July 8, 2021

Data Leader Kerstin Frailey Emphasizes the Need for Quality Data


Kerstin Frailey, who leads data science at market research company Numerator, recently participated in data analytics school Promotable’s webinar series. While presenting concepts such as Machine Learning and the overly propagandized “Big Data,” there was this sign-of-the-times statement from her:

“It’s hard not to care about data quality when you see what happens with data. Because data underlies every algorithm that is automatically approving or denying you a mortgage, that is automatically dismissing or accepting your application to go on to a recruiter to see. It underlies all of the automated admissions that next or current generations are having … That is all built on data. As soon as that data starts to get a little sticky, oh, the world we create in there.”

Data and the modern era do stir wonder. One constant is that data keeps accruing—becoming its own multiverse where the possibilities of use are grand and endless. In the startup ecosystem, “data-driven” is a popular prefix to distinctly qualify a product or service. When elegantly executed, it demonstrates how business, design and technology can be systematized. The emphasis by Kerstin on data’s “underlying” nature feeds into visualizing data as a shifting, sprawling tectonic layer (which, no doubt, it is) influencing everyone and everything. In its composition and expanse, data (for all its content, support and magical potential) is infrastructure.

The last line of Kerstin’s proclamation includes this poetic phrase: “the world we create.” In context, it sparkles with analytics aspiration, coupled with prospective capabilities—for the better. The wellspring here is data—running through several, practical, important applications she noted: mortgages, hiring submissions, school admissions, among a great many processes. The data-propelled world, shaped humanely, co-exists with a world energized by data that’s steered toward inflicting alternative effects—when viewed through a literary lens, they can be characterized precisely as Kafkaesque, even Orwellian.

Though not surprising, it is refreshing to hear Kerstin speak about the importance of critical thinking. Working with data makes it a must-do (as opposed to a no-brainer) for Data Quality to undergo rigor in how it’s managed. From Kerstin, this body of scientific disciplines consists of these principles:

  1. Accuracy
  2. Timeliness
  3. Validity
  4. Consistency
  5. Completeness

If quality of data suggests the quality of decision-making, then critical thinking is essential. More so, when data faces duality, exacerbated by cross-generational disparity uncovered by these pandemic times, which exposed data-driven systems not behaving as data-driven solutions. From breakages in delivering public education, to filing unemployment claims, to receiving healthcare, to booking a vaccination appointment, and so on.

Kristen's focus on Data Quality hones in on making reality an honest one—these days, a collective movement reinforced. With the beauty of objectivity in mind, here’s to the people having at it to create a world—where data helps bring out the best in everyone.

Thanks again to Promotable who pair their virtual workshops with talks organized regularly online! Explore their channel on YouTube.


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July 6, 2021

Design Feast’s Makers Series—113th Interview: Mabel Ney’s Sensibilities as a Designer, Her Springboard to Further Grow as an Artist


It was on a poster for Munich’s Die Neue Sammlung (considered to be the world’s oldest design museum) that I discovered this memorable quote: “Design is art that makes itself useful.” Mabel Ney embodies the substance and spirit of this statement, for she’s both a UX Designer and Painter. The former naturally feeds the latter and vice versa. Here, Mabel tells more about her evolution—in design and art:

1. You’re a User Experience Designer turned Artist. What were top convincers here?

Drawing has been a way of processing research, user flows and requirements. I felt I was missing drawing skills—and started taking classes and going to art meetups. My husband and I had gone to art school in our college years, and felt the art meetups helped keep us motivated to draw again. We both wanted to find more time away from tech and more time with traditional art.

2. You made what’s called a “career pivot”! When did you start having this idea? And how did you commit to realizing it?

My pivot was part of my retirement plan. I wanted to paint and draw more, and take more classes to improve my skills. As my husband and I worked with our financial planner, we expressed how important it was to us to travel and take art classes. 

3. What were a few critical to-dos, from the emotional to the practical, you did when embarking on your new career?

I tried to put in 6–8 hours of drawing a week. I started with Post-its in meetings, at home, or in coffee shops. I moved on to sketchbooks and a plein air setup or home studio setup for pastels on the weekends. I attended as many meetups as I could and got hooked on portrait sessions. I was fortunate that the other artists at the meetups where very supportive and willing to share their process as well as where to find shows and more meetups. I definitely had days I thought I pretty much sucked but tried to find something I learned and move on.

4. Is there an artistic encounter or creative event that you keep recalling, even inspiring you?

An instructor said not to treat every drawing as a …


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What will stay free to completely explore at Design Feast are the 346 insightful interviews with an incredible range of Designers, Bloggers, Makers and realizers of Side Projects.

