- Artwork by Eli Jorgensen
Jasmine Oh informs us that AI will one day replace our current jobs as designers. She challenges us to adapt to AI since no career field is exempt from its influences. She also reminds us not to fear AI but to harness it to our advantage instead. She reveals that AI shouldn’t be judged as a gloomy UX future but as a medium that supports our most meaningful work in new roles. She also encourages us to challenge stakeholders when shallow data is used to feed requirements into a product.
Jasmine Oh is a UX Designer in the Windows Product Direction team at Microsoft which is an incubation team helping define future vision of computing. She named herself after Jasmine the Princess from Aladdin. (Woo Jung is her official name, which means “friendship” in Korean.)
- Working at Microsoft (4:58)
- AI at Work (6:17)
- 5-Year View of AI (8:03)
- Today’s Work Intersects with the Future (10:16)
- How Recognition Works (11:58)
- How Long Before Jobs Are Gone (15:50)
- Behavior and System Designers (17:36)
- What Does the Future Designer Look Like? (23:34)
- Being Human and Empathy (29:00)
- Microsoft CEO (31:58)
- Ways to Stay Ahead (33:25)
- Educational Resources (36:30)
- Design Superpower (40:13)
- Design Kryptonite (40:47)
- Secret Identity (42:51)
- Double and Triple-checking the Facts (43:57)
- Recommended Book (46:41)
- Habit of Success (47:24)
- Best Advice (49:06)
Yes, AI Will Replace Designers [ARTICLE]
Four Orders of Design [ARTICLE]
AI and the Future of UX [ARTICLES]
Ten Principles for Good Design [ARTICLE]
Tesla Dashboard [ARTICLE]
Rams Documentary [ARTICLE]
Jason Ogle: I have with me today Jasmine Oh. And Jasmine is a UX Designer in the Windows Product Direction Team at Microsoft, which is an incubation team is helping define the future vision of computing. That sounds super exciting. I can’t wait to learn more about that. She named herself after Jasmine, the princess from Aladdin. Wu Jon is her official name and I probably totally didn’t pronounce that right, but it means “Friendship” in Korean. Welcome officially Jasmine to User Defenders: Podcast. I am super excited to have you on the show today.
Jasmine Oh: Hey guys, I’m also very excited to be here.
Jason Ogle: I’m so glad that we’re going to have this time today because I feel like this conversation, this is one of those ones. I’ll be honest with you, Jasmine, I really was kind of treading lightly on this because I feel a little bit worried about this, about this subject matter. I’m not going lie. I feel a little worried. And you wrote an article and that’s what drew me to you and your article is all about how AI, it’s not a matter of if it will take our jobs. It’s really a matter of when, just a matter of when it’s going to happen. And that scares me. That scared me a little bit.
But before we dive into your article and really, really unpack all of these, this is really an important one Defenders. It could very well affect kind of what we do and where our roles evolve as designers, that we know of today as designers.
So, let’s dig into what you’re doing at Microsoft. Because that sounds really fascinating. It’s so interesting that you’re helping define the future of computing at Microsoft. When Microsoft was the beginning of personal computing in 1975, the year I was born, ironically, the personal computer revolution began. And were Bill Gates and Paul Allen, they use the Intel microchips to create the first personal computers. And I’m really fascinated to know, Jasmine, what are you working on? Can you talk about it? What that means, helping to define the future of computing at Microsoft?
Jasmine Oh: Yes. So, you know, I know it’s super broad, but basically, we’re a team trying to help understand how Windows could evolve with the emerging trends. So, as you said, like Windows was the first like personal computing. It has come a long way and it used to be that the operating system is the focus of the device. Like people used to go in and buy licenses of Windows per version and buy apps for the device. And now that’s not the case. People just pay for devices and the OS comes in the device for free. And the true value and experience really lies into services that we access. So, now looking into the future, the premise of cloud is that you can access your content anywhere on any device. And it’s totally shifting how we approach computing. So, we try to brew new ideas about how computing is evolving and how that mindset is shifting. So, that’s pretty much what we’re working on.
Jason Ogle: Fascinating. Does any of this involve using AI?
