Uber.design Site, Personalizing Their Design Department

Published By: on 2017-05-30 at 5:24 pm No Comments

We might as well start with the elephant in the ride-share, Uber has had no shortage of PR issues recently. I do not know exactly when Uber launched the site uber.design to showcase various aspects of its design work and team but I found it during the last bout of negative headlines.

Maybe it was launched to personalize a team that has felt under siege, to showcase the things they’re doing right and the diverse group of people that contribute to their enviable and unmatched growth! If it wasn’t launched for this purpose, it’s hard to not see it in this light now.

I would argue that Uber is the defining company to have emerged in the post-Facebook tech generation. Others of course include Stripe, Airbnb, Lyft, Spotify, Snapchat and many apps we use every day but Uber is a class on its own. They are pioneers in creating the ‘sharing economy’, have shown the power of a phone or app to the average user and expanded into new geographic markets so fast that they left traditional industries and politicians feeling spurned. You can attribute positive and negative things to this amazing story of growth, and since everyone else is already busy doing that I’ll speculate how this new uber.design site fits into their current strategy.

As you’d expect from any design team and a .design site, it is a beautiful site and experience. The scrolling is natural and the animation is both fun and subtle, showcasing that they are a detail oriented company even in just a quick scroll.

They showcase some of their more interesting experiments, like Uber Ice Cream, as well as events that their team is hosting or participating in. However, it’s pretty clear that the site, like many .design sites from major companies is for recruiting. This is clearly a trend, facebook.design, booking.design, airbnb.design and atlassian.design do similar things with their site.

However, with Uber, I can’t help look at the team profiles and smile, because the little videos of the team are smiling back at you! I notice the number of women and minorities they have chosen to be brand ambassadors on their .design site and I must assume this is them responding to the prevalent narrative and statistics about their staffing. Going through their uber.design site I get the sense that they want to switch topics and focus on their incredibly talented and diverse staff, their work and to just create amazing stuff and change the world without all the PR noise. I think this site does an incredible job of that and I would assume that many designers that still want to work for challenging and exciting teams would continue to aspire to working with Uber after having read through and experienced the uber.design site.

Looking Back, SND Charlotte

Published By: on 2017-05-24 at 10:53 pm No Comments

It’s hard to believe that the Society of News Design’s annual workshop ran nearly a month ago. I’ve attended two other design exhibitions since then and am about to embark on another two city tour.

For all the design conferences, exhibitions and events that I attend, SND Charlotte: UNITE + REBEL struck me as very special, some quick thoughts:

  • SND is a tight-knit community unlike any I had ever been welcomed into. This was not a ‘conference’ or an ‘expo’ or anything too big to be navigable and useful. This was an intimate workshop to advance the profession and individual careers of news designers. Their focus on inviting and sponsoring the participation of students is admirable. The level of work put in by its volunteers is astounding. I heard from many leaders of the conference that they owe their careers and passion to SND. Wow. The participation and enthusiasm of this group is such a powerful endorsement of SND as an association.
  • SND challenged me, rather than invite me to sit at an exhibition booth and sell my wares for eight hours a day, the conference organizers invited me to give a five minute ‘Ignite’ talk. The Ignite format is meant to be a quick and fun intro to larger keynote speeches, running five minutes as defined by 20 slides each on screen for 15 seconds. The formatting is an aide more than a constraint, you have to have something to say and say it concisely, there’s no way to meander your way through this. Still, it meant getting up and not spontaneously combusting in front a room full of people. I had a blast.
  • SND is multidisciplinary and forward thinking like most of today’s design professions but in unexpected ways. I heard more people talking about experimenting with snapchat in their work than anywhere else. Important professional leaders from the New York Times, Washington Post and NPR all led discussions  that moved from advertisements to innovating the print format to thinking about how we tell stories without missing a beat. Hearing the design thinking espoused at much larger shows broken down into practical examples and initiatives by industry leaders was invaluable to me in understanding what news designers do, and surely far more practicable for the many designers graduating or looking to find their next team or inspiration.

I’d also like to note that since the conference was held in Charlotte, N.C., I raised issue with my team at Top Level Design regarding HB2 and my personal issue with the politics of discrimination. I’m happy to note that we matched my travel expenses with a donation to Time Out Youth, a local LGBTQ Youth Center. This provided them enough funding to host a dance night or provide for their other daily programming.

The volunteers and leaders at SND were truly incredible, shout out to Jon Wile, Kyle Ellis, Matt Mansfield and Steve Dorsey. You all and your wider team and community were able to put on an intimate and effective workshop that rivals the quality and engagement at much larger conferences. Instead of the general creative discussion found at those larger shows, attendees at SND are able to get the encouragement and networking befitting a niche profession like news design.

