Designer Brands Has More Work to Do

Often, companies that are going through major transformations change their names to give themselves identities that match up more accurately with their new strategic directions. That was the case for Designer Brands (NYSE:DBI), which formerly carried the name of its DSW Shoe Warehouse unit, but which has made significant acquisitions in order to expand its market and pursue new opportunities in the footwear and accessories space.

Coming into Designer Brands’ fiscal first-quarter report, shareholders had hoped for signs that the company’s recent moves were beginning to bear fruit, and signal that the business was headed toward a full recovery. The retailer did indeed generate some enthusiasm with its report, but a closer look at the numbers shows that it has a long way to go before it can claim complete success in its restructuring efforts.

How Designer Brands started off 2019

Designer Brands’ Q1 results clearly reflected the impact of the acquisitions on the company’s overall business. The retailer posted revenue of $870 million, up 22.5% from year-ago levels. Adjusted net income of $33.6 million was up a more modest 7% over the same period, and adjusted earnings of $0.43 per share were in line with the consensus forecast among analysts following the stock.

Mosaic-designed wall with Vince Camuto sign on it.

THE VINCE CAMUTO CONCEPT IS NEW TO DESIGNER BRANDS. IMAGE SOURCE: DESIGNER BRANDS.

Overall, Designer Brands had some good things to say about its performance. Comparable sales rose 3%, and although that wasn’t as strong a gain as it reported three months ago, it was also being measured against a solid year-ago quarter. Meanwhile, its new Canada retail and brand portfolio segments contributed roughly $91 million in sales to external customers — a small, but meaningful, portion of Designer Brands’ total revenue.

The footwear and accessories retailer delivered a more mixed message on the fundamental front. On one hand, gross margin climbed by half a percentage point to 29.4% as it improved its U.S. retail unit’s efficiency. That was a nice rebound from last quarter’s gross margin decline. However, costs associated with Designer Brands’ acquisitions significantly weighed on operating profit, causing operating margin to drop to just about 5%.

CEO Roger Rawlins said he was happy with all three of Designer Brands’ key businesses. “Our DSW banner, the Shoe Company banner, and Camuto Group all performed at or above our expectations,” he said, “with the U.S. retail and [Affiliated Business Group] segments delivering positive comparable sales.” The CEO also pointed to good progress in Canada and the recent Camuto Group acquisition as encouraging signs for further growth.

Looking ahead

Designer Brands has high hopes for the future. In Rawlins’ words, “The infrastructure we have created, combined with the talent of our teams, has elevated our operating model, giving us the platform to accelerate market share growth in North America.”

The retailer let that optimism work its way into its earnings guidance: It boosted its full-year projections to a new EPS range of $1.87 to $1.97, which was $0.07 higher than its previous forecast. Elsewhere, the company didn’t make any major changes to guidance, keeping its projections for low double-digit percentage growth in revenue and low single-digit comparable sales gains.

Investors were initially quite pleased with the report, sending the stock sharply higher on Thursday following the announcement. Yet by Friday, shares had settled back down toward their recent lows. The market seemed gratified to see some progress, but at the same time, investors want more concrete signs of Designer Brands’ ability to produce lasting growth from Camuto and its Canadian operations, as well as good results domestically.

[“source=fool”]

9 to 5: Jewelry Designer Jennifer Paccione Angulo Shares Her Wardrobe Routine, Italian Hot Chilis Included

Image result for 9 to 5: Jewelry Designer Jennifer Paccione Angulo Shares Her Wardrobe Routine, Italian Hot Chilis IncludedJennifer Paccione Angulo has a good luck charm that she almost never goes without. Growing up in New York as part of an Italian-American family, and later moving to Venice and Milan with her husband, whom she met in Italy, cultural roots and traditions are hugely important to her. One of the most significant symbols of her heritage comes in the form of a small hot chili pepper. “The peperoncino is a popular ingredient in Napoli, Bari, Calabria, and Sicily, but it’s also regarded as something that is believed to bring good fortune and protect against negativity,” Paccione Angulo explains. “While I was living in Milan, I had the idea of creating a collection of jewelry called Mediterraneo, and I wanted the designs to reflect the meaning of the peperoncino in Italian culture.” She launched her label one year ago with the glass peperoncino earring, later expanding it to a full range of handmade glass earrings, barrettes, and bracelets, while also balancing work as the head of creative for brand marketing agency ByBabba.

