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The art of reviewing

Getting everyone in the product development process on the same page requires radical transparency, empathy, and collaboration. In the Same Page event series, we’re getting practitioners and leaders together for open conversations on exploring what it takes to build those cross-functional team relationships and how to find alignment. 

In this Same Page event, Experience Design Manager and Creative Strategist at Google, Meghan Schofield, joins Abstract co-founder Josh Brewer to discuss the art of reviewing. From the informal, "Hey, can I get your eyes on this?" to an executive stakeholder review for final approval, there are many different moments in the product lifecycle where you need feedback on your work before it’s shipped to the world. Communication is key when it comes to facilitating the review process.


Josh Brewer:  This is delightful. Thank you all for joining us today. This is Same Page where we're exploring a design-first approach to building products. And today, while we let everybody kind of roll on in, I'm Josh Brewer. I'm the co-founder and executive chairman at Abstract, and I have the wonderful privilege of having a conversation with Meghan Schofield today who is an Experience Design Manager over at Google. Meghan, I would love it if you could tell us a little bit about yourself, a little bit about your background, and then I've already seen a couple of comments. Folks are very curious about what it is that you work on over at Google.

Meghan Schofield: Oh, I do. Yeah.

Josh Brewer: So, go for it.

Meghan Schofield: A little bit about my background, I come from a bit of an unusual place. For 12 years, I worked in the interactive museum industry where I was a designer, a creative director, program manager, kind of all the things, designing interaction museums, so zoos, aquariums, children's museums all over the world. And before that, my background is in graphic design. Big nerdy fan of typography, for example. So, I did that for a long time. Yeah. Ooh. I did that for a long time, and that was lovely. I pivoted into tech by teaching myself some things, like HTML and CSS, and then I did product and UX design for a little while at small tech startups.

Meghan Schofield: When you smash those two things together, you get what I do at Google now, which is I am the portfolio creative director for my team who designs, builds, and maintains customer experience centers for Google, for our clients that are coming to Google all over the globe. We currently have seven different centers in different parts of the world. So, I run a small team of designers. I look out for our creative perspective across our portfolio, and I'm a team manager and team lead for what we call Spaces at the Experience Studio, which is the specific name of my team within Google.

Josh Brewer: That's amazing. All right. I was just checking to see if anyone had any questions about that, but we've got audio tips over there, which we appreciate. Just real quickly, do you end up then in the intersection of real world and digital? Is that a decent way to frame that?

Meghan Schofield: Yes. That's a great way to put it. There's a lot of things my team works on, which is like, what does the floor plan look like? How do people get into the lobby of this space versus the Google lobby? So, I think of myself, and it's always resonated with me, the idea of user experience design in physical space. We also have digital interactives and things like that within the centers that I work on, but it's even things from what is the carpet, what are the lighting fixtures, what is the user journey to get through this physical space and then also through the event. A little bit of a nuance is my team doesn't run events for these centers, but we design them and maintain them through their full life cycle. But, yeah, it really is a cross-section of digital, physical, event, and one-off interactions with people.

Josh Brewer: That's amazing. I mean, really, I would argue that that is really user experience maybe in its totality.

Meghan Schofield: You're speaking to my heart with that one, because people are like ... With tech, there's so many different ways, and every other industry in design, we all have our own verbiage. But I agree. I think it's definitely a lot of user experience in there.

Josh Brewer: Yeah. If you threw some VR goggles in there, I think you'd literally cover the entire gamut at that point.

Meghan Schofield: Yeah. I can't reveal too much, but there is some augmented reality and VR experiences in some of our centers, depending on the region and the need there.

Josh Brewer: Very cool.

Meghan Schofield: We cover it all. Yeah.

Josh Brewer: Awesome. Well, thank you for sharing. If anyone does have questions or anything related to that, feel free to drop them in. We'll try to pick up some of those along the way.

Josh Brewer: One thing I thought we might kick off with is this idea of review styles, so the art of reviewing. There are definitely a number of different ways that I have thought about reviews, and here at Abstract I've talked about it as a spectrum, all the way from very, very informal, "Hey, can I get your eyes on this?" to an executive stakeholder review for final approval, because the thing, it's either going live or it's going to print or to production in some way, shape, or form.

Josh Brewer: In there, there's a wide range. So, I was curious if you'd be willing to share how do you think about that, and do we need to have that many different kind of ways of reviewing things?

