Give stakeholders the context they need to understand your decisions and focus on the work itself

Illustration by

Think back to the last time a stakeholder asked you a question about a past design decision. Maybe why you went with a different hover state for that button, or why you decided to choose typeface A over typeface B. How deep did you have to dig into your mental archives to come up with the answer? Did you even find it? If you’re anything like me, the answer you gave sounded a lot like ¯\(ツ)

With every design project, we make a thousand…

Illustration by Jason Combs

Spoiler alert: If you want to jump right into our notebook outlining how we use Notebooks at Abstract, use this public share link.

Have you ever heard the expression “we’re building the plane as we’re flying it?” Since launching Notebooks earlier this year, that’s exactly what we’ve been doing. Our entire team is using Notebooks to build Notebooks. Quoting from our internal docs — “everything [at Abstract] starts with a notebook.” …

Geographic differences don’t need to be an impediment to creativity and collaboration.

Illustration by Daina Lightfoot.

Design sprint is a new-ish term for something the industry has been doing for over a decade. You put a group of engineers, designers, and product people in a room and tell them not to come out until they have a solution to a specific problem.

Traditional design sprints — the sort popularized by former Google designer Jake Knapp — are held over five days. Each day corresponds to a separate stage in the process: Map, Sketch, Decide, Prototype, and Test.

Think of the sprint process as a double-diamond.

Like Design Ops, Research Ops is all about creating repeatable systems and processes to support design.

Illustration by Daina Lightfoot

Imagine your favorite TV show. What makes it so magical? Maybe it’s the jokes that force you to laugh out loud. Or maybe it’s getting swept into an alternative reality that is completely different from your own.

Whatever it is for you, every show boils down to the same ingredient: continuity. Whether it’s The Office or Game of Thrones, we believe what we’re watching because it all seems to seamlessly flow together. That continuity doesn’t happen by accident. Just looking at the screen credits reveals a whole crew of people working together to ensure the ship sales smoothly. …

A manager's job is not to tell your team how to execute or to wave pom-poms along the sidelines, but to catalyze each designer to do their best work.

Hand-drawn illustration of coaching diagram for a football play.
Illustration by Daina Lightfoot

This post first appeared on the Abstract blog.

When I say the word “manager,” what comes to mind? I won’t judge you if you picture Bill Lumbergh from Office Space, looming over the wall of a cubicle with a mug in hand.

For many years, the role of my design managers was part instructor and part creative director. They were the ones who taught me how to use the tools, how to kern, how to slice and export and redline and everything else that went along with the early days of digital design. They set direction, and I executed. …

Sarah McIlwain

Product Design Leader @ Abstract

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