Currently, Paccione Angulo lives in Greenwich Village and works between Spring Place in Tribeca and Ludlow House on the Lower East Side. “This area is where I go for a creativity boost,” the designer notes. “Generally speaking, I’m very inspired by active settings and people in general, so I try to always put myself in environments that provide this inspiration source and stimulation.” Paccione Angulo is quite active herself, given that she is constantly running around while juggling three different jobs. She favors flat shoes for long days spent on her feet and is never without an extra piece of jewelry from her southern Italy–inspired line, especially her beloved chili totem. Paccione Angulo successfully balances work and play, family life and creative pursuits. From New York to Napoli, for her, it’s la dolce vita indeed.

The Stylist and Designer Behind Jewelry Label Mediterraneo Studio on Her La Dolce VitaInspired Style
COPYRIGHT 2019. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
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Rodebjer Tazerwalt Dress In Mango

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Rodebjer Pant Tanderfit Cotton

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Sea Jellies Single Earring

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“My work days are rarely the same. Some days I have a lot of desk time and others, I’m in lunch meetings or on set shooting all day. Because of this, I definitely dress each morning based on my day. I look at my calendar, I look at the weather, then I decide what to wear.”

The Stylist and Designer Behind Jewelry Label Mediterraneo Studio on Her La Dolce VitaInspired Style
COPYRIGHT 2019. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
The Stylist and Designer Behind Jewelry Label Mediterraneo Studio on Her La Dolce VitaInspired Style
COPYRIGHT 2019. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
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Baum Und Pferdgarten Cyrilla Pleated Gingham Lurex Midi Skirt

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“My everyday outfits are rarely consistent as I continually re-work and re-style pieces in my wardrobe. I do routinely carry my vintage Fendi baguette bag and I always wear Mediterraneo earrings—I’m never without a peperoncino for good luck!”

The Stylist and Designer Behind Jewelry Label Mediterraneo Studio on Her La Dolce VitaInspired Style
COPYRIGHT 2019. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
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Rodebjer Beatrisia Jacket In Denim Stripe

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Rodebjer Simone Denim Pants

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Mediterraneo Caracola Earrings

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“As a New Yorker, I walk everywhere and almost never take transportation, unless I have to. With that being said, I definitely dress for comfort and with the expectation of walking the city in the shoes I choose each morning. I’m usually wearing a flat shoe, be it sneakers or oxfords or a sandal with a kitten heel. I’m rarely in heels.”

The Stylist and Designer Behind Jewelry Label Mediterraneo Studio on Her La Dolce VitaInspired Style
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Baum Und Pferdgarten Chloe Check Knit Top

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Rejina Pyo Addison Belted Shantung-Chiffon Trenchcoat

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Pop & Suki Jacquard Takeout Top-Handle Bag, Blue Pattern

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ATP Atelier Nashi Leather Sandals

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“In my work bag you will always find a lipstick of some sort (I prefer Chanel, as it’s super-hydrating, even as it’s wearing off), Nuxe Rêve de Miel Honey lip balm, my wallet, keys, headphones, a mini notebook from Goods for the Study, and my Olympus Mju-II point-and-shoot film camera for spontaneous moments.”

The Stylist and Designer Behind Jewelry Label Mediterraneo Studio on Her La Dolce VitaInspired Style
COPYRIGHT 2019. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
The Stylist and Designer Behind Jewelry Label Mediterraneo Studio on Her La Dolce VitaInspired Style
COPYRIGHT 2019. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
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Cashmere In Love Cable Knit Sweater

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[“source=vogue”]

Kolkata gets a one-stop-shop for affordable designer Western wear at Atrium

atrium8

ATRIUM is the city’s new address dedicated to luxury Western wear at affordable prices, something that the city desperately needed. Tavishi Kanoria, the young owner of Citrine, a multi-designer fashion boutique on Shakespeare Sarani, tapped into the fashion pulse of the city, and started the new luxury wear store with her sister Parthivi, last month. “Citrine was already fetching a good response, but we felt the need to stock more designers and create a separate space dedicated to Western wear. We wanted to tap a market that is untapped, as it has great potential. Hence Atrium was born,” avers 27-year-old Tavishi, adding that the venture is purely passion-driven.

