#26 - Nicolas Chériot - "UX is all about brain, heart, pen and paper"

Feb 16, 2023Dianne Eberhardt

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Dianne: Hello everyone. Welcome to Pixelated Perfect. Today I have Nicolas with me. Super excited to chat with him. He is currently a coach for product teams, a UX strategist, a design mentor, and an entrepreneur. He recently founded Systerz, a UX strategy and design agency, which I'm sure he will tell us all about. He's been in the industry for over 15 years, and he currently resides close to Paris and France. So thank you so much, Nicolas, for being here. Super excited to chat with you.

Nicolas: Thank you. Thank you.

Dianne: Okay, well, let's kinda, let's get into it. So kindly the prompt that I always use is, when did the design come into your life?

Nicolas: Oh, big question...

Dianne: Yes.

Nicolas: I would say that it came into my life when I was three or four H years old, because, you know, I remember when I was a kid, I was spending most of my time with pen and paper and drawing, drawing all the time. And I remember that my favorite part of the drawing was sketching. So I was really into doing things fast and getting a new one, getting a new paper, and doing it again and doing it again. And I remember when I was a child, my parents used to give me a big block of paper when they, they, they would get annoyed by me because I was some kind of, you know, very very noisy child and noisy kid and doing a lot of things. Very excited about life. Yeah. So I, I would say the first, the first thing I, I, I remember was drawing in my life.

Nicolas: And I'm pretty sure that it was a long time ago when I started to, to, to, to be really into digital design first, because when I started, there was no user experience design, no user interface design, no no user-centered design. So I started digital design. But during the years I stopped before that, I stopped drawing because I was, yes, I was a young man exploring life and doing a lot of things. And when I started into digital design, I was perhaps 23, or 24, and I remember that taking a pen and a paper again was kind of very natural for me. Yeah. And then years ago the UX came to France. In France, so it was, it was really new. And the first thing I did, I got in love with was Okay, sketching, user experience. Design is a lot about sketching. Yeah. And pen and paper iterate fast. And at that time, I, I, I, I remember, I, I said to myself quietly, but I said to myself, okay, this is what I'm gonna do for the rest of my life. . Yeah.

Dianne: That's, I love that you kind of connected this overarching theme of sketching, like, throughout your life, even as, and I think it's really important to note, even as you kind of progressed into digital design, into UX design, that sketching has still always been a part of that process. Like, that's never gone away.

Nicolas: This is the most important part. Because in fact this is the moment when everything happens. In fact, of course, in your strategy, you do a lot of workshopping and it's, it's a lot of brain work, but when you do sketching, there is some kind of magical moment, you know, and you, you really enjoy the moment. You really enjoy the design process at that moment because you just have your brain, your pen, your end, and, and it's, I I, I don't know how to describe it, but it's, it's easy. That moment is very easy. This is the best part. And even when I pr we we're gonna talk about it later, but the best part in helping young designers to learn what is design was the sketching moment. So, okay, you can show something, you can, it's better to teach with a, with a, with pen and paper. It's, it's, it's, I, I don't know how to describe it. Even today, I, I, and I don't want to find an explanation, , you know? Yeah. It's so natural. This is the best moment.

Dianne: Yes. totally. So, I, I know you kind of mentioned we're gonna talk about that, especially you kind of as a UX mentor, but I'm curious what you say to people that are like, oh, I'm not good at sketching, or I'm not good at drawing. Like of course, we know that that's not really the point of it, that's not really what you get out of it, but how do you kind of like to convince someone that's looking to dive into that?

Nicolas: Yeah, I, I, I don't want to. I don't want you to think that I'm kind of a crazy guy, but if you don't know how to sketch and if you don't like it, I think you are not a designer . That's, that's, that's, so I, I, yeah, I recruited a lot of young designers because I, I am my I had the this is, I just founded a new company, but I founded four agencies focused on digital design and then on UX design. And when I want to recruit something, when I want to hire a new talent, I don't care about the experience, the school, whatever, I don't care about that. There is always a moment I will give him or a pen, a paper and give him, give her or him a problem to solve in terms of experience. And I say, show me, show me with just a pen and paper or a whiteboard or whatever, but show me with your bra only your brain and your, this is this is the, the, the moment that you can say, okay, you are a designer or not. So I, I know it can, it can sound a bit radical, but this is the way I do it. And I, I, I, I never had I never made mistakes using this methodology to, to hire people.