June 6, 2021

Type Crit Crew Founder, Juan Villanueva, Harnesses the Appreciation, Education and Diversity of Typography


What are you working on—on the side?

In April of last year, I founded Type Crit Crew, which is a free resource for type design students to meet 1–1 with experienced type designers for virtual critiques. Our goals are:
  • To make type design and type designers more accessible and approachable to students of all levels from anywhere in the world who are serious about honing their skills
  • To do our part in making our field more inclusive and diverse
  • To spread our love and passion for type
This initiative started during the pandemic at a time when education was making a huge shift online. As someone who is deeply interested in education and aware of the obstacles that exist to get into the field of typeface design, I saw an opportunity to make education more accessible, to connect people and to make a positive contribution to my field. Type Crit Crew is a very simple idea, it’s basically a spreadsheet, and its power comes from the community. Its existence is a statement that the type design community wants to be more accessible, inclusive and supportive of up-and-coming talent from all over the world. This is something I wish I had access to while I was studying type. I’ve been able to connect with so many students from all over the world through Type Crit Crew. I’m really grateful to the students that use the platform to reach out and to the instructors that continue to volunteer their time.
 
Another side project is the Display Type BIPOC Fund which is a fund that offers scholarships for BIPOC students to attend my Display Type Design class at Type@Cooper. I started this fund when I began teaching at Type@Cooper, where I’m an alum. I’m very grateful for the experience and the education I received there. My teachers and mentors had a huge impact on the way I teach and work as a designer.
 
I started teaching type design in the summer of 2020, during a global pandemic and daily protests fighting for racial justice. I did it not only because I wanted to share my knowledge in type with others but also because I saw an opportunity to do things differently. As a BIPOC type designer teaching type, I want to see more type designers of color and change the landscape of the field by giving BIPOC designers a seat in my class. But that’s only part of it. Through my syllabus, I want to reframe what an education in type design can be by bringing in the human component of the practice and showing how the skills can be useful and empower people to express themselves. Shameless plug: check out our class website: displaytypedesign.com
 
The last side project I started at the end of April of 2021 was Typefaces as Cultural Objects which is a collection of typefaces by Latin American Designers that honor and preserve Latin American culture and heritage. As a person from Latin America living in NYC, there is almost no Latin American representation in design education, and even less so in type design education. Through this side project, I want to make visible the work that Latin American designers have been doing in the area of type design, so that students today have more diverse references and designers to look up to and engage in conversation with. I’m starting with 11 projects and have a few more to add to the list and the goal is to make a resource that others can contribute to and use.
 
All of my side projects are part of and inspired by the larger group effort from the global community. Because of this I want to highlight initiatives like BIPOC Design History, LetrĂ¡stica Communidad, Times New Woman, TypasType, TypeThursday (Bogota, Barcelona, Mexico, New York and others), the Alphabettes Mentorship Program, and my friend Lynne Yun’s own Type Design School BIPOC scholarship, to name a few.

How do you manage to work on your side project(s)?

Before I launch any project, I’m very conscious of the time-commitment these things might take and, in theory, I strategically plan for them to be not so high maintenance. In practice, I put in hours mainly on the weekends but sometimes during the week in the evenings as well.
 
Even though the team at Monotype, where I work full-time as a type designer, is remote and the hours are somewhat flexible, I try to have a clear division between my job and my personal side projects. This is really important, since apart from my side projects, I also teach and volunteer on the board of the Society of Scribes.

Why have a side project?

For me, it’s a way to give back to the creative community that I’m a part of. Ultimately, all of my projects are the types of initiatives I would’ve liked to see when I was a student, or the types of things I want to see happening now. They’re about highlighting other creatives, uplifting designers, opening doors and hopefully creating a more inclusive, collaborative future. I’m an introvert, but I know that making oneself visible and being vocal can help others feel seen and perhaps inspire them to follow their own paths.

• • •

Diptych courtesy of Juan Villanueva.


❤️ Donating = Appreciating: Design Feast is on Patreon!
Lots of hours are put into making Design Feast—because it’s a labor of love to provide creative culture to everyone. If you find delight and motivation from the hundreds of interviews, including event write-ups, at Design Feast, please consider becoming a supporting Patron with a recurring monthly donation.

Help keep Design Feast going and growing by visiting my Patreon page where you can watch a short intro video plus view my goals and reward tiers—starting at $1 per month. Starting your patronage today matters—it’ll help Design Feast continue to be an exceptional service, integral to the creative community.

May 23, 2021

Christina Li is Forging the Current-to-Future Advancement of Mentorship and Leadership in UX Design and Research


What are you working on—on the side?

