Better User Experience Podcast #32: Interview with Dan Brown from EightShapes on Communicating Better in Design Meetings

On today’s podcast we have a special guest: Dan Brown, User-Centered Designer and Information Architect  of Eightshapes.

He joined us on Skype for a hour to discuss his game ‘Surviving Design Projects” and his ideas on managing conflict situations on design projects.  We also get into the nature of design work in a decentralized, remote work environment.  This new type of work environment has highlighted the need for improving the processes and structure of the design team communication and conflict management. Dan has condensed that experience into game form for our benefit. It was a fun talk and I’m very thankful to Dan for chatting with us.

More information about Dan can be found at his page.  He is @Brownorama on Twitter and writes on the Eightshapes Blog. He will be speaking at the 2012 IA Summit in New Orleans – UX Leadership Skills: Managing Conflict on Design Projects and Leadership Skills: Managing Difficult Situations on Design Projects


Surviving design projects started as an idea with Chris Detzi, the Eightshapes Director of User Experience.  Developed into a workshop at the IA Summit and a Tumbler to collect different ‘Situations’ and ‘Patterns’. And, finally into the game released this year.

As the owner of a design firm, much Dan’s daily routine is assisting designers to improve.  It’s a problem to change a designers reaction to difficult situations.  The workshop, blog, and game are his solutions to that problem.

I think it’s a good solution and I’m looking forward to playing the game.  We all react to situations in habitual ways.  I confess in the podcast, that I definitely react to most situations with “Fight or Flight” and my tendency is “Flight”.  Dan suggests there are other -more productive – ways to respond to difficult situations.  I agree.

We put Dan on the spot with a question: What would you say to a young designer dealing with counter-productive conflict in his design team? Dan’s Response: You are not alone.  Designers don’t have to suffer alone and can find help if they look for it.

I’m personally looking forward to playing the game and reading a few of the books listed below.  There are many people, including Dan, who are focused on this issue of improving the experience of design work.  There are a ton of us out here in the freelance design world who struggle with these problems each day.  It sucks. But after listening to Dan, I’m hopeful for better days in the future.

You don’t have to engage the “Fight or Flight” brain.  Use meetings as a learning experience and get away from adversarial relationships.

The designer shares responsibility for setting the tone of the meeting.

Conflict exists in design meetings.  It won’t change.  Conflict is here to stay.  The trick is to find and sustain the productive conflict, and decrease the counter-productive conflict.

Design work is, at best %50 of a designers job.  The other half is ‘selling the design’ as described in “Design is a job” by Mike Monteiro (coming soon to A Book Apart)

About the challenges of a decentralize, remote workplace: Tools like the IPEVO and monthly ‘Share and care’ round robin discussions are good.  But they are always striving to improve the situation.

All the designers work remotely and they use Carr Workplaces to meet when necessary.

Time Tracking: They love to the analytics of time and tasks that Harvest gives them.

Links Mentioned on the Podcast

Sharing Sketches Remotely with IPEVO

EightShapes, user centered web design, training and design documentation

Surviving Design Projects Game

IA Summit 2012

Dan’s page

Communicating Design Book

Hire Your Head Book

3 comments on “Better User Experience Podcast #32: Interview with Dan Brown from EightShapes on Communicating Better in Design Meetings

  1. Pingback: Design communication: Risk and Reward of Change | A Better User Experience

  2. Pingback: BUX Podcast 100: We Celebrate 100 Podcast Episodes | A Better User Experience

  3. Ben / Newman. Great read as usual. Love the banter that you guys have here. I recently had a chat with Dan, too, to discuss the conflict of the design process and how one can overcome it. Dan talks about both his game, Surviving Design Projects, and his book, Communicating Design, with mixing in real life experiences – including his wife priming him to pick up the laundry! Not as in depth as your discussion (or as good quality) but well worth a watch)

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