The 2,500 sq ft store is a one-stop- shop for everything from LBDs to easy casual wear to fun brunch outfits, at affordable prices. “Atrium offers affordable luxury brands, and though designerwear can make a big hole in your pocket, we generally keep a cap on the pricing. So you can get everything within Rs 25,000,” says Tavishi, who completed her business studies from Babson College, Massachusetts. The latest collection at Atrium includes statement cowl tops and dresses by Harsh Harsh, stunning resort wear with quirky prints by Masaba, gorgeous flowy and dramatic gowns by Rippii Sethi and Lakme Fashion Week brands like Ezra and Swatee Singh. For casual summer wear, you can choose from breezy printed cotton dresses by The Jodi Life or embroidered cotton dresses by Irabira. Kai’s swimwear and resort wear has a riot of pop colours tin her collection, and it’s something that the city has been looking for. The embellished monokini, bandeau swimsuit, wrap swim-dress, crossover monokini and high-waisted bikini are perfect for private pool parties. The cover-ups too were equally stunning with lace, mesh and crochet. Tavishi, who happens to be a gifted painter and was also into Oddissi, says, “First, we keep in mind the affordability factor. Secondly, our collection is trendy and on par with all the latest fashion so you will find ruffles, tassels, organza, asymmetrical cuts, shimmery dresses, monochromes and more. Further, we concentrate on good quality fabric. We then try to keep designers who are flexible in customising and who are reliable with the delivery date.” Tavishi further adds, “Atrium is for open-minded new-age progressive women but at the same time, our values are extremely traditional and conservative. That’s something that we haven’t left out in our curation”.

[“source=indulgexpress”]

Pushing Limits: Maverick Car Designer Frank Stephenson Takes On Electric F1 Speed Air Travel

Lilium Jet

Frank Stephenson’s latest project is the Lilium Jet, the world’s first electric, vertical take-off and landing aircraft

LILIUM AVIATION

Frank Stephenson designed the evocative Ferrari FXX and the McLaren P1 hypercar. He shaped what the MINI should be under BMW ownership. He re-imagined the Fiat 500 Italian icon for modern life. In a career spanning over 30 years, Stephenson has led design teams at Ferrari, Maserati, Alfa Romeo, Fiat, Lancia, Mini and McLaren. His next mission is to create the world’s first completely electric, vertical take-off and landing aircraft – the Lilium Jet.

Frank Stephenson

The maverick designer has penned some of the most exciting and pioneering modern cars

FRANK STEPHENSON

“Chasing Perfect” offers a glimpse into the creative mind of the maverick vehicle designer who has sketched some of the most celebrated cars in modern motoring. Released on 20 May and available from Lionsgate Home Entertainment, the documentary traces Stephenson’s quest for pushing the boundaries of design. With the film, he says, he wanted to “throw open the doors to the creative process”, peeling away some of the mystery of car design as we learn of Stephenson’s inspirations and are treated to a tour of Jay Leno’s legendary garage.

Frank Stephenson with Jay Leno in Chasing Perfect

Frank Stephenson on a tour of Jay Leno’s legendary garage in “Chasing Perfect”

FRANK STEPHENSON

Most interestingly we learn of his next venture in air travel. Since 2018, as head of product design at the German firm Lilium Aviation, Stephenson has been working on the Lilium Jet for 2025. “What you see in the film is a genuine working prototype, and is designed to be taken to the skies, providing affordable flying taxi services around the world,” he says.