Meghan Schofield: Oh, that's a great question. I agree though. There's the formal end and then there's the informal. Right? And in between, there's a whole spectrum. I think of the importance of formal reviews, just like what you said, for getting through a checkpoint in a way with stakeholders. At Google we work with a lot of other teams, and the regional business partners, so they understand what we're building for them on their behalf, and we really need to have their brain into the process, and that's more on the formal side. We don't talk with them all the time, but they need to see us as we move through the process, and they need to see and understand so that we're all on the same page.

Meghan Schofield: So, that's formal in my mind and important in a lot of ways, where informal is that whole, "I'm really kind of stuck. I have three iterations. I don't know. So-and-so, can you come look at it?" In the pandemic times, that's a little bit harder, but those informal reviews feel really important too, because it keeps you going, and just getting a second set of eyeballs or another brain as a work-through-it kind of moment really makes design stronger, your solution stronger, because we're really solving problems. Right? We're not just off making things that we think are beautiful within themselves. There's a bunch of interconnectivity and a bunch of problems and guide rails you have to keep in mind always.

Josh Brewer: Actually, I agree with both of those, and those maybe are the pillars, and then it kind of is some degree of that, depending on where you are at in the life cycle of the project. We're going to do a poll for everybody in a minute, but before we get to that, I did want to just riff off of one thing you said, which is this idea that a review or effectively allowing someone else to come in and see the thing that you're working on, first, and then second, being receptive to the feedback, that I think is a really interesting thing, and that doesn't feel like a review as much as it is inviting someone into the process and including them. Do you agree with that? Do you have any thoughts on that framing?

Meghan Schofield: Yeah. I think a really big and important part of our job as designers, creative directors, and people in this world is being able to communicate and to take in feedback. I'm kind of surprised about that. I've been a designer or a creative director now for 20 years, and when I was a young Meghan, I was like, "Oh, I have to learn how to communicate to many different people in many different ways so they understand what I'm showing them and where we are in the process." So, when it comes to review, it's really helpful to give people context, especially in those formal ones. "This is where we are. This is what's left to come. This is what you should expect, and this is what I could use from you to make this better."

Josh Brewer: Right.

Meghan Schofield: And communicating like that and getting to the point where you as the designer can make those translations, it takes a lot of skill, and it's important to get there. So, I think that your point about communicating and making sure people understand is incredibly important to just doing the work that we do but also in the review process.

Josh Brewer: Right. That's awesome. A couple folks have thrown some questions in. I'll grab one of them real quick. Tommy Perez asked, "When you build for these business partners, who leads the product? Does your team define or does the business define what they need from you and then you execute?"

Meghan Schofield: It is very largely a very important partnership between the business leads in that particular region. It's interesting that you use the word product. On my team, we try to use that terminology to our advantage. We are a group of designers, like a little design agency within this big company of Google, which is a software company largely. Right? So, we are the product owners of what the center will be ultimately, and we're representing things like maintenance, scalability, and important factors for the business. And that doesn't negate or say that the business partners that we're working with don't have really important understanding ofo the operations, of their local clients, of the way they need to bring people in.

Meghan Schofield: So, we run the process, we own the product, we make the final decisions. I like to call it the tiebreaker voice in the room, because if you have too many cooks in the kitchen, that's not great. Also, design by committee, not great. You need somebody in that role, and that is myself and my team. But our partners with the folks who are running these centers on our behalf and the folks that input, like the Google Food team, the network team, all these other teams that we work with, we bring in all of their input to make sure it's the right product for everybody.

Josh Brewer: I just heard you inadvertently talk about inclusion, and I think-

Meghan Schofield: Inclusion!

Josh Brewer: ... that is a beautiful term, because, as designers, I do think that that is definitely part of our mandate, is to create as an inclusive space as possible to make sure that we aren't overlooking. It's not just inclusion for inclusion's sake. It's really for the end result to be as accessible for as many people as possible.

Josh Brewer: We've got a couple other good questions in there, but I'm going to save them, because we're going to do our first poll, because I think actually two of the questions will be great after the poll.

Meghan Schofield: Oh, great.

Josh Brewer: So, here we go. Everybody fire up your stuff. Let's do the first poll. Here we go. How do you make sure your design reviews are productive? All right. Everybody, go ahead and vote.

Meghan Schofield: Ooh, I can't wait to see.

Josh Brewer: Very, very curious to see how this..

