Dan Makoski on Compassion and Putting Design at the Core of Business (Ex Walmart, Lloyd’s, Google, Microsoft)

Dan: When you really think about the
long term businesses that don't provide

a fundamental service or product or
experience, if they don't meet a need in

a person's life, they go out of business.

And this thing called design is not,
I define design really as thoughtfully

include improving people's lives.

Yes, we have the decoratives
make stuff look good forces.

But really what we're trying to do
with design is understand the needs

of people and ultimately businesses
are trying to serve society.

So those two things, that's why it's
the heart and soul of business because

the strategic design is uncovering the
purpose of what a business is meant to do.

Christian: The discipline of design
is now key to building great products.

More and more companies are making
space for it at the higher levels.

More people than ever
want to become designers.

And most of us who already do the
job wants to find ways to have just a

little bit more impact in our teams.

Welcome to design meets business.

I'm Christian Vasile and on this
podcast, I bring you world class

product and design leaders who found
ways to shape products, companies and

entire industries, and who are now
sharing what they know with you and me.

My hope is that we all get to learn
from the experiences, ideas, and

stories shared on this podcast.

And in the process, we Become
better designers on the show today.

I'm chatting with Dan Makoski, author
of Uplifting Design and former design

executive for Lloyd's Walmart, United
health group, Google, and many others.

We chat about the difference between
designing interfaces and designing

hardware, about how his design team
has doubled conversion for walmart.com,

and about why he believes that you
should look at your career from a

perspective of two year stretches.

Dan is a great storyteller and has
an uncanny ability to pull you in

and by the end of this episode you'll
definitely feel more inspired and

you'll also understand how a high
performing design executive thinks.

I hope you enjoy this one.

Dan, welcome to Design Meets Business.

You have been in design for over 20
years and you could argue that you're

one of the people who's been around
the design world since its early days.

And perhaps as an extension through
your father, who was also a graphic

designer, you've been around the
industry since its very beginning.

So naturally, I'm very excited to
have you on and talk to you about

the evolution of the design role
and what you've learned over time

and perhaps where we're going next.

Tell us a little bit about your journey
so listeners can get familiar with you.

If they don't know about you already,

Dan: thank you so much christian.

I'm so happy to be here.

This conversation of the intersection
of design and business is critical

because I believe that this thing that
we call design is the soul of business.

It's the heart of what business
is meant to do and can be really

powerful when used in the right way.

So yeah, I'm Dan, I'm a designer
and I have for the last decade or

so, but more in design leadership.

So I've been the chief design officer at
several of the world's largest companies.

Most recently, United Health
Group, which is the fortune five.

Before that, I was chief design officer
at Lloyd's Banking Group, which is a FTSE

19 company out here in the UK and before
that spent 10 years in Silicon Valley.

I'm working for the likes of Google
and Microsoft and Motorola and Walmart.

And I guess the way to think about me
is I'm the kind of designer and design

leader who likes to bring design into
places that don't get design, which

is really hard for my mental health.

It's really hard for acceleration
and speed and impact but when you

think about a light, that lights.

I'm not really the kind of designer that
wants to work at Apple or or Spotify

or places that have already sorted out
how does this thing called design work.

I want to go to places that don't get
design because I feel like I can have

a bigger impact in those environments.

Christian (2): There are a couple of
threads that I'd like to pull on here.

The first one you said that you believe
that design is at the heart of business

and I think let's talk about this.

Why do you think that design
is at the heart of business?

Dan: Two things.

First of all, I totally recognize that
this thing called design has its own

set of stereotypes and assumptions
and images that come to mind.

Like If you asked a random CEO
in the street what is design?

They're probably going to say, Oh,
design is those creative, artistic

black turtleneck wearing people.

They kind of in the corner somewhere
in that cool design studio and

they make stuff look awesome.

That's usually what
people think design is.

They take the most superficial
, tactical, decorative layer of

design and they think of it as art.

The way that I think about design
well, let me give you two definitions.

The first definition of
design is the generic one.

Design is simply the act of making.

Any company that makes a product,
a service, an experience,

they are designing already.

And the question isn't,
are they designing?

Because design is
inevitable when you make.

The real question is, can companies
continue to afford the consequences

of poor and mediocre design?

Not, can they afford,
the cost of great design?

And we've seen study after study,
decade after decade, that companies

that actually invest thoughtfully
in this thing called design, they

do better than their peers who don't
from a pure business perspective.

You can look at the UK design council
study, the DMI study, the McKinsey

study in 2018, And the second thing
I'll say is I think the purpose

of business is to serve society.

This is not my quote.

This is from Kathleen McLaughlin.

When I was working at Walmart, the
fortune one, the world's biggest

company fee was leading the foundation.

And she made this statement in one
of her talks it was so simple and

so obvious and so powerful that sure,
businesses often are very left brained

and make short term quarterly decisions.

That's for sure.

But when you really
think about the longterm.

Businesses that don't provide a
fundamental service or product or

experience, if they don't meet a need in
a person's life, they go out of business.

And this thing called design is not,
I define design really as thoughtfully

improve improving people's lives.

Yes, we have the decorative make
stuff look good forces, but really

what we're trying to do with design
is understand the needs of people.

And ultimately businesses
are trying to serve society.

So those two things, that's why it's
the heart and soul of business because

the strategic design is uncovering the
purpose of what a business is meant to do.

Christian: And when you said earlier
that companies that invest thoughtfully

in design or they cannot afford not to
invest in design thoughtfully, that word

thoughtfully, is that what you mean?

When, because a lot of companies out there
invest in design, they have a design team.

They're trying to evolve.

They say they put design at the
core of their product, but is that

thoughtful investing in design or is
there something else you mean by that?

Dan: There's a lot of factors
that are required to unleash the

power of design in a business.

I've been a chief design officer,
a VP of design at a lot of these

companies that don't really get
design, many of them had the belief

that, Oh, if we hire a chief design
officer, Everything's gonna be good.

We're done.

And the reality is like one of the
companies I've worked for recently.

I started to go deep into an audit on
let's understand the current design team.

Let's understand the current
design practices and all of that.


Being a chief design officer gave me
a perspective that was really useful,

and I was sitting in boardrooms,
executives, committees, where I

could give a human centered design
perspective, which was useful.

But the reality is, when I looked at the
hundreds of designers on the team, which

looked like a big team, when you think
about it, how many developers are those

designers supporting, as one example?

It turned out there was a 1 to 97 ratio.

One designer serving 97 engineers.

And there were 18, 000 developers writing
codes that touched people's lives.

That's bigger than the town I
grew up in, Sawfield, Connecticut.

So not only do you need an executive
leader bringing the conversation

of design into the places where
senior leaders are making decisions

around strategy, prioritization,
and budgets, but you also need to

be thoughtful around prioritization.

What are the most important
design initiatives that will

have the biggest impact?

And then you also want to make sure that
you're doing fewer things better and

having incredible quality with design
because those hundreds of designers,

they were peanut butter spread super thin
across hundreds and hundreds of projects.

There was an average, what, six
to seven projects per designer

at any given time, which is nuts.

We had burnout, we had low quality,
and it's not because the designers

were not good, it was because
the organization was maturing in

how it used design thoughtfully.

Christian: I can assume this is
also something that you've seen.

evolve over time.

You started at Microsoft 20 years ago
design 20 years ago was seen and employed

very differently than it is today.

And I'm wondering, is the reason
why a company would have 18, 000

engineers and only a hundred designers?

Is that because that company is not mature
enough from the perspective of design yet?

Or is there a bigger
fundamental problem there?

