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How to build and sustain an inspiring design culture

Published August 30, 2017

Source: www.betterbydesignconference.com

I recently attended the Design Thinking Conference hosted by Better By Design in partnership with UW-Madison as part of Forward Fest in Madison, WI. It was a great opportunity to network and hear some inspiring presentations and case studies from designers who’ve worked for Spotify, Minecraft, The New York Times and more.

Russ Wilson at Better By Design Conference. Source: @madisondesign, Twitter

I was especially inspired by keynote speaker Russ Wilson, who talked about building and sustaining an inspiring design culture. Russ is director of Cloud UX at Google and has been in the business of making great experiences for years. Here are a few of my main takeaways from his talk:


  • You need to have a mission: why are you doing what you’re doing?
  • Who is in charge of what? It is critical to establish roles and authority from the outset.
  • Provide a safe work space. Your team needs to feel like you have their back.

Individual Traits

  • Be proactive. Don’t wait for things to happen, make things happen.
  • Work hard. Everyone has great ideas. Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs aren’t that different from the rest of us. They succeeded because they actually brought their ideas to life.
  • Be positive. Be adaptable. Develop growth mindset.
  • Have grit. If you want something badly enough, you’ll find a way to get it.
  • Take risks: the bigger the risk, the bigger the reward.
  • Have empathy: the key to designing exceptional products is to see the world through other people’s eyes.

Best Practices

  • Who and/or what are you designing for? Know your user, know your product.
  • The Triad: establish alignment, trust and collaboration between all parties involved.
  • Evolve and innovate. No project is ever complete. Have the courage to find creative, new solutions over time.

Thanks again to Better By Design for hosting this conference!

Author details

Jared Christman

(Former Visual Designer)