Coding Creativity 04: The Product Designer’s Role With Ryan Freitas

Ryan Freitas is the Director of Product Design at Uber, co-founder and former Chief Product Officer of about.me, and investor. In this episode we discuss role of the product designer and ‘opinionated products’.

Some notes from our conversation

A Product Manager is someone who has a better perspective on:

  • Business elements going into product decisions
  • Research elements going into making really good product decisions
  • Development efforts and constraints that go toward execution
  • Design that brings it all together
  • Most importantly, the empathetic perspective on user pain and the problem they are trying to solve
“I’ve never bought into the saying, ‘A good PM is a micro-CEO for the product.’ But, I do think, a founder’s mentality, even if they are not a founder, is an essential component in a good PM. The idea of ownership or stewardship for the product for the audience the product is trying to serve is necessary for the entire team, but the PM should be the focal point of that responsibility.”
“My background as a cook definitely informs the way I view the world of ‘production.’ In the kitchen, it is very much dictated by the brigade system. Communication is kept entirely clear, comes from the top, and is unquestioned. In the Product world, this is more diffuse. We have peers working along side one another, to create shared responsibility for the product, but still clear separations of execution of the work.”
“Good creative/design managers create and facilitate the environment for their team to succeed: ‘These people need to be able to work this way, and I’m going to make sure they have the space to work this way.'”

We recently broke out Ryan’s Opinions about Opinionated Products into a longer post. See those notes over there.

“‘Empathy’ gets used a lot in our circles. I would just prefer to say, ‘Do you know what it is like to be frustrated by your product in the marketplace in which it is most challenging to be used?'”
“Going into the field has a deep impact on designers. The [designers] who are most effective at pivoting from exposure to execution are the ones who very quickly boil down what they saw and what they experienced into a few important things they feel they can impact.”
“A lot of people want to build ‘design led organizations’ and I totally get it. But, it almost has to be present from the beginning, because bolting it on over time is a strenuous and arduous process.”
“Anytime I run across product where my primary reaction is, “I don’t get this” I am more inclined to install it, play with it, keep it on my phone for a few months. Because, if I see traction or if there is a ‘there there’ then it means there is something I don’t know about an existing audience that is actively embracing it.”
“If you say, ‘we can write off this audience because they don’t understand good UX’ then your version of good UX has a fatal flaw. The maturation of any good designer is their ability to question their own beliefs.”

Intro/outro music by Harley McKee

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