A Day in the Life of 3 Postlight Product Designers
Curious about the day-to-day of a Product Designer at an agency? Take a peek.
Each day is different for a Postlight product designer, but larger themes emerge when we look at a handful of product designers’ days across the team: a balance between quiet working time and collaborative meetings, working asynchronously on Slack, and working together through pair design or design reviews. Take a look at a day in the life of three Postlight product designers, and if you see yourself on our team, we’re hiring!
Corey Roth, Lead Product Designer, based in Boston
Working on several projects, including one that’s wrapping discovery and one that’s just starting.
I joined Postlight during the pandemic, and since I’ve started, I’ve seen our remote culture grow and evolve. Most of our work culture happens on Slack these days. One of my favorite parts of the day is watching everyone hop on Slack and seeing all the little green status icons lighting up like street lights. It’s important to check in with folks to see where they’re at mentally and emotionally on any given day, and to regularly reach out to anyone you haven’t heard from in a while.
Project syncs and working sessions
I typically have scattered meetings from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., depending on the project phase. Those meetings can vary from simple standups, to dedicated time to co-design with clients, to user interviews. Since I’m juggling multiple projects, this means onboarding one project while I’m wrapping up another. It’s important to stay aware of what’s going on with different projects for a few reasons: to stay plugged into what’s on everybody’s minds, to help unblock people, take the emotional temperature, and empower others.
Meeting can sound like a bad word for designers (ugh, you’re stifling my creativity, MOM), but I love the time I actually sit down with clients, hear about their needs, and invite them into the design process. I used to stress more about spending time “designing,” but having an uninterrupted block of time each day frees me from that pressure and lets me be present when I’m in meetings.
I typically attend multiple design reviews each week, and not just for my projects. I love the collaborative nature of design reviews. Our design reviews can vary from pair design (1:1 conversations with someone on another project) to larger team pin-up sessions, where we talk through what’s working and how we can help keep someone moving forward. This week’s design reviews included chatting about design education and mentoring with Nora Vanni, getting sassed by Andrew Possehl about my choice of Airbnb, and a more project-specific design sync that included Kirsten Sorton, Suzy Cho, and Patrick Delaney.
I prefer to work through lunchtime and instead take an afternoon break when my meetings are done. It’s a great way to switch thinking contexts and get up from my desk. These afternoon breaks can vary depending on the day, and they are something I appreciate about working remotely. This time of year, it’s typically a run down to the harbor to see the ocean, a walk to the gym and a peep at the changing leaves, or just a quick stop at the corner grocery to pick up something fun to make for dinner.
When I get back from my break, I wrap up any loose ends for folks who are getting ready to log off for the night. After that, I wind down by taking care of any administrative needs for the next day, making quick edits to designs, or working on any content projects I have going on for Postlight.
Nora Vanni, Senior Product Designer, based in Minneapolis
One project with various tracks: platform maintenance, feature development, and discovery for a new scope of work.
Starting the day
My workday often begins by meeting with our teammates in Beirut, Lebanon. It’s 5 p.m. for my engineering colleagues Chris Haddad and Peter Bardawil, and their day is winding down. For me, it’s 9 a.m., and I am just starting to feel the effects of my coffee. (Even through the bitter winters of Minneapolis, I always begin my workday with a homemade cold brew.)
Today, we’re meeting with the client to check in on a long-term software project. Our product management team shares the discovery findings for a new feature and updates our stakeholders on some blockers that we need to clear before an upcoming release can occur. I’ve got some new designs to share that support an update to how data is structured in the app. I present my screen in Google Meet and talk through the changes via a one-page inVision prototype. These are straightforward updates, so our client gives an easy thumbs-up, pending a few tweaks to the language on some new input labels.
Clearing my inbox
Once our meeting wraps up (early, at that!), I dive into my unread messages on Slack and email. I’m a little type A when it comes to messaging; I abhor an uncleared notification or a full inbox.
I quickly peek at a few channels: #out-of-office, #design-team, and #food. Then, it’s on to email. I’m a hoarder of email newsletters, and it’s most often where I learn about interesting new developments in design and product. Daily updates from Sidebar.io, Protocol, Nielsen Norman Group, and more help me stay up to speed with new design tactics, thorny tech problems, and other random nuggets scattered across the web.
Most days are peppered with internal meetings of various types, and today is no exception. Our project team meets several times a week to review deliverables, discuss project constraints, and generally keep up momentum.
Today, we’re discussing the discovery findings for a sprawling new feature that will have a big impact on the existing app. We talk through what we’ve heard, both in large-scale group conversation with the client and internal DMs.
I can’t quite decide between two approaches for this new interface we’re creating. As a path forward, I suggest that I quickly create a version of both so we might compare them side-by-side, rather than continuing to discuss the ideas abstractly. The team agrees, and we say farewell for now.