Meghan Schofield:  I know! Ooh! Results are coming in. This is my kitty cat, Armin Hofmann. He's very interested in all of these poll answers.

Josh Brewer: Yes. That's little Armin. Okay. So, we've got a early leader on circulate documentation that includes all relevant context before the meeting. Right? All right. Prepare, prepare, prepare is getting a little love. Share work still in progress. Okay. That is an interesting one. All right.

Meghan Schofield: We have a little bit on the other bucket. I'm really curious what other means to folks when it comes to making your reviews productive.

Josh Brewer: Yeah. Let's see. If anyone wants to share what their other vote would be in the chat, please feel free to drop that in there. I'm also curious.

Meghan Schofield: Yeah.

Josh Brewer: All right. Did everyone get a chance to vote? I don't want to jump too quickly. Okay. Okay. I'm sitting here, staring at the fact that there's some interesting ... Wait, wait. Okay. So, we've got two thumbs up down that here. All right. This notion of circulating things beforehand, and I'll lump in prepare, prepare, prepare around it. There really seems to be this strong sense of making sure that you're not just half-assing it, showing up unprepared and leaving people to just kind of do with the time whatever they want, so being structured and formal and having an intention behind it. I would agree.

Josh Brewer: In these three that seem to be closely tied, we've got share work in progress, share a few select designs for feedback, and invite a selective group of stakeholders. Meghan, I'm curious. Those three things, they seem related but also a bit of a juxtaposition at the same time.

Meghan Schofield: They do.

Josh Brewer: And I'm curious if you have any thoughts on those.

Meghan Schofield: You know, I think this is where the formal and informal comes in. I like to think about this whole process end-to-end and make sure you're capturing big picture and detailed stuff. So, inviting a selective group is important, depending on who those people are. A senior VP of a region that you meet with once every six or nine months, you need that to be a small group so that you can really focus your content and help get that conversation or that checkpoint done.

Meghan Schofield: Then I think there's times that you expand that and bring it back in and expand that and bring that back in. So, we're not just designing. Right? We're not designing the product. We're designing the process for people engaging with us in these reviews. So, those three that you mentioned sort of make me think of that. You have to be cognizant of who are you bringing to the table when making sure the time is productive. And for some people, a select amount of designs is smart, because they're not designers. They don't think like we do. But then for other people, being really open about your work in probably is important.

Josh Brewer: Yeah. Thank you. I don't think I could have said that any better.

Meghan Schofield: Awesome.

Josh Brewer: I really question to quickly point out we have a handful of other-

Meghan Schofield: I see these.

Josh Brewer: And these are fantastic. Fostering an environment where sharing is safe and positive and productive is what that says. Right?

Meghan Schofield: Yep.

Josh Brewer: So, creating the container and arguably setting rules of engagement to create a sense of safety I think is extremely value. Share the goals and challenges the designer is trying to achieve and what kind of feedback you're looking for.

Meghan Schofield: 100%. That one for sure.

Josh Brewer: Couldn't agree more. I will say, in the podcast that I had done earlier this year, that theme came up over and over and over, unprompted. That idea of being very explicit about what you're looking for is probably maybe the most effective thing I've seen at getting the most out of your reviews.

Meghan Schofield: Yes. Yeah. I would just add somebody else made this comment, depending on where you are in the process.

Josh Brewer: Yeah. Yes.

Meghan Schofield: Sharing what you're looking for but giving context for the right feedback, that builds trust with everybody that you're engaging with so they don't feel out on the limb and understands where you are. I think that's really important.

Josh Brewer: Yeah. Thank you all for sharing these. These are really, really good and all kind of leading into exactly what you just shared. So, we're going to go ahead and close this one, and I'm going to open our second poll, which is how do you typically conduct reviews. All right. Here we go. Everybody get out your votes. And then once we see everyone's results, Meghan, I'd love to hear how you typically conduct them. I think the folks viewing would also get a lot out of that. Let's see. Okay. Weekly design reviews with the design team. All right. And the cross-functional-

Meghan Schofield: Cross-functional project team.

Josh Brewer: And then async and scheduled with stakeholders and design team, but ongoing is taking a slightly lead. Okay. Love this. This is fantastic.

Meghan Schofield: It's so cool to see it build.

Josh Brewer: Yep.

Meghan Schofield: There's a few others too in the other bucket, which I think is really interesting.