Dianne: I really like that. I think that's super interesting. I totally agree. It doesn't really matter, like the school they went to or anything like that, what matters is like, no, that their values and their mission and like how they think about design is kind of in line with you and your agency and what you guys are looking to do. And I think that that's an interesting test that is like, okay, I don't want you to redesign this. I want you to like me, I wanna give you a problem. I wanna see how you solve it. Yeah. On a piece of paper, it's,

Nicolas: You, you talk about values, and I think there is a very, very important value in sketching, because if you, if you can sketch, if someone ask you to, okay, sketch me a solution, and, and, and, and and the people is, is okay, and you can do it very, very quickly, there is a value behind that. And that value is authenticity. Mm-Hmm. . Okay. I I don't need anything else. I wanna prove my value, my own, my own value as a designer. So I am authentic. And even if I, you know, sketching is all about accepting that you will make mistakes. There is no sketching, starting with the right solution at the beginning. You know, you need iteration. So being able to take a pen when you are asked to, and do it even if you know you will be wrong at the first the, the first time. It's showing your value. It's, I think this is the most important value that you are showing at that moment.

Dianne: Yes. I just bolded something you said, which I thought was really powerful, is like, when you get, when you put pen to paper, you're accepting that you're gonna make mistakes. Right. You're not going to make that perfect. And that's the process. It's not always thinking about the end result. Sometimes it's the process involved to getting there is really when you kind of discover

Nicolas: Everything. Yeah, yeah. You know, as I said it reminds me of when I, when I started to draw, and I, I wanted to, I was really a kid, but I, I don't know if it can sound real, but this is the reality. I was four years old, and I wanted to be a comic book drawer, a comic book artist. And I, at the same time, felt that I was not skilled enough. And so everything was about trying. Mm. So try very fast, very fast, and you will draw a part of the body, an eye , a mouth, you know? And every time you, you fail, so you do, do you do it again, and you do it again. And yeah, I, I could say that even today, I'm still not skilled enough to draw a face very, very well, or the way I would, I would, I would see it. And the process of trying is really, really cool for me. I really like it. Yeah.

Dianne: I like, feel the passion. It makes me like, to be honest, in my designs, a lot of the time I'm like, oh, I just need to jump in. And I feel like you're telling, like, I really appreciate us talking about this, because I always see the value in sketching, and there are definitely instances where I'm like, meh, I'm just gonna move, move on to the next step. So I think that you're really pushing me and me to like, push my team to like, don't forget about sketching and how powerful it is. I think everything you're saying is so true.

Nicolas: So yeah. Yes, it is. This is the, yeah, this is the, this is the best part. This is when you enjoy, when you enjoy it. Yeah. I, I, I, and you know, I, I, I'm gonna look very old, but when I started in digital design, there was only Photoshop. Yep. And then, then the, then sketch, and then Figma. And so perhaps tomorrow we are gonna design into some kind of metaverse or I, I don't know, you know, . So at the end, what is, let's imagine that everything disappears. You will still have your end and your, even if you don't have a paper, you can take a stone and on a wall and try, try to do something. So

Dianne: Yes,

Nicolas: This is, this is this way, this is my way I see design. It's all about peeling, feeling the joy into the moment that you do it, but you do it, really, you can feel it. There is a connection between your brain and your end and your brain seeing your end represent. So this, this is design. And perhaps, perhaps I can tell more about, for example, Figma and all the things that have changed in the last few years. At the beginning, we didn't have the components. We didn't have that design, design system methodology. And I think in a way it became a problem because today we, I, I have the feeling that the product teams, they want product designers which means, at least in France, it means that we want very highly skilled Figma people. Mm. So you have to, to be very precise when you do components with auto layout, style mm-hmm. and whatever. And at the end, you have people really, really good at it, that if you, if you take everything away and you just have the, the, the people in front of you in a workshop, for example, with just pen and paper, you're gonna have a bad surprise most of the time. Right,

Dianne: Right. It's kind of, it's like, it's like that underlying knowledge of like color theory or , like all those basics that you need to know about design before Yeah, Figma emerged, and it's like, right now all the designers are so skilled and figma that they don't know some of those best practices and some of those overarching themes that make a designer such a great designer.

Nicolas: Yeah. User experience design is the science of user flow. Right. It doesn't have anything to do with a design tool, design software, you know, it's Yes. Just helping people to get from a point to a B point. Right. and it's all about that. So Right. Your, your only skill, sorry. It should be empathy. And when you draw, when you sketch them, this is what you have in mind. Wait, I, I'm, I'm doing, I'm doing that very quickly. Okay. If I am the user doing the task, is it cool for me? Is it efficient? Is it yes. Is it a great experience? So you, you need to, you need to do that quickly. So it has to do with the softwares, right? It's all about user flow.

Dianne: Right? I like what you said is like, the skill of like, of the designer is empathy. And so my, you kind of mentioned a couple things. Is it efficient? Is it a great experience? Do it quickly for designers that are kind of looking for this checklist of, okay, let me do a quick sketch. What do I need to keep in mind? What are those things you, you would suggest those designers to keep in mind? Is there sketching?

Nicolas: Oh the flow, the flow, the flow and the flow. When you sketch something, you have to imagine all the time what happened before and what will happen after. So you, every time you sketch something, this is not a static state of something in the brain of the user. Something happened before and something needs to happen after. So the flow is always, every time I imagine the experience of my user, I, I, I don't know, I see a river all the time, you know? Yeah. A river. Yeah. I, I, I see that, I have that picture in mind all the time. So it helps me to think that nothing is perfect. Everything comes from somewhere and everything goes somewhere. And the brain, when you, even, even if you, you open your application, even if you think you start the flow when you open the application, no, something happened before.

