which you actually use that metaphor, but in, in the sense of everyone’s unique, but you know, I think it’s underestimated the the act of kind of every day of birthing something, if you like, or pulling something out of yourself that even if it is to a brief, there is still a thing of, I’ve made a thing, and I’m exposing it to you for critique or to be kicked to pieces. And that’s quite hard, that sort of resilience to that. I was gonna say, a thick skin, but I don’t think it’s quite so much that I think it’s much more of a, you know, there’s this famous haiku mythology that the Haiku masters when they wrote what they thought was their best Haiku, they would put it in a bottle and throw it in the ocean or something. So no, in order to practice non attachment, there’s I think it’s more around that. So yes, I’ve made the thing and I’ve put it out there in a while, but it’s not a piece of me. That takes some time, I think.

Jason Mesut 32:58

Yes, God, I mean, there’s a lot of a lot around that, I think, you know, certainly for the points of view of critique and able to, you know, depersonalise, your own attachment to it. And I think and I believe and, you know, I want all those kinds of phrases versus it is here, it’s what it’s based on. But I have, I have a tension with that one, because in some parts I see designer as a kind of neutral facilitator and all those sorts of things and gathering up the inputs and whatever. But also, I strongly believe in the power of designers own ego and passion interest, kind of helping an experience kind of putting themselves in it not so much like as, as in art, but I do think it’s important, because you’re not going to take two or three different designers and give them the same problem, you’re going to end up with the same solution. I do think there is always a little bit of them in it. It just may be that they have to try to find ways to de personalise it so they can kind of take on the feedback and and go you know what, that is an interesting perspective, and not take it as a personal attack. But I think the part of the problem and what’s happened in design more recently, and certainly user experience and maybe digital product design is we’ve depersonalised and devalued the human designer in the process. So I get it, it can be dangerous and emotionally attachment is risky for kind of, you know, actually getting the feedback. But I also think it’s a powerful thing that we’ve we’re losing a little bit.

Andy Polaine 34:21

I think so. So I mean, I talked about this in a talk once about this balance of ego and humility that you need to have and that could because you do need to be able to box things through do you need to be able to stand up for something different. And there’s a certain amount of ego in that because you you need to create a kind of push it forward. And not all ego is bad. If you have none. It’s awful, actually, you know, and as a child develops, part of the thing of them developing their ego is a really crucial part. And if they don’t, it causes lots of problems other than to have a kind of strong sense of self. It causes lots of problems later on. But at the same time, the humility to you know, on the basis of new feedback, evidence, whatever it is to You’d be able to kind of step back and understand why this isn’t, this isn’t all about me. And this isn’t just what I say goes, you know, and you and I have been through that era of, I guess it’s the 90s, mostly and some of the early noughties of the star designer, you know, which seems to have gone away.

Jason Mesut 35:15

Yeah, I missed it. I missed I missed parts of it, because because like, you know, back to the doing that poster was like, there wasn’t anyone in this industry really easily to look up to, I believe up to industrial designers or graphic designers. If you go to a kind of industrial design or furniture design conference, it’s all about the work less about the theory, it’s interesting, but like, you know, it’s a big show, but it’s very impressive. But yeah, you know, I think we just need to kind of get that back in balance, I once did a really a talk, it was a bit it wasn’t on one of my best, but it was called ego versus empathy. It’s a similar thing I like I like ego versus humility, but it was just trying to put those things intention saying, Look, you know, you need a little bit of both and just consciously where you’re going to bring it in.

Andy Polaine 35:56

You know, you talked about soft skills in your book, as well. And I saw a comment in there, because you’ve asked a few people to comment on it, feeling a bit sort of finding that term difficult. I do too, because I think soft skills are the hardest, actually. And so I kind of I struggle with the term, but obviously, it’s a thing that everyone knows what it means, you know, a lot of what we’ve been talking about is also how do you approach design leadership? And you’ve, you’ve talked about, you know, I’ve had to do all these things, what does it mean for you?

