Ask Adobe Design: What's your experience design superpower?
The go-to skills that elevate our process and work
Illustration by Kenzo Hamazaki
Building confidence as an experience designer is a process and growing into a role in UX takes time. Every job has its daily to-dos, but navigating how that work gets done can make a major difference. We asked four Adobe Design experience designers to share the skills that have helped them excel as individuals and, more crucially, as part of their teams.
Collaboration and communication
“UX designers wrangle everyone, and everything. We take the vision from project managers and the specifics from engineers and developers and help them deliver a cohesive product. When you’re working with a mix of stakeholders on a project, everyone’s coming at it with different mindsets and different agendas. There’s always a lot of talking, and back-and-forths. For me, communication is often about listening to everyone spitballing then trying to help [those ideas] gel.
“Sometimes I’ll come up with new ways to illustrate the things we’ve discussed; once people can see something visual, it can really help solidify it. Recently I created an animation (for a project I can’t talk about publicly!), and received feedback that it helped my colleagues understand the concept in a new way. It was a moment that felt like we really connected as a team and affirmed that my work is much more than just making things look pretty.”
“Information is infinite now; organizing content is all about meeting the rest of the triad (the product and engineering teams) where they are. We can't just keep all our work in the design tools that we use, send links out, and hope for the best. Instead, we need to identify how each part of the triad works and figure out what we can do to better serve and support them in the spaces and tools where they work, while also educating them on ways to collaborate in places that may be unfamiliar to them. It’s important to use everything in our toolboxes to help maintain momentum on projects, and even accelerate the process. Always assume that people need access to your work when you're not around to provide context; set them up for success, so they can be self-sufficient when navigating your artifacts.
“I tend to take lots of notes (and urge all my peers to do so as well), but it's important to be able to switch contexts. If I'm having a conversation and transcribing in Evernote and someone starts to talk about a workflow, I might switch to Miro to document it. If there are associated tasks, I'll make myself a ticket in Jira with the documentation and related links, then link my ticket to the developer’s work. All these spaces, artifacts and resources should work in unison. Recently I was showing my PM a beautiful, finished product that he said needed to change. So I shared my screen, opened my document, and told him it was about to get messy—I brought him into my world, we worked on it in real time, powered through to problem solve, and made the changes together.”
“Stories captivate people. When I was in design school, I didn’t realize that. I remember presenting design work that focused on the product rather than the person. I can still feel the boredom in the air. Then one time I dressed up as an astronaut to present a space capsule project. Got some weird looks with that one, but I realized that those were the parts of the presentations people enjoyed the most. So instead of sprinkling "storytelling” on, why not tell real stories?
“Stories need a character and a conflict. I love doubling down on conflict. Conflict shows the true extent of a problem and how it influences someone. It’s what makes movies so good. You fall in love with a character, they face struggles, and you root for them the whole way through. Conflict can be uncomfortable, because as designers we want to fix things. We love talking about the resolution of stories because that’s where our design lies. But without conflict, you only have a happy path.
“As a designer, you can tell two stories. One is the story of the person you’re designing for, the other is the story of how you designed it. Consider the characters of these stories, yourself included, and ask: What are their motivations? What are their life goals? Give them a name, a home, and a narrative arc. What struggles have you had throughout the design process? What revelations did you have? The best design presentations hop between those two stories.
“Bullet points are a fast way to prototype stories. They’re low stakes, easy to change, and quick to share. They allow you to design at the speed of writing. You don’t even need to open your design software—you can use words and figure out the pixels later.
“When I think back on the stories I’ve told, they stem from two things: adventure and vulnerability. If I hadn’t ever dressed up as an astronaut, that story wouldn't exist, and if I hadn’t been vulnerable enough to share my astronaut story, that story wouldn't exist either. So be adventurous and be vulnerable when telling your stories and watch for what engages people. Telling a story might be the thing that unlocks the next part of your personal story.”
“Empathy is crucial for designers and researchers and is particularly significant within the discipline of design thinking because it enables us to fully unearth and understand the underlying needs and feelings of the people we are designing for. I work on Lightroom and in my role, I’m really trying to understand the experience someone has when they use the mobile app or the desktop version. What problems do they face? What needs do they have? How can we solve these needs? How can we help them achieve success within the tool? How can we simplify their workflow?
“Designers and researchers must set aside their personal opinions and accept what they hear and see during user tests and interviews. UX is all about solving problems for the user. Empathy in design entails understanding consumers—not just their demands, but also their constraints and the overall context of their situation.”
This article is adapted from the 2022 IXDD Adobe Design Career Journeys discussion.