Jasmine Oh: Yes. Part of that, like the trend is also not about the user going in and digging through the computer and finding the stuff you need. You know, we have so many like smart devices and people expect the device to sort of know what you are going to do. So, the part that we incorporate intelligence and AI into our designs is mostly for personalizing content and surfacing like the right content for you at the right time. And like a simplified example of that is let’s say a person is working on a presentation and in the past few weeks, every time he goes into work in the morning, this person checks his email, opens up PowerPoint, view his research notes on Word. Next time he opens a same presentation file and he opens up you know, files or start menu, which is like a launcher, then the system bubbles up to you associated documents and emails, so you can just jump right in instead of you opening up the apps one by one. That’s, you know, a grossly simplified example but those are some of the things that we try to do so that the computer and the system is helping you basically get stuff done more efficiently.
Jason Ogle: I can’t envision, I’m not working in this capacity that you are and I’m just trying to understand what this is going to look like. Like you gave us a little bit of a snapshot into it, but, like do you have like a maybe a five-year sort of view of kind of where this is going and what this is going to do to computing? I mean like I’m just really curious, I’m trying to get kind of a better vision of sort of what are computer’s, like. I think of my laptop, like my laptop is the only computer I can really envision right now. You know, I mean, of course I’ve seen Minority Report and all of us have. A lot of us I think I would say have seen minority report and that’s like the future.
I mean that’s still like that was done so long ago and yet we still don’t have something like that in place. And I’d argue too that it’s probably not the best user experience either. You know, like if you hold your arms up for even like two minutes, you’re getting really uncomfortable.
Jasmine Oh: Yes.
Jason Ogle: So, obviously the gorilla arm, you know thing, the research on around that, that’s not a good experience. But I have a feeling we’re moving into a lot of the other things we’ve seen in that movie. A lot of the other scenarios where like there’s basically screens and they’re dynamic. They’re screens everywhere and I think Corning did a day of glass video, which was super compelling and they did that quite a while ago too. And you just kind of go like, “Oh my gosh, we are real really heading into this sort of era.”
I mean like Elon Musk, like he’s putting like a large part of the dashboard is a big like iPad as a big tablet. It’s a screen and as basically you control most of your vehicle operation as far as I understand. And so, like, I feel like we’re moving into this world, you know? And I think of the augmented reality thing too. Like I saw a video recently where somebody was in their car and I guess it was like a prototype for augmented reality. And then all of a sudden on the windshield there’s all this interface everywhere. It’s kind of like Iron man’s mask. And I just like, I’m like, I don’t know if this is good. I don’t know if this is a good thing. We already struggling enough. But then you kind of – I’m getting probably way ahead of things. But you know, then you go like, “Well the cars are going to drive themselves, so don’t worry about it.” And then we’ll finally be able to do all our texting safely in our cars that we do anyway, unsafe, very unsafely.
Jasmine Oh: Yes!
Jason Ogle: So, I’m jumping ahead here. But where does kind of what you’re working on with the operating system. Where does that kind of fit into where things seem to be heading right now as some of the things I touched on?
Jasmine Oh: Yes. I think the crux of it, like a five-year vision, the crux of it is that ownership of device no longer matters. So, you’d look at…
Jason Ogle: What do you mean by that?
Jasmine Oh: You can literally access computing anywhere on any device as long as there is a screen and access to the cloud. You can go to the airport and maybe there’s a screen there and you log in. Maybe if you’re a Microsoft user, you would just log in with your Microsoft account and all your content is there. You can access your stuff. And with the Augmented Reality, with the VR, MR especially, the device and the screen doesn’t really matter, it’s just part of your physical environment. One example that comes into my mind right now is like Stadia at Google, it totally broke the myth that to be a gamer you need this like powerful [inaudible 08:29] device, like probably an alien and wear it with like three fans. Like that’s no longer the case. You can do games like, it’s a cloud gaming service so you can play games, you know, as long as you have access to the internet. And I think that’s sort of where computing is going as well. Like you can access your content anywhere and it’s no longer to your device or your phone.
Jason Ogle: How does the recognition work? Right? Like I’m so sick of typing my password and I’m so sick of like having to remember eight different passwords. Right? Like what does that look like? How does it know it’s you? Like are we talking retinal stuff here? Like are we talking like Black Mirror stuff? God help us. [Laughs]
Jasmine Oh: I know, God help us. But I think we already have those. We have fingerprint, in PCs we have…
Jason Ogle: Biometric.
Jasmine Oh: Yes. Windows Hello. So, it literally takes a split of a second to recognize your face and you can log in.