…and asynchronous communication
Oftentimes, for smaller topics, the weighing of options plays out asynchronously in Slack. We might create a dedicated thread to gather feedback, coordinate a quick decision, or discuss how to better collaborate with stakeholders.
I really appreciate that I don’t have many meetings where folks share status updates or tackle other activities that are easily done asynchronously. An open calendar allows for deep work time, which is essential to solving thorny design problems.
Time for some deep work
Because my mornings are often full of meetings, my afternoons are usually spent in blocks of focused work. I use Clockwise to preserve windows of time. Context switching with lots of brief meetings can be a real momentum-killer for design work.
Today, I’m diving into that aforementioned new feature. Using real content and use cases described by the client, I lay out two versions of the new interface. This interface is complicated and LONG (each artboard is over 4500px long), so mocking up just these two screens takes my whole afternoon.
Capturing thoughts and logging off
As I wrap up my final updates in Sketch, I switch over to Notion. I’ve found describing my choices in writing to be an extremely helpful practice. My Notion account acts as a reverse-chronological log of all my meeting notes (internal and external), documented design versioning, and other helpful resources I’ve collected throughout the history of a project. It’s also a great way to end my day: I know I won’t forget anything about my thought process tomorrow, or the next day, or the next month.
As I wrap up documenting these latest designs, I’m pretty sure I haven’t arrived at exactly the correct solution. But I’m confident that when I share these screens with our product team in a review meeting tomorrow, we’ll be one step closer to cracking it.
I take one last peek at email and Slack, then I close my laptop and leave work behind by closing the door to my home office. Time to do some weight lifting and cook dinner!
Tina Phan, Product Designer, based in New York City
Currently working on high-fidelity designs on one project, onboarding a new project soon after.
Morning: Centering myself in the midst of (good) chaos
The mornings are often chaotic as messages, comments, and emails messily grow from the late day and night before. Once I arrive at the office, I play a game of catch-up and roundup. I collect everything in a Google Doc, organize them into categories, and then create to-do lists. In order to plan for the day ahead, I center my focus by writing down three things I want to accomplish. Today, I chose to focus on:
- Finalizing designs and interactions for a media side panel (client work)
- Prepping and recording a Loom video for engineers (communication skills)
- Reading Corey Roth’s article about digital accessibility (check it out!)
We have a #design channel in Slack where Postlight employees post articles and resources related to design. As much as I want to read them immediately, I am quickly overwhelmed by the things I have to do first, so I gather the links to read later.
Afternoon: Chasing inspiration and fostering collaboration in my design work
Before I dive into my work responsibilities, I go on an “inspo-gorge” where I binge-scroll all of my favorite sites for inspiration. One tip I learned from design school is that it’s redundant to find inspiration in things similar to what you are working on; you need to find inspiration in unexpected places. For past projects, I’ve looked to public spaces, parks, and libraries and translated my impressions of these physical spaces into healthy digital communities. Other resources I reference for inspiration include Same Energy, Song Exploder, and New Public.
Me and the design team
Here at Postlight, the design team encourages vulnerability and collaboration with one another as we openly share knowledge, give honest critiques, and offer support. During a Postlight Design Review, when we present our work on client projects, other designers give feedback and offer suggestions in FigJam. It’s terrifying to present my work in front of seasoned designers, all experts in their own right. But the more feedback I receive, the more fortified my work becomes. “How can you make this component more accessible?” or “How does this serve the user?” they ask. I may not have the answers immediately, but I am in good hands as the designers advocate fiercely for the future users.
We have weekly 1:1 pair design sessions with different designers; today I use this time to catch up with my colleague Patrick Delaney. In these sessions, I often ask other designers for life advice, like “What motivates you as a designer?” or “How do you navigate tough discussions with clients”? These sessions are an inspiration to navigating my own career.
Evening: The wind-down
Before the workday concludes, I capture what I learned from the day in Notion, an approach I learned from Nora Vanni. This exercise helps me practice the ritual of writing and tracking how much I’ve grown. I tend to bring myself down and lament in guilt because I feel I am not learning fast enough.
So I ask myself at the end of day:
- What did I learn today?
- What makes me feel empowered?
- Where do I see improvement in myself?
Reflecting by writing helps me reframe those thoughts: fast enough for what and for whom? Here at Postlight, I am learning to grow at my own pace.
During my morning roundup, I collect the links and resources posted in Postlight’s #design channel. My design education didn’t stop after graduating design school, so I document and annotate all of these readings in a Notion Template, which I affectionately call my digital garden. Here, my annotations are collections of evolving thoughts and exploratory ideas.
A day in the life reminder
I end my day with a reminder that I am not a machine. I do not always complete my design log or meet up for pair design or accomplish everything on my to-do list every single week. This tweet from Joy Clarkson reminds me to take it easy and embrace the messiness in my design process:
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Story published on Nov 16, 2021.