Jason Mesut 36:25

I don’t know, I think it’s changed my perception of it’s changed. Like, I’m from one perspective, it was kind of standing up at the front and this, you know, kind of inspiring people and giving them the clarity and the vision. And I think we’ve lost that over the recent years. But on the other side, that there was an aspect of, you know, the people manager side and kind of being more of a coach, right, and I recognise, through going through coaches and trainers going, Oh, this would have been a bit, this would have been useful for me as a manager, and also is kind of a loose rein thing, you know, how you can support and nurture and kind of get the best out of others around you without, you know, just going this is the way. So I don’t know, I think that there’s a need for a little bit of both. And actually, you know, one of the tools I use a leadership profile is very much around kind of where you lean towards Are you the one kind of being the articulate advocate selling, being out there in all the communities. Or often people kind of sway more towards the people side of things, or the specific practices and the structure. I’m a big fan of the leading design, conference and winter, most of the early ones. And it was a lot of kind of vulnerability and sharing, because people were feeling lonely and you go into leadership, elbows, go into independent consulting, you get lonely because you can’t interact with anyone at the same level. But then there was a lack of actual, like, Vision work, like actual strategic vision and clarity and possibility of the future. So I don’t know, I think there’s there is a tension there. Because, you know, some people go into that design leadership and go, you know, what, I want to get back to making stuff I love making stuff. Yeah. And I certainly have that tension I do. I like the people I love the people work, I love doing coaching, I love the mentoring, and I’ve working with teams, but I also like, you know, helping craft and create the future with people and be that more visionary side. So it’s an interesting tension, for me, at least anyway.

Andy Polaine 38:15

I also think, you know, it’s, there’s no shame in someone who takes that step into leadership, which does often mean giving up actually doing their craft practising their craft more or less, you know, a couple of years ago, and you know, what, I really missed, this isn’t for me, and stepping back and I, you know, I was gonna say stepping down, then I don’t really want it to sound like that. Because it’s my point is just, I think it’s fine. I think the most important thing is for people to say, you know, this isn’t really for me, I’ve seen the opposite thing where people have realised, hey, you know, I, the team and the company and the organisation and the culture, those are my new materials. And what I’m designing is that stuff now, and thrive. But I really do think people have to find their own, you know, where they’re where they thrive in those things. Because there’s nothing worse than having a leader who kind of hates being a leader.

Jason Mesut 39:03

Yeah, I think that happens quite a lot. And you know, some people have been asking me is like, going, I don’t know, if I’m ready for this. And, you know, to go into these roles, I think, Well, that’s good. It’s good that you are asking those questions and reflecting on that, but, but to some extent, you won’t necessarily know until you try. So I ended up in it. And I got promoted. When I was, you know, a craft delivery person. And I started to love it. I really started to love it until the point when I just got sick of hiring and sick of just doing that and sick of the team kind of going Jason, you don’t know what you’re talking about. You don’t do the work anymore. And I was like and so, you know, and I kind of went and I took a different part into what’s when I went to join plan and focus on product strategy and just go deeper into the strategic side of things. But I do think that actually, you might change your focus, right, and you build up this repertoire and palette, it doesn’t mean necessarily you lose all that stuff in the past. I mean, you might find it hard just kind of use figma again, or whatever the new tool is. But um, you know, you might value some of the organisational side of things, the processes there, you might value the people management stuff, and you might try different things out for different periods of your life. And that’s okay. In our culture, it seems at the moment that people want to pigeonhole you. And you have to be one specific type of thing. It’s very much a kind of like a branded approach, you know, you are the only one that does this. And, and I kind of push against that a little bit. I think it’s, it’s, it’s okay to have a few different interests, they can all kind of coexist, and maybe some come into the foreground more.

Andy Polaine 40:37

I think it’s a you know, I think it’s important isn’t illusion to think that you’re just one of those things. And for me, I think that’s what the great Brexit resignation or reshuffle is of I’ve recently heard it is largely about, which is when people suddenly hit pause, and we’re either at home not working, or at home working, and their personal life and their work, life was blended together, it became much clearer, I think a lot of people that are I’m actually all of these things at once, and it’s a thing I used to say about my wife, you know, smartphones is it’s, you know, about thinking about customers and users and stuff is obviously, you know, when I used to commute to an office along the way, I am a, you know, I’m a husband, I’m a father, you know, I’m a social media curator or something, you know, fitting something, writing something putting out there, you know, I’m also doing my professional work you multi, you switch personas, just by virtue of the fact it’s like an app, right, from one app to the next I’m switching who I am and what I’m being and you’ve got all these multiple sides to you. And they don’t just go away, it’s not like you kind of, there’s a sort of locker at the door when you go into the office, and you put all of that stuff away. And it’s only a bit of you walks in. And in fact, people who do try to do that after I think you see this, the consequences of it, because there’s a lot of acting out and pent up frustration and anger and all sorts of things that doesn’t get spoken about in work that then causes grief for all sorts of people. I’m going to spring this on you because I didn’t tell you in advance, which is the last question of power of 10 has named after that famous spill of you know, the relative size of things in the universe, which is the last question is which one’s more thing, and it could be something overlooked or underestimate, you know, under rated, has a outsized effect on the world, or would have if it was redesigned

Jason Mesut 42:29

text entry on a mobile device.