Dianne: Yes.

Nicolas: And so it's, you cannot control everything. Of course, you cannot imagine everything. But trying to imagine everything is the, the, the most the most efficient way to, to, to design great user experience. So the flow is the main world and everything. So if I, if I have advice for a young designer, okay, you should not be focused on are my components okay on Figma? No, of course, they need to be clean. The Figma file needs to be clean, of course. But this is only a tool to do something else. And what you have to do is make the user so let's say help the user accomplish the task he wants to do. Yes. And in the best condition that you can do. So, the flow is everything. The flow is everything.

Nicolas: I work with many customers, but I have one committee community in my mind I worked on, on a very, very big experience map for, for a customer. And we realized that there were moments on touchpoint which were very, which were very joyful for the customers, but because of what happened before, they cannot enjoy that moment at the same level of joy that we could achieve. So yes. Okay. You, we don't have nothing to do on that touchpoint. We have to work on pre thought touchpoint touch points before that. Right. So when you think of Figma, for example I don't want to look at the Figma Figma enemy or something like that, but my advice would be yes, think global, think. And again, with pen and paper, you can really, really create a user flow, a complete user flow very quickly, just with blocks and or or yes, like a comic strip. I don't, I, I don't know. Yes, yes. And driving your user journey very fast and saying, okay, okay, okay, what I'm doing is here, but here, what happens here is very much a consequence of what happened before. So the flow is everything.

Dianne: I love that. I, I think that's a Thank you . I love that. I love the conversation with you because you, it's like we overcomplicate, we're like, oh, yeah, Figma, we need to choose compos, we need to do all these things. You're like, no, like the basic, like, what you have to get right. And what you need to spend your time on is the flow of sketching. And that is so powerful, because that's true. And I think sometimes, especially new designers get all caught up in and like, yeah, like the color, like Yeah. Organization or building a design system. But you can't have a great product if you don't think about the user, and you don't think about the flow at the beginning, of course, it doesn't matter how many components you have, or how good they look. If it doesn't make sense at the beginning, it's not gonna work for

Nicolas: The customer. Of course. And that, that's why I, I, I I decided to, to, to be to specialize myself into user experience strategy which is a moment. You don't think about your Figma files at that moment. You are the owner, you are responsible for the user flow.

Dianne: Yeah.

Nicolas: So, you have to focus only on the flow, and then you have to explain the flow to your designer so they can find a solution, which is really how to say it. So they choose their solution, understanding at what moment they are in the flow. So of course, they will focus on choosing a solution that helps the experience, and that helps the experience to be fluent, to be efficient. So they take a distance with the FEMA considerations and all that. So for example, young designers or product designers, they have a lot of patterns in mind. Yes. Which, which is the key. You should be a library of patterns when you are a designer, but you don't choose the pattern because it looks cool. No. You choose a pattern because it makes sense at that moment. Yes. So this is the way we can help young designers, okay, you've got your library, but you have to understand what to choose at what moment in that library.

Dianne: Yes. I love that. Well said. I, okay. So I, I wanna know how you went from being a three or four year old sketching, sketching, sketching to becoming this UX experience strategist. So like, what, what kind of career path was it to be able to have all of these amazing thoughts and ideas of everything we talked about already? ?

Nicolas: To be really honest, my career and my war wildlife was about accepting the cows. I never really had a plan. I was a very party guy, you know, doing a lot of things, and I didn't care about anything for a long time. And even when I started my first company, it was a com. Yes, it happened like that. I, I, I don't even remember. I remember, but because I I tried to work in agencies, it didn't work. And I had to say, okay, I'm gonna leave, or they would fire me because I was I was, yes, I, I didn't fit. I didn't fit in. So it's all about cows and accepting the cows. And so I, I never had a carry pass and a carry plan, nothing like that.

Nicolas: So what I had all the time driving me is my passion, my passion to do things precisely, being accurate, being an expert in everything that I wanted to try. And of course, the real change. So I started in my first digital studio. So it did, it was fairly, it didn't really work, but I met someone and a customer. And after a while, that customer said, me, okay, I'm gonna launch a new company, an agency like you, but bigger. Do you want to, do you want to come in and be creative director in that company? I said, yes, why not? But I want to be a partner too. I want to be in the business also. Okay, yes, let's do it. Come and take, take 15% of the company. Okay, so, and so I was engaged and I developed it, and after a while the UX came in France, okay?