Josh Brewer: Other being we don't do them.

Meghan Schofield: Who needs reviews?

Josh Brewer: All right. I don't see these moving much, so I'm going to assume that we're roughly at the end of folks voting. So, let's see. Clients' and customers' stakeholder reviews is another other that was written in, and all of the above, which I love. Okay.

Josh Brewer: So, we've got weekly with the design team, weekly with the cross-functional team, async but scheduled with stakeholders and design team, which arguably could kind of sort of be looped into the weekly design review, and then this notion of an ongoing. And I would love to hear, Meghan, when you see that, what does that spark for you, and how does that relate to the way that you like to do your reviews?

Meghan Schofield: Well, all of these things. I kind of agree with the other. It's all of these things depending on purpose. I think Dion is saying that in the chat. It really depends on your audience, just like when we're designing. Who is in the room, and how can I make this productive for them and for the process? I think there's many ways to come at it.

Meghan Schofield: For me personally, I think I'm one of those people who really appreciates ... I guess I should say I like to work things out with some input. I don't want to be that person in the corner that comes up with the perfect thing and reveals it. I am an iterator. I like to see how it could go when you're pinging off other people. So, that ongoing piece is important and I think helpful for the design process end-to-end.

Meghan Schofield: Now, who are those people that you're ongoing with kind of depends on your project and all the other pieces and parts that are coming into it. How big is it? How long is it? My projects at Google often last two years, which in Google and tech land is quite a lot, but we're building physical things. So, when you have to put up drywall and all of that, you spend about a year on the design phase and about a year in construction and install. So, ongoing is quite a long time.

Meghan Schofield: Asynchronous I think is a really smart thing to use when you have somebody onboarded. They know your process, and you can get the information you need back and forth in a way that is productive for both folks or the groups of folks. So, I think weekly, monthly, I think I do all of these things, and it really depends on both the time, where you are in the stage of the project. And this is true for even when I'm doing branding or product designs for software or physical space designs. I use all of these things in different ways and at different times.

Josh Brewer: That's fantastic. Thank you for sharing that. I'm also sitting with the fact that, by this poll alone, I would be inclined to propose that we actually, as designers, spend a significant amount of time not designing but in fact communicating, reviewing, justifying, defending, including. And for all of you that are here with us today, I'm very curious, and feel free to leave thoughts in the chat, but I think the world that we've moved into in the pandemic with this notion of asynchronous or very synchronous, it kind of feels like we're swinging in and out of that. So, you're either synchronous and we're on Zoom or Hangouts or whatever the video platform of choice is, but like, okay, we have to be face to face virtually, 2D, or it is this asynchronous dance of documents and messages and communication.

Josh Brewer: There's a couple of folks who have also asked a couple questions around taking charge of a meeting, tips around facilitating these types of things. And if this poll indicates anything, and I think it does, that our time is spent in this fashion, do you have any tips or thoughts that you'd love to share with folks? So, a couple questions specifically were around how do you create the right environment and solicit the right feedback. I would argue the flip side of that is interesting too, in giving the feedback. And then that general theme came up in a handful of them. So, maybe if you could speak to that for a second.

Meghan Schofield: Yeah. I think we do spend a lot of time not sitting down, just pure designing. I'm really glad you brought that up. It's something I talk about a lot with my team. And quick plug, I am currently hiring experienced design leads for my team. It's really important to find folks who understand the importance of design thinking and being the creative, trusted partner in the room, as well as designing, running a process, being able to keep people focused, being able to facilitate, writing emails. All of the other things we're talking about here, you need to have a lot of hats as a designer to be a successful designer in a lot of cases, and that's really true for me.

Meghan Schofield: I guess in terms of tips and tricks, I think facilitation's really important, creating psychological safety for people who are not design thinkers. I run into this a lot with the higher level stakeholders that I run into. They're expected to say something, and they're expected to speak. And they will, and then you have to take what they tell you, like, "I don't like that blue chair," which has actually happened to me in the last couple years. And it's like, well, yeah, I can change the chair, but is that a useful time for everybody? So, setting expectations before anything visual is out there is really helpful. Explaining to them where we are in the project and what will come after and what has come before is really important. So, setting up, I think giving people an understanding, answering their questions, and being humble is extremely important.

