Hatch Design Talks 2023





The Design Process is a Lie

The Design Process is a Lie

José Torre

José Torre

Senior Staff Designer, Shopify

Senior Staff Designer, Shopify

About the Episode

Today José Torre, Senior Staff Designer at Shopify joins me. He’s a super interesting person, and he’s known for the keynotes he does for conferences due to his amazing illustrations. You've probably seen him either in a Medium article, speaking at Config a few years ago, or just being reposted somewhere. We spoke about the challenges of finding time to doing things we want, overcoming impostor syndrome when jumping into uncomfortable new places, and finding your own path in the design process.




Damián: hi Jose thank you so much for joining me today in this small recording for the Podcast of Hatch Conference. How's it going?

José: Pretty good. I broke my toe. Other than that, I'm doing fine.

Damián: Oh, all right. Could have been an arm so 

José: Exactly, exactly. Now I have to like, stay behind my desk and work.

Damián: looking at the bright side. Cool. Yeah. Let's just jump right in because I have a ton of questions for you. One of the things that fascinates me most of you is like you have a full time job at Shopify. You're a father. And on top of this, you draw, you write, you speak at conferences.

It's a lot. And you published an article a few years ago, encouraging designers to block time to do the things they want to do. I was wondering if this is still the way you do it and if it's still effective for you or if something has changed in that routine.

José: So yes, I still use the like the same tips and maybe a few others. I've been like growing in my career, there's other responsibilities that come

So you have to learn how to manage your time even better. Yeah, I guess the caveat that I would say. Is that there's no I'm happy with what my calendar looks like because I also don't have the expectation that it should be fully free of meetings because that's just not a reality that's going to happen. Yeah. It's if I do that, then I'm not doing part of my job because part of my job requires meeting with people and like mentoring and aligning and influencing.

So it's, that's necessary. But I do still try to like block days. So I have days where I'm fully focused on meeting with people. Like today is Tuesdays is usually a day that is full of meetings.

Damián: okay,

José: but then Mondays, Wednesdays, those are days that I reserve and that's still. The case and Shopify supports that as well.

Like my company they encourage everyone to take Fridays just for work. And they will like, there's a Slack bot that DMs you if you're having too many meetings on Wednesday and asking are you sure? Like all these meetings are necessary. So it's a good reminder.

Damián: also your daughter won't have her Google Calendar set up for a few more years, right?

José: No, not for now, but yeah, that's that also influences my time because I want to go with her when she's about to get bad and stuff like that.

Damián: And how did it all start for you? What came first? Did you start writing first and then doing illustrations for the stuff that you were writing? Or were you always illustrating and then suddenly started writing and combined both?

José: I've been drawing since I remember that's I guess that comes first always. Even before I knew what a designer was, I was drawing. But actually my articles, they were supposed to be video scripts for YouTube.

Something that I was going to post, but then I was just postponing making the videos because that's more work to a point where I was like, I have these I have a couple of videos written. And I just decided to post like I was following a lot of people on medium . . And then obviously if I'm like making a story, I feel like that's not enough. I need to have some visuals to go with it and also make it easier to scan. So that's just one thing. But so when I'm writing, usually the illustrations come afterwards, but the ideas come during the process.

And sometimes it's there's an idea that sparks in my mind for an illustration that helps me create a paragraph for or group the information that I want to talk about

Damián: Yeah. Your talks are also often decants of previous articles that you've written, right? Like you, I, how does that actually happen? Do you write them first and then turn them into a talk or you have to give a talk and then goes into an article? What's the process there?

José: It's a bit of a mix. Like sometimes I have an idea for a talk and then I start writing as a, as an article. But I can't get everything out in an article. So I see the talk as like an expanded version of an article because I can get into more of the nuances and cover more ground.

And even get to a point where I can intersect a couple of different topics that I may have covered in a few different articles. Sometimes one triggers the other but often they are very interconnected. It's just, everything is just I want to say something about something.

So then it's just these are just different manifestations of the same thing. Like me wanting to say something.