Nicolas: Mm-Hmm. , what is that? What is that? That methodology, the design thinking, wow, it was amazing for me. And at that moment, at that moment, sorry, I realized, I say, okay, everything led me to that moment. And this is something they work in workshops on on whiteboards. They draw things, they make people collaborate. And being creative together, people who are not creative at all. Yeah. They take all the people and everybody finds solutions to very complex problems. It looks easy. It is not, in fact, I realized it, but it looked so easy. And I started to, to to think about that, okay, okay, okay, this is, this is amazing. And it, and so I said to my partner, I'm sorry, but I need to leave. I want to create a UX agency. I want to do that, and I don't want to do it in that company.

Nicolas: I want to create something new. And at that time, in France, we had to wait, two or three major UX consulting agency, design agencies. So I said to myself, okay, I want to be the outsider. I want to be, you know, like Rocky . I want to find the big ones but I want you to find my place. So I I had a friend at the time that I said, okay, do you want to, do you want to do it with me? We launched the company, and after a while I said, okay, nobody does UX design for the B2B market. Let's do that. And I realized that, wow, this is so much fun because you have access to the user immediately. The, the, the, how to say it, user experience in B2B is very, very important because it's about using a software SaaS of some kind, something like that. Sometimes eight hours, eight hours a day. So user experience becomes critical and very important. So, and so I decided to develop it, and yes, all the time, every day I said to myself, okay, this is, this is so much fun. I like what I do. And I never stopped.

Dianne: That's amazing. Oh my gosh. I'm so inspired by your story. I think that some questions I wanna ask you about are like, I mean, obviously you're an entrepreneur. Like, you're like, I'm gonna go, I'm gonna do things. I'm gonna do 'em on my own, or I'm gonna rethink how the whole industry works. You're like, where can I fit in? So what would be your advice for designers that are looking to kind of break into like their own agency? Or how should they go about thinking about starting kind of their own thing?

Nicolas: That's not, that's not an easy question, because definitely

Nicolas: So I left that company two years ago, that one year under Valve, because of a conflict between the partners and I. I didn't want it to, I don't like conflict. So I wanted it to stop. So I pre, I said, okay, I prefer to leave, even if I funded the company, I prefer to live and take it and do what you want, but I, I don't want to go this way. So I started for the first time in my life at freelance mm-hmm. . And after a few months, someone called me. I need a team. Can you, can you create a team again? So I did it and I said, wow, I cannot give up with the agency model. I want to create a new one, because this is true . Yeah. Okay. I missed it so much.

Nicolas: So I got into that process of thinking about an agency again, and I quickly realized that, okay, things have changed, and creating an urgency in the field of UX design is not as easy as it was 12 years before. Why? Because every product team has grown up as they, they, at the beginning it was, it was a mess. You know, launching a product, what does it mean, right? But then you have, now you have a product manager, vp, product, product designer, UX researcher, pro, everything is very well organized, so they don't need an agency anymore. This is, this is not truly true, but this, this was in my mind, they don't need agencies anymore. Right? So my process for six months was, okay, what can we do? I want to launch an agency because this is what I, I love, and this is what I, I know this is what I know.

Nicolas: So the process was about what is the new set of values that an agency can bring to the customers? Mm-Hmm. , it cannot be about product design anymore. Right. You know and it cannot be about UX research. For example, 10 years ago when you were able to conduct a UX research program for us, crazy, you know, wow, that's so skilled. But no this is, this is this era it is finished. It's right. It's over. So I, I I, I thought about, okay, what, where is the value? And this is my advice, take time to find where you can add value.

Nicolas: And so you, you look at your, at the customers that you want to, to work with, and you take your time, look at them very closely, where are the pain points? What kind of value can you bring to them? So at the end, I realized that okay, they still have big, big, big, big, big troubles collaborating. So as a skilled facilitator, I will create something around collaboration, facilitation even if the product and service design is the goal, the what, where we can add value is help them collaborate. How can we help them organize a system around collaboration that can accelerate their process of design? Mm. But this is, this is what we do at Systerz. And we, we just started three months ago, , you know, it's, it's very, it's very, it's very new, but we took almost one year with, with my partners to, to think about that new model and and at the end, I'm, we, we gonna see if it works or not.

Nicolas: I cannot say for the moment, but, but for the moment, , we, we, we, we, we, we are just starting, but the predictions are very good. And so yes, it's all about finding something they need. Don't start from what you can do and what you know how to do. You have to, you know, in the product team, they talk about product market fit. And I would, I would talk about patient market fit, , you know? Yeah. The, the, the feed between your patient, what you want to do, and is there a need on the market? So the value is, is here. Yes. I love to do that. And they need that.

Dianne: Yes. I think that's really powerful. I think this is, this is for all the entrepreneurs out there that maybe we're doing fillings and they're like, whether it's their first time or their fifth time starting an agency, I think that it's really, you have to take the time to understand what you're doing and like, yeah. So that's, that's, honestly, that's a lot of what we did at the design project of the company that I found. And it's that idea of like, what, what can we do? What's out there in the market and what is the differentiator? Like, what can we do that's going to be a fit for our customers, for their needs? And this idea? So we came up with this idea of a subscription based model of like, startups that need product design can come to us and get a designer. And depending on their needs, they'll be paying based on a subscription versus maybe a traditional agency. And that was something that doesn't really exist right now, or hasn't. Well, it's starting to exist more and more, but that was something that took a really long time to think about. Like the amount of time that my partner and I sat down, probably close to a year of going through all of those branding exercises, understanding what we really wanted to do, understanding what might work, what might not work, what we can ask about, what we can put out in front of people. And so the upfront work is something that you, an entrepreneur, have to be willing to do because it's not pretty, it's hard. It's difficult. Yes, it is.