Ferrari FXX 2005

The 2005 Ferrari FXX is a track-only supercar, designed to give owners the closest feeling to a race car as technically possible

FERRARI

This is a highly progressive product, a quiet, all-electric flying hub with 300km range and Formula One speeds on air. The complex construction involves individual electric jet engines embedded into the aircraft’s wing flaps. “The design of the tilting flaps with their electric jet engines allows for a fixed wing aircraft that provides much more lift efficiency and higher straight-line speed than a drone type aircraft,” he tells me. “This translates into a faster, further and quieter journey.”

McLaren P1

The 2012 McLaren P1 hypercar allowed Stephenson to reimagine aerodynamic solutions based on biomimicry, the science of nature

MCLAREN AUTOMOTIVE

The interior provided an opportunity to explore a whole new direction in design that could only be imagined as a conceptual or futuristic study in the past. “So many new advances in materials, lighting technology and smart electronics are now allowing us to create interiors that will suit this innovative means of travel,” he says. “It is exciting to be able to redefine what is the current state of transportation interiors and to set the course for a new wave of experiences for future customers.”

MINI Cooper

Frank Stephenson helped redesign the 21st century successor to the original MINI, when it was reborn under BMW ownership in 2000

MINI

With a back catalogue mainly in car design, I am interested to know how Stephenson’s automotive experience helped shaped this project. After all, projects like the P1 are exceptionally progressive involving highly advanced technology and material.

He offers: “The things I’ve learnt from automotive design apply to aircraft design in that the best design is always a direct result of what works well. Good design is a consequence of understanding sound engineering principles and pushing the limits of what is currently possible. It is the job of the designer in any field to think of new ways to raise the innovation bar with each new design. Otherwise the designer is an artist.”

Fiat 500, 2007

In 2007 Frank Stephenson was asked to redesign the Fiat 500 Italian 50s icon for a modern global market

FIAT 500

Stephenson admits there are fundamental differences though too. Car design tends to be centered mainly around brand identity and aesthetics, interior comfort, luggage space and performance. In aviation, he says, these elements will also apply, but the focus will be mainly on safety and weight reduction. “The objectives now are to create a jet design that provides the best performance and most exhilarating experience to customers who need to get from one place to another. The aesthetics will fall into place accordingly.”

The 1992 Ford Escort Cosworth features an enormous tail spoiler

The 1992 Ford Escort Cosworth by Frank Stephenson features an enormous tail spoiler

FORD

His team are involved with all aspects of the of the customer journey at Lilium. The landing pads, lounges and integrated services also need to introduce simplicity to the world of travel. “Customer satisfaction is at the center of our core values and this requires that we put our efforts into the humanization of the experience of flying with Lilium.”

He reveals that he is currently also involved in a project even more advanced than the Lilium Jet. “I am convinced transportation like this will become reality sooner than people tend to think.”

Chasing Perfect

Poster art for “Chasing Perfect” a new film documenting the life and work of Frank Stephenson

FRANK STEPHENSON

I ask Stephenson if he purposely set out to be part of the dialogue in forming the next stage of mobility. He replies that he took this opportunity precisely as “it feels like the next intelligent step in solving many of the problems with today’s age of mobility.” He says even though designing cars is definitely a dream job, especially the projects he was involved with, “after 30 years it is dawning on me that there has to be a much more efficient way of getting from A to B”, he says. “The great minds of our team at Lilium are intent on improving mobility for the masses and the positive effects of this on our society are undeniable. Hence it is an irresistible challenge for a designer to be a part of this mission.”

[“source=forbes”]

An Interview with Khoi Vinh, Principal Designer at Adobe

Image result for An Interview with Khoi Vinh, Principal Designer at AdobeEarlier this week I had the opportunity to sit down with Khoi Vinh, Principal Designer at Adobe who leads its Design Practices group and author of Subtraction.com. Vinh, who was in Chicago to speak at the HOW Design Live conference, talks about how Adobe is using Adobe XD to integrate UX and UI design and prototyping into the product creation process for everyone from freelancers to big companies. He also discusses designers’ role in addressing the problems social media is facing, how artificial intelligence is beginning to play a role in design, and his podcast, Wireframe.

(The following has been condensed and edited for readability.)

Tell me a little bit about what you’re working on at Adobe these days.