Jason Ogle: Right. This is crazy. We’re just getting started folks. [Laughs] like I said, you wrote an article. The title of it, it would seem very click-baity, once you start reading the article, I was like, this is not click bait folks. This is like kind of a reality that we need to sort of look straight in the face and we need to kind of start thinking about what this means for us as designers, as product designers, as UX designers. So, the title of your article is “Yes. AI Will Replace Designers.” And then the subtitle is, “But Here Are Three Ways We Can Work with AI for Future Success.” So, the first is like that fear, uncertainty, doubt, but then there’s like, here’s the hope, here’s the light in the darkness, right? So, again, Defenders check out the article, be sure to link to it in the show notes.
But basically, I think one of your main points in the article is how the role of designer will evolve from basically being creators to curators.
Jasmine Oh: Yes!
Jason Ogle: And your article you mentioned the three evolving roles of designers. And the first two basically becoming non-existent in the not too distant future. And so, I’m curious, so let’s kind of go through these. I made some notes.
Number one is specialized designers. For an example, there’d be graphic designers or web designers. The next category is number two product designers. And those are kind of those, the T shaped designers with a breadth in product strategy. And visual design and interaction design. I feel like that’s really where the majority of today’s digital designers are. They’re in that kind of product slash UX designer, you know, however you choose to look at it. And then you go on to say there’s a third category of designers and I can see a lot of folks already kind of moving into this sort of thinking and you call it the number three being system designers. And these are folks who set parameters and constraints and determine behavior of automated systems.
I can already see a huge shift at just even looking at let’s say, specialized designers and product designers. I can see a huge shift in how we do our work for the better in using design systems, right? Especially if you’re an intern working for an enterprise company that has multiple web presences and they’ve got thousands of buttons, thousands of headers, thousands of you know, like a different of treatments that they’re reusing and that programmers are basically reprogramming often from scratch. When it’s like, “Wait, why don’t we just make this a component and why don’t we just make this a system?” Right? So, I can see that thinking already for the good, again, helping a lot of us, helping our businesses save money, right? Helping us be nimbler as companies and using that time to kind of innovate that we would spend just doing the grunt work. All that to say, basically your implication is the first two categories are going to be extinct. It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. And in system design. And so, basically, I want to ask you, how long, first of all do you think before? How long do we have before our jobs as specialized as product designers will become extinct?
Jasmine Oh: Okay! Clarification. I don’t think they will become completely extinct. I think like a specialized knowledge in visual design or motion design, whatever your vertical is in the tea will always be valued. But just like there’s much less demand for graphic designers nowadays and much more demand for UX. I think maybe in the next five years’ system designers will be, you know, much more valued than specialized designers or product designers.
Jason Ogle: Okay. I get that analogy. That does make sense to me. And I won’t hold you to this. Because I mean, anytime you ask somebody what the future of design looks like, and I used to ask that question as like part of my format of the show. And then, you know, that’s a really hard question to answer, but if you had to guess how long before the VHS tape becomes a DVD or by Blu-ray, you know what I mean? Like I feel this is the same idea here. We are forced, we’re eventually forced. Apple has done a really good job of forcing their customers to adapt to whatever dongles or whatever they want you to buy to make their products. So, they can make thinner, faster computers. Right? Pardon me, I’m an Apple person in you work at Microsoft, so I feel like Steve Steve jobs versus bill Gates here. No, I am just kidding.
But I mean that’s all I know. But I mean, Apple’s done a really good job of really forcing their customers to change. And I have a feeling that what you’re working on in Microsoft is basically probably doing similar things where it’s like, “We’re not trying to take this away from you, but we’re trying to help you get here.” And if future you say that, and you believe that designers as we know it, like especially the first two categories will become behavior or system designers. Can you elaborate on what you mean by that?
Jasmine Oh: So, what I’m saying is that the production side of design will more or less be automated, so it’s our job and our goal to set parameters and goals for algorithms to determine the behavior of systems. So, our day to day is less of like drawing out design comps and drawing out wire frames and what not. It’s more spending time defining the behavior while the machines can output the design and you know, move the pixels based on our guidelines and pre-existing templates. Have you heard of the “Buchanan Four Orders of Design?”
Jason Ogle: No.
Jasmine Oh: So, I actually, I came across this while I was researching for the article, but Richard Buchanan, I think he was ahead of Carnegie Mellon Design Program and he’s a professor somewhere else now, but basically he defined these four orders of design and he said “The first order, which like emerged in the first half of the 20th century is about communication with symbols and images. So, the design for that is graphic design.
The second order is focus around things like tangible artifacts and did design of which is industrial designer. Now designers have a wider scope.