Nicolas: You have to love it. You have to be engaged. Hundred percent.

Dianne: Yes. Yes. So I think that's great advice.

Nicolas: It's not only about, okay, there is something to do, that market is open. I can do that. I, I could, I could, even in that market, I could send a lot of product designs on research because I have the reputation. I'm getting all people, people are, are confident Yeah. With my projects. But I said to myself, I don't want to do that anymore because I, I still want to be useful. I want to help them. I want to see, when I walk with them after a day of work or workshop, I want to have a smile on their face and say, okay, the problem is on the way to be solved. We, we, we trust this guy and his team. And when you see that on the face of your customers, of course, you, you sleep well and you, you want to wake up the next day. Yeah. So it's all about that. If you, if you only do something for doing UX and getting paid for that, that's what the. I don't want to do that.

Dianne: Right. I mean, it's the passion. And I can like, feel the passion from you. Like you have this direction, this idea, and you're really gonna push in. You wanna, you wanna make a difference to these. Yeah. Yeah. And you want them to see the value of a facilitation in a workshop and showing Yeah. Bringing all of these ideas and all of this history that you have in the background and all these things to a customer and seeing how it makes a difference in there. Yeah.

Nicolas: This is it. And, and, and I, I don't, I don't really know. We can, we can talk free about mentoring because I, I think it's very I, I didn't really understand out, out how came into my mind, but when I started mentoring new designer young designers on a, on a ADP list, something happened that, okay, ADP List is a very powerful tool because there is no money and everything is there. There is no money. It's all about relationships between people with no business at all. And it gave me it, it took me back to the passion, the real passion, you know? Mm-Hmm. Okay. I realized that, okay, it's such a long time. I didn't talk about design and work on design topics without hoping to get paid for that . Yeah. Yeah. And without, without asking for money. So it's, it's all about that engagement. So, and in my mentoring session, I, I, I always try to, to help people to find their path to that passion and say, oh, I want to be a project designer. And yeah, usually after one hour, they realized that they don't really want to be a product designer. They are things much more interesting in design than just being a Figma machine, you know, a Figma robot. Right. so it's just

Dianne: . Yeah. No, that's so beautiful. And I think, you know, like, because this industry right now is blowing up, like there's so many career shifters, there's so many people going into design and understanding, like, what is it about design? What is it about UX design? What is it about product design that interests you? Because I'm sure that's really fascinating for you to help them uncover what it is about design, and then helping them kind of like set their course. Like, be like, okay, if this is what I wanna do, and this is my goal, and this is what I'm passionate about, X, y, Z needs to happen. It's not becoming a Figma expert. It's becoming

Nicolas: Yeah.

Dianne: A sketching expert

Nicolas: . Yeah. Yeah. Whatever you, so that mentoring thing is very, is very cool for that, because as there is no, it's, it's very free wow. Very free talk. And you don't have any, any goals except helping people to find their way. This is the way I see mentoring. Yeah. it's more, it's health mentoring, health coaching for me. Great. So Justin, because people in the Yes. In new ex's design, there are so many core online courses. Yes. So many training sessions everywhere. Yes. And, a lot of people talk with me and say, okay, we just talk for 30 minutes. And I realized that nobody taught me anything in those courses, in those training sessions. I just now understand what UX is all about. Wow. And because, and I said to them , this is just because I don't have any plan, I don't have anything to accept, giving you a bit of my passion to see if you, if you like that also.

Nicolas: And if you, you can do something. And if you really love user experience design, I'm pretty sure that you will try everything. You will try UX research, your strategy, product design, sketching, everything, because this is what passion is all about. Yeah. Trying everything. Because what we want is the result. We don't want to be product designers. We want to create a great user experience. So yeah. If we need to do UX research for that, we are gonna do UX research. If I need to, to do UX strategy, I will do UX strategy. If I need one week of workshop with boring customers, I will do one week of workshop. Be with boring customers. Because what I want is not to be a designer. I want to create a great user experience. Yes. So when you feel that passion in the earth of people, yes. It's, it's, it's very, it's very crazy. And when there is no money in the process, it's even Yeah. It's even bigger. , you know,

Dianne: I love that. And I think from, from the designer perspective, the mentee, it's like you're helping them think about it, not in a money perspective, because I hear so many junior designers that are like, okay, I wanna get in two x design because I know that my first job out of school, I'm gonna make a hundred thousand dollars. Right? Yeah. And it's like, okay, take that out of the picture. What is it about design that you love? And I think that reigniting that passion and reframing it for these designers that it sounds like you're doing is really powerful. And the designers out there listening to this podcast, like, take a step back and try to understand what it is about design and what do you love about design? And then I think that's really where

