As I stood before the audience at UXDX EMEA 2023, sharing my experiences and insights on design leadership, I couldn't help but reflect on my journey. A journey that began with a profound dissatisfaction with bureaucracy and poor customer experiences and led me to the beautiful city of Amsterdam, where I live with my wife, Talita, and enjoy sailing boats in tropical islands.
Leadership, especially in the realm of design, is not just about managing projects or people; it's about embodying the principles of design in every decision. It's about empathy, about stepping out to face reality, about experimenting and prototyping swiftly, and above all, about telling a compelling story from start to end.
The Uncharted Waters of Design Leadership
My talk at UXDX was an adventure into the less explored aspects of design leadership. I shared my passion for spreadsheets and connecting things with web flow, tools that have become integral to my leadership toolkit. These tools are not just about organization; they're about understanding and navigating the complex landscape of design management.
One of the most critical aspects I emphasized was the need to be a 'treasure hunter' in design leadership. It's about seeking clues, deciphering the puzzle of product-market fit, and ensuring that designs are not only functional but humanized. Our goal in UX design is to make products more desirable, usable, and trustworthy.
The Essence of Leadership in Design
What sets apart a design leader? It's the ability to empathize, to experiment, to scale, and to communicate effectively with developers and stakeholders. It's about avoiding biases and focusing on real, emotional data. As a design leader, you're not just creating interfaces; you're creating experiences that resonate with users.
During my talk, I shared the importance of framing specific problems, trusting your team, and building a supportive environment. Leadership is about guiding, inspiring, and sometimes even challenging the status quo. It's about being brave, showing vulnerability, and acknowledging that no leader is perfect.
My Personal Mantra: Curiosity and Action
If there's one thing I'd tell my younger self, it's to maintain the curiosity of a researcher and the action-oriented mindset of a UX designer. Treat every interaction, every meeting as a data point. Learn, adapt, and share these learnings with your team and stakeholders.
In conclusion, leadership in design is an ongoing journey, one that requires constant learning and adaptation. It's about humanizing the products we create and ensuring that we're not just designing for ourselves but for the betterment of the users we serve.
Head of DesignBol.com
Anderson is currently the Head of Design at bol.com in Utrecht, Netherlands. Previously, he held leadership positions at Hotmart, Youse Seguros, and Conta Azul, where he played key roles in shaping design strategies, mentoring teams, and scaling design systems. With a strong background as an Interaction Designer, Anderson has a proven ability to create user-friendly experiences and define minimal viable products.
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