So, the locus of the third order is action. So, if you think about designers now as interaction designers designing for experience and not for things. And he’s saying, I think, what we’re headed towards is the last order, which is thought, and design associated with it is environmental design. So, the focus of design is moving towards systems, which incorporates like all of the other orders of design. And it is essentially the integration of information, artifacts, interactions in environments. And where do you see this, all the four orders converging in areas like VR and MR. Like you’re designing for the experience in a physical and digital place and symbols, you know, artifacts, things experience, all of those come together.
Jason Ogle: Wow! That sounds interesting. Is that a book or was that a thesis?
Jasmine Oh: No! I came across it in a bunch of articles when I was researching about AI and the future of UX and bunch of people reference it. And I think it’s a theory. But, when I saw it and he had this nice and neat little diagram of like the rings expanding, I was like, “Oh, that totally makes sense.”
Jason Ogle: So, kind of continuing on with the automation side of design. I read a book by Kevin Kelly called Inevitable and he talks a lot about this same thing where – and even, just the title of the book is compelling. It’s like, okay, this is inevitable, right? Like I mentioned the VHS tapes, going to DVD, going to Blu-ray, going to digital. Everything’s digital. It’s like I spent so much money on Blu-rays and now I’m like, why did I do that when I should just be buying them on iTunes or something or like on, you know, through some other like Prime or whatever, you know, they have a shelf life, right? Any physical media like kind of has a shelf life. All it takes is a three-year old to kind of throw it like a Frisbee and its done, right?
And so, it’s like there’s that whole thing that’s happening here and I can see it happening and I could see a lot of good in it. And then I could just kind of see like the concern parent in me. Like I’m a parent, I’m a sole provider for my family. I have six kids and I get a little worried about some of this stuff to be honest with you. And basically, he’s saying this is inevitable folks. This is inevitable. This is going to happen. It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. So, he’s trying to encourage us by saying, “You know, a lot of folks are so worried about losing their jobs. I get it, but don’t fear because there will be a ton of new jobs for us to do. Yay.”
Jasmine Oh: Yes!
Jason Ogle: Right? But he never speaks to what those are. He never says like, “Here’s the jobs that we’re going to do as a futurist.” Right? I mean that guy has a really interesting lens into the future. Kind of like the black mirror director. Like I don’t understand how that guy just understand, like kind of has this vision. The thing that scares the crap out of me is I could see a lot of the things that he’s showing in those episodes. I can see us heading there. And it kind of scares me. It’s dystopia. [Laughs]
Jasmine Oh: Yes. It’s too close to our future.
Jason Ogle: Oh my gosh. Right. Exactly. So, he doesn’t tell us what jobs we’ll be doing. And I’m worried – you know, we all fear the unknown. It’s just natural as a part of our human genome. So, I’m curious, and I know you’ve got a pulse in this, you’ve done a lot of homework and you’re working in the trenches on kind of what this looks like right now at Microsoft. And so, like, I’m curious just from your perspective, like if you are in the same campus in which I have a feeling you might be, what does the future designer look like? Like what’s their day to day going to consist of?
Jasmine Oh: Yes. Ah, I totally share the same anxiety. And I don’t know for sure, but I think the future of designer will probably encompass more roles as a designer. Like we work with bunch of stakeholders now. Like we work with researchers, we work with writers and PMs and engineers in parallel. I think in the future we will still work with researchers, but us as designers would even get closer to users and participating more research and even run research studies ourselves. So, instead of like relying on researchers and I think the power of AI is that it can help us understand, gather a bunch of inputs and identify patterns and understand data. So, us as designers, we can set parameters to gather data and gather user feedback and we would still need UX researchers to help us analyze the data. But it would be part of our job to identify, you know, why people are feeling certain ways or what people are doing more or less like the quantitative data for that.
And also, I think as I said before, like maybe it’s a good thing that our craftsmanship is less required and we can spend more time on more meaningful things like making decisions and understanding user intent and less so spending time on, you know, cranking out pixels and cranking out comps. Is that still very abstract?
Jason Ogle: You filled in some blanks or there’s some neuropath ways I can feel it in my brain, just kind of connecting here as you shared that. I’m a recent student of psychology, my own personal studies and I’ve been learning a lot just existing in this ever evolving artificially intelligent world we live in. I have seen the value of soft skills and I’m a big evangelist for it because honestly like no matter how intelligent our machines get, and I think we all know that, that it’s happening. And I mean even Elon Musk is like, I fear the future of artificial intelligence when these machines become intelligent enough to start making their own executive function where they start realizing that they can kind of take control and make decisions and even self-replicate and things like that, like that’s worrisome. So, I just feel like the more human we can stay in an ever-evolving, machine-driven world, the more valued we will be in this work.
