Shaping design, designers, and teams

Shaping design, designers, and teams
Jason Mesut, Director, Resonant Design and Innovation

From the Design Operations Summit website:
Jason will share the latest of his work over the past decade developing visual frameworks for design teams, leaders and designers to map their skills and define their future professional development.  Through his role as a team leader, and with workshops he runs with the community and his clients, he has seen how valuable it is for designers to self-reflect on who they are, and project the areas in which they feel like they should develop. Whether that’s within, or beyond the context of the organization in which they work.

He had been working for a bank, and the work he was doing was provocative.  He had twenty minutes to present and get the time he needed.  Via Cisco telepresence, they hadn’t read the pre-read … they didn’t like the message, and without the proper time to discuss. He knew it hadn’t gone well.

He attended a conference on vulnerablity.  His sponsor had sent him a horrible email:


Julia Whitney became his coach.  His work with her started with self-reflection – who he was, who he wanted to be.  Beyond his resume, he needed to look at his personal self and his career self.  He had a lot frustrations, feelings of being an outsider, and not having time to do the things he loved outside of work.

He mapped emotional highs and lows of his career – and realized it was very erratic.  He learned a lot about himself and what made him happy.  That helped him focus on what was important to him.  That led to principles about how he wanted to change.

He has been working on his career plan, reviving his work of profiling others in the industry.  He sees five key challenges in our field:mesut-02.png

People often develop spreadsheets to capture profiles across an organization.  These are difficult to update, and don’t adequate reflect team’s diversity.  They are also not very designerly – not pleasant to use.  He has some experience from his time in London.  Designrs in particular have a wide vareity of skills and characteristics.

We are familiar with frameworks to guide our thinking about the work we do – the notion of  T-shaped designers, Jared Spool’s Broken Comb, or Stew Dean’s UX Spectrum from UX Researcher to Graphic Designer.  Each of these frameworks can help you see yourself in a different light.  He is now running Shaping workshops, based on three hypotheses:mesut-03.png

He now is using these imperfect frameworks and helping people create bespoke representations of their own experience.  mesut-04.pngHe’s tried this approach around the world.  Using tools, he gets people to map themselves against some initial frameworks, and they look at thiemselves differently,.  And then they create their own, to help reflect where they want to learn and grow.

In the following slides, Jason will share some of the frameworks he uses in them in his Shaping workshops.

Personal timeline.  He puts his participants through an exercise similar to the one he did in his coaching with Julia.


Blob mapping.  This builds on work from Adaptive Path.  It helps people understand where they could grow.  Important thing is the conversation around it.mesut-06.pngUX Spectrum.  Recruitng agency Vitamin T wantedto build on his work.  He wasn’t happy reducing visual design to one segment, and service design is misisng.  But it is a useful way of guiding hiring managers to prioritize which skills are more important.


False dichotomies.  Many have made the distinction between UI and UX.  He created more false dichonotmies to help people think through where they are.


Empathy always comes up as the most importnt thing for UX.  He started to realize that it wasn’t the technical skills so much – it was about softer, interpersonal skills.  Empathy not just for users,  but for stakeholders as well.  This radial chart gets them to reflect on these skills.mesut-09.pngmesut-10.png

And most recently, Leadership mapping.mesut-11.pngAs part of his workshop, people post their materials, and they engage in dialogue about perceptions, how they see themselves, and how they might help each other.

He started creating a spreadsheet with about 70 categories.  He recently updated it to 250, and then crowdsourcing brought it to 540.  It’s paralyzing, pepole don’t know where to focus!

In the end, what is more important is to craft your own shape – where you are, and where you want to be – considering context, their industry, their team, and more.


They can only add five Skittles for where they want to grow, and one where they can help others.  It feels more bespoke.  How they can help others, how they want ot be helped.  The outcomes were very pragmatic – it’s not about attending a conference.

He has been experimenting with an Airtable database.  You can put data in and cross-cut across levels and roles.  Also looking at spreadsheets, and development cards to look for patterns, themes.

Emerging benefits include:mesut-13.png

Four key learnings:mesut-14.pngJason’s word of caution to us is to be careful – this work is therapeutic, we need to tread lightly and honor the sensitivity and fragility that makes UX professionals good at what they do in the first place.

You can learn more about the Shaping Workshop from Jason on Medium.

1 Comments on “Shaping design, designers, and teams”

  1. Pingback: Design Ops 2018 – Recap | Natalie Hanson

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