Damián: Yeah, that's really good. I think also because you're thinking about it multiple times in multiple formats, then you can cover everything that you want to do because I have a feeling at this how my process is that sometimes I am doing something to output in a certain way and then I forgot, like parts of what I was going to do or say about it.

And I guess if you actually have a structure that it's found in other formats gets a little more like tidy by the time, but maybe that's my perception. 

José: I think it helps organize information like the way that you write an article, at least the way that I write an article. It's not exactly the same way that I do a talk, but it's like it helps creating sections of information like a little Groups that then you can like expand or just leave it as they are in a talk.

I think it's nice to have more of your personal, like a personal story like something that you can start with and end with. It's it's a kind of a different format and. Yeah, it's different than talk. So usually I end up making way more drawings because it's just me like on stage

Damián: Hahaha!

José: to keep people engaged and not looking at me.

So that's the other

Damián: Haha, yes! 

José: different on talks. It's I just ended up making more drawings to tell a better story because on articles, I think it's like you expect people are expected to read a little bit. So the illustration is just a little like. A little dessert after each paragraph, but a talk has to be fully,

Damián: yeah. I totally understand that I was gonna ask the same exactly. Like sometimes it's the kind of the purpose of having so many illustrations on stage a way to defer attention from oneself and just be like just focus on the screen because nice things are coming, Haha,

José: Exactly. That's all. That's not just, I like drawing. So that's one of the reasons. The other reason is so people look at the image and not at me because I'm just freaking out every time

Damián: Mhm.

José: and trying to not look at people.

Damián: And when you started writing for the first time, most designers have, a bit of fear of having to actually write in words and not have to output things like visually how was the process for you? Did you have any kind of, like fears of how that was going to go?

Or did you feel, some kind of imposter syndrome sometimes of being like, I'm not a writer. How can I publish something?

José: Yes. Oh, 100%. That's why I started thinking about making videos because I thought I could do something what I like, what I do in talks is that I can talk about something and add visuals to learn like diagrams to explain better to compensate for maybe my lack of I don't know, understanding of how to speak.

So yeah, definitely. It's I don't feel like I'm a writer, that's the first thing, the second is that English is not my native language, so it's, there's always that thinking that I might not be saying this right, or I might be using the wrong words, or I might be, I don't know, writing this in a way that is too simple,

Damián: Yeah.

José: so definitely, and that's not something that I've overcome.

I think it's still, it's always there. It's just I just accepted that my way of telling a story has all the constraints that I have. So if it works. If it doesn't.

Damián: Yeah, and I think that's what makes it personal like at least you know for us at the conference it's very important that whoever gets on stage really comes from something personal and that comes with, the background and their accent and whatever they have, welcome, because that's exactly who comes to see, right?

If we just wanted like an expert breakdown of whatever UX topic, there's videos, there's like books about it. Like we can't do a better job. But I think people come to see, kind of someone coming with their own background and that's, what's really nice about it. And speaking about that, you're actually an advocate on like dedication and time spent over talent, right?

So I guess this is also one of the ways you overcame your own sort of fears or or ideas talking to talk to a lot about how spending the time and putting the work actually gets you to where you want to be rather than just expecting it to magically come to you. But these days, it seems like us, the previous generation of UXers, people more our age had a bit more time to learn and adapt.

And right now it seems like the speed of things is making everything exponential and you can't really, when you used to spend three years in university, now it has to be like three months in a bootcamp and that's all you can afford to get. Because 

José: yeah.

Damián: Do you have any strategies for dealing with this perception that we're always trying to catch up these days, especially for people who are starting up?

José: So I think yes, things are maybe going faster, but it's also easier to get started. It's easier to make things it's way faster. It's more efficient. Yeah, maybe it was calmer. That was the perception, but it's also it took longer to make something so I think there's a bit of that and personally I see that as a motivation really to try to keep up and not let things happen to you and you're just like left out of the conversation and having an opinion is trying to , maybe get involved or understand things and see where you belong in the middle of everything that is happening.