What are people trying to do with these robots? They’re trying to make them more human. Whose job is that? It’s human’s jobs to make these robots more human. So, there’s that and you got to have those soft skills to be able to try to teach a machine empathy, which honestly, I don’t believe that no matter how well programmed a machine is, they will never truly be able to empathize with a human. And that’s where I go all in on that. And so, I can see, and it just reinforces my message all the more for defenders listening, designers like really go all in on being more human. The more technology that we get, the more human we need to be. And the more we need to set healthy constraints around our use of technology. Because it was mentioned in the scripture as long ago that, “God, we serve is the God we will become.” And that was in the old Testament a long ago was written. And it’s still true today. And I see a lot of us, I have kids, I have millennials in my life, and I know that this is the culture today. We’re all looking in our phones. I do it too. I try to set healthy constraints around it, but the more we become slaves to the technology instead of masters, I think the less human we become, the more we become like these machines. And that scares me.
I see a huge loss of empathy, especially amongst younger people. I am getting on a soapbox here, but I’m going to do it. I see a really large loss of respect for elders amongst younger people. There used to be a lot more respect for people who, you know, like your elders, right? Like your grandparents or your parents or somebody in an authority position. Like I see a a really large loss of respect. That concerns me. And so, I think that, and I believe wholeheartedly the more human we can stay in a world that’s becoming ever increasingly robotic and technical, the more advantage we’ll have in the workplace. And this lends itself to your claim about behavioral design. The dots are connecting for me and hopefully you too Defenders listening, that the more human we can stay, the more we can go on having empathy for ourselves first and personal growth. We can’t give away what we don’t have. I say that all the time. And it’s true. We can’t give something that we haven’t first received. And if we don’t have empathy for our self, we don’t put our oxygen mask on first. We can’t help other people. We can’t create technology that’s empathic, that is run by machines. That’s my biggest concern. There’s my rant.
Jasmine Oh: Damn. That was so inspirational. I needed that. [Laughs]
Jason Ogle: [Laughs] Thank you.
Jasmine Oh: That was great.
Jason Ogle: I love to hear your thoughts on that.
Jasmine Oh: Yes, you make a good point. Like, you know, we’re designer for humans, so I say that yes, AI will replace designers, but like in the end, like the people who are going to be using our products are humans. So, you know, in the beginning I felt the same anxiety, but I think we should feel empowered because as you said, at no point in time can machines really surpass our emotional and social intelligence. We were trained to use our emotions to connect with other people. And it’s just part of our DNA, it’s just part of our humanity and our history. So, naturally we’re in the expert at detecting and decoding people’s emotion and connecting with others. So, we’ve got to use that towards our advantage and just stay human.
And I know it’s super like vague and abstract and it’s hard to understand like how we can weave that into our existing workflows, but that’s part of the work that we need to do and figure out.
Jason Ogle: Yes. Absolutely Jasmine. And you know what? I’ve got to say; your CEO is one of the most inspirational figures in this movement that I’ve heard of in at least a decade. Every time I hear about something that he’s doing or something that he’s implemented in the company for accessibility and inclusion, it’s like, “Dang, dude.” Like, I’m inspired. You all are in a good place with this guy at the helm.
Jasmine Oh: Yes!
Jason Ogle: I have a lot of respect for him. And I have a lot of like hope. The fact that you’re working on this stuff that scares me as a creative person. Like I know we’ll always be able to do whatever we want, but that the industry is moving at such a pace to where it’s not going to make as much sense for us to push pixels around. That bothers me a little bit, just because I’m used to it. So, it takes me out of my comfort zone. But what gives me hope is knowing that your CEO has a complete passion for human beings and has demonstrated that with, again, the accessibility with the, the Xbox initiatives for disabled people. Like, I’m so inspired and I learned a lot about this in Kat Holmes, amazing book called Mismatch. And so, and again, just many things I’ve seen. So, that was me just saying like, I feel a lot of hope now knowing, as long as he stays where he’s at and keeps moving things forward. You know, like what do you think of that?
Jasmine Oh: Yes. He’s done a great job. He’s created this like AI ethics team at Microsoft. And I think this is huge. Like I think every company should have some sort of AI and relate ethics team. Because, then, you know, that’s part of our job. Like we can’t just rely on algorithms and a lot of people blindly just accept algorithms as truth, but in the end, someone needs to make an ethical guideline for how those algorithms react. So, he’s set the right standards and hopefully other companies will follow as well.