I have two side projects. They are uxmentor.me and Leading Research.

I co-founded uxmentor.me with my friend, Chris Mears, over 8 years ago in 2013. It’s a User Experience (UX) mentoring program. Our aim is to help designers and researchers to transition into the UX industry and support them in their first UX jobs.

It has evolved over the years and we now offer 1:1 mentoring services (with a monthly subscription).

Over our 8 years of experience, the biggest gap we see is the transition period to your first UX jobs. You might have taken a UX course, but the support and resources drop off when you finish. This is where uxmentor.me comes in. We developed a tailored mentoring canvas. This is unique to each of our mentee so we can  chart progresses together.

My second side project is Leading Research which I started with Swetha Sethu-Jones. We started this initiative out of necessity.

In 2019, there was a get-together for the ResearchOps community in London. In the get-together, half of us were towards the top end of the career ladder in user research. And we were asking ourselves questions, like: How do we progress further? Some of us are practitioners who don’t want to be a leader, but then your practitioner role runs out at senior level. As a leader, we also asked: Why is research always under design discipline, could it be a separate branch? Can user research discipline get a seat at the table as Chief Design Officer? Or Chief Research Officer?

For this community is about providing support and networking for leaders. It’s a chance for us to forge a path for the user research discipline. What does the future of user research look like? There are still a lot of unknowns; research as a specialism is grey but we haven’t had time to define it. So, this is an exciting opportunity to answer some of those sticky questions!

Our first meetup was in January 2020, in a small group discussion format to discuss impact. We deliberately wanted an intimate setting. We wanted everyone to be comfortable in sharing their successes and lessons. Our plan for 2021 is to continue to run small events online and curate relevant content for the community.

How do you manage to work on your side project(s)?

Be super-organised, use suitable tools and delegate where needed.

My approach to time management has changed over the years. The main lesson is that if my time is a pie, how big would the ‘side projects’ wedge be? I am a lot more focused and stopped procrastinating once I know how much time I can commit to it.

We have a model that works well for us now for uxmentor.me, it is a lot easier to manage my time on that. I know what I need to commit to to provide a good mentoring experience for my mentees. With Leading Research, it’s still a young community we do have to put a lot more time into it. There are some intense periods of engagement as we plan for events or curate content for the blog, followed by quiet periods. So I guess it all balances out at the end!

Trello is a great planning tool. For example, in each of my side projects we use four columns: backlog (ideas we have and want to do), to do (the next things we have to do), doing and done.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help! Learning when you need help and ask for it is a healthy thing.

Why have a side project?

To me, it’s about giving back to the communities I am part of. With mentoring, it is like holding up a mirror to yourself and asking how you are performing. But it also makes you think on your feet and I quite like that.

As you accumulate knowledge and experience, you may think that some things are so obvious. But, they aren’t simple to others and that becomes useful to someone else. It's also a nice challenge to think about how you communicate complex ideas in a simple way. We want people to digest the information easily!

• • •

Diptych courtesy of Christina Li.


❤️ Donating = Appreciating: Design Feast is on Patreon!
Lots of hours are put into making Design Feast—because it’s a labor of love to provide creative culture to everyone. If you find delight and motivation from the hundreds of interviews, including event write-ups, at Design Feast, please consider becoming a supporting Patron with a recurring monthly donation.

Help keep Design Feast going and growing by visiting my Patreon page where you can watch a short intro video plus view my goals and reward tiers—starting at $1 per month. Starting your patronage today matters—it’ll help Design Feast continue to be an exceptional service, integral to the creative community.

May 16, 2021

From her book “Chasing Portraits” to the platform ”Authors Answer,” Author and Documentary Film Producer Elizabeth Rynecki Seizes Passion in Passion Projects


What are you working on—on the side?

I’m kind of a side project addict. You originally asked me about Authors Answer, so I’ll start there.

During the March 2020 pandemic shut-down in California, I realized that many authors might not be able to get out into the world to promote their books. Getting your book into the hands of just the right reader is hard enough without further obstacles like a worldwide pandemic. I’m a fan of author interviews, but had grown weary of formulaic classics like “What books are on your nightstand?” or “What book inspired you to be a writer?” and even “You’re having a dinner party … which three authors (dead or alive) do you invite?” I thought it would be fun to give authors a platform to wax eloquently about the influences on their writing lives off the written page. I wrote a list of 20 questions and decided participants should answer FIVE. The project is now a year old. Over 200 authors have participated, including: novelists, memoirists, academics, poets and picture book authors. I hope authors continue to submit answers because while they get to promote their backstories. I learn about so many new-to-me authors and their books.