Design is not being seen at the
higher levels as important or

design hasn't proven just yet
what it can do in the industry.

Why do you think these
imbalances are happening?

Dan: Well, Christian, I think you
identified some of the key forces.

There's at least three to four major
forces, which come together to create,

you know, what I think of as this
downward spiral of devaluing design.

And I remember when I was at Microsoft
in my twenties, us designers would get

together every year when Apple would
do, it's like keynotes for various

launches and things, because, we were,
really trying to foster design culture.

In Microsoft, which is not known as a
design forward company, there were no

VPs of design Microsoft at the time, the
highest level was just like a director and

design was decentralized and all of that,
and I remember we were just having this

conversation during one of the keynote
addresses where Steve Jobs comes out and

uh, it was the next version of OS 10.

And when they launched it, they put
out these billboards that were poking

fun at Microsoft and one of 'em was
like, Redmond, start your photocopiers.

Or they said, introducing Longhorn, which
is Microsoft's next operating system,

that we were just gonna copy them and
we were so pissed, but also so delighted

because, here we are designers and
Apple, Steve Jobs is poking fun at us.

And we knew the designers at Apple,
like we went to the same design

schools, like we had the same raw skills
and tools and training and passion.

So how is it that Apple can
do so much more with design

while Microsoft struggled?

And the real answer there in my
twenties that I realized it's

not how good your designers are.

It's not.

It's how well design is used.

And so here's a couple of forces.

Number one, I think there's a question of
what does the C suite look like, right?

The leadership team that reports to
the CEO or the composition of the board

is a reflection of the personality
and priorities of that company.

If you go back to 1945, there was
no such thing as the chief marketing

officer, for example, right?

The chief marketing officer came into
existence after world war two, when

companies started to try to differentiate,
manufacturing came back, and all that.

Now every single company in the world
has a chief marketing officer reporting

into the CEO because this thing called
marketing and branding and advertising

messaging is considered core, right?

If you were in 1980.

You would have no such thing as a chief
technology officer that didn't exist.

There were heads of engineering labs and
R and D places, as the rise of personal

computing came all of a sudden Oh, we
really need a chief technology officer.

So now every single fortune 1000
has a CTO reporting to the CEO.

Now if you look at this thing
called design, even though Steve

jobs, about 20 years ago brought
Johnny Ives to report to him.

Apple said design is important enough,
like technology, like marketing, like

operations, like finance, like strategy,
that it needs to be in that senior layer.

And there was a bit of a renaissance,
Pepsi brought in Laurel Porcini and we

had, other companies starting to bring
in chief design officers and my belief

is that if we think about the next decade
or two, that trend will actually will

continue even if we're in a bit of a slump
now, as our companies have a downturn and

they're letting go of the most expensive
senior design leaders and just saying

we'll let product lead that instead.

But I think ultimately that voice of a
human centered design executive is so

key at that layer, because if it's not
there then all that design is doing is

basically responding to the plans, the
guesswork, and the strategies of other

leaders that come from a technology
or business or strategy perspective.

And that limits design, right?

Design isn't helping to shape
the direction of the company.

It's seen as a tactical
delivery mechanism.

Number one.

Number two, if you think about.

How design is organized.

Usually it's scattered
across an organization.

It's tucked relatively deep down into
places of building and engineering

and making , which is great.

Design should be making stuff,
but often in those places, design

is never really asked, Hey,
what do you think we should do?

What do our customers really need?

What should be our priorities for the
next couple of quarters or next year?

Design is usually brought in.


After Business product and engineering
folks have already sorted out what they

want to ship and they're like, oh, we
should probably bring a designer right.

And then the third forces, even when
they are brought in, they're not

brought in with the level of investment
that's required for quality design.

So imagine you're building a building and
you're like, Oh, that architecture thing.

We don't need that.

I, my, my construction
engineers, they're fine.

We'll sort it out.

Oh wait, maybe we should bring
in an architect part time.

No architecture is fundamental to the
design process for physical buildings.

And that industry has
hundreds of years of maturity.

And in the world of software and, in
hardware, we're still catching up.

And then I think the force I have to
mention here is when you think about.


The lack of design representation
in those areas, you end up with

this unspoken or sometimes spoken
assumption that we must not be good as

at design because our designers suck.

And then what ends up
happening is your design team.

tHey're burned out, they're
spread across a lot of projects,

they're tucked way down.

There's no senior voice.

Now they get blamed.

And this is really a tragedy
because it's like a victim shaming.

And whenever I've come into lead
design teams, the assumption for my

other peers has been, Oh, Dan, you're
going to have to probably fire half

the team and bring in good designers.

I've never found a design team
that doesn't have good fundamental

skills and capabilities.


There's individuals, and you know
that you have to help move on.

And that's of course the real thing that
is the problem there is how the company

understands values and prioritizes design.

And it's why I wrote my book Uplifting
Design because Uplifting Design is

not about getting better designers,
Uplifting Design is about having the

leaders at organizations have a better
understanding of this thing called design.

Christian: We'll get to talk
about the book in a second.

I was listening to, and I was thinking
could the reason for this also be the

fact that there are just not a lot of
companies out there in the grand scheme

of things that have shown with design
at the core that they can be successful?

I'm thinking, for example, obviously
Apple has shown that, but Apple is a

bit of an outlier also because this is
not only software, it's also hardware.

It's to a lot of people that perhaps
also seems There's just a different

world, but looking at purely software
companies, I think, I can name 10, 20,

maybe that put design truly at the core,
Airbnb being one of them, for example,

the founded by a designer and you can
actually see how successful it is.

And then through the hard times of the
pandemic, I was listening to a podcast.

Brian Chesky was talking about how hard
it was during the pandemic when Airbnb

lost 80 percent of their revenue almost.

And then through design.

But not design as in just let's make it
look better, but through the power of

design has turned the company around,
figure something completely different out.

And it's just fab.

It was just a fabulous story.

And I'm wondering, is this also happening
because there's just not a lot of

companies out there showing or talking
about how design has helped them turn

around other than, the obvious one,
Apple, other than maybe Airbnb now I

think perhaps the more companies are going
to start talking about this, the more

executives are going to start listening.

I don't know.

This is just an assumption
that I'm making.

I don't really have a question.

This is just an assumption.

Dan: Yeah.

the examples are all over the place.

I would say those are not just outliers.

And by the way, I did watch that
Brian Chesky interview as well.

And I was in tears listening to it just
because how amazing to see a CEO, the

only CEO of the fortune 500 that hasn't
designed background in a moment of

crisis, go deep into his design intuition
and training and roots to redesign

the company from a design perspective.

And it's so interesting because he even
admitted that he lacked the courage to

lead the company from a design perspective
because he started surrounding himself

with all the, MBA, like left brain kind
of traditional ways of running a company.

And when thing, when shit hit the fan,
eight loss, 80 percent of their business,

it's no we, if we're going out, I want to
go out in style and I want to go out like

doing what I felt was right as a designer.

And he did three or four things that
were completely against standard Harvard

business review, like ways of thinking.

And the financial results
were extraordinary, right?

Airbnb from the last couple of quarters,
you get more revenue per dollar invested

in Apple or Google, like extraordinary.

That's not just an outlier, right?

And you see that at Apple,
you see that at Airbnb.

And the thing is this has been studied.

Like If you go back, What, three, four
decades, the British design council did

an initial study on the footsie 100.

And what they did is it was very simple.

It, you know, there wasn't a lot of
data analytics and all that at the time.

And what they did is they just
said of the FTSE 100, how many

of them have applied for or won?

design awards, right?