I guess that's the way that I look at it. I see it as motivation. It means that we have, still have something that we can do, still have something that we can learn and we can push for it. It's a it's not easy and , there's a lot of information as well. So it's hard even sometimes to know where to start.

Damián: From the people that you mentor, which I imagine they're designers are they more like on the starting side? Like why, what do they come to you for in general?

José: There's a, I have like different people. So it's I have designers that are like one level below me. Like they're staff designers and they're leading a team. But also I'm mentoring designers that are not junior, but like still learning the ropes of learning how to design.

So I think what less senior designers come to me with is more advice on design execution, because that's what they are mostly concerned about and maybe how to deal with their peers. What more senior like designers come to me is less about execution, but more about how to frame the work and how to present it to stakeholders.

So I guess that shows what people are concerned about. It's like you get to a point where it's less about the execution and more about the way that you're presenting the work .

And then like on a more junior level, they are still learning the ropes of what makes something good and that's where they need you. That's the range that I see.

Damián: And let's talk about your closing talk at Hatch. It's a it's titled "The Design Process is a Lie". So I can imagine it's based on some like harsh encounters, where the theory you learned didn't quite match the practice of what you actually wanted to do.

So I wanted, to hear from your own words, like what can participants expect from the talk? 

José: Yeah. Obviously it will be about breaking some misconceptions. And but I think it's more than that. It's about setting expectations and learning how to thrive on change because more often than not, we are not the ones in full control of the process or the deadlines or anything, really.

We're part of the sea, but we're not driving where the water is going. So I think in school or even in things that you read online or in books There's always this kind of ideal scenario that is painted and that in my experience rarely happens in reality . And I think this sets the wrong expectations for people.

So then I see designers struggling to adapt or just to stop caring about the work that they are doing, because they feel like there's one step in the process that we're missing. So this is not going to be good in the end. So I'm not going to invest 

Damián: Mm 

José: more in this. So In my talk I'm planning to share some of these insights that I've gathered on how to deal with the constant change and with the fact that it's never a straight line.

And basically maybe tell some stories how I failed and how I succeeded in dealing with that. 

Damián: Pretty cool. And what's your favorite part about conferences? From both sides, right? As a participant and as a speaker, what do you actually enjoy the most?

José: Okay. As a participant, I would say I love seeing how people craft a narrative around their work.

Damián: Yeah.

José: Seeing how people manage to capture countless hours of work in less than 30 minutes often. I think that's really inspiring. And it's also like part of the reason why I like to create like that kind of narrative.

 I like to see how people do it. It's like trying to decipher and seeing like tips that I can get to do. I see the talks in two ways. It's like one is learning about the content and the one is the other one is learning about how they structure the talk. So I think that's I find that really interesting.

And also like going back to a previous question on all the things that are happening, I think the conference is also a good place to see what's happening and keep up with the latest things. And then one last bit, so I'm an introvert. So I'm not like really into interacting with a bunch of people that I don't know.

But I have to say that during like different conferences, even though being an introvert and not really being like looking for it, I still managed to have like people coming to me or like having conversations with people that I found. Were interesting and I appreciate it afterwards, even though I was stressing out internally because I was talking with a stranger. So that's another thing that I appreciated as a participant. As a speaker, I think I'm just eager to be done with my talk. So I'm like the whole time I'm waiting for my turn and then just, I just want to do my thing and then be done and then see how people perceive it. So it's stressful to be honest.

Damián: Yeah.

José: Okay. I think it's if it works out in the end it's rewarding. I haven't had one that didn't work out, so maybe we'll, I'll find out. But yeah, that's I like the, after the feeling of this is done and I did it. That's why I like us being a speaker. Yeah,

It's okay. I still enjoy it. It's just I'm always like, especially in the day that I'm speaking I'm always like looking at my clock. It's okay, two more people and then it's me. And it's yeah. It's anxiety. Yeah.

I appreciate it.

Thank you. Thank you. Nice to meet you.

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