Showcasing a higher end brand, Kohler.design

Published By: on 2017-05-17 at 11:19 pm No Comments

Kohler is an incredibly well-known and regarded brand, mostly for its bathroom and plumbing products. However, for some time now you may have seen Kohler branding itself under ambitions terms and creating aesthetically and technologically ambitious products; “The Bold Look of Kohler” tagline is probably familiar.

Kohler is an incredible success story, co-founded in Wisconsin in 1873  by Austrian immigrant John Michael Kohler. Anyone would recognize their wordmark on a sink, tub or toilet but they have shown great skill at defining higher end fixtures and artful home necessities as well. For example, in the early 2000s Kohler and its distribution partners began opening branded stores and they were so successful that they were able to spin off a higher end store, The KOHLER Signature Store, by 2012. Both the classic, entry-level brand and the more designful and cutting edge brand continue to expand simultaneously.

This has resulted in Kohler expanding beyond its gigantic .com site as well. A visit to Kohler.com will show you just how global and ubiquitous the brand is. There is a lot of content on their main site but it doesn’t seem to have succeeded in clearly creating a content-driven conversation where stories and inspiration are pushed instead of individual products.

Enter kohler.design – an entirely distinct destination that picks up on its Bold. Art. campaign and connects it with content aimed at its higher end brand.

 

 

There is a nearly daily stream of content, categorized in various ways such as “Green,” “Design,” “Tech.” There is also a prominent focus at meeting the Kohler team at exhibitions around the world, from Design Basel to Green Build to The Hotel Show, Dubai.

The site also showcases its Bold. Art. campaign and gives it a space to develop further. In 2015, the KOHLER Bold. Art. program showcased six Southeast Asian artists, inviting them to submit sculptural art to a show that traveled across the region. The second version of the program was launched in late 2016, doubling the amount of artists featured and focusing on Middle Eastern and Pacific Asian artists; it is scheduled to travel the world in 2017 and 2018. The Kohler.design site includes profiles of all artists and their work. This traveling exhibit is done independent from their participation at the aforementioned global exhibitions.

Just like the brand and its main .com site, the Kohler.design site is ambitious. It is interesting from our perspective at .design that Kohler is not using it as a place to seed design team recruiting, such as what we see at facebook.design, booking.design and other examples but rather to develop a new content heavy destination to tie to the higher end of their brand. The site itself makes its aims abundantly clear, with the word “Designful.” given the most prominent placement on the homepage.

An intuitive blog name, NPR.design

Published By: on 2017-05-12 at 7:45 pm No Comments

Recently, I was lucky enough to travel to the Society of News Design conference in Charlotte, N.C.

It was a fantastic experience for me; yes, I subscribe to a physical paper and I read the news so much that it’s probably negatively affecting my health and sanity. Journalism and news delivery are incredibly important professions, which has unfortunately become an interesting political flashpoint as of late. So it was humbling and exciting to listen to representatives of the New York Times talk about their digital evolution and the Washington Post talk about life after Bezos as well as NPR’s Deputy Creative Director, Daniel Newman, talk about Designing for Audio.

As an avid listener to NPR it was interesting to hear about their approach and their focus on the audio of the stories. When I’m at work and allowing myself to be distracted, I often read and glance through NPR pieces on their site rather than listen, I scroll past the big ‘play’ button without considering that this story was first intended to be listened to. What is now obvious is that their deference to the audio in the online article is both prominent but minimal, don’t forget you can listen. I learned about how often they A/B test experiences and how the design team is involved in news delivery, such as improving the verbal lead ins to the stories to avoid user drop off. I also learned about how NPR integrates seamlessly with local member stations around the country, and more about how this functions from a business perspective as well. In a typical design fashion, Daniel and his design team are involved throughout the organization in a wide variety of capacities, from user testing to advertising to app development and improvements.

Given the general trend in corporate transparency and the collaborative nature of design communities, NPR is documenting and sharing much of this work and so it also makes for good reading too, at their blog npr.design.

I really selfishly enjoyed how often and easy it was for Daniel to direct people to their blog, as in, “We wrote about this on our blog, npr.design.” While many of the other prominent corporate .design sites serve various functions, I appreciate the tiny help that .design provided to the NPR design team. Now, when Daniel or his colleague are giving a presentation like the one I saw in Charlotte, he can easily direct people to more information and a place to follow along, npr.design, rather than some long URL with multiple back-slashes off their main site.
It’s humbling to situate one’s work in an ecosystem. While I like think about how I’m involved in a big Internet shift, adding digital infrastructure to the domain name system, that practically means just a tiny thing for most people: a better name for their website. So our .design gives NPR a better home for their design team’s thoughts and articles and those designers are in turn helping deliver and improve journalism, from curiosities and novelties to local stories to breaking news coverage.