It's a, it's not the best signal, but
it's interesting because if you're a

company that has a design team that's
mature enough to even try to get a reward

or that your business will allow you to
pay for that submission, it's at least

you care enough about this thing called
design enough to try to get it recognized.

And it was interesting.

What they did is they just filtered out
the, I think they called it what was

it, the design value index or something.

And they said, okay well, how
has that cohort of companies

performed relative to their peers?

And it turns out that from a financial
returns perspective, just looking at

stock price that cohort outperformed their
peers on a factor of two to one over, the

last decade or whatever they looked at.

So that was interesting, right.

And then DMI, the Design Management
Institute, several decades later,

did a similar study, but instead
of looking at only design awards,

they looked at six variables,
including is there design leadership?

Is there significant budgets
prioritized towards design, et cetera.

And they took a much longer
time to look at these six

attributes on the S& P 500, right?

So more of a U.


leaning index.

Guess what they found?

Two to one outperforming
their peers, which is crazy.

And then what happened in 2018 when I
just joined Lloyd's Banking Group, came

over to the UK from Silicon Valley,
McKinsey launched their design value

report and business value report.

And that report, they looked at dozens
of attributes across millions of

financial bits of data to correlate
companies that invest in design.

What are their business returns?

They created the MDI, the
McKinsey Design Index.

What was the end result?

two to one at least outperforming of
peers of companies in value design.

So look, whether you look at one
attribute, whether you look at six

attributes, or you look at dozens of
attributes, the data is crystal clear

and sometimes it's subtle and sometimes
it's dramatic like Apple and Airbnb.

I think it's not that we
lack examples, Christian.

I think that it's that
business leaders lack courage.

If you're the CEO or CPO or CTO of
a major company, it feels risky.

to put more energy into this thing
called design, given that people

stereotype it as more art, not as
actually, fundamental business skill.

And let me tell you one little story.

So I, when I moved to the UK,
I I moved to the right next to

the Lloyd's design studio, which
happened to be in the square mile.

And, there's actually It's
called the City of London.

It's like OG London.

There's eight and a half thousand
residents in that area and two

and a half thousand of them live
in the Barbican, which is this

estate right in the City of London.

It has its own Lord Mayor and
apparently the King has to actually

get permission from the Lord
Mayor to enter the City of London.

Anyway, this is really, it's interesting.

It's like OG London and
the square mile is known.

for being the world's financial center.

There's a lot of suits.

It's very left brained.

There's no place that is more
business dealing culturally

than the city of London.

And I got this really interesting
email a couple of years ago from the

Lord mayor of the city of London.

He's Hey Dan, I want to talk to you.

I'm like, Oh.

Let's talk.

Hey, let's talk.

And so we connect and basically it's
like, Hey, I've, our economists did this

study where they noticed that parts of the
square mile that were really flourishing

were correlated with neighborhood
streets and areas where there were more

design and creative related businesses.

It was really interesting.

And then we looked at businesses in the
square mile that were investing in design

that they were doing better financially.

And meanwhile, my 24-year-old son
who he would, we were both living

in the Barbican and he was going to
school doing documentary photography.

His dream was to have to Shoreditch.

Lemme get out of this place.

Lemme go to the cool place where all the
creative energy and design is happening.

And so the Lord Mayor said, Dan, what?

What do you think?

Like, how do we, I want to help this
city of London flourish from a business

perspective, you are a design leader.

You're at Lloyd's.

What can we do?

So basically I joined his creativity
and commerce committee and for months

we thought about everything from
planning rules and different kind

of incentives to get startups and
creative agencies, maybe to co locate

with large businesses in their space.

So we could pollinate in a good
way, you know, creative skills.

And we wrote this report called
fueling creative renewal.

You can Google it, check it out.

We didn't have a budget
attached to this report.

So great thinking.

Not as much execution, but my point here
is when the Lord mayor of the city of

London reaches out to the chief design
officer, this American Silicon Valley,

crazy white glasses wearing guy, he's not
asking just because he wants to be cool.

He's asking because he wants from a
quote unquote business perspective,

he wants the city to flourish.

So look, the examples
are out there, Christian.

I think business leaders just have
to take their blinders off and they

have to rethink what design means.

Christian: Let's shift gears a little bit.

One of the aspects of your work that
makes you really unique in terms of the

people I usually bring on the podcast is
that you have exited At times, the world

of software into an entered the world
of hardware and the world of hardware

is, I assume, a very different beast.

And I'd like to talk about that because
you've been on so many projects over

time, whether that was the surface
tablet at Microsoft the studio hybrid

with Dell, the Moto X phone and Google
Aura or sorry, project Aura at Google.

And I'm wondering, what have you learned
from designing not only for software, but

for hardware and you probably learned a
lot of things but what have you learned

that's perhaps from a perspective
of something that's, that could be

actionable or something that someone,
perhaps an individual contributor or

someone working or considering joining
a hardware company might want to know?

Dan: Yeah, that's great.

I've had such a privilege to work
with pixels and atoms and all of it.

First of all, I would say that.

My degree actually was international
relations and I wanted to go into

global development and I just
stumbled across this really cool

thing called HTML in the 90s.

I was like, I want to mess around with
that and director and lingo scripting

and I ended up essentially, getting
into software web interaction design.

And then that kind of launched.

So I started in software and, when
I went to Microsoft I was part of

the team that redesigned Hotmail
and, we did all kinds of really cool

things that scale 150 million users.

I just saw the effective
design in a broader sense.

But then on surface, when it was
actually a table, my team led the

interactions for that whole project
about how do humans connect computing

when you have no keyboard and no mouse.


There's objects, there's gestures,
there's context, and it's 360, right?

The table is flat.

So if you're on one side of the table
and I'm on the other side of the table

and we're both touching a map, how do
I bring up information that is readable

to me on the right side versus you?

And we had five infrared
cameras and it was super cool.

And that software experience
could only happen with hardware.

And this is also something that
Apple was legendary at kicking

Microsoft's butt in all the time.


The beautiful integration of
hardware and software and that

those two things go together.

And I think it was that project where
I realized it's actually not about

being cool designer and software or
being a cool designer and hardware.

I have so much respect for modern product
designers who are doing incredible things

with UI and apps and software and screens.

And I have so much respect for
those that studied industrial design

and they can sketch really well.

And they have this term called CMF,
which is like color material finish.

And they talk about
posture and form language.

It's a whole different, it's so
exciting to actually be around and

talk to industrial designers that
are working in atoms versus pixels.

But the really interesting thing for me
was not really about geeking out around

going deep into those areas of craft, it
was the recognition design is meant to

serve people and make their lives better.

People aren't pixels or atoms.

People are people.

We're emotions and neurons and, it's
what we feel and our experiences

are both physical and digital
and emotional and relational.

So as a designer, if you are really
thinking about experience, this thing

called experience design has come to
mean more UI and apps and screens, but

true experience design is about how you
orchestrate every touch point, whether

it's atoms or pixels in the right way.

I think the other thing was that I
think designers who have a particular

training in one area naturally gravitate
towards the stuff they don't know

it's like the grass is always greener.

So I know a lot of industrial designers
that just love to get into the world

that I started in interaction design.

I'm like, cool.

Oh my God.

You can make change so quickly
because when you do hardware,

things take a long time.

It's, there's a bigger.

Consequences, it could fail where you
feel in software, you just change the

build tomorrow and you're good, right?

You mess up something on the
surface table recall and all that.

So anyway, I'll just say that the
best projects I've ever worked on

are neither hardware nor software.

It's both.