Meghan Schofield: If you walk in with the turtleneck and you're all closed and "I'm the design partner ..." When I was in design school, there was a story about a really famous designer who was like, "I only show up with one design for a brand, because I'm the expert. That's it. That's what you get, and you pay me millions of dollars," or at that time probably hundreds of thousands of dollars, and you walk out of the room. Well, I have found that collaboration gives people a sense of investment, and they care about it and that final outcome in a way that they will use it and love it and feel connected.

Josh Brewer: Connected. Yes.

Meghan Schofield: So, I think that's really important. And the other thing I would say is, because it can be hard or it can be ... I work in a lot of different places where I don't know the culture really deeply. For example, I opened a center in Tokyo two years ago now. I had to learn how to work with those people, so really respecting their culture and where they were coming from. But I find that using humor is helpful, breaking the ice, being humble, not being afraid to ask questions if you don't understand an acronym or something like that. It sets the tone that other people can also engage in the same level and not have to be so buttoned up and so perfect all the time.

Josh Brewer: Right. Those are amazing, amazing tips. There is one question that I think is unique to your situation, and I'm going to butcher the name. Jenessa asked, "Is reviewing design for a physical space and reviewing ..." Here, I'll just publish it real quick. "Is reviewing design for a physical space and reviewing design for software or web similar? What core tenets do you take into both reviews?" I feel like you sort of just touched on this, but I just wanted to call it out, since it was very specific to the work that you do.

Meghan Schofield: Yeah. I don't know if I should reveal this or not, but hi, Jenessa. This is an ex-colleague of mine who is an amazing human being.

Josh Brewer: Nice.

Meghan Schofield: And when we worked together, I worked on mostly their software products but also some physical things. They are the same, I would say. There are maybe different verbiages or ... Is verbiages a word?

Josh Brewer: Sure.

Meghan Schofield: There's different verbiage that you use and different ways to explain maybe the process, but the way you do it is so very similar. When I did my pivot from physical space design and all that that entailed and museum world to software, it took me a minute to realize how many similarities were across the board. I would say creative problem solving and reviews, no matter what it is you're doing, and sometimes even outside of the world you might think is classic design, are very similar, and you can apply a lot across all that spectrum.

Josh Brewer: To flip the physical to digital piece of it, I've also found that having people do ... And it's been called bodystorming and lots of different terminology. I apologize for butchering it. But getting people to actually get out of their chair and physically walk up and do a behavior, anything that you can do to kind of ... And I've found this effective in meetings where maybe it's not moving the way that you want it to, and so you want to shift the energy in the room, getting people out of their chairs, getting people to grab a pen and draw or write or just change the modality that you're in. So, if you're sitting and speaking, then suddenly you're standing and pointing. Just your brain does something different in the moment. And to your point of inviting people to not be stuck in a rigid kind of format, they're small and almost could seem insignificant, but they create spaciousness for folks to come in and participate.

Meghan Schofield: Yeah. I do this in my own work. The environment I want to create is to help people snap into being present. So, if you walk into a Google center, which you can't ... I think somebody asked earlier. These are all invite-only, private spaces for Google's top clients. But I've done this for museums too. You walk in. You want somebody to be so taken aback or wowed that they are immediately present, and what you're talking about does the same thing. If you make people get up out of their chairs, they have to be present in their body and not on their phone or not thinking about their email, and it helps facilitate what we often call creative charrette in the industry of museums, and we also do this in my work today. It helps people who are non-designers find a way into their body and be creative in a way that they maybe are surprised by themselves. So, opening up that opportunity and giving them space I think is a really smart tactic.

Josh Brewer: That's awesome. There is another question in here. Let's see. And I feel like we've hit a few of these. So, hopefully, Narisa, this has been partially answered, but I'll put it up here, because it got a handful of other votes. Best practices, and specifically relevant stakeholders but avoiding design by committee.

Meghan Schofield: Wow.

Josh Brewer: It's a timeless classic.

Meghan Schofield: This is a great one. This is always going to be forever more a question for designers. I would say it's really important to establish yourself as the trusted advisor in the room. And I think somebody had this in the comments about taking charge of the meeting. If you cannot establish some authority in this way, it can easily get out of hand.

Meghan Schofield: I've also found the technique of ... We have a thing that we use in our team called a stakeholder feedback tracker. I'm going to write down everything the stakeholder tells me or anybody else and then assign to it whether or not it's going to be taken in or not and why. So, they feel heard. It is written down. But that doesn't mean that we're going to change the blue chair per se. There's a reason the chair was that.