Design teams using Medium to create a .design site

Published By: on 2017-03-10 at 2:36 am No Comments

I’ve previously pointed to major corporate use cases of .design, like facebook.design and airbnb.design. One of the things that is so interesting about these sites is that they are content rich and full of a variety of resources, from videos to interviews to design manifestos to event promotion and individual contributions from team members.

 

Now, we’re seeing an ingenious corporate use case that creates just as interesting a destination with far less work on the actual website itself. The goal is largely the same, to focus and raise the voice of a company’s design team and bolster their recruiting, but the medium (ha!) is different.

 

Enter booking.design and npr.design, coming straight from the design teams at Booking.com and National Public Radio. What they have done is used the .design domain in conjunction with Medium to create a professional looking site that has the look and feel of something they created and designed themselves when in reality it is just their publication on Medium.

For anyone hiding under a rock, Medium has created a network around blogs. Back in the 2000s you would send people to your own dedicated blog, these days your blog is probably a publication on Medium (or at least reproduced there). A single post on Medium is called a ‘story,’ a collection of stories by the same author or group is a ‘publication.’

 

So, NPR & Booking.com have created a Medium publication and rather than let it live at a long URL (medium.com/longURL) they have branded it directly to themselves via their own domain, a one-time $75 charge from Medium.

From there, Booking.com and NPR both support their content generation and the design department’s voice with Twitter accounts, here and here. Of course, those Twitter accounts have their elegant .design URLs rather than a clunky Medium.com/longURL. In this way they’re able to brand themselves rather than Medium! $75 well spent.

 

Leave it to the ingenious folks in the design departments at household brands like Booking.com and NPR to come up with a fun ‘hack’ to a professional and engaging content platform!

Major .design usage from Facebook, Airbnb, T-Mobile

Published By: on 2016-10-25 at 4:01 pm No Comments

The benefits of new top-level domains (nTLDs) for companies and individuals that were never able to get a great .com are obvious. Now, they can have unique, short and brandable domain names and, with options like .design, they can add context in a way that .com never could.

 

Recently, there have been some really exciting developments for .design in particular. While it has already differentiated itself as one of the most successful new TLDs, it now seems to be one of the only extensions that is receiving significant traction with the world’s largest and hottest companies, which are creating sites like facebook.design, airbnb.design, medium.design, and telekom.design (from T-Mobile’s parent company, Deutsche Telekom).

 

What these sites all have in common is that they create a prominent place for design departments to highlight their work, establish themselves as design leaders and further bolster recruiting efforts. These companies allow their .com sites to focus on their core business and instead facilitate an ancillary discussion: they discuss how design supports and guides their business, who is behind their design, and give back to the wider design community.

 

Facebook.design has been live for months, but it received its most notable update on Oct. 17 when they released their iOS 10 GUI (Graphic User Interface) available for Photoshop, Sketch and Figma. Facebook was advertising facebook.design in user feeds:

Screen Shot 2016-10-25 at 8.59.17 AM

Simultaneous with the newest release, Facebook Designer Jeff Smith wrote about their goals in “Giving Back to the Design Community.” It’s clear that facebook.design is set to be an entirely new engagement point for the company, creating a space that was not available at its primary .com site. Here,  it can talk directly to an important community as a leader. Jeff writes,

Facebook.design is just getting started. Like most things at Facebook, it will be iterated on frequently. But we hope this becomes a place where designers can find great resources to grow as a designer and develop in their career. Ultimately, we hope we can help push our discipline forward.”

 

We see the same thing looking at other sites; airbnb.design promotes Airbnb’s design events at their SF and NYC offices and as well functions as a general blog featuring a wide range of posts from UI designers to the interior designers of their offices.  It also includes content that inspires the team artistically and creatively. They updated the site multiple times a week. It is clearly not their primary goal to get more designers booking rentals via airbnb.com. Instead, it allows them to become a vocal and recognized design destination and a top recruiter for designers.

Screen Shot 2016-10-25 at 9.34.06 AM

 

The value of thought leadership and community recognition for recruiting is even more clear at telekom.design. There, T-Mobile, a brand that is associated with the comparatively conventional business of telephones, is giving its design department an exciting edge. The beautiful site clearly conveys that they are a design driven company and introduces you to their impressive team. Naturally, the most prominent option on the site is the “Jobs” tab.

Screen Shot 2016-10-21 at 1.55.52 PM

What we see in well-known companies supplementing their .com sites with .design is a powerful statement on how important the collaborative culture of online design is to their success and how it guides their continued growth. The new .design domain allows major companies to cultivate design leadership and inspiring conversations in a way that would have never been possible on their main .com sites.