Jason Ogle: Oh, that’s so great. What’s his name again?
Jasmine Oh: Satya Nadella
Jason Ogle: Thank you. I am curious about what we do. What do we do now? Right, we know this and again in your really enlightening and slightly scary article, you have enlightened us to the fact that we need to do something about this and there’s no better time than the present, right, to kind of stay ahead. How do we do that? And this is kind of a hybrid of our listener question from Julian Pops, who say:
Listener Question: What’s our best bet for remaining employed? Like any thoughts on how we pivot?
Jason Ogle: And I want to add to his question and kind of say like, what are the best ways? Like, do we need to learn AI or we will be left behind? How do we learn behavioral design? How do we learn systems designed? Like that’s a lot. I just threw a lot at you and I apologize. But if you want to synthesize that for us and just give us kind of your best advice for what we do now with this information?
Jasmine Oh: Sure. My best advice are two things. So first this is what I’ve been trying to do is understanding existing AI applications tools and you don’t have to learn like machine learning. I mean if you want to go ahead and do a deep dive. But if you, as designers, if you just want a cursor overview, then I would look at the existing APIs. Like there’s Amazon intelligence API, Google cloud, AI API, Microsoft Cognitive Services. And they have really good documentation. And if you just scroll through those, you can get a sense of what kinds of inputs and logics are used to train the AI models. And I think it’s so crucial for designers to understand the breadth of applications.
Another thing is weaving in adaptability as a key design principle. When you’re designing for a certain product and experience that a particular setting. But with AI, you know, it helps designs that learn and change depending on multiple variables. So, I’ve tried to shift my mindset when I designed so that I’m not designing for a product at a certain, you know, it’s just a static product, but I always try to think about like, “Oh, how is this going to dynamically adapt depending on the changing context and varying user’s decisions.” And the first step is just putting forward adaptability has one of the design principles.
Jason Ogle: That’s fascinating. What do you mean by adaptability? What does that look like?
Jasmine Oh: Adaptability. So, it’s referring to how products could change based on different inputs. So, for example, like let’s say I’m designing for an iOS application and a random fitness app. Instead of designing the app for a particular user and – I mean people do this right now where you designed for a group of users and maybe segments of users, but I think in the future with AI we have much more flexibility on how the product could change over time and how it can scale over time. So, it’s not just designing for a product at a particular time but more or less a length of time.
Jason Ogle: Yes. There’s a lot to stay ahead of here. And I guess I want to know like you mentioned the looking into the APIs and definitely will link to those. If I can find those links, I’ll link to those. But I also want to know about like are there books we should be reading? Are there classes we should be taking? Like should we be looking into psychology? Like should we be looking into behavioral design? Like do you have any resources that you can throw at us that we can link to and inspire the Defenders to check out?
Jasmine Oh: I think it’s always helpful to know more of like the higher level, like the trends in where we are headed. So, I’ve been looking at, I think UX Collective, they have a great series of articles called “AI and The future of UX” on Medium. There’s like 20 or so articles and you can go through them and they touch on different points about AI and our role as designers. So, that’s a great source.
Another one, I’m just thinking about what you said earlier about how – you know, it’s kind of sad. Younger generations have less respect for elders and you know, everyone’s plugged into their phones and everyone’s just like sucked into their screen. And it reminds me, so Dieter Rams who used to be design of for Braun, and I think a lot of his earlier designs inspired the early generations of iPod. Anyways, he has a documentary and he has a ton of interviews as well, but he basically in his documentary says how people don’t think when they design anymore. People don’t think when you consume either. It just comes and goes. Thoughts come and go. And you don’t have time to even process because you’re onto the next thing. And I think everyone should look at that documentary because it’s just a good reality check and it helps us straighten out our priorities as designers.
Jason Ogle: Yes. I love Dieter Rams and he is one of those pillars of design and his philosophy is even. Like I want to share just his 10 principles for good design. I just want to read those right now. You’ve inspired me. So, he’s got really 10 famous principles for design and you can dig into more to what these mean, but I’ll just run through them.
1. Good design is innovative.
2. Good design makes a product useful.
3. Good design is aesthetic.
4. Good design makes a product understandable.
5. Good design is unobtrusive.
6. Good design is honest.
7. Good design is long lasting.
8. Good design is thorough down to the last detail.
9. Good design is environmentally friendly.
10. And number 10 (which might be my favorite): Good design is as little design as possible.
Jasmine Oh: Yes. That’s my favorite too.