Adobe XD is one of the main priorities at Adobe. We’re really passionate about the experience design space; really passionate about how product designers, UX/UI designers, they’re really kind of leading the way for how professional creativity is changing and XD is more than just an app, it’s a platform to help us build what designers need. So we see it as more than just a design app. It’s also prototyping and sharing, and so it’s really meant to help designers, and also the people who work with them, get more value out of the design process and be more productive in general.

How does it work with the code side of things when the designers pass things off to the programmers?

That’s an area that we’re really interested in. So, you can design something in Adobe XD in the drawing mode, which is roughly analogous to what you’re able to do in Illustrator or Photoshop in terms of determining what an interface looks like and creating all the artboards. And then you can bring it to life with a prototype, and you can share it with the marketing team or with other designers by sharing a web prototype.

We also have developer specs, which is basically a way of letting a developer take a look at what you’ve created, see all of the colors, the type, the spacing, everything, and that’s going to get more and more sophisticated, more and more rich over time, so that the developer handoff is really smooth. What we want is for design to flow as elegantly as possible throughout the whole team and also to help maintain the integrity of the designer’s vision, their intention, all the way through.

I know you’ve done a lot with things like the animations and the prototyping phase. What kinds of things have you been able to implement there?

Auto-Animate, that’s what we call that feature. We really believe that prototyping is a very critical leverage point for designers, in not just the whole design process, but in the way they work with clients, with stakeholders, with their in-house team, with all the rest of the business. And the reason is that prototypes get you very close to something that’s real without actually committing you to code, so that you’re not afraid to throw things away.

The way we conceive of prototypes – by intention, by design – they are not meant to be the actual code. We may get to a point one day soon where you’re designing right to code, but for right now we really think that to help people get an idea out of their head and into a clickable, tangible, movable version is really important because it changes the conversation. It brings clarity to the whole team. It brings clarity for the designer as well because now they can see how practical their idea is.

So, that’s a long way of saying animation is a really, really elemental part of that because once you see something moving, it becomes more than just an idea, it becomes something that just feels like it’s just a few inches away from reality. And that gets people to pay attention. And so, when we thought about how to implement an animation, there are tons of great animation tools out there that let you do very, very sophisticated animation. What we tried to do is think of a way to let you create sophisticated animations with as shallow a learning curve as possible.

So, Auto-Animate is based on a very simple sort of keyframe approach where you have one artboard where a circle might be the top of the screen and one artboard where a circle might be the bottom, and if you link them up as a prototype, it will actually move from one position to the other, like tweening from the old Flash days or something like that. And that’s something that everybody gets the first time they see it, they say, ‘Okay, I can do that.’

I think that is a really important part of our approach to it because you can get a lot more sophistication, and we’ll enable more sophistication later, but the challenge of mastering a complex interface, like a timeline interface or a scripting interface, can be very off-putting. So we want as many people as possible experimenting with animation creating richer and richer prototypes, and I think we’ve opened up the door to lots of folks. So we’ve seen people create some amazing stuff with this simple concept. The thing above all is that it’s super fun. You’re not wrestling with really complex user interface conventions, you’re just moving stuff around and doing it the way a designer thinks, which is usually visually.

It reminds me a lot of how Apple’s Keynote works because it does the same kind of keyframe stuff.

Well, Keynote is one of many inspirations. It’s purpose-built for presentations. It’s very visually oriented. It’s super easy to learn. All of the metaphors are consistent. There’s a high degree of visual integrity there. We like that model for sure.

So what’s your focus? Is it on custom UIs? Is it on the existing standard set of controls?

We focus on everything that comes under the umbrella of user experience design, which, roughly speaking just means that you’re thinking about the sum total experience for the end user; how to get from screen to screen and then what the interface looks like and what the interactions are and how information can be found and so forth. So, roughly speaking, yeah, it would be for the custom designer, for the designer who’s creating something bespoke for their company or their clients or customers.

