More Solutions, More Problems

Recently I stumbled across an old presentation that I and the other two design managers, Kim and Jay, put together in my first few months at Etsy. The topic revolved around the current challenges the design team faced, as well as new ways of looking at ourselves and our roles. I remember so distinctly giving that presentation to the whole team and feeling a sense of pure focus: here are the challenges we face, and here are some things we can do right now to make our lives and products better.

Looking back now, it’s kind of amazing how far we’ve come since that first meeting. The product design team has grown and evolved a metric ton in the last two years. Those challenges we identified in 2012 are, largely, in our rearview mirror. We did it. We achieved.

It turns out, though, that overcoming those first challenges only revealed (and at times created) new ones. Like peeling an onion, solutions only beget more questions. Great, we have enough designers to cover all the teams… holy crap that’s a lot of designers. How do we make sure they’re all communicating with each other? How do we maintain transparency and consistency? What does transparency even mean?

It can be frustrating at times. I think when we set goals, we imagine ourselves on a beach after achieving them, a frozen drink with an umbrella in our hand, watching the waves and smiling contentedly to ourselves. Instead, success is fuzzy. You get a new plate spinning and two more pop up for you to get going. You find yourself moving from plate to plate wondering when there will be a lull in new ones.

Success is more plates. Success is peeling back the onion and discovering a new, deeper challenge. Want a break and for everything to hum along? Use your vacation time. Just like a product, shipping the latest iteration is never the end. Usually, it’s simply the beginning of the next one. To quote my wife, perfection is a pursuit. An endless pursuit. The only time to worry about new challenges is if there aren’t any.

 
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