Jason Ogle: So, let’s wrap up the show with the imparting of super powers, Jasmine, what’s your design superpower?
Jasmine Oh: I think my super power would be being comfortable and ambiguity. Like in an incubation team is just inevitable and not to have ambiguous problems space. And the part that excites me is like understanding the amorphous problem space and like weaving through the unknown variables and drawing meaningful associations and shaping the hypothesis. So, I guess that’s my super power.
Jason Ogle: That’s a really good one. What is your design kryptonite adversely?
Jasmine Oh: Oh, kryptonite. This is also related to the work in process we have, but like earlier on in the conception phase, you have to just try a bunch of things and oftentimes like we do mile to wild approach. And I think my kryptonite is that sometimes you just don’t have time to explore like bunch of design options. But I’d still want to and I have to keep like reminding myself to pick and choose the most optimal solutions. And it also applies to like presenting work. Like when you’re meeting with partners and you just spend like three days, night and day creating just design solutions, obviously you want to show everything, but no one has time and I try to suppress my eagerness and put forward the, the leading candidate and summarize it in the best way possible.
Jason Ogle: It’s been said to kill our darlings and that’s hard, right? As designers like we really fall in love with our creations often, right? And it’s like, they’re kind of like babies to us you know?
Jasmine Oh: Yes
Jason Ogle: And so, but as truly creative people, especially in UX and in design, we have to be willing to sacrifice our creations in favor of what the most optimal solution would be. Like you just said like, “Yes, but this looks so much better yet. You know what? Ugly wins sometimes.”
Jasmine Oh: Yes.
Jason Ogle: And I learned that the hard way. I was like, “Mine looks so much better than the control.” But guess what? Control one people liked ugly. There was something about it that made it easier to run through. I don’t know. That’s another part of the, the psychology, trying to understand human beings and understand the brain and our motivations and everything. So, that’s part of the intrigue and that ambiguity that you just said too before this about being comfortable in uncomfortable situations. This is a fun one. What would your UX superhero name be?
Jasmine Oh: So, this is related to the former two points. But, Detangle and Weave, like kind of like a spider, like maybe detangling bunch of, you know, messy associations and then straining out and a weaving in again. Like visualizing in my head.
Jason Ogle: That’s cool. I liked that a lot. And don’t be surprised if my artist, Eli Jorgensen makes your superhero costume, like kind of like Black Widow’s.
Jason Ogle: So, I think I read somewhere, and I can’t remember where I read this and I think you said this. It’s something about when stakeholders bring a user problem, “user problem”, that may not be a problem at all. Like, that’s kind of how you detangle and weave. Where did I read that? Did I read that in your article?
Jasmine Oh: I mentioned I as a superpower.
Jason Ogle: Oh yes, yes. You mentioned that in the pre-interview that we did.
Jasmine Oh: Yes!
Jason Ogle: I’m really curious, I want to know, because I think we can all benefit from your experience here. What are your tips for us? Like when stakeholders bring a “user problem” that may not actually be a problem at all. How do we unearth that? How do we detangle and weave or what have you found has been the most successful way to kind of detangle and weave those scenarios?
Jasmine Oh: Yes. I run into this all the time. Like a PM could propose a project based on the user problem that might not be a problem in the first place or maybe the problem scope is too narrow. And in those cases, I would say the best bet is to ask them like, “Well, has this been validated? What is the supporting data?” And in the beginning I was always afraid to ask for data, but my manager I think told me like, “Why don’t you just ask for data and like look at it yourself?” And now, I do this all the time. I would say where is the supporting data? And it’s funny because a lot of the times it’s so easy to pick and choose data to support your hypothesis. Also, stakeholders that can give you very filtered data. So, you need to be sure to understand like what set of data you are looking into. And don’t forget to ask, you know, for more if you need more data. And to help and to make them explain it to you.
Jason Ogle: Oh, so good. I think it’s called cognitive bias. It’s confirmation bias. And we do that all the time, like if we’re having a political or religious argument, we’ll look on Google. It would be like, I only want the documents that support my belief. [Laughs]
Jasmine Oh: Exactly. The other side of this story.