Like when we launched HeyMoto, which
became HeyGoogle on the Moto X, it

was on a hardware device, but it was
actually software enabled that allowed

people for the first time outside of
Star Trek science fiction to talk to

their phone in really natural ways.

And it was that magic or Walmart.

We did walmart.com, which is
digital and software, but the

highest rated NPS journeys that we
created involved the hardware of.

the actual retail store where you'd be on
your mobile phone to order groceries, you

get a notification already, drives your
car to your local Walmart and an associate

would pop them in the trunk of the car.

You didn't even have to take
the kids out of the seat.

Those types of experiences require
atoms, pixels, and emotions.

Christian: A lot of people recently
are talking about, perhaps just more

so in the realm of software, something
similar you're talking about, which is.

customer would have several touch
points to interact with you on.

Let's say you make an app.

It's not just the app.

It could be customer
support on top of that.

It could be where do they look at the app?

Do they use it on a tube with no internet?

Or are they at home on their couch, or is
there a kid screaming in the background?

So all of this is not only the
experience of using the product, but

also the context and the environment
in which you're using the product.

So sort of also starting to consider
other important aspects of using that

product and I'm wondering on a daily
basis, how do you translate, emotions

and all of that into a project that
a designer sits on and works on this

little tiny part of the software.

But how does that necessarily relate
to the bigger piece and what's the role

that, that someone that like a high
executive in design plays in combining

the two or bringing them together?

Dan: Yeah, that's Well, Again,
this is a bit of the stereotype

that design does is artifacts.

They do objects, they do outputs.

I think any real thoughtful designer
is recognizing that yes, there are

artifacts and objects and outputs
associated with the work of design.

And in design in some ways it's even
more tangible and urgent because those

artifacts are so immediate and it's
the things that people touch, right?

But the reality is that great
design isn't about polishing

artifacts and objects and outputs.

Great design is about facilitating
extraordinary outcomes.

Great design is about thinking about
the lives of the people who have some

experience or journey or need, who have
this thing called a phone in their hand

that they're touching and have this
app that is it on their home screen?

Is it not?

It's a mobile app.

What's going on?

Who are just trying like that
top rated NPS experience I

talked about we did at Walmart.

It was a lot of busy parents.

Who hated shopping in a physical store
with young kids because it's, so many

tears and distractions and all of that
they just want to get food on the table

and spend more family time together.

So when you're designing a
mobile grocery experience.


There's so many people, right?

So many different types of personas
and archetypes that do that.

But when you're thinking about the
needs of those people, you have to

go beyond the app, go beyond the
artifact, go beyond the object.

And I think the most powerful force
that has made design even more useful

and relevant over the past couple of
decades has been the introduction of

social science and cognitive psychology
into this thing called design research.

Whether that was Jane Fulton
Suri at IDEO back in the day,

defining this thing called empathic
design, or whether that was Dr.

Liz Sanders at Fitch talking about
participatory design and co creation,

The idea that you bring together
the kind of people and methods where

you can understand people's needs,
people's lives, people's hopes, dreams,

fears, relationships, et cetera.

And then bring those people
together with the people who.

are really great at making things,
designing things, creating things.

That intersection is what's key.

And if taxi cab companies before
the age of ride sharing, we're just

thinking about their design team as
a way to just make buttons sexier.

You'd have a taxi app that would
not have changed fundamentally the

whole process of getting from point
A to point B, but a taxi experience.

What is it?

Fundamentally, it's I
want to get somewhere.

How could I rethink that from a
fundamental perspective that leads to

thinking like Uber and Lyft and Bolt so
I feel like the most valuable part of

design is the human centered part of it.

And it's the research side of it.

And there's nothing more humbling for a
designer than to sit in a user research

session or to go out into the field
and do ethnographic research and see

people struggle with what they're doing.

Like when I joined Microsoft in my
twenties, I remember on my onboarding,

I was learning about this thing called
call centers I remember at the time they

said, one of the top couple of calls
that came in where people call you and

say, Hey, Microsoft, where's the any key?

I can't find the any key.

And we're like, why?

Because it says in the beginning
of the boot up experience,

press any key to continue.

And most people were like, Oh, just touch
any of the keys on the keyboard you want.

But some people were like I
don't know where the any key it.

And it's you might laugh and say people
are so stupid, but actually I would just

laugh at the designers and say, you're
so deaf and blind, not watching and

listening to what people really need.

So I think design and innovation
begins with an EYE and looking,

observing, seeing the experience of
people's lives is where it's all at.

I remember a

Christian (2): story.

I think I've quite sure I've said it on a
podcast before, I was at the British gas a

few years ago and we had an in house lab.

We would bring customers in to
test prototypes for future products

with, and I was in the room with
a participant and behind the wall,

there was the entire team watching
through a camera through a screen.

And there was a prototype of something
that I don't even remember what it

was, but these participants, this
is something I'll never forget.


got so frustrated with not being able
to figure this thing out, got fully

red in the face on the brink of crying.

Although this is just a
testing session, right?

At any point you can
say, do you know what?

I actually don't get it.

I don't know, but she got so frustrated.

And I think not only for me, but also
for the team that was in the other room

and watching it really explained and
highlighted the impact of our work.

If we can create such emotions into
someone in a testing environment where

there are no high stakes . Imagine what
that experience or any other experience

that we put out there can do to someone
stressed at work, trying to book their

boiler appointment or whatever it may be.

There's nothing more
eyeopening than watching people

struggle with your products.

Dan: I've been working in the regulated
spaces of healthcare and banking,

and I've never seen more tears like
you described, Christian, than in

sitting in design research sessions
in those two spaces, and when you're

going through a critical life crisis.

Health crisis or when you're facing
all of the emotions of guilt and

shame and fear and anxiety when
it comes to money, it's hard, it's

tough it's a totally different space.

And those areas, I think, remind teams and
designers, particularly because designers

really are in many ways the closest to
the people we serve because they create

the things that people touch and have
to understand in our mental models and

You feel so much more empathy in those
environments because you realize how

disconnected people are from money, how
disconnected people are from health, These

are really unsolved problems from a design
perspective is how do you create a healthy

relationship between people and money or
between people and their next best self?

When it comes to wellbeing and I've only,
I'm so proud of the things we've done

in those two spaces, both at Lloyd's and
United Health Group and beyond, but I'm

so excited for a generation of designers
to continue what you just talked about

is to take that empathy that you feel
when you see someone about to break down

and say well, I can make this better.

I can design something better.

Like they shouldn't have to think
or struggle with something that is

just too complicated or broken or
not personalized or adaptive enough.

And honestly, this is
the point of AI right?

The I part of is intelligence.

It's a human construct.

How can technology respond and be
more human- like, And the essence

of the human experience is one of.

Service and joy and love
and friendship and caring.

And so how can we use technology to help
people overcome those moments where they

just feel so unheard, so disconnected,
so hopeless to say, you know what?

Yeah, you got a big credit card
bill, but we'll work on it.

Here's what you do this month.

I'm gonna guide you.

So I'm hopeful that design can uplift.

And actually that's
where business value is.

If you can really help people connect
to their future financial self and

become financially stable or their
next physical self, those things

have business value in them as well.

Christian: There are a couple of
businesses that in the past have just

provided such incredible experiences,
whether in a tough time or perhaps

just in any normal time that I'm so
loyal to still to this day because

they've done something for me.

They're not just an entity
with an office somewhere.

They've done something that I felt
was valuable and they're another

company can come in and say, you can,
we can shave 20 percent off a bill.

I don't care.

I don't care.

You don't exist in my world.