But we’ve also invested a lot of money in putting a ton of UI kits out there for iOS, for Android, for all different kinds of things, so that people can get up and running really quickly, and can access them right from within the app. So if you’re not a “trained designer,” you can actually put things together really easily. And we see that in a lot of companies where XD, because it’s so approachable, people outside the design team will start using it in order to create mockups – create quick prototypes – to get ideas.

What platforms is XD on?

Windows and Mac. I should also say that we have two companion apps for iOS and for Android as well.

How do you approach those two products differently?

We try to create a consistent experience while also trying to be true to each platform. We don’t want to create a compromise between them that’s not satisfactory for Windows users or satisfactory for Mac users. So our designers spend a lot of time on both platforms and are very cognizant of what makes each platform unique or what its strengths are and how to respect that for each user.

And also, being truly cross-platform and being good citizens of both is a huge part of our strategy because a lot of other computing tools don’t offer that, especially for Windows users, because so much of the design community is on Mac. For Windows users to be able to use XD and get virtually the same experience and to be able to collaborate with their design studio they hire, which is maybe on Mac, or the design team, that actually makes a huge difference because now they’re going to be speaking the same language – that’s really important.

So is the product geared towards someone who’s working as a designer in a company? Or is it something that individuals like a solo indie developer might want to use as well?

We think user experience design is a profession that runs the gamut. So it’s individuals, small teams, independent studios, small, medium, and large-sized agencies. In-house teams are also small, medium, and large, and their needs are different, but the basic tools that are required to get your job done are roughly similar enough that we believe a solution like XD can be inclusive of everybody.

So if you are an independent designer working on your own, XD is terrific. If you are on any kind of a team, the collaboration features really smooth the workflow. And if you work at a big company with a big design team with super sophisticated requirements, we have a plug-in infrastructure for you to be able to tailor your workflow to build tools that are specific to your company’s needs. We really like the idea that it can scale.

Adobe has been offering subscriptions far longer than we’ve seen on platforms like Apple’s App Store. Do you ever worry that having a subscription leaves certain people behind? Adobe does a great job with students, making products available to them at a price that they can afford, and it works well for companies of various sizes, but what about the person who comes right out of school and maybe is just trying to do work on a portfolio on their own?

So first of all, Adobe XD is free to start, so you can actually create as many files as you want, and work for as long as you want in XD. When you start sharing projects online and collaborating with other people, that’s when we hope you will become a Creative Cloud member.

But the subscription model in general we believe actually gives more people the opportunity to try the app. And our subscriber numbers, which I can’t quote off the top my head, but they’ve just been growing and growing, we have more and more people coming into the Creative Cloud world than ever before. And part of the reason is an enormous amount of investment goes into each release of these apps we’ve got. The apps are cross-platform, they’re internationalized, they go through a heavy QA. We spend a lot of time thinking about how apps work for enterprise and for individuals. So, it’s a huge investment.

Now, in the pre-subscription world, when we were selling perpetual licenses, we had to basically charge for the complete value of all that. With the subscription model, you can pay for a month, or you can pay for 24 months, you can sign on and sign off. And actually many small companies take advantage of that because they have freelancers come in and work for six or eight weeks, and then they leave and turn off the subscription. So that’s really helpful.

And what it does is it allows people to pay for the value that makes sense for them. So if they are going to work on a six-month contract or something, they want to pay for six months. Well, that’s actually a one-to-one mapping of the value that they get for those six months. If they are engaging in projects continually and collaborate with lots of people, then they’re paying each month, and they’re getting every single update for the app that they’re subscribed to. And, if they’re subscribed to all updates, they also get many of the new products that we create just added to the bundle. So the value equation is very different from perpetual licensing, but we believe it’s more accessible for more people in general and makes sense for more businesses.

What do you think about Marzipan coming to Apple’s platform? Any thoughts on where we’re going? Because it’s going to be really interesting from a design perspective. Some of those early Marzipan apps in Mojave are pretty rough right now.

Well, I should say that I don’t know anything more about Marzipan than I read on MacStories. I personally haven’t been disclosed on anything from Apple. I do agree that some of the apps are lacking in terms of their Mac-ness. And as a very, very long-time Mac user, that makes me a little bit sad, because I really like all of the beautiful details the true Mac has.

