Liftoff! Blog

Practical Design Leadership to Elevate Your Team, Your Organization, and You

Posts written by Chris Avore & Russ Unger

  • Liftoff! Additional Clarifications, Corrections, and Context

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    This is a running post I’ll update when I spot something in Liftoff! that may not be totally clear, or could be at risk of being misinterpreted, or if something is wrong and I need to set the record straight.

    Page 8:
    Throughout the course of editing the first chapter, I removed language that clearly stated the timeline of events discussed in Helen Keighron’s contribution. As a result, a reader could mistakenly conclude that Ms. Keighron was sharing experiences referring to her present employer. In fact, she was discussing a previous job and how she is applying those lessons learned there in her current position now. I regret the error and am sorry for causing Ms. Keighron to appear to be referring to her current employer and workplace.

    Liftoff To Stand With Kap

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    When I wrote the blog post Liftoff! Opening Credits: Contributors, Guests, and Reviewers, my goal was to highlight the many folks who shared their stories or reviewed our work throughout the course of writing the book.

    This book was intentionally different from some leadership and management books in that we didn’t want to overly rely on anonymous case studies that were more parable than playbook. That means that almost all of the stories here are written by the contributors themselves.

    One result is that we were able to find and amplify voices who may be less familiar to many of our readers. We could also share the stories of more women and Black, Indigenous, and People of Color than if we only asked for people to opt-in to nominate themselves to share their perspective.

    That decision led to a few others I want to share.

    We made the choice to research and write the diversity and inclusion chapter ourselves rather than ask someone who has lived the experience of being a BIPOC in a corporate environment to write it for us. We didn’t want to outsource the hardest chapter to write in the book, only to have Russ and I go back to writing the rest of the text. That didn’t feel right then, and I don’t regret it today. Instead, we asked people—both design peers and diversity and inclusion professionals–to review our point of view in the text and help us shape the chapter in a way that can help other teams where their leaders can learn from our mistakes, the research we’ve cited, and our approaches to improving toward a more just and equitable workplace.

    But at the end of the day, while those new voices get published, the royalties still come to me. Not to the folks who volunteered their time to be a part of this book, either in the role of contributor or one-time-editor.

    As such, I want to pay forward the financial success of the book that our volunteers made possible. This post is a pledge to donate 50% of the after-tax profits of my proceeds to Colin Kaepernick’s Know Your Rights Camp, with a minimum donation of $1,000 by the end of 2020.

    If you’re unfamiliar with the organization, “the Know Your Rights Camp’s mission is to advance the liberation and well-being of Black and Brown communities through education, self-empowerment, mass-mobilization and the creation of new systems that elevate the next generation of change leaders”. I believe Kap was colluded against by a sports league that has benefited from systemic white supremacy since its founding, and has spent his prime athletic years organizing against and challenging those anti-Black institutions. I want to use my own privilege and good fortune to invest in his mission, because Black lives matter.

    We titled our leadership book Liftoff! because we want design leaders to help elevate their teams to success, and with your support we can also help elevate the young people in Kap’s camps–including Chicago, New York, Atlanta, New Orleans, Oakland, and others–to new heights too.

    Please note that this is a personal decision and mine alone, and my decisions should not be expected to also apply to others who may choose to protest, assemble, donate, or be a champion for change differently than my approach here.

    Liftoff! Leadership Resources

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    This list isn’t exhaustive and does not include everything we cited or reference throughout Liftoff! (and there’s a lot!). Instead, we wanted to share a number of the links that that may be helpful to folks on their leadership journey that were important to our book.

    Design Leadership Communities and Events

    Recent Design and Product Development Leadership books

    Hiring: More Places to Diversify Your Candidate Pool

    But there are still some more interesting places to either post design openings or browse through directories of diverse designers who may be interested in discussing your firm’s open positions. Let’s look at a few sites and how they describe themselves:

    College and university career sites

    If you’re looking for entry level to early career design positions and a degree is required, you can have a lot of success identifying undiscovered candidates here. Often, the posting is free, and you can also conduct individual candidate searches by major and year of graduation.

    Latinxs Who Design

    “Latinxs Who Design” is a living directory of thriving Latinxs in the design industry. Their mission is to provide a space to find outstanding people to follow, look for a mentor, make new friends, or discover talented individuals to join your team.

    Blacks Who Design

    “Blacks Who Design” highlights all of the inspiring Black designers in the industry. The goal is to inspire new designers, encourage people to diversify their feeds, and discover amazing individuals to join your team.