For more than a decade, my bigger side project has been “Chasing Portraits.” A book and documentary film, the project is about my quest to find the art of my Polish-Jewish great-grandfather, who perished in the Holocaust. Spanning three decades of my life, and three generations, it’s a narrative about the richness of one man’s art, the devastation of war, and my family’s unexpected path to healing. The book came out from Penguin Random House in 2016. The film premiered in 2018. I continue to do virtual book club events and film Q&A events.

My personal pandemic side project is a multimedia journal. In a spiral bound, 9” x 12” sketchbook, I document life. Sometimes I write about the day’s events or make black-out poetry. Other times I draw. Occasionally I paste things onto the pages. Mostly it’s just for me, although sometimes I share pieces of it on my Instagram account. I’ve now hit the one-year anniversary mark and while I thought about stopping, my family encouraged me to keep going. It’s interesting to flip back and remember some of the crazy, scary and stressful things that happened to our family, community and the world over the last 12 months. Maybe in a few generations, someone might be interested in what I recorded.

How do you manage to work on your side project(s)?

I am fortunate enough to have a great deal of flexibility in my schedule. I’m also exceedingly grateful to have a family that supports and encourages all my part-time creative ambitions. The house is a mess, the dishes don’t always get done, and the laundry piles up, but no one seems to care too much.

Why have a side project?

They bring me joy … mostly! Creativity is HARD WORK. I stumbled a lot in my own projects. I wish I had a new Authors Answer blog post every day, my drawings aren’t great (a well-meaning friend called them childlike … which they are), writing does not come easily to me, I get frustrated and jealous of other people’s awe-inspiring work, and frequently feel like a failure. [By the way, a lot of creative people have Imposter Syndrome.] But you can’t wait to do a project until you’re an expert, because they only way you get better at the tough things is to KEEP DOING THEM. As Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” Plus, life without passion projects just isn’t life enough for me.

• • •

Diptych courtesy of Elizabeth Rynecki.


❤️ Donating = Appreciating: Design Feast is on Patreon!
Lots of hours are put into making Design Feast—because it’s a labor of love to provide creative culture to everyone. If you find delight and motivation from the hundreds of interviews, including event write-ups, at Design Feast, please consider becoming a supporting Patron with a recurring monthly donation.

Help keep Design Feast going and growing by visiting my Patreon page where you can watch a short intro video plus view my goals and reward tiers—starting at $1 per month. Starting your patronage today matters—it’ll help Design Feast continue to be an exceptional service, integral to the creative community.

May 10, 2021

Product Manager Adam Attas Co-Founded an Organization Excited by Compelling Ways to Greatly Intertwingle Design and Business—Starting in Chicago, Illinois


What are you working on—on the side?

I’m the co-founder of Business Designers | Chicago which is focused on the intersection of design and business—how this intersection creates meaningful, sustainable and mindful value. Our members have diverse backgrounds in design and business. They seek to create richer conversations. We foster this desire through guest and member presentations, social events, working sessions, published content and more. Our mission is to use business design methods and mindsets to influence change and drive impact through hybrid thinking, including the formation of meaningful alliances between practitioners, educators, entrepreneurs and innovators—in order to improve the world we all live in. It’s a lofty goal—but worthy cause. 

We’ve been doing happy hours, speaker series, workshops and more since November 2018. I started the group with Leon Hovanesian, a Business Strategy Manager at Doblin, because we realized that there is more than one way to be successful as a “business designer.” My journey from my formal education to my career in product management may look different from Leon’s journey on paper, but what we realized through our initial conversations way back was how similar our perspectives on innovation and systems thinking were. We were also super-passionate about tracking all of the changes in the industry and how they were impacting our peers and those graduating from places like the Institute of Design, Kellogg plus other schools teaching business design. 

I started this group because I hate formal networking, but I love talking about hybrid thinking. I don’t want people to come to our events because they are seeking a job or trying to level up their LinkedIn profile. I want people to form meaningful connections and I want our content to speak to people who think these things matter.

One of the first exercises we ever did as a group was to get people together to talk about whether they felt more aligned to a business discipline with design empathy or a design discipline with business empathy. We did this in a physical space where we could actually line ourselves up along that spectrum and have a conversation about why we placed ourselves where we did. These moments are really special because they showcase why we are different from your traditional meetup group. Creating the right environment to bring together people from business and design backgrounds of all types is really what this is all about.