Meghan Schofield: And with design, I'm sure we've all experienced this. People are like, "Well, I have eyeballs, and so I can comment on this thing, and I can tell you what the UX should be, because I used this app yesterday and I liked it." Well, design is about solving a problem holistically, not just in the moment because somebody's feelings are whatever they are. So, using research to explain why you're not taking in notes from the design committee or using your authority as "this is why this is working this way" and explaining it. But then sometimes, those things may feel irrelevant actually are, and you have to be open to taking that feedback and say, "Well, tell me more about that."

Meghan Schofield: Take the curious, open stance with anybody who is in that room with you so that it doesn't devolve into everybody's throwing in their own color scheme and now you have a rainbow and it doesn't make sense for your problem, but you really understand where they're coming from and you can solve it with your expertise for them, and then help them connect the dots. You can't leave it there. You have to explain, "Oh, I hear you. It's this thing. Does that feel right? This is how we could tackle that." I have found there's a collection of things I just threw out that has helped keep a process on track and stop it from just being everybody's perfectly equal in the room. You're the trusted advisor to guide the process.

Josh Brewer: Yeah. So, to build off of that and answer another question in there, but also then segue us towards where we're going next in the conversation, for folks who are maybe kind of in and out of the process, they don't need to be down in the weeds at that level, but they may not be at a regular cadence even. Right? Some stakeholders, some executives, you'll end up seeing ... It could even be the client. Right? Could come in and out at different moments. How have you solved for keeping those people in the loop through a process like that without having to dive deep into the weeds?

Meghan Schofield: I think this is one of those things about empathy and understanding where they're coming from. This happens a lot in the work I do at Google for my team and myself, being able to engage them where they are. So, certain stakeholders I only talk to, say, once every six or eight months. I mentioned that before. And they're very busy people. They literally have 20 minutes for you to say, "This is where we are. This is where we're moving forward. Can I move forward?"

Meghan Schofield: Finding the really succinct ways to help them understand the project in their own language. So, if it's a business stakeholder, they want to see things about utilization, is the budget on track, is the schedule on track, and what are the cool toys I'm going to get. They don't need to know, "Oh, my master metaphor is about water, and we spent three months on creative charrettes." They just need the highlights they need. So, tailoring your message to the audience is really important, and specifically with senior stakeholders, but that's true for everybody you meet with.

Meghan Schofield: And if it's not the folks that you can deeply engage, the other thing you need to do is make sure you know what is the main and most important thing that you, the designer, needs to walk away from for the process to continue, because usually when you're meeting with those people, it's about that formal checkpoint review. For me, it's budget and schedule and integrity and all kinds of things. So, if there's one or two things, state it right upfront. "This is what I need from you today. This is what we're going to be talking about. If I missed it, I will follow up. But here's the very tailored and specific message for you, person I only talk to every six months."

Josh Brewer: Right. So, one of the interesting things about what you just described, and my experience as a designer was that it was incredibly challenging to give the right people the right amount of context. One of the reasons why we built Abstract was this idea of opening up the design process. I remember when this phrase hit my brain. It was "we need to make the design process observable." Right? For so long, it was hidden. It was either hidden in files that you couldn't open unless you had the tool, or it was hidden in folders that you didn't have access to on purpose.

Meghan Schofield: Kind of like the gatekeepers, the design gatekeepers.

Josh Brewer: Exactly. A lot of gatekeepers. And for me, I have a deep belief that creating an observable environment where people feel comfortable and safe kind of looking in ... If we took a physical metaphor, it's like everybody's invited to look over my cubicle if they want. And someone asked, "What tools do you use to facilitate some of these processes?" and I'm curious for you ... I mean, I can take a couple guesses, but I'm curious. Tool-wise, have you found anything that supports you in that process?

Meghan Schofield: I suppose you're going to expect this answer, which is we use Google tools in the browser as much as possible. And that means I make a lot more slide decks than I ever thought I would in my life. I go in design or I pick up the pen. I do a lot of sketching early on in particular. And then I screenshot it and put it in a slide deck so that people can see. And I think an important element of working in the open is about having confidence and humbleness as a designer to take in some feedback and holding your opinions strongly but not preciously. So, letting people into the process will make your work better, but you also have to know how to navigate that stuff.

