Hatch Design Talks 2023





Getting Lost in Discovery

Getting Lost in Discovery

Jaime Levy

Jaime Levy

Author & UX Strategy Consultant

Author & UX Strategy Consultant

About the Episode

My guest today is Jaime Levy, author of the book “UX Strategy”, and someone who’s had an incredible life so far. Born in LA, moved to New York City where she was part of its thriving art scene, and later wrote the book that would take her around the world preaching about strategy and discovery. Jaime now lives in Berlin and will be opening the conference, we chat about the future of design and her own future in this new chapter of her life.




Damian: Hi, Jamie. Thanks so much for joining me in this podcast for Hatch Conference. I'm really excited that you're joining us this year. In person, you're doing two things: you're hosting a workshop, a half day workshop on the 5th, and you're also talking, opening the conference on the 6th. So very exciting. 

Jaime: Thank you for having me. I'm honored to be speaking at the conference. Very excited.

Damian: Nice. And we know each other already a bit. We've had some beers and I've always been fascinated with your stories and all you've gone through. From like the art scene in New York City in the 90s to publishing your book and touring the world talking about UX strategy. Does the design and the current landscape still excite you or you feel you've seen it all?

Jaime: I think it's a little bit complicated, because I have seen a lot. I got interested in design slightly before desktop publishing became a thing and I was doing mechanicals and forced to I had, I'd learned page maker, but I was doing mechanicals for a record label Warner brothers, and I started checking out people like Neville Brody.

Who were really pushing the limits of graphic design, especially with desktop publishing. And that was the beginning. I even knew that there was such a thing as experimentation with design. But as the tools evolved, the design changed as well, and it went through so many weird changes that were driven by the available technology, whether it be all of a sudden you could animate a GIF. All of a sudden you could stream a cartoon, all of a sudden you can embed a video. 

And so I don't want to say I've seen it all because I think there's always room for people to do something cool and unexpected, but I think I've seen a lot in terms of what people trying to do cool things .

I think it's starting to slow down a lot because as it should, I'm a big proponent of standardized design, of templated design. I'm really way tired of this whole idea that anything should be bespoke or custom or whatever.

Unless absolutely needs to be that everything should be a template when we're talking about going through the e commerce experience of a website or how a landing page might look it should, people should be able to get through their experiences as quickly as possible and assemble them.

And the only parts, and I focus on this in the book, the only parts that really need to be bespoke or custom are the parts that make that product unique and that's what everybody should focus on is doing something cool because all of a sudden you're trying to make something that's intuitive that hasn't been intuitive to that day and that's the opportunity for people to do stuff that's cool.

Damian: Yeah. Yeah. It's a great point and I totally agree, especially like we should not be afraid of a lot of the commoditization of design when it's actually possible actually benefiting us and us not having to rethink, the wheel .

And you talk about your book, thousands of people have read it and, taking your O'Reilly course do you feel at this point, the questions about them remain the same? Or, has something changed in the companies, because probably now after all these years, there is a little more understanding on what strategy means, what discovery means.

And maybe it has made the job of a strategic designer a little easier.

Jaime: Yeah, it's a great question because When the book came out it was really ahead of its time and you know when things are ahead of its time That can be cool sometimes, except it can also be financially not as good.

Because there's people aren't ready for UX strategy, and the job market certainly wasn't ready.

When I wrote the book, I could name all the people who were considered themselves UX strategists. We all knew each other, there wasn't that many. Now, there's, 10, 000, maybe 20, 000 people who actually have that title. So many people who are stoked to do these strategic techniques. And it doesn't really matter to me if they're doing them as a design lead or senior UX designer, or as a team of one, or they have the UX strategy or product manager title.

And they're, that's their job is to do UX strategy. I'm just excited that people are. Now open minded to, to how important it is to tie business goals to the design. So I think we're in the best place ever for me, at least in terms of amount of people who are finally getting the importance of UX strategy and the discovery phase and that more companies are doing it and companies are taking it seriously.

Damian: So your talk at Hatch is called "Getting Lost in Discovery", and I really like this title maybe you can start about what the talk is specifically about what can people expect from it?

Jaime: . It's going to start with me talking about like why do we need discovery? Where did this whole concept of a discovery phase come from and then really getting into what are the different tactics that make that, without the tools that we wear in our tool belt, when we do the discovery phase and then me having fun, hopefully with providing examples or anecdotes of bad practices and good practices of the discovery phase because I would say more often than not people do a hacked out version of discovery phases because they don't know how to do it or they don't have access to the data or they're not allowed to do the qualitative research, or they don't have access to the resources to do really good competitive research.

And so I want to expose all of that in my talk.

Damian: And you mentioned already the different type of people that eventually came into your book and not specifically just the designers, but people from all over the product spectrum, let's say I wanted to get your take on all of these processes that happen during discovery that are shifting from designers, maybe into more like product owners, product managers and a lot of times as designers, we think oh, but that's our task , this is what we should be leading

it's hard for me as a designer to let someone who's not a designer take over this. And of course, you have in your own workshops in your own trainings you have a lot of people who are not designers who are product managers who are product owners and are also interested in doing this.