On the other hand, I’m excited for a world where these platforms come closer together. I think making it easier for developers to create apps that work on phone, tablet, and desktop is super exciting. And for any new frontier like that, it’s not uncommon for things to be a little bit rough in the beginning, like the early days of Mac OS X.

In one of the interviews I saw with you from a while back, you talked a little bit about AI and machine learning and how that plays into design. Tell me a little bit about where you see that going.

I think right now, it’s still the Wild Wild West. There’s a lot of enthusiasm around AI in terms of the end-user experience and how to make great experiences with immersive technology for consumers and for business users.

We are really excited about the opportunity to make things better and remove friction and tedium for professional users as well. So there are things that designers do every day and have been doing forever that are second nature that you don’t think about – like lining things up or wiring an artboard together or drawing a home icon and then linking that to the home screen. These are things that a computer can do just as easily or at least suggest to you. So to remove the tedium of doing that work and letting you focus just on what only a designer can do.

We have this AI platform called Sensei, which takes a ton of anonymized data from millions of users to help us figure out what are the best practices for doing certain things that we’ve implemented on the Photoshop side or on the digital imaging side in terms of helping people with presets for manipulating photos and so forth. I’m actually not super in the weeds on those details, but I know they’re doing a lot there. As we’re building the foundation for XD, we’re looking to bring that kind of stuff to it as well.

What role do you think designers can play in fixing some of the problems that we’re seeing with social media? Is there a role for designers working on making that a better experience for people?

Absolutely. This is part of my talk tomorrow actually. In many ways we’re in this situation partly because of design; because design has sort of abetted the sort of unbridled ambitions that people love to optimize for on these platforms – you know, eyeballs, clicks, views, likes, and so forth. And it’s been really effective at doing that.

So when you think about all these problems, they’re not just technology problems, right? They’re not just a matter of the algorithm. You’re thinking about the sum total user experience, and design can’t solve them on their own, but I really believe that design needs to be a key part of that conversation.

The responsibility of the designer in crafting solutions is to think about the total experience of the user or the customer. Like what is the effect on that customer of seeing only confirmation bias-oriented content in their feed? Or we’re only pushing them to come back, again and again, to view the same thing over and over again at the expense of other activities in their lives. I think design and the approach that designers bring to research and the whole user journey, so to speak, is a very valuable tool there.

So part of the challenge is that the world at large doesn’t see design in that light necessarily. First of all, the world doesn’t really understand design. They sort of assume it’s all technology. So I think part of our challenge is to try to level up the conversation around design to help people understand it, and appreciate what it can bring, and then be proactive in trying to figure out how to solve this problem.

Tell me a little bit about your podcast.

It’s called Wireframe. We do it in partnership with Gimlet who are based in Brooklyn, New York, conveniently where I live.

The hook is to tell high-quality, in-depth stories about design, and to treat design in the way that you might hear stories about architecture or technology or art or culture, like on the radio. Our attitude is design traditionally hasn’t been treated that way. Most of what gets written about design is written by designers for designers. There are tons of great design podcasts out there, and I don’t want to take anything away from them, but they’re almost all just interview format, and so it really feels like you’re dropping in on shop talk, right?

What we tried to do is tell a complete story about design. Our first episode was about the Hawaii missile crisis and how that warning system was flawed in terms of design. We try to show how design led to the situation and how it can be part of the solution. We try to take you into the mind of a designer, but in a narrative way. It’s not just interviews, it’s actually a story start to finish that, hopefully, pulls you in.

And what we found is that it’s been surprisingly popular with people who don’t call themselves designers. They get pulled in and start to see design as something tangible that they can relate to. And at the same time, it’s actually been really fun for people who know design already, because they’re not accustomed to seeing design, or hearing design I should say, treated in this manner.

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What it takes to become a ‘social designer’

Social design is the application of design methodologies to solutions for complex human problems. A world battling pollution, education, inequality, and climate change requires each of us to contribute in ways we deem meaningful. There is a need for design professionals and recent design graduates to think beyond traditional (product, building, service) design through an additional lens of purpose.