Andy Polaine 42:34

Explain that.

Jason Mesut 42:35

So as much as like smartphones, and touchscreen technology is really powerful as enabled so much we can do these things, to so many trips and kind of accidental is, I suppose not just text entry, it’s like hitting returned, send cricket and our food probably causes a lot of pain, a lot of misunderstanding. But you know, I don’t want to be kind of all classical and, you know, go back to the days of the Blackberry, but it was a really efficient, useful device I could do about typing and whatever. And we just deluded ourselves with the touchscreen being better for for some of these things. So just a very micro interaction perspective, it is getting better, but it’s still rubbish. It’s still terrible and causes me so much pain and so much frustration and embarrassment. And many, many other people too. I mean, there’s all sorts of memes around it. So yeah, that’s one thing that I think

Andy Polaine 43:27

Have you read… there’s a website about AutoCorrect. Oh, Daniel. There’s lots of very rude ones. They’re very funny. Have you read the book, Creative Selection by Ken Kocienda?

Jason Mesut 43:40

I have not.

Andy Polaine 43:41

So he’s the guy who basically developed autocorrect for Apple. And there’s this whole story of how, you know, the iPhone was all the prototypes and stuff were you know, going pretty well, but the keyboards just, we’ve just rubbish, no archetype anything. And so it was where they stopped the all the teams working on anything else and said, Okay, everyone’s just going to work on keyboard for now. And there was like this sort of creative selection that went on. The thing that fascinated me about as he worked with this guy, the new surname, much can’t remember. But he worked with this interaction designer, bass, somebody who did all the demos in macro, what’s now Adobe director. And, you know, he worked out he had this sort of idea of, you know, why surely, you know, roughly the letters next to each other if I bring in the dictionary, and you can kind of guess which one it’s most likely to be. It’s really, really fascinating, sort of fascinating read of, for that sort of culture, Apple of the art of the demo, right? is particular about not calling it a prototype is that you have to make a thing that sort of works as if it was the real thing. Yes. It’s not a prototype. It’s a demo to show. And that’s the thing that’s sort of went up to Steve Jobs to then decide if you had an idea about something. You had to kind of build demo of it. And it’s good. It’s a good book.

Jason Mesut 44:58

I mean, it’s amazing technology that was in there and it’s been continued to be developed a lot of this sort of drift kind of tolerance and all those sorts of things but but you know, in and it had to be possible for it to be convincing as a you know, to get people off their, their handsets and stuff, and just don’t just suggesting that it still got a long way to go. And yeah, still problematic and causes a lot of pain in the world. I’m not saying people aren’t working tirelessly on it, it’s important.

Andy Polaine 45:24

You’re loving from an interaction point of view, there’s a lot of details there about, you know, the bit where they recognise that, oh, hang on, but when you’re typing your, your thumb covers the letter, and so you can’t tell whether or not so we’ll make it bigger. We’ll make it zoom up, you know, as you tell, all sorts of things, lots and lots of tiny things. Which if you’ve ever had something malfunctioning on one of those things, I had an app the other day and autocorrect wasn’t I don’t know, it’s like it built its own interface or something. So autocorrect wasn’t kicking in. Okay. And it was just awful. I couldn’t I couldn’t tell you forget how much you owe if it’s a little bit wet or something. And yeah, one of those things. Yeah. Yeah. Well, that’s the bigger problem, too cold weather. You can tell it’s designed by people of colour. Jason, thank you so much for being my guest. Where can people find you on the interwebs?

Jason Mesut 46:09

medium.com/jasonmesut and medium.com/shapingdesign for you know, the Shaping Design Series catch me on LinkedIn? I’m in the only Jason Mesut in the world I think so that’s easy. And sometimes on Twitter, but less so these days.

Andy Polaine 46:26

And it’s spelled M E suit as it su it

Jason Mesut 46:30

No, no. I. So it’s just a weird thing. M E S U T.

Andy Polaine 46:37


Jason Mesut 46:37

That’s why everyone gets it wrong

Andy Polaine 46:38

I got it wrong in my notes as well. Thank you so much for being my guest on Power of Ten.

Jason Mesut 46:44

Thank you.

Andy Polaine 46:46 As I’m sure you’re aware, you’ve been listening to Power of Ten. My name is Andy Polaine. You can find me at @apolaine on Twitter, or polaine.com where you can find more episodes and sign up for my newsletter Doctor’s Note. If you like the show, please take a moment to give it a rating on iTunes. It really helps others find us. And as always get in touch. If you have any comments, feedback or suggestions for guests. All the links are in the show notes. Thanks for listening and see you next time.