What would be your advice for designers like me who feel it's their responsibility to lead the discovery phase and then suddenly the dynamics inside their company or their teams say otherwise.

Jaime: Yeah, you know this sort of tug of war of different who's responsible for doing what. across the different titles has been around for a long time. And it's something we just have to contend with because of the fact that, that the processes are also getting more optimized as the tools, i. e. Figma, become just commodified where anybody can all of a sudden knock out wire frames and, within a week or go get, take the Google certification and call themselves a designer. So there's a lot of people who are newbies. Who are dangerous because they don't really know they don't understand software design They've never done any anything that's actually, you know gone out to market they're still playing around but then there's the other group of people who are like, okay I've I'VE built product now and i've seen where my product doesn't succeed and I get blamed or because I believe that the leadership didn't quite understand where the product should have gone.

And so I want to step up and have a role in the strategy. And the way to do that is to just start doing it, not wait for someone to give you the opportunity and say, okay, you can start doing strategy, but to just do it because you think it's yours to do, do a land grab be ambitious and do it because it's important for you to understand how the product should be designed based on the business goals and the business drivers. 

 And so I think it's just that where we just have to always be learning, always be pushing ourselves, never be like, I don't, I'm not at this, so I can't do that. Just do it because you get good at something by doing it over and over again.

Damian: Do you think as a sign has commoditized, there is any risk that you have strategy at a certain point will become a commodity. Not a competitive advantage anytime soon?. I mean, You're saying the opposite, but I wanted to ask you directly anyways.

Jaime: If we think about how generative AI works and how once it gets to build things for us. There still needs to be somebody. We call them traditionally "knowledge workers". These are critical thinkers who have more, problem solving skills, perhaps then, an artificial intelligence, algorithm, who can make decisions based on both objective and subjective.

Reasoning and create something that, couldn't be artificially created. And I think the first jobs on the chopping block are you going to be the ones that are remedial that are like the low level design jobs, just like if you look at law firms, of course, the jobs that are going to go are the ones that are creaky, make me a, I'm getting a divorce, give me a template, drop an agreement for, a wife, a husband, a two year old son, these, here's our jobs so you can imagine if you transpose that to design, It's going to be able to create first versions of the design and it really just needs an expert to fine tune it.

So I feel like first to go low level, next to go mid level, and it's just going to crawl up. Now strategy, of course I'm biased,

Damian: Yeah.

Jaime: because that's my title. I feel like strategy is hard to commodify. It's the people at the top who are really trying to put a lot, juggle a lot of different balls in the air and say, okay, how can I make sure the business succeeds, but also make sure that the customer need is there. It's like they're thinking about a lot of different things. And so the more complex the jobs are, I feel like those ones are safeguarded and strategy. Is pretty damn complex.

It is not easy. You can't really do it when you're stoned. I'd say that's how you should figure it out. What jobs can you do when you're stoned? Those jobs should probably go away and what you're on. You do when you're not stoned, and that would be strategic thinking.

Damian: I haven't tried wireframing stoned, but I guess I should, but

Jaime: So easy!

Damian: Yeah, on a lighter topic, you now live in Berlin full time, which is great news for people who want to take workshops and courses with you. How do you pick Berlin of all places? How did it happen?

Jaime: I think Berlin's the coolest place in the world. And, I got the memo just like everyone else. I always wanted to move to Europe, but I had to wait until my son graduated high school, which is in three weeks, and he's going away to college, and I don't need to be tied to Los Angeles anymore.

My, my love life, my flat is there, my, a lot of my friends are in Berlin . And Berlin is still, it's definitely moving in the direction of getting ruined like all the other big cities but there's still an opportunity to be in an environment where you're around people who aren't just greedy capitalists, competitive people who want to live like LA, like in New York, where they're just like, what's in it for me? How can I make the most money? What are they doing that I'm not doing? I'm so tired of being competitive and , I've been in a competitive environment since I was a little kid, since I grew up in, in LA and in an environment where everyone wanted to make it in film. And. I'm so over it and I just want to like suck at things like learning German and sit in cafes and do my homework and enjoy life.

And I love art and music and yeah, sure. It's cold there, but if it wasn't, then more people would be moving there.

Damian: between the weather and having to learn German to have an acceptable life. We do a good job at just like letting not enough people move in, right?

Jaime: And now the housing market makes it impossible. If you want to live anywhere besides the sublet, good luck with that.

Damian: That is very true, that is very true. But as you said, I think there's still a few years to enjoy out of Berlin how it is. And hopefully it doesn't transform into any of these other horrible places.

Jaime: I hope so too.

Damian: Nice. Once again, I'm super excited to have you. I've seen you in action and I've seen how grateful people are after you taking your workshops and everything. So I'm pretty sure that a lot of great things are going to come to you. And of course, everyone who's listening can't miss your talk because it's the first one at Hatch conference, unless you arrive late, very late.

You will see Jamie speak and it's always a, it's always a pleasure.

Jaime: thank you so much for having me and I look forward to meeting everybody.

Damian: Yes. Thank you so much. Talk soon.

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