Nicolas: Everything, that's it. We, we, the, the loop is closed, and we are back to the beginning because everything is about empathy. Say it's, it's all about what kind of what you will do for a user. And this is something I learn working in the b2b market. Because when you have someone using a product six, eight hours a day, five days a week, yeah. And you make their experience just a little better, just a little more comfortable as they do it five days a week when you, when you have them perhaps one month later because you, you want to do, do test again, and or, or getting feedback from the one month of use and when they tell you, okay, you changed my life, but because it's just a, perhaps it's just a bit more comfortable, but as I use it every day, changed everything.

Nicolas: Wow. Yes. And when you have that, when you have that result, it's, it's, it's amazing. It's, yes. And that's why I'm, I'm, I'm 47, and I know there were moments in my life I said, okay, perhaps that, that that job is close to some kind of mainstream not so interesting, but hopefully we had the, the blockchain, we, we had the Yeah. The metaverse, we had an artificial intelligence. We have many things coming in the, in the, in the playground, you know, . Yes. And so it's exciting again, and okay. Even, I'm 47, this is Yes, 15 years. Really, I, I would say really 12 years in user experience design and more, a lot of perhaps 20 years in digital design. Yeah. But I know at age 47 that I don't want to stop. I want to continue and I want to grow.

Nicolas: I want to learn, I want to, to get a new team of very highly skilled people on new strategies, because I know we can do crazy things with those new technologies. And even if the users are very skilled, their soul, because they know the user interface perfectly. They're, they're used to, to, to, to manipulate projects all the time. So I think we are entering a new era of design in a few weeks. And even if two years ago between them in the covid, we had the feeling that, oh, this is not going well. This is not going in the right direction. And perhaps yes, all that was a dream , you know? Right. And yes, there was a strange moment, a bit sad, right? And, perhaps it was also related to me, to my own story. But there were moments of sadness and yes, losing hope. And I am on a new cycle, and I realized that everything is exciting again. And we have very, very great things to achieve now.

Dianne: I love it. So beautifully said. I have one final question, which is kind of related to this as we kind of close out and hear about your journey in the future and where your agency's gonna go, and like, like this new era. I love how you define that. So my last question to you is, how do you see chat G P T? How do you see AI, how do you see these tools coming in and helping designers like us? How do you see us being able to work within some of this new technology that's coming out?

Nicolas: Very good question. First I don't want to imagine everything because I want to be surprised. . Yes.

Dianne: Love

Nicolas: It. You too. And you know what, what's funny, I, I will answer the question, but what's funny is that there are many years that we are looking at artificial intelligence, and it was, okay, this is what is gonna happen. And we already knew what happened, what's happening today. But even if we knew, we were surprised it went so fast in a few weeks like this too. Yes. I didn't, I did, I still don't understand how it went so fast in a few weeks. Right. Okay. Chat Jeopardy was everywhere on LinkedIn, social networks everywhere. Yes. But the, the future for me is that, as I said, we have to focus on user strategy and understanding what experience is all about in terms of psychology behavioral science neuroscience because all the production, the, the, the, the production process, like we said, doing Figma files, there is a chance that everything will be will be took in charge by artificial intelligence.

Nicolas: I can sit, I can see, I can already see that CG PT can create a UX research interview or something like that. And even conduct, I know products that choose artificial intelligence to do user research. So, and I even, so a, a website creating wireframes with artificial intelligence, so mm-hmm. , it can be a great opportunity for designers to realize that, okay, we are not, our role is not to create and to user interface is to think about user experience. So the machines will not do that job for a long time. This is not Skynet era, you know, we are not in Determin at all for the moment. Yeah. But everything I, I would say it'll happen exactly the same thing that in the industrial revolution, Machi machines started to, to, to, to, to do the job for us. Right. But not the brain. Yeah, totally. So, of course, machines will do everything, create interfaces, create a user interview script, whatever, but thinking about what kind of experience I want to create, and it's, it's a great opportunity to create even better user experience.

Dianne: Yes. I love it. I think it's like what you said at the beginning is sketching, empathy, like, well, I guess technically AI could replace sketching, but it's never gonna be able to replace what's in our head and how we're thinking about it. And we can use these tools to help us get better quicker, do things differently, but it's never going to be able to replace the knowledge that we have of what we can create. So I totally agree, and I think you said it very well. And I'm, I'm really excited to see what happens. Cuz like you said, it blew up, like everything changed two weeks ago. As far as technology, everyone kind of changed their whole strategy. Like the Googles, the Amazons, the Microsofts, like, they're all doing, they kind of rethought this. So I'm really curious to see how that's gonna affect Yes. Designers and

Nicolas: Let's, we, we just have to, to be curious and to look at what happens . Yes. And let's be surprised.