Outside of Business Designer | Chicago, I spend a lot of time giving back to tennis. I worked with EPIC Chicago to do a brand refresh for the non-profit Tennis Opportunity Program (I’m the treasurer of the organization). I also worked with some people at the Intercollegiate Tennis Association to provide advisory support for Tennis for America, a post-graduate year of service for collegiate athletes to give back. 

I have some other side projects I’ve wanted to kick off but never really had the same momentum. At some point, I want to either start a venture studio, build a tennis club or start my own company. 

How do you manage to work on your side project(s)?

It’s all about having the right people around you to help manage your energy levels. It’s really easy to get super-excited about an idea and do a ton of work in a vacuum and then burn out quickly. I like to put an initial idea on paper and then socialize it a ton with friends, family members and people’s opinions who I really value. Some people may think it’s crucial to keep a novel idea a secret, but I actually think the opposite. So much of getting a good idea right is in the execution itself. I also think these conversations energize me just as much as the work itself. 

COVID has made it really hard for me to keep this up. My day job has been pretty all-consuming and with such little separation between the home office and the virtual office, I often don’t want to look at a screen outside of work hours. I’m looking forward to the coffee shop conversations, drinks and whiteboard sessions in the post-COVID world. 

Why have a side project?

A career is so much more than the things we do at work. Additionally, our jobs should not define us. I’ve always thought of myself as a builder and a connector, but at times during my career, I’ve felt like I couldn’t own the process of planting a seed of an idea and growing it into a living breathing organism. With a side project, you can do that at your own leisure on your own timeline. I find that type of autonomy refreshing. I also think of side projects as a way to test the waters without diving in headfirst. I can dabble in something new. I can put it down and pick it up when I want. Lastly, the people I’ve met through all of these experiences is what makes this worthwhile. Being intentional with my time and having things I’m truly passionate about are really important to me. 

• • •

Diptych courtesy of Adam Attas.


❤️ Donating = Appreciating: Design Feast is on Patreon!
Lots of hours are put into making Design Feast—because it’s a labor of love to provide creative culture to everyone. If you find delight and motivation from the hundreds of interviews, including event write-ups, at Design Feast, please consider becoming a supporting Patron with a recurring monthly donation.

Help keep Design Feast going and growing by visiting my Patreon page where you can watch a short intro video plus view my goals and reward tiers—starting at $1 per month. Starting your patronage today matters—it’ll help Design Feast continue to be an exceptional service, integral to the creative community.

May 3, 2021

LinkedIn’s Insights Manager Hallie Moldawer Reinforces Enablement When it Pertains to Launching Products and Services


In her recent talk with data-skills school Promotable, Hallie Moldawer, Senior Insights Manager at LinkedIn, stated: “A big piece of it is enablement.” She referred to the practical reception of data-driven products and services. The awareness, use and ultimate success of these creations relies on enablement.

“Enable” is one of those go-to business proclamations. However regularly it comes up in project stakeholder gatherings and the media, “enable” is essentially–in the product-and-service-building sense—about helping people accomplish a task, a goal, an effort. Nudging them steadily toward gaining moments of productivity. 

For example, the software industry is ripe with enablers, from tool tips to notifications to voice-commands to touchless transactions and more. All of which are debatable in their benefits and side effects (such as “notification addiction”). Yet, the drive “to enable” the user stays in line with the aggressive and aspirational plans of business, design and tech.

Paired with her acknowledging the benefits of enablement, Hallie grounded this persistent talking (and implementing) point among managers, strategists, designers, engineers, et al., with a plainspoken technique—bluntly put as: “So what?” Early on in her career as a data analyst when she was putting together and presenting data-driven models, her audience, particularly director-level types, reacted with responses such as: “So how is this relevant?” or “Why does this matter?” In essence: “So what?” A direct question, straightforward and succinct—so Hemingway. 

At the same time, prudent to have a so-what attitude where “so” is the critical-thinking qualifier: so how does this analysis inform a business decision; so how does this initiative enhance company culture; so how does this research improve a product’s usability and adoption … So what? It’s a tried-and-true prompt to take thoughts to the next level.

When it comes to problem-solving, when data is involved, when expectations matter in making business, when design and tech are steered continually to work together favorably, Hallie's push of rigorous enablement is not subject to complacency—so not the time!

Thanks again to Promotable who amplify their virtual workshops with talks organized regularly online! Explore their channel on YouTube.


Support Design Feast on Patreon!
Your visiting means a lot. Lots of hours are put into making Design Feast—because it’s a labor of love to champion creative culture and help bring its diverse perspectives to everyone. If you are able to contribute, please consider becoming a Patron to support this long-term passion project of mine with a recurring monthly donation—every bit of support makes a difference in allowing me to produce and publish on a regular basis. Thank you for your consideration!