So I think uh, when executives in higher
ups understand just the value of providing

such a great experience to someone, such a
remarkable and easy to remember experience

that can also, as you said, bring business
value then of course or hopefully kind

of people will change their minds a
little bit because a question that I was

going to ask is, and you alluded to it
earlier, you said design in a way is the

function that's closest to the customer.

And I don't think it's very
um, controversial there.

And I'm wondering whether oftentimes
design sits with these problems that

they've seen users or customers struggle
with, and they bring them back to a

room and they say, we need to solve
this because this is a big thing.

And someone from the finance department
or someone product or whatever it

may be, I mean, Product, I would
hope they're aligned, but that might

say, you know what this, I don't
think this is that big of a deal.

I don't, I just don't think it is.

That happens all the time.

Oh, of course.

And my question was, what do you
do when as a designer, deep down,

this is the right thing to do.

How do you bring that to the table
storytell to convince people to put money

into that or invest some time into it?

Dan: A couple of things, I think.

I've so many times in my career,
I've heard senior leaders say, I

got to let six people determine
what decisions I make, right?

If you had, let's say a six person
usability study, which yeah, they

could deal sin and others would say,
actually you would cover 80 percent

of most of the issues in those first
kind of half dozen or dozen sessions.

But I think, this gets into a
question of corporate culture

and how do decisions get made?

And let's be honest, most
companies make decisions.

by, it's guesswork of the
highest paid person, right?

The CEO said this, or his leadership
team said this, or the product manager

said this, or the CTO wants to ship this.

And if you really ask them
the question who's that for?

What evidence do you have that's actually
what people need and how is fulfilling

that need to get a drive business results.

There usually aren't very
good measures to any of that.

It's usually just because they're
the highest paid person and

they, I just got to be loyal.

But there's at least two things
you can do on those cases.

Number one, there's again,
nothing more powerful.

Then having those decision makers
have a direct experience with

the people who you try to serve.

So a united health group, for
example, we set up a workshop that

we called compassion by design.

Compassion was one of the company's
core values, which is race.

Compassion is a beautiful core value
to have, particularly in the world

of healthcare because that's so
desperately needed at those moments

in life when you need that help and
that assistance and that support.

And I think the company didn't
actually understand how deep you can

go with compassion until they saw how
design research and design thinking

and design practices give you a more
active outlet to make this vague

notion of compassion really tangible.

There's ways to prototype, there's ways
to iterate, there's ways, all that.

And so in these, we created some
physical spaces and then two to three

day intensive workshops for the very
first thing we did is we went out

of the field and we just observed.

We had executives who normally wouldn't
just be, would just be in a meeting and

it's, give them a PowerPoint presentation.

Here's what we need to do with design.

No, get into the urgent care
clinics, observe the stress and

the challenges of, both your, your
doctors and nurses and clinic staffs.

And then also the stress of what
is it like to be in that waiting

room to have you triage to like,
is that digitally facilitated?

And then we come back and we
start to go through the design

process . What insights do we have?


How might we statements , so I
think design is both an area of

expert craft for a specialist team,
but even more powerfully design is

an area of unlocking the creative
confidence of an entire organization.

And so in those situations, you bring
those executives into the field with you.

They're a lot less likely to just hold
on to their guesswork that they thought

should happen because they, it's like
truth and problem solving, like here

are the people we're trying to serve.

Here's the experience.

That's number one.

And number two, I think you got
to call out corporate culture and

business is really insensitive and
ultimately doesn't serve the business.

this is maybe a whole other podcast
sometime, Christian, we can get into it,

but imagine a spectrum of how you as a
human relate to another human, right?

in the middle of the spectrum,
I would say there's apathy.

Apathy is defined as just not
having any feeling right for

anybody on the really negative side.

I would say there's like, All kinds of
crazy stuff like hatred and prejudice

and bigotry and yeah forget about that.

But like at a minimum apathy, right?

And what you, when you talk to someone as
a designer about things you want to create

and business leaders say, Oh, who cares?

They're really showing
apathy at that point, right?

The other side is what I would
call compassion and getting there.

You start from apathy and
then you go to sympathy.

If you're sick, Christian, I'll send you
a sympathy card I'm sorry, you're sick.

I'm not sick, but you're sick.

And I, I care about you, so I'll
send you a sympathy card, right?

This next step after sympathy is empathy.

Oh, you're sick, Christian.

I've been sick.

That sucks.

I'm so sorry.

It, oh my God, you want
to talk about it, right?

And then compassion goes, it has all
those levels, but then compassion

goes one step further and has it.

You have an urgent desire to
help someone live a better life.

You're sick, Christian.

I'm so sorry, but I'm making chicken
soup right now and coming over.

Oh, you don't eat meat.

I'll make a tofu chicken soup for you.

And I think if you call out the company
culture and drawn company values that

we all actually do want to connect with
other humans in powerful way, whether

they're customers or business partners,
B2B, even B2B folks are people too.

It doesn't have to be a
consumer company alone.

I think calling out the
culture I think is really key.

And that's hard, right?

Those are, that's like a fireable
strategy sometimes to actually go to

the powers that be and speak truth.

But it's what's required
to change the mindset

Christian: And perhaps a bit
more responsibility for the

people who actually get up there.

We always talk about getting a seat at
the table and then you get there and

you don't know what to do with the seat.

That's one of the things
you can do with the seat.

There you go.

Problem solved.

We were talking a little bit before
we hit record, and you even mentioned

earlier Walmart and the redesign there.

When I was reading about that redesign of
walmart.com the results that it brought

that redesigned were just phenomenal.

So I'd like to talk a little bit about
that and see how the, so give a little

bit of context first of what that was.

And then let's talk a little bit
about how design fit into that

and how important design was for
those results and throughout that

process and for those results.

Dan: Yeah.

The context there.


First of all I haven't had
a lot of experiences in

Walmart personally growing up.

I was more of a east coast,
west coast kind of city guy.

That was more like an old
foods target, whatever.

But the reality is Walmart is
fundamental particularly to the

American shopping experience.

Walmart is the world's largest grocer,
the world's largest organic grocer.

they're just incredible.

93% of the US population lives
within a 15 minute drive.

I the Walmart somewhere.

. And basically I got approached by
Walmart because they were really

looking to up their game and design.

in their Silicon Valley office,
so Walmart's headquarters

in Bentonville, Arkansas.

And you should go there if
you haven't, it's like a

cultural experience of its own.

And it's awesome.

It's wonderful.

I love Bentonville.

It's like pickup trucks, hunting
dogs, and like good Americana, like

just all small town awesomeness.

And, they wanted to use
technology and design to change.

And what did they want to change?

The board of directors at Walmart at
the time did what you would expect

most board of directors to do.

They look at the competition and
they project into the future okay

here's current, here's Walmart in our
current growth rate where the fortune

won the world's largest company.

And here's Amazon.

We're a little worried about them.

They spot whole foods, like they're
getting into our space and they

looked at Amazon's growth rate.

And they said What happens
if we change nothing?

What if Amazon keeps their growth rate?

We keep our growth rate.

There's this really scary line where
those switched sometime in the future.

I won't say exactly when.

We're actually close to it right now.

And they said if we do nothing, we're
going to be unseated, undethroned.

And so what did they do?

They bought jet.

com for billions.

They brought in the CEO of jet.

com Mark Laurie, who is amazing
retail leader who's in your previous

businesses were bought by Amazon and
he's just really cool billionaire.

And so he became the seventh CEO.


Walmart is so big that there's
a CEO for the retail stores.

There's a CEO for Sam's club.