Dianne: I love it. Yes. Let's not overthink. Let's be surprised. And let's not forget about sketching and user flow. Yes. And empathy and all of those things that make Yes, us passionate and excited and great at what we do. So well, thank you so much for chatting with me. This was super interesting, super fascinating. I really love hearing about your careers and a lot of us. A lot of it we talked about just some theory and some ideas on how to really be passionate and become the best designer you can. So I, I really appreciate you taking the time to chat with me.

Nicolas: Yes. Thank you for the invitation again. It was very good.

Dianne: Definitely. Definitely. Awesome. Okay, well thank you so much. We'll chat soon.

Nicolas: Thank you. And bye-Bye.

Dianne: Bye. And cut. We're good. Success. Oh, thank you so much. That was longer than expected, but it was, I didn't wanna stop cuz you had such interesting things to say. So thank you so much.

Nicolas: Yeah, it was cool. . Yeah, I think you, you, you drove me exactly on the, on the topics. I I like,

Dianne: Yay. Okay, perfect. Yeah, I, I really, I could feel the passion and I really, really loved a lot of what you, like, everything you said. I think it's gonna be really interesting to our listeners. So,

Nicolas: Very cool.

Dianne: Thanks so much for spending time with me. So quickly, like I said, the next step is my teammate's gonna reach out with a Google Drive link so that you can put your audacity file and your Zoom file in there. Actually let me show you one thing about Audacity, just cuz this was a little, it's a little funky. I'm just actually gonna share my screen really quickly.

Nicolas: I want to be sure what the, where the tutu

Dianne: Do you see my audacity screen?

Nicolas: Yes. Okay. There were, there were moments. I am pretty sure that my my volume was too high because, you know, I have a very loud voice and sometimes

Dianne: Oh, you mean like in the levels?

Nicolas: Yes, yes.

Dianne: And the editor. So we have a really great editor who can come in and she definitely will like to change the volumes and, and all of that. So

Dianne: Okay. She should be able to do all that. But the one thing I wanted to show you and this will be communicated, but it's just easy to show you, is that you don't wanna export, you wanna actually save the project because what the editor needs is this dot AUP three. So

Nicolas: Oh,

Dianne: We'll send that in. It's the audacity file like their file type. So we'll definitely send this to you in the email, but just showing that you wanna save as not export

Nicolas: Because it's been a long time. I didn't use Audacity . Yes. I have a p. I have AUP three.

Dianne: Yep.

Nicolas: Do w l So I don't know, it's good.

Dianne: The do Aup three is the one that she suggests, not the w an l. So you would save the dot Aup P three.

Nicolas: Let's try p a u p three. Yes. So why is that strange. Ah, no. Okay, got it. Okay, got it. Perfect.

Dianne: Perfect, perfect. Okay, great. So yes, we will send over this file and then we like to move pretty quickly with our podcast. So I'm sure we'll be publishing probably within the next few weeks. But my coworker will get back to you on all of those details and be super excited to kind of put out in the world and have people listen to it. So, yay.

Nicolas: Cool. That No, that was a very nice moment. Thank you .

Dianne: Yes, thank you. Thank you. And reach out if you have any additional questions. I'm around. Yeah, and, and I'm sure we'll, we'll touch base again soon cuz I really

Nicolas: No, no, no. This conversation. No, just waiting for your yeah. For it. It's to get out and I will share it a lot. Don't worry.

Dianne: Yay. Perfect.

Nicolas: So just, just before we leave, tell me, tell me, tell me a bit about you about you. Why what are you doing? When did you launch that podcast? Podcast in yeah. What do you, do you, are you in New York?

Dianne: So, previous to New York, I'm now in Atlanta. Okay. Covid came to Atlanta. I've been here, we'll probably go back to New York somewhat soon, but Okay. We launched the podcast. It's probably been close to a year. It kinda started as an experiment. Yeah. And it was a way for us to, we were, we were talking to a lot of junior designers and a lot of designers and something that they were always interested in was other designers' careers. And so we kind of started and then it's kind of evolved into where it is now. We've reached out to people on a d p list that seem like they're really awesome designers and mentors. And so that's been a really great resource for, for us. But yeah, we just chat with designers that are doing something really interesting and hear their stories and really try to motivate other designers to understand how they can continue to grow in their career and help them think through anything. And so it's been really, really great.

Nicolas: But what is your job? What do you do? Oh,

Dianne: Yeah. So yeah, so I am one of the co-founders of the design project. We started about three years ago. My background, I'm also a designer who was designing when Photoshop was Photoshop and that's all we had .

Dianne: And basically I was freelancing for a long time, got into ux worked a lot with startups and came to this realization that a lot of startups need product design. And they don't really have a great resource to get it. So in our findings of all of our research of what the design project is, our mission is to make design accessible. So that's really what we lean on, is being able to provide product designers to companies of all sizes. So we have a subscription model where customers sign up, they get a dedicated designer, and that designer works with them on their team, depending on how many, how much design need they have, they choose a plan. And yeah, so we, we offer kind of the, the ux ui, a lot of our cust, all of our customers are in the startup space and we really focus on kind of helping our customers get to the next level and provide kind of that design thinking. Cool.