Jason Ogle: It goes back to a lot of what we’ve been talking about on the show lately. And Lex Roman has been on the show a couple of times. She did a training recently with our User Defenders community. And it was really, really good. It’s about growth design. And that is really another one of those areas, right alongside systems and behavioral design is growth. And we need to really be kind of looking at that too because at the end of the day we’re trained to keep our business afloat and actually not just floating but forging ahead, moving ahead. And we have to, as designers like we have to understand the data better, we have to dig into it, we have to be concerned with it and that’s the only way we can really truly affect change at the business level. So, I really liked that a lot. That was great advice. Jasmine. If you could recommend one book to our listeners, what would it be and why?
Jasmine Oh: I feel like I’m very guilty of not reading as many books. I always just read a bunch of articles. Like Medium is my go-to and I follow bunch of designers. I follow Julie Zhou, and I think she’s a VP of design at Facebook. She has a great series of articles for IT designers and managers. So, I follow her, I follow John Maeda, and he has a video series as well as I think articles that explains like what you can do to be a more successful designer.
Jason Ogle: What’s one habit that contributes to your success, Jasmine?
Jasmine Oh: One habit? I always like to seek for good metaphors. So, like as a designer, a lot of the times, especially if you’re explaining an abstract idea, metaphors come in so handy and plus it just leaves like a visual memory or a distinct memory in the listeners as well. So, whenever I hear a good metaphor, I just write it down on my phone or like when I’m reading articles, whenever I see a good phrase talking about tech or design, I write those down and I recycle them. So, that’s a good habit to have as well.
Jason Ogle: Yes, absolutely. I mean, if it worked for the son of God, it will work for you.
Jasmine Oh: Yes.
Jason Ogle: [laughs] I mean, Jesus told more parables than he did about facts and people remember stories. People remember stories more than facts. Muriel Rukeyser said “The universe is made of stories, not atoms.”
Jasmine Oh: Exactly. Sometimes you would give like an hour presentation and you would have just like one metaphor that you dropped in the middle of the presentation and later on people just remembered that metaphor, you know?
Jason Ogle: Yes, yes. Because they felt something.
Jasmine Oh: Exactly.
Jason Ogle: I love it. And that’s really the premise of this show. Like I wanted to make this less about how to and more about why too. And I feel like the best way to do that is to tell stories and you know, people remember that better. So, I liked that. I think I just gave away the secret sauce to my show here.
Jason Ogle: Oh, lastly, what’s your best advice for aspiring UX superheroes? You did give us some great advice, but I’m curious if you have anything else you want to leave with us before we go?
Jasmine Oh: The best thing? Like I’m still in the early IC designer and I remember when I was a student, I cold calls so many people like you can go on Google, you can look up your university name plus UX design or product design, interaction design plus the company that you want to apply for or the company that you’re interested in. And I think, especially early on in the career or when you’re just looking for jobs, you might not know what you’re interested in. And it’s great to talk to designers in a variety or varying sizes of companies like large corporates, design agencies, startups or startup like teams in large corporates. It gives you a good sense of what fits your interests and your working style and where you might want to go next.
Jason Ogle: That’s awesome! Well Jasmine, this has been incredibly deep and incredibly insightful and just a lot of fun. I really enjoyed talking with you and I appreciate again you making the time to do this. There’s a lot of value in this episode and I think it’s definitely future-proofed. Let’s put it that way. Like this is definitely a reference material. And I think there may be even some prophecy in here as we listened back maybe five years from now. You know, like, I think it’s going to be interesting to watch this all unfold. And, I think no matter where things go as designers and Defenders listening, I think the most important thing is to always be growing. Just never, never, ever stop being interested in your personal growth. And that has to do with your health, that has to do with your boundaries around your technology, like we said earlier, that has, especially to do with your knowledge and your experience in doing this stuff. I always say, you know, we’re either growing or dying, so just keep growing, right? I mean, we’re like plants, we’re either growing or dying.
Jasmine Oh: Yes.
Jason Ogle: And so, keep growing. Thanks Jasmine. And tell us really quick before we go, what’s the best way for our Defenders to connect and to keep up with you?
Jasmine Oh: Yes. I’m not super big on Twitter, but I am on Instagram, so my handle is Jasoh Design. So, you can connect me through that or I’m also on Medium under Jasmine jo.
Jason Ogle: Nice. Nice. Well, thanks so much Jasmine again for doing this. And I just want to encourage you to keep defining what the future of computing looks like at Microsoft because we need you, we need you to do that. Because; I can tell. You have that passion for humanity, for staying human and making sure that the machines stay fit on a healthy diet of empathy and humanity. And so, please keep doing that. And I want to say last but not least, “Fight on my friend.”
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