    Women Who Design

    “Women Who Design” is a Twitter directory of accomplished women in the design industry. It aims to help people find notable and relevant voices to follow on Twitter by parsing Twitter bios for popular keywords.

    Queer Design Club

    “Queer Design Club’s” mission is to promote and celebrate all the amazing work that happens at the intersection of queer identity and design worldwide—from LGBTQ+ designers’ contributions to the industry to design’s role in queer activism throughout history.

    These directories provide an effective method of introducing you to people you may otherwise have never crossed paths with. But just blasting directories of people—whether from LinkedIn or one of the above community-focused services—won’t work if you’re not communicating the right message and tone to get people interested in learning more.

    Liftoff! Opening Credits: Contributors, Guests, and Reviewers

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    When Russ and I started writing Liftoff!, we knew right away that we wanted to amplify experiences & perspectives from a broad representation of design leaders. We also made sure we didn’t solely include all the usual suspects who frequently contribute to the greater user experience and design community.

    We’re grateful that these folks wanted to help by sharing their voices, either directly as contributors, as a reviewer who read our chapters from start to finish (and sometimes multiple times over), or by telling us a story that we quoted in the book. It’s also worth mentioning that some folks shared amazing stories that unfortunately weren’t able to be included in the text after much hand-wringing with our editors. In addition to the complete list of resources we footnote in the book, we want to highlight a few of the secondary sources whose work has already been published elsewhere but is especially relevant to our message.


    Kim Goodwin

    Primary Sources:

    Chapter 1

    Surprise! You’re a Design Manager Now!

    Monet Spells

    Helen Keighron

    Alexis Lloyd

    Peter Merholz

    Chapter 2

    Designing Diversity and Inclusion in Your Design Team

    Erin Thomas, Ph.D

    Lisa Welchman

    Gail Swanson

    Michelle Y. Bess

    Amy Johnson

    Eli Montgomery

    Maria Pereda

    Chapter 3

    Designing Your Hiring Process

    Joanne Weaver

    Jasmine Friedl

    Chapter 4

    Performance Profiles and Interview Guides

    Jen Tress

    Chapter 6

    Interviewing Potential Team Members

    Randy Ellis

    Chapter 7

    The Home Stretch – From Offers to Onboarding

    Amanda Schonfeld

    Chapter 8

    Unifying the Team Culture with Charters

    Dr. Steve Julius

    Chapter 9

    Designing the One on Ones

    Richard Dalton

    Shay Howe

    Abi Jones

    Adam Connor

    Elizabeth Goodman

    Chapter 11

    Presenting Work and Everything Else

    Amy Jiménez Márquez

    Brad Nunnally

    Gail Swanson

    Chapter 13

    Developing People, Teams, and Careers

    Jason Mesut

    Chapter 14

    Scaling Design

    Jacqui Frey

    Kim Lenox

    Todd Zaki Warfel

    Chapter 15

    Designing Influence

    Becki Hyde

    Margot Bloomstein

    Anne Hjortshoj

    Chapter 16

    Escape Velocity

    Adam Fry-Pierce

    Peer Reviewers

    Emily Campbell

    Ronnie Battista

    David Panarelli

    Bibiana Nunes

    Emileigh Barnes

    Amy Jiménez Márquez

    Eli Montgomery

    Secondary Sources

    A comprehensive list of references and works cited will be provided in the text. In the meantime, a sampling of our secondary sources include:

    • Chelsey Glasson
    • Hannah McKelvey
    • Jacqueline L. Frank
    • Danielle Mastrangel Brown
    • Camille Fournier
    • Yesenia Perez-Cruz
    • Nathan Curtis
    • Jeneanne Rae
    • Maria Guidice
    • Lara Hogan
    • Julie Zhou

    Announcing: About (Design) Leadership

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    Chris Avore and I have spent a good amount of our time learning from each other’s mistakes. I’m pretty sure I’ve learned more from Chris and I’ve made more of the mistakes in this match-up, which seems a little unfair in this co-authorship arrangement.

    That said, we’re really excited about what we’ve collectively learned and have been actively working on in order to make our lives as managers and leaders better, and we can’t wait to share it with you!

    We’re taking a practical approach to tackling the topics that we’ve found really important in our roles. We learned a lot of these things the hard way. We hope that they’ll help you, too, as you work through what it means to tackle a new role which also requires a whole new set of skills. And we’re hopeful that we can help you make that transition from great designer to great manager and leader, and if you’re already in that role, we’re hoping to lend a hand augmenting what you already know.