The Startup Pitch

set of clear elevators with the words "perfect your startup pitch" written overtop

In graduate school, whenever we were getting ready to attend a conference, we would all get together to practice our elevator pitches. In theory, the reason we practiced our pitch was that if by some miracle we found ourselves on an elevator with a philanthropically inclined Bill Gates we’d be ready to win him over with a 30 second spiel on our research. In practice, this never happened. We did use our elevator pitches to introduce ourselves to like-minded researchers and build our professional networks, which is almost as good.

The general formula we followed was:

Pitch = problem to solve + method to solve it

My pitch went something like this… Continue reading “The Startup Pitch”

Review of “Emotional Design” by Don Norman

The book "Emotional Design" by Don Norman, sitting next to coasters depicting a llama and a brown coffee mug.

(Originally published on the UX Bookclub)

Usable design is good. Emotional design is better.

I first read Emotional Design in graduate school. I considered it light reading, compared to all of the thick, indecipherable academic texts I was consuming at the time. I remember loving it. But over-time, I started to forget the details. The message didn’t stick with me.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago when I saw Emotional Design as part of a library display of design books. I decided, on a whim, to take it home with me and read it for a second time. I’m glad I did.

Continue reading “Review of “Emotional Design” by Don Norman”

In an MVP, do looks matter?

Set of makeup brushes, with the words "In my looks matter?" written over-top.

The value of building an MVP is getting your concept out in front of the world as quickly as possible so you can start gathering feedback. The keyword in Minimum Viable Product, of course, is “minimum”. An MVP should have minimum features and should require minimum work. A real MVP should just cross the the threshold from useless to functioning.

One question I get a lot is,

When it comes to building your MVP, do looks matter?

The TL;DR answer is : It depends. Probably not too much. But you should definitely come back to worrying about aesthetics as soon as you are ready to move on from MVP to a full product experience.

Continue reading “In an MVP, do looks matter?”

UX Mini-lesson: Storyboards

In the background, there is a storyboard describing the user-centered startup use case. Over top, it says, "UX mini-lesson: Storyboards."

Storyboards are the UX designers’ secret weapon. They can be used in so many versatile ways, but require relatively little effort to make. Storyboards are a powerful design tool because they…

  • convey the “big picture” idea in just a few frames,
  • combine many design elements (personas, requirements, solutions, etc.) into one coherent story,
  • produce assets that can be shared, tested, and collaborated on,
  • and, most importantly, they force you think through and articulate the problem you are trying to solve and the requirements any solution would have.

Continue reading “UX Mini-lesson: Storyboards”

Equity, Designers, and Startups

paper and pen with words overlayed "equity, designers, and startups"

In a recent post, I discussed some of the reasons a freelance designer might hesitate to take on a startup client. A primary reason designers may balk at working with a startup is compensation; specifically, not receiving it. One potential solution is to ask the startup for equity, but that brings its own list of concerns. For instance, consider this question from a freelancing UI/UX Designer that climbed aboard the startup train for the first time:

I’m serving as UI/UX and Front End Dev for a pre-money startup. They have 3 founders and one other employee, all technical and competent. I played a significant role in distilling their ideas into solid workflows, prototypes, and a defined scope for MVP. I will build the front end for the MVP. We have a good relationship and they want me to stay on board. I intend to get them at least to MVP, likely further. How do I contextualize my value?

Continue reading “Equity, Designers, and Startups”

Strong ego required in entrepreneurship and design

Picture of a bubble floating in the air, with the words "strong ego required" written overtop.

Ego has a bad rap. Conceited, over-confident people are often described by the size of their ego, which has made “ego” a word we try to avoid. But it’s actually a useful concept to think about. In psychology, ego is defined as…

the part of the psychic apparatus that experiences and reacts to the outside world and thus mediates between the primitive drives of the id and the demands of the social and physical environment.”

In other words, it’s you. It’s the thinking, feeling, piece of you that deals with your instincts as well as the outside world. It’s the piece of you that makes decisions on how to act and behave. It’s the “bubble” your consciousness lives in.

Continue reading “Strong ego required in entrepreneurship and design”

Why designers hesitate to take on startup clients

picture of man extending hand for handshake. "Why designers hesitate to take on startup clients," written overtop.

For the past year and a half I was a freelancing UX designer, and all of my clients were startups. I’ve recently decided to put my freelance business on the back burner for awhile to take a full-time position and pursue a few passion projects. This has given me some time to reflect on my experiences with startup clients. I realize that there were some startups that were amazing to work with, and others that had some Issues with a capital ‘I”. And when I’ve talked to other freelancing designers, I found that they encountered many of the same problems with startup clients. So here is a short list of reasons that designers hesitate to take on startup clients.

Continue reading “Why designers hesitate to take on startup clients”

Get to big ideas fast: Review of “Sprint” by Jake Knapp


(this book review was originally published on The UX Bookclub)

Designers are not just designers. In fact, if you define “design work” as time spent creating beautiful things, then I would say designers are really “designers” only about a quarter of the time. In reality, good designers are team facilitators. Good UX is everyone’s responsibility, and UX designers are just there to facilitate the process.

Continue reading “Get to big ideas fast: Review of “Sprint” by Jake Knapp”

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