A tip for designers, from designers: Don't be an egotistical jerk

By Richard Nieva , written on November 30, 2012

From The News Desk

Even Jony Ive, arguably the most revered designer in the country – and maybe the world – needs to play nice. He was recently appointed new responsibilities as a result of the Apple management shakeup that took place last month. With Scott Forstall ousted, the industrial design czar will take on new duties in software design. But even with Ive’s high profile, one former Apple designer says he can’t just storm in and impose his will on his new team.

“I don’t think Jony’s going to come in and throw down the hammer,” says Mark Kawano, who until about a month ago was a user experience evangelist at Apple, speaking at 500 Startups’ Warm Gun conference in San Francisco. “He’s got to earn respect because he’s new to the software team. I don’t think he’s going to come in and make enemies right away.”

And Ive is literally a royal knight.

Designers throughout the day echoed the same theme of avoiding arrogance. Stephanie Hornung, a UX designer at Asana, a collaborative service company, suggested that designers not hole away, but interact with other teams. Fortunately, the very design of the company’s desks makes that easy. “At Asana, everyone has a standing desk on wheels. Designers go back and forth between sitting with engineers and designers,” she said.

But this doesn’t only apply to working with a team. Marc Hemeon, a senior UX designer at YouTube, stressed designing with a sense of humility. After Google acquired his company Fflick, Hemeon said he joined the YouTube team brashly and arrogantly. “I’m going to redesign the “watch” page,” he said – one of the most viewed pages on the entire Internet. And so he rallied his troops and they created a new video viewer, with a bigger screen and more elegant video controls. Usage dropped dramatically. It was a rude awakening on a large scale. “What!? But it’s bigger! It’s better! My design sense was not wrong!” he recalled feeling.

He said he still does not know exactly why users responded so strongly against it, but that’s not the point. His design did not mesh with YouTube’s intent, which was keeping users in front of videos, or as he jokingly puts it, “lowering the GDP a couple of percent every year.”

Hemeon emphasized moving beyond the unflinching artist’s temperament. “If you want to be an artist, go be an artist somewhere. Go paint,” he said.