Meghan Schofield: And it can be hard. If you loved on something and you were ... In my past days, I worked this way as a young designer: "I'm the gatekeeper. I'm only going to show them the 10 that I like or the three that I like." That's okay, again, in this new, more open world, depending on your audience, but you need to have the confidence or believe in yourself, which is super easy to say and hard to get to, to be able to share in that way. It will make your work better. For me, I just learned I always get better when I do it that way.

Meghan Schofield: So, I use Google tools. We use as much of those as we can. Of course I will probably never stop using Illustrator. I started with FreeHand for all the old school designers out there, and I love Illustrator. I love digital illustration. I love drawing with pen and pencil. But I will say it's true that I always go back to sketching early days, just early ideas. I love to do branding for projects that are close to my heart. I did one recently, and I sat down, and I had a meeting with the person I was working with on this awesome open-source project, and I just sat down and drew a bunch of stuff. It just is a way to think through design. I also think about it in the car and in the show and all the things. So, the tools like my brain, pen and pencil, digital tools in the browser, to be honest, is really most of it.

Josh Brewer: Yeah. I'll take that and build off of it. The reason that I think the browser piece is so interesting is, if there is a URL, that means that everyone has access. And if you didn't go to that URL, that's on you for not going and looking. Right? Something we've done at Abstract is really try to bring that forward as much as possible. Making sure people know where to find those is a separate challenge in its own right, but that's one piece of it.

Josh Brewer: The other actually, and I did not prime you for this, but this was perfect, you mentioned sketching. One of the things we wanted to share with everyone, we have this ... We're calling it process pages. When we're building systems, when we're trying to do collaborative work together, being creative in a multitude of ways with a multitude of different stakeholders, I have always found sketching is one of the most powerful things to equalize that experience. To all the folks that are with us, I don't know how many of you have a journal, a sticky notepad right next to you, notebooks, or a program, but we think that the sketching, and sketching to think is one way that I describe it, is a really powerful piece of this.

Josh Brewer: So, as a part of this, we're giving away 75 process page journals. Our producer is going to share a link in the chat where you can claim your own kit, and we'd love to encourage you all to use it. Record your process. And then, if you're up for it, you can share your submissions, because we're going to create a digital zine about sketching and process. This was a fun way that we thought to invite you all in and for us to be able to do this together. So, Kelsey just dropped it in the chat if y'all want to take a look at it. Honestly, like you just said, Meghan, it could just be a bunch of sketches and doodles when you're trying to think through a new logo or a new concept. It could be boxes and arrows trying to think through a flow. It doesn't matter, honestly.

Josh Brewer: I always find these to be amazing to go back to later. We've done this a few times at Abstract. We've done it in my career at other companies where, at the end of a big, big project, we'll go solicit early stuff from folks, and you'll see some janky HTML prototype that's not styled at all, and you'll see somebody's 19 Post-it notes, detailing a flow, and all these things. So, anyways, we really want to encourage you all to jump in with us and to participate, and hopefully this zine is going to be pretty cool. We will see where it goes from there.

Josh Brewer: We have only a couple of minutes left. As Meghan mentioned, her team is hiring. There is a link to the careers page if anybody wants to check it out. We had a few questions that went unanswered, and so, if you're all up for it, I'm totally down to run through a few of these with the last couple minutes that we've got left. Do, do, do, do, do. I'm going to check this out. Let's see. These are tough.

Meghan Schofield: There's a lot of great questions.

Josh Brewer: We've covered a lot of these. Yeah.

Meghan Schofield: Oh my goodness.

Josh Brewer: We've got one. Do, do, do, do, do. What is the Google version of "but Google does it, so it must be right"?

Meghan Schofield: What is the Google version of that? Oh dear. That doesn't at all match with my humble perspective. So, I don't know. We have lots of [ethocies 00:44:30] and I'm making up new words here still, at Google. The one that I kind of dig is taking the world's information and organizing it and making it easy for people to engage with, and when it comes to bringing customers and partners into our centers, helping them understand how Google can help is I think an important part of it.

Meghan Schofield: Just because somebody's doing it and they happen to have the particular name does not mean they are perfect at it. There's always room for improvement, and as designers we have to get really comfortable with that idea of ... Every time I look back at my work, I can think of many things I would have done differently, but you have to find your sweet spot and move on. Somebody mentioned deadlines earlier. We have real deadlines. So, just because somebody does it doesn't mean it's right, Google or anybody else, is my take on that one.