There's a CEO for international.

And he was the CEO for walmart.com
and he's we got to change things up.

So he brought in a new technology
officer, a chief product officer, I

was brought into, had a bowl of design.

So the three of us sat down and that was
the brief change, the growth rate, right?

But also he has a CEO cared
enough about design that he

was in weekly meetings with us.

And this is common with great design.

You know, When Elon unveils a new
Tesla product, he'll give a quick

little intro and say, and let me turn
it over to Franz to talk more about

it who's their chief design officer.

He's I'd love meeting with you on
a weekly basis to get every detail.

So when senior leaders care enough
about this thing called design to

pull it in, pull it up, or they come
down into it, either a metaphor,

then you can do cool things.

So what did we do in eight months
we ended up redesigning every

pixel associated with walmart.com.


Our CEO was humble enough to take
my advice to say, we need to have

this grounded in weekly iterative
design research sessions with

families who rely on Walmart for
their shopping and understand what

are their pain points and all that.

We brought folks into our design
studio, families created collages of

what does living better mean to you?

Walmart's mission was
save money, live better.

And then on those collages, you
said What are the forces holding

you back from living better?

And we heard these stories of families
that just were juggling so much,

they barely had time for this thing
called a family dinner anymore.

It was just, it's too much going on.

And when they got to walmart.com,
everything was so cluttered.

There was 15 carousels, every
merchandising department was on their

own trying to get space on the homepage
that ended up basically walmart.

com was a place where 97 percent of
people just went to search, because

there wasn't a lot of personalized and
there wasn't a lot of point of view.

There was really no
design perspective on it.

And so we started taking the
collages of those families and

these essential ideas of design.

And we developed a version of Walmart.

com, the homepage, category pages, search
results, all the key pages that reduce

density by over 50 percent in most cases.

And it was, and we got so focused
on reduction of density just to

focus on what mattered to you.

We even took out the Walmart
wordmark on the old website.

It was Walmart.

And then the spark logo, we
took out the Walmart wordmark.

It was just the spark, which
worked well on mobile, right.

and we're, you know, on
desktop, gave you more space.

And I had to have like 20 meetings
with executives in Bentonville

to actually get that to stick.

Cause we're like, you're
not proud of our logo.

I was like no.

I'm so proud of Walmart when you
own a physical store, you don't

put a Walmart sign on every aisle.

Like, you know, You're in the store.

Like when you typed in walmart.com,
or you open up the Walmart app

and real estate is precious.

and there was this one story,
I'm sorry, it's a little bit of

a side, but it was interesting.

You know what Sam Walton wanted to call
Walmart originally the name for the store?

Have you heard this story?

No, I have not.

So he, this was his first discount store.

He'd already done some retailing
and he's I want a discount store.

And the first name he turned, he
was talking to his store associate,

his store assistant, Bob Vogel.

This is the guy real practical
dude that like did all the shelving

and the signage and the fixtures
and just ban all the operations.

And he's here's what I'm thinking about.

I want it to be Walton
supermarket discount city.

And Bob Bogle, like turns to
Sam and he's like, there's not

a lot of space to put the sign.

And he's like, you know, I could
do this whole thing for 49 bucks

if you just call it Walmart.


And he just he, he took this simplicity
design principle and applied it.

And Sam was like, okay.

So they called it Walmart.

that first sign it was sans serif
Scrabble like letters, and so we, in this

redesign commissioned a new typeface.

We called it Bogle named after
Bob Bogle, our first typographer.

And we just applied that philosophy,
take everything out that doesn't matter.

We ended up tripling the number of
personalized elements so that the

stuff that was there was likely to be
stuff you cared about and our CEO Mark

Lurie was so passionate about reorder,
because our data science team had this

predictive shopping list like Christian,
I know probably what's on your list

because I know what you've shopped
before and I know what other people

like you probably have on their list.

If they had tied, you probably
also have, fabric softener.

So between easy reorder, the
reduction of complexity and the

increase of personal elements.

We launched in eight months, a new
version of Walmart that ended up in

most categories in cases, doubling
conversion and ended up, when those

results came out and our quarterly results
it led to the biggest stock jump that

Walmart had seen in a very long time.

And I loved it because this was an
example where the business results of

finally meeting the board's request.

Hey, Walmart, can we grow
faster or as fast as Amazon?

We met that goal.

The business actually grew as a result
and people were happier and we did

it at the world's largest company.

Like Walmart designers
feels like an oxymoron.

It's like it's not a company that
people know cares about design.

And I'm so proud of that team.

I brought in Valerie Casey to succeed me.

It's the chief design officer when
I was moving my family into London.

And I still hear stories from
that team about the cool work

they're doing and uh, I love that.

That's my favorite project
of actually, of all time.

Christian: That's awesome.

And what it brings it back to is
a word that you've mentioned a

few times already in this podcast.

And I can, I start seeing a
thread here, which is compassion.

A lot of the results that you've
had sound like happened because of

compassion, starting from what do our
customers really need, bringing them

in, talking to them, but also from
that, from understanding, from having

the compassion and understanding, but
also taking that message further, like

you were saying, 20 meetings to be able
to remove the part of the logo, right?

that was only possible because the whole
company and the design team and everyone

working on this had compassion and
understood what was truly, deeply needed

rather than just copied from someone else,
which I guess happens quite a bit today.

We don't have a lot of time left and
there are quite a few things I still

want to talk about, but let's talk
about your book, which you've just

launched recently, Uplifting Design.

Who is it for?

Why did you write it?

Dan: Yeah.


Look, I I had a bit of a
opportunity to transition recently.

I was working in United Health Group,
not only because I was interested in

healthcare, but because my 19 year old
daughter was studying in the U S and I

want it for her last two years before
she was, you know, in her first year in

university and last year of high school.

With Lloyd's, it was so hard for me
to be able to work outside the country

because of tax consequences and all that.

So really I got into United Health
Group so I could so we're talking

to my daughter as she was in
her last couple of years there.

And then when she decided to come
to London for her second year of

university, then that 50 to 60
percent travel with the United Health

Group didn't feel so good anymore.

So anyway, I got into a place where I was
like, okay, I want to start my next phase

of my career where I'm going to, after two
years, United Health Group do a little bit

more advising and stay closer to London
so I can be with my daughter as she's

starting her first year of university

During that time, I, had a couple of
months before I was figuring out that

I wanted to launch this chief design
advisors, career and my fiancee, who's

an Italian chef and one of the most
encouraging uplifting forces I've ever

experienced in my life started writing
her cookbook called cooking connections

and I was just so inspired seeing her
take a break from her banking career to.

So I basically took the 150 talks
I've given over the last decade

and started to be like how do
I put this into reading form?

And I ended up very easily
creating the framework.

It starts with values, which is your
beliefs, which you hold most dear.

The second section is that vision,
the what future do you get excited

about based on those values?

Section three is about strategy.

What is your roadmap and plan to create
that future you're excited about?

And then the fourth
part was around tactics.

What are the superpower tools in
design that help you with that roadmap?

And I wrote it that way
because I've had to.

elevate design in a lot of these
design unfriendly places, taking

a design team that's usually
immersed just in the tactics.

There is no strategy.

There is no articulation
of the design vision.

There really isn't a kind of an
articulation from a design perspective of

values that's explicit and almost having
to, flip that structure on its head.

So I wanted, I knew that I wanted to
write a book that would sequentially

use this playbook that I'd used at
Lloyd's United Health Group, Walmart.

And this book is primarily for
design curious CEOs who have heard

about design and want to go deeper.

McKinsey in that 2018 study,
they also polled CEOs.