Nicolas: Very cool. I'm gonna, yeah, I'm gonna follow you page

Dianne: . Yeah, please do. Please do. We're always updating, we're always shifting, we're always trying new things. We're always trying to understand what our customers want and what we can do better. And so I was really inspired by a lot of the things you said, like sketching and rethinking flows and not thinking so much about Figma because we're always like, oh, what's new in Figma? Always so focused on that. Yeah. And I think sometimes it takes away from the problems that we're solving. So yeah, I really

Nicolas: Appreciation for following the Figma updates can be a full-time job, you know, True.

Dianne: Oh my gosh, so true. So true.

Nicolas: So it's exciting, but at the same time, say, okay, but I'm lucky enough to be old . So, I don't have to put my ends in Figma anymore. So that's the good part of getting old .

Dianne: I feel like, like I'm, it was really hard for me, I now manage the designers mostly. And this past year is when I really stopped designing and started to do more management. And so that's been a really hard transition for me because I've always been like, I'm a designer, like I wanna sit there and I wanna be in fig more. I wanna be coming up with solutions. So I'm kind of more on the management side, which has been very, a very interesting shift for me. And I actually am enjoying it way more than I ever thought I would. So I'm doing way less in Figma these days, but it's been, it's been a good adjustment.

Nicolas: I have something perhaps that can help you because I've, I've, I've worked a lot under the coaching methodology and I wanted to do something I just did once, but this is it. I'm gonna give you that on the chat, if you can have a look. It's about using a coaching method and I've created a workshop with that, that you can use as a team manager. And it's about people learning from each other and so in a, in a situation, what are the seeings that, what are the strengths that I use to get things done? And what are the weaknesses that drive me back? And I'm doing that. The other one, do that, do that. And how can we learn from each other? And if some task is really hard to achieve for me, perhaps I can learn from you because you know how to achieve it very easily. And it's very, it's called the Taught Model. It's a coaching model and it works very, very well.

Dianne: Oh my gosh, this sounds really amazing. Okay. Very simple.

Nicolas: I

Dianne: Definitely, yeah, I'm gonna take a look and I would love to Yeah. Learn more about it. And I love that idea of collaborating and learning from others. So that's,

Nicolas: Yeah, that's very cool. I, I'm I'm, I'm working a lot about keeping the talents in, in a team, because today in the, in the product teams, it's all about talent acquisition competition. Yes. So when you have a challenge, the key is to keep him or in the team. So the only, the only way for me is to give the talent a context in which he can grow as a designer. Yes. So when you start to, to learn and you stop to grow, you will leave the company for a better salary,

Dianne: Right.

Nicolas: And or a better environment. So everything, so teams and talent acquisition managers have to be focused on keeping the talent inside the team. So this is a tool i I made for them.

Dianne: That's really interesting. Yeah, I wanna have a look. And that's definitely something like, we've worked really hard to get a great team. Like that's something that's always been really important to me and my founder. And Yeah. And I, and we've definitely found a really great team. And that's constantly what we're doing is we're coming up with like, okay, we have our company OKRs, and then we have personal O OKRs, so like, what do you wanna achieve this quarter that's going to help you grow in your career? Yeah. And helping them like rethink some of those like, personal goals as well, and showing them how they can take those personal goals and grow and they can also kind of feed into,

Nicolas: That's it.

Dianne: Yeah, that's, I

Nicolas: Love that. Don't forget that there are individual goals, personal goals, but what is more important for me is can we create common goals so we can grow together? You will help me, we'll help you. And with time perhaps getting all that, that makes me think this way. But it's all about community and what we miss today in our world is that sense of community, the real one not being, being in a community of us. We see a political community or whatever, you know, it's yeah, we, we've got someone.

Dianne: Oh, sorry. Yes,

Nicolas: That's no. Oh, I, I, I need to leave. I, I cannot stop. This is a No,

Dianne: This is super interesting. Hey, Julie, just finishing up with Nico in a podcast. So Hu's actually a designer on our team that's new. And I'm actually next, I'm doing another podcast, so I'm trying to check my podcast and I'm doing one with her. So she's a team member and I'm going to kind of chat with her. So so

Nicolas: Thank you. Thank you for all, and can't wait to the podcast.

Dianne: No, thank you so much. Super interesting, super fascinating. I would love to keep in touch and thank you for sending this mural board. I'm definitely gonna take a look for sure. Cool.

Nicolas: See you soon. Have a great

Dianne: Day. Sounds great. Thanks Nico. We chat soon. Thank

Nicolas: You.

Dianne: Bye-Bye. Bye bye. Okay.

Dianne Eberhardt

Dianne Eberhardt

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