Josh Brewer: Well, thank you for sharing. There is one in here. Let's see. Since COVID, have there been any techniques you've adopted while reviewing through Zoom?

Meghan Schofield: That is interesting. My team is super spread out. I mean, our global centers are all over the place. So, we were really used to remote working. It wasn't as big of a shift for our team. And I would say I have learned screen sharing and using the right pointer, making sure people knowing where you are, slide decks which I make all the time, building things instead of just one slide with a dense amount of information on it.

Meghan Schofield: I wouldn't say that's different from the before times, but I will say on Zoom or in this format or in Google Meet, I find being more animated and more engaged ... I'm also somebody who's pretty chatty. So, this isn't hard for me. Somebody called me out. I run all of our team meetings for our larger team of like 30 people, and I'm kind of our MC and our coms person, and I like to get into it. I think showing your passion and showing your excitement for the work that you're doing as a designer or running a team through something is really helpful on Zoom. It's great in person too, but it could be easy to just be really flat and sit in your living room. So, I would say, again, that's not totally new, but I do try to be a little bit extra in this format.

Josh Brewer: All right. I like that. We've also really leaned into that as well. So, Abstract's been mostly remote for its entire existence and then fully remote since the beginning of last year. And just adding just 5% more. It doesn't actually take a lot, but it's really just you have to get through the 2D screen and remember that we actually have waists and legs and we aren't just shoulders and heads. So, I think being playful is a big part of that. Okay. I know we're basically at time.

Meghan Schofield: We are.

Josh Brewer: You all have had amazing questions for us, and I really, really appreciate this. There was one more that I really wanted to ... Okay. This'll be a combination.

Meghan Schofield: Combo.

Josh Brewer: It'll build on the Zoom one.

Meghan Schofield: Okay.

Josh Brewer: And it's a tip that we were actually going to use at the very beginning of this-

Meghan Schofield: Oh, right!

Josh Brewer: ... but we just go right in. But I have found that this incredibly valuable, and we use it all the time. It's a little technique, which is, when you're working with a group of people and doing anything virtually, so Zoom, Hangouts, whatever, could be reviewing things, could be actually a discussion, instead of everyone trying to chime in over each other, we will have everyone put their cursor in the chat box. Okay?

Meghan Schofield: I'm getting ready.

Josh Brewer: So, everybody go into the chat and put your cursor in the chat. We'll do one as an example and then you'll see how you could use this in your own meetings. Don't do it yet, but everybody what you're going to do is you're going to pick your favorite emoji. But don't hit send yet. Everybody pick their favorite emoji. And then when I say go, we're all going to hit it at the same time, and then we're going to watch it come through. And you'll see how this can actually become a really useful tool. So, if everybody's got theirs all fired up ... Let's see. Uh-oh. I can't find ... Ahhh!

Meghan Schofield: I will say, I had a little trouble searching for my favorite one.

Josh Brewer: Yes. Okay.

Meghan Schofield: But then I had to click out, and then-

Josh Brewer: So that you could see that it actually went in?

Meghan Schofield: Yeah.

Josh Brewer: Yeah. Okay.

Meghan Schofield: Okay.

Josh Brewer: So, everybody ready? Because on the count of three, we're all going to hit send. So, it's one, two, three. Go! Yes!

Meghan Schofield: That is so fun! Whoever has the sparkle emoji in there, I'm with you.

Josh Brewer: Oh my gosh. Yes!

Meghan Schofield: Ooh, I also like the little bang one. That's great. These are awesome.

Josh Brewer: Oh, god, this is fantastic.

Meghan Schofield: Yay! What a good emoji party ending moment.

Josh Brewer: Indeed. Indeed.

Meghan Schofield: For our awesome chat here about ...

Josh Brewer: Oh my gosh. Love it.

Josh Brewer: You all are fantastic.

Meghan Schofield : Yay!

Josh Brewer: So, use this. Have everybody think about an answer to a question, and then it's a group of six people. You won't get the massive cascade, but you'll get each person's thought that's unfiltered before anyone else had had a chance to kind of push it or influence it.

Meghan Schofield: Very cool.

Josh Brewer: Last little tip there. Anyways, thank you all for joining us. This has been amazing. Meghan, I appreciate you taking the time and sharing your wisdom and experience with us.

Meghan Schofield:

Thank you.

Josh Brewer: Everybody, be on the lookout for the process journals, and we'll see you on the internet.

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