And they polled CEOs, do you think design
is important to your future strategically?

And like 90 plus percent
said, yes, design is key.

And then they asked those CEOs,
can you describe what design is?

And 80 percent were like, I
don't actually know, right?

Christian: I don't know what it is.

I just know it's important,
but I have no clue what it is.

Dan: I don't know what it is.

So this book is for those design curious
CEOs and members of CEOs leadership teams.

And it's written for a non design
audience, which is hard because

I'm a designer but I tried to speak
in a language that other leaders

outside of design could appreciate.

The second audience are for VPs of design
who have started to build credibility,

but want to imagine how to create a
cheap design office in their company.

And so I'm actually mentoring.

A couple of dozen VPs for trying to
get to this chief design officer level.

And it's been so great to work with them
and the tools that I get, the 12 chapters,

there's 12 methods, 12 principles, 12
case studies, it's just a tasting menu

of things that I think could bring
design and chief design officer level.

And the third audience are students,
the next generation of design leaders.

And I've already turned the book
into 12 masterclasses that I

taught at the Royal College of Art.

I have all sorts of words in my head
and I'm gonna copy them over to if

you don't like reading, it's a more
video interactive way of connecting

Christian: computer.

And as you can see, I'm sitting on a
platform and these are the Jarvis actions.

Any book on design.

It's on my list.

Dan: There's a good chapter
on Walmart, chapter 11.

There's a good chapter on
Project Aura, which is up there.

So, Yeah, it's a lot of good stuff.

Christian (2): Awesome.

The last thing I want to touch
upon is this thing you mentioned

literally the moment before we hit
record, which was around thinking

of your career in two year stretches.

What does that mean?

And why does that work for you?

Dan: Yeah it's a really interesting thing.

My dad, who is a designer and had his
own graphic design studio, he started

as a graphic designer, worked his way
up, bought the firm and he worked at

one place pretty much his whole life.

And he's got a very different mentality.

He's no, when you work, you should stay
for a long time and grow and all that.

But I've never really
felt that way, honestly.

And the moment I kind of
realized I gave a name to this.

was when I was working at Google Dr.

Regina Dugan, who used
to run DARPA, right?

That's the U.


military's advanced
research project agency.

She was brought in by Google to
lead a hardware engagement group.

That's where project ARA came
out of was my time with her.

And when we met, there was just
instant chemistry and just, I

was so inspired with her vision.

She had a t shirt in her
office that said, do epic shit.

She was just like, our time is precious.

We got to do amazing things.


And she loves my approach to
design, which is based in this human

centered social sociology view.

And so she said, Dan, if I asked you to
join my team, would you move your desk

down, get rid of all your direct reports?

I was leading design research
globally at the time and just start.

We don't even know what
project you're working on.

I thought, yeah, I'm in, she's
like, well, there's one more thing

I'm going to fire you in 24 months.

I was like, excuse me.

She's like, yeah well, that's
how DARPA works, right?

DARPA, which was created as a, as a
response to Sputnik because the Russian

surprise the U S military, DARPA was
created with the mission to create

and prevent strategic surprise, which
is actually a pretty cool mission.

And as a way to enforce that
mission, they would hire project

leaders for a two year term.

And what that would do.

Those constraints would force leaders to
take extraordinary risks and to use all

the resources of DARPA to do really bold
things in that 18 to 24 month window.

And when she told me that,
she said, actually, Regina,

that's how my career has been.

Like I was at Microsoft for eight years,
but it was four projects, two years each.

My belief is that really, capable
talents will move really thoughtful

folks that want to grow and have impact.

We'll reflect every couple of years have
I been able to have the impact I want.

And either they're gonna change
roles within a company or it'll

move to another company to be able
to keep that actual perspective.

And I remember when I was asked by the
CEO of Lloyd's, I was interviewing as a

part of the chief design officer thing.

He asked me about How do we,
how can we trust that you'll be

here for more than two years?

And I said, you can't.

I might not.

And that's a good thing.

So anyway, it's gotten me
into trouble sometimes, but it

also has kept me on my toes.

And I'm approaching 50.

In a couple of months, and
I've got, another five things

left in me, two years each.

Maybe it's at one company.

Maybe it's my own company.

But I love that approach because
it helps me keep me at my best.

Christian: Would you say
that's good advice also for non

executives or for individual
contributors, people on the ground?

Have you ever mentored someone or
talked to someone and say, Hey,

I think it's, you should consider
moving on because you're growing

more when you just keep job hunting?

Dan: Yeah, I would.

I would.

juSt from a financial perspective,
the data absolutely shows that

you will make more money if
you move around that cadence.

Companies are so poor at promoting
and, increasing the wages of

folks that stay in one company.

So just from a purely financial
perspective, it's worth it.

But more importantly, I think
from an experiential perspective.

I'm a better leader because I now
understand banking a bit and I understand

healthcare a bit and I understand tech a
bit and I understand retail a bit, right?

Some people might say, I've been
in retail for 20 years and I,

yeah, but I don't know how valuable
that perspective is necessarily,

diversity is key, diversity of problem
solving and intellectual challenges.

And then I've mentored folks on my team
that I've said, you need to move on.

Not because I love you, not because
I hate you, but it could be because

you can't do the thing that you want
to do next to grow in skills here.

And I've, there's been several scenarios
where, and it's really tough because

as a senior leader, I'm meant to
attract and retain the best talent.

And sometimes that when you really
focus on someone and their goal

in life and careers, if it leads
them away from your company,

personally, I have to support them.

And sometimes it can be tricky, but
yeah, I would recommend it, but I also

just in all humility, recognize there
are other personality types out there.

The by some, some settlers
that just want to build roots.

They want to stay in one place and
just want to like, and that's fine too.

Like we need a, we need
everybody, and look what's

happening with the gig economy.

Look what's happening.

So now at a company called Neol as a
catalyst, Neol is a company where none

of us actually work for the company.

It's just a network of design talent,
some of the best talent in the world.

And we work together not because we
have to work together or people are

telling us to work together because, our
boss says, here's the project, we work

together because we want to work together.

There's 1500 of us that
are part of this network.

I think the future of work is more
incredible talent coming together

to have impact for the right
reasons, not necessarily collecting

a paycheck at the same company for
a decade and like paying your dues.

I think that's the future of work.

Christian: It's interesting you said
there are different personalities.

I think there's a little bit
of a difference there because

the ones who wants to stay in a
company for a longer time, they

don't need permission to do that.

It's just everyone can just do it.

But I think sometimes people who are more
like you, and I tend to be, the reason

I really want to talk about this is more
on a personal level is because I tend

to be just like you and looking over
my LinkedIn tells a very similar story.

And, but sometimes at least I
personally felt guilty about that.

Because this, it feels like this
is not the right thing to do.

And it's just, there's no one giving
you permission to do it in a way.

But so I think that's why I
wanted to talk to you about this.

Dan: Let go of the guilt, Christian.

Let go.

It's funny now that I've
done it so regularly.

I get comments from people after
two years like, what's next?

Tell me.

And like, I stayed three
years at Lloyds Banking Group.

We moved talking about metrics when I
joined Lloyds, we were our NPS blended

scores across all of this, family of
financial products and services and

apps or whatever it was about 64 ish.

So we moved that to, mid seventies
over the three years that I was there.

And you know, in the world of banking
is a bit slower and you have to change

your speedometer a little bit going from
Silicon Valley to the British banking.

But after two years at Lloyd's,
people were like, where are you going?

What's next?

I was like I'm sticking
around for a little bit more.