Design is a tool to create environmental and social value that has a role in social development and is definitely the need of the hour.

But the question is how do designers find these opportunities? Enough design schools and institutions are not taking it upon them to urge students to think about the potential impact that they can have in the world through their work. Secondly, most people, designers included, are of the opinion that solving social problems are for government, non-profits, and CSR institutions, and hence don’t think about this as a career opportunity.

Last but not the least, one of the biggest challenges is the fact that the role of design in the social development sector is still not a mainstream concept in India and most parts of the world and hence, there are no such ‘jobs’ to begin with. Until we change this narrative and create platforms/avenues/opportunities to engage and make available careers for design professionals and recent graduates in the social development space we will not be able to grow the field and make these opportunities readily available to pursue.

 

In this article we highlight design mindsets and toolsets that can be incorporated in social development work and help prepare potential social designers for this field.

1.  Looking for impactful career choices

The first option of course is looking for opportunities to use your design skills to solve environmental and societal problems, be it in government, non-profits, CSR, or design consultancies that consult for any of these. If you decide to start on your own be mindful of the problem that your organisation will solve.

2.  Getting into the right mindset 

Whether you are already working or looking for your next gig and want to do more with your design skills start by training your muscles like a social designer.

●     Adaptability: Given the ever-changing social landscape, it is vital that our thinking is both flexible and adaptable to support future growth and change.

●     Learning through failure: The process is iterative with the need to constantly pivot in face of new learnings, insights, and data.

●     Cultivate empathy: Being empathetic is always a given in design. You might have heard it a lot. Empathy means understanding and sharing. Taking some time out to truly listen is important when you design for them. Only when you listen, you are able to understand the problem and the solutions.

●     Embrace ambiguity: There are always times that we start solving a problem and then realise after more in-depth research that the problem that we set out to solve was not the problem at all and end up learning the crux of the problem. Embracing such ambiguous moments ultimately end up leading to ‘Aha!’ moments in design.

3.  Building your toolset

Whether you are already working or looking for your next gig and want to do more with your design skills start by building a social designer toolset.

Design methods:

Design is an iterative and non-linear process that can be divided into four phases – Understanding, Looking, Making, and Testing.

Systems thinking/Mapping:

While designing for one end user, one can fall into the trap of unintended consequences for other people in the system interacting with the user. When you design, you design within a larger system, in order to leverage best experiences for all the players in the system, systems mapping is a useful tool to understand the ecosystem.

Storytelling/Communication:

Often times, explaining the problem is the hardest. Storytelling involves communicating design insights, and creating brands and bite-sized information that are easily understandable and approachable. Storytelling adds value to the user experience and involves both visual storytelling, verbal and written narratives.

Measurement and evaluation:

It’s easy to fall in love with our solutions and ideas. And hence, it’s important to create a feedback loop to ensure that our design solutions are working. Measurement and evaluation is a crucial step in social design to track progress.

4.   Social design learning resources

Last but not the least, change is the only constant so don’t wait to become a continuous learner. Here are some wonderful resources to learn and get inspired by people all around the world using design approaches in social impact.

Podcasts – Podcasts are great for inspiration and get a sneak peek into what others in the field are doing, for example Social Design Insights by the Curry Stone Foundation.

Open innovation challenges – Nothing is better than picking up a challenge with a friend or colleague – Open Innovation Practice by Ideo.

Toolkits – The wheel does not have to be reinvented each time, there are plenty of toolkits to refer

●       Design for Health by Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Dalberg Design, Sonder, and USAID

●      D.I.Y Toolkit by Nesta, UK

●      NYC Civic Service Design by New York City Mayor’s Office of Innovation

Talking to people in the field – There is nothing better than learning about the impact space and the role that you and your skills can play by speaking to people who are affected the most by the problem as well as those who are in the frontlines trying to solve these problems.

I hope these resources are helpful to open our minds to new ideas and possibilities whether we work for technology companies or non-profits or consultancies. The question I want to leave you with is how might we as designers incorporate strategies to be leaders of advocating for social change wherever we go?

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