And then, you know, my daughter's
educational plans change and then I like,

and I would have stayed longer both at
Walmart and at Lloyd's banking group, if

it hadn't been for family circumstances,
moving me to different countries.

So look, I'm not totally
attached to the two year thing,

but yeah, let go of the shame.

Let go of the guilt.

Go for it.

Just get out.

It's totally fine that any employer
that actually cares about you is going

to recognize that you're there to do
something extraordinary with them.

And you might not have me for more than a
couple of years, but for the time you're

going to have me, it's going to be worth
it and let's do some good work together.

I stayed at the house of a designer used
to work with the capital one and his

wife, Carolina, who I met, she actually
redesigned this cover and he like

posted a picture of it on his Instagram
on top of a Deuter Rams book and he

was like, look at these design books.

I was like, Oh my God,
I'm at a Deuter Rams.

But that's super cool.


And someone commented on it,
something like, Oh, Dan Makoski,

that guy that can't hold down a job.

I hope he's a better author than
he is a professional, because

like I hear he's not so good.

So you get that too.

And there's going to be haters and there's
going to be skeptics and there's going

to be folks that feel like, the two
year thing is not because you're great,

but because you suck and you just ride.

No, it's fine.

It's fine.

You just I'm here to uplift
design I'm here to give up listing

encouragement and It's all good

Christian: Dan What's one action that
you think earlier in your career led to

your success that in one way or another
separated you from some of your peers?

Dan: When I was at Microsoft, I talked
for the first time to an executive coach

because I wanted to go beyond my title at
microsoft as a product designer 20 years

ago and then i got into design manager
when i was doing interaction design

manager at surface then i got into design
director leading a team of 30 at a studio

in beijing for microsoft But that was it.

There were, I felt like
there's a glass ceiling.

And when I was looking in the world
of design and seeing that Johnny Ives,

VP and chief design officer, I was
thirsty to start practicing design

at the institutional level, right?

Not just around a set of products.

And so I was talking to an executive
coach about it and they were really, I'm

sure they were super well intentioned,
but they were, they gave me a message.

Just like, well, dad, just keep your head
down, pay your dues, eventually a couple

of years, maybe something will come.

And I just remember like that night, I
just was so frustrated with that advice.

Cause I'm impatient, right?

You can tell from the two year thing.

So what did I do?

I go onto LinkedIn and LinkedIn, you have
your whole career experience history,

but then you also have this sub line.

That you can use.

So Dan Makoski and I had put like the
UX manager, director, whatever, but

the same exact title that I had at
Microsoft, I was like, let me change

that to Dan Makoski design executive.

And I felt thrilled and horrified.

I was like, I'm not actually a
design executive, but there's a voice

inside of me that says if someone
asked to be a design executive,

would you be a really good one?

I said hell yes.

So then it wasn't a lie.

It was like my best truth
of my next best self.

Two weeks later I got a recruiter
from Motorola called me.

He's Hey, we're looking
for design executives?

Your name came up in a LinkedIn search.

and I ended up beating out another dozen
proper design executives who had that

experience because I was so passionate
and thirsty to lean design research in

a new way So anyway, I guess my point is
how do you deal with imposter syndrome?

How do you deal with all of your
feelings of vulnerability that you're

not good enough that you don't belong
that you can't do it for me I being the

single wage earner You have a family
of, with three kids that their ability

to like eat and go to college and all
that's based on my earning ability.

I've never had the luxury of being able
to do anything but just go deep into that

vulnerability and come out to the other
side with imagining my next best self.

So I think making that decision
when I was in my early thirties,

it just created the right mindset.

you to start the first step
towards a truly an executive path.

And I encourage, so I actually do
my, in my mentorship with folks and

I help them clearly articulate their
next best selves and then get a

tangible form on LinkedIn and their
CV and the language about themselves.

And I just, that I would encourage
anyone to just have a little

bit of faith and confidence that
your CV is not about you now.

It's not about you in the past, your
CV, your website, your LinkedIn.

It's about you next.

That's a little bit beyond what.

You're currently doing,
but not so far beyond that.

It's a lie.

That would be my recommendation.

Christian: Thank you for that.

And last one is, what are we not talking
about enough when it comes to design?

Dan: Oh, there's so many things.

First of all, I think the design
conversation is so man, it's so

fractured and there are passionate
folks that like are getting attached

to titles of I'm a product designer.

Interaction design is not really
our information architecture or UX

design or UI or blah, blah, blah.

Like we get so caught up.

Can you imagine folks in the chief
technology office, like engineers,

bickering with each other of
you call yourself a front end

developer, but I'm actually a coder.

No, I'm not like data scientists.

I'm a data architect.

Come on, design fricking grow up.

People can take whatever title they want.

If you're focusing on using
creativity, intuition, and empathy

to help people live better lives,
you're a designer, just unite.

So that's something we
have to stop talking about.

Something we have to talk more
about, I think, are two things.

One is, If social science has been
this huge accelerant to design

over the past several decades to
humanize this thing called design.

I think over the next two to three
decades, behavioral science and

behavioral economics is going to
further supercharge how we think

about design because behavioral
science and economics gets to a deeper

level of these things called habits.

And we understand how psychology
works and we think about

trigger routine reward loops.

Because ultimately all design is
trying to change some kind of behavior.

And I think we can start thinking about
doing that at a deeper level, particularly

in an AI driven world for good and
make sure that we design from an ethics

perspective to use that only for good.

I think the conversation is also
broadening and not just deepening

into behavioral design, but broadening
what I'll call societal design.

So I had a, pretty substantial
accessibility team at UnitedHealths group

that was thinking about people of all
abilities and how excluded so many folks

are from digital, particularly digital
experiences and physical experiences

with all different types of abilities.

And that gets into a conversation
of neurodiversity and gets

into a conversation of all
different types of people, right?

What about race?

What about economics?

What about access, education, all
of those things, the huge effect on

people when it comes to healthcare
or banking or any of these areas.

So I think design has to go to that space.

Because design, if it's really about
helping people live better lives,

if design is really about serving
the needs of society, then design

has to go beyond a user to think
about a neighborhood, a community.

This thing called society and then
the environment to think about

how we design a thoughtful way
beyond just making artifacts, but

thinking about the human experience.

Christian: Thank you.

Dan, if people want to follow you,
read what you're writing, buy the book,

where can they go ahead and do that?

Dan: Yeah.

www.uplifting.Design or www.mako.ski.

No, I'm not a ski resort, but dot ski is
the last three letters of my last name.

So you can go to either of those
places and I'm super accessible.

I love, connecting with folks
and please reach out The book's

launched two days ago, so I'm really
looking forward to some feedback.

My hope is that Uplifting Design,
it's not some rule book to follow.

It's just my stories and my experience.

And I want to hear stories coming
back from people who have taken it

to the next level or done new things.

And so I'm so excited to hear that.

So check out uplifting.

design and let me know what you think.

Christian: Awesome.

Then once again, thank you very
much for coming on the show.

Dan: Thanks for having me.


It's been a pleasure.

Christian: If you've listened this far.

Thank you.

I appreciate you.

And I hope you've learned
something that makes you just a

little bit better than yesterday.

You can check out the show
notes on designmeetsbusiness.Co.

If this has taught you anything,
please consider leaving a review

and sharing the episode with someone
else who could learn from it.

And I'll catch you in the next one.

Creators and Guests

Christian Vasile
Christian Vasile
🎙️ Host & Growth Product Designer
Dan Makoski on Compassion and Putting Design at the Core of Business (Ex Walmart, Lloyd’s, Google, Microsoft)
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