The plan


My plan is to write a short practical book for designers. The idea is to research about certain topics, collect stories and experiences through a series of interviews, review drafts with early adopters (colleagues who kindly offered to help) and write about practical techniques and examples that help designers in their day-to-day communication.

I’m planning to commit 6 hours/week. This doesn’t sound like a lot but it’s probably realistic to do aside a full-time job. I hope this helps me focus. After talking with a couple of authors, I’m confident I can make this work. We shall see and I’ll be reviewing this plan at the end of every sprint.

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Any ideas or comments, do drop me a line by email or Twitter (@marianamota).

The backlog

As I mentioned in my previous blog post, I’m starting researching and writing a book in an Agile way, with sprints, user feedback and iterations. I’ll share my plan later. With that, it comes the product backlog with epic topics.

Help me prioritise the backlog of topics. This will help me understand what people would also find interesting and what topics to start with:

Survey: What topics do you find interesting?
(it will take only a minute)

I’m going to write a book, and I need your help


I’ve decided to start writing a book about verbal communication and leadership skills for designers. This is a subject I have been researching for the past couple of years, giving talks about it and experiencing in my day-to-day job. Now I’ll get deep down into research, do interviews, get contributions and write a book about it.

Inspired by Leo Babauta’s blog post on the iterative way to write a book, I’ve decided that I will write it in small chunks and I need your help. If you are a designer or work in the creative industry and you fancy giving feedback once every couple of months on parts of a chapter, please, get in touch! I’m looking for a handful of designers to give me feedback on the content.

A brief introduction about my motivations and of what you can expect:

I’m an introvert. I love silence.
My whole professional life so far has been focused on communicating visually.
The industry I am in is predominantly men. I’m a woman.
The language I speak everyday is not my mother language.

I’m highly interested in verbal communication. For me, it’s the most challenging part of my job and life in general. And when get it right, it’s highly gratifying.

The designer is fundamentally a visual communicator. To get that right, though, we need to be able to receive a good brief, have stakeholders understand our rationale behind our design decisions, sell our ideas, talk to users, facilitate workshops, lead client meetings, have developers understand what we are trying to do, give constructive feedback to other designers and get team members to buy in. These are all verbal forms of communication that come with visual support (sketches, flow diagrams, mock ups).

The role of designer today is not only to communicate visually but also to facilitate conversations and provide clarification to a whole project team. I find designing the easiest part of my job, not saying it’s easy, but it’s the peripherals of my job that I find most challenging everyday. No design will go anywhere without good verbal communication.

Some topics I’m planning to write about:

  • The role of a designer and how it has changed in the past few years
  • Leadership vs facilitator languages
  • Introducing design to a well established company
  • What account managers can teach us about talking to clients
  • What project managers can teach us about getting the team’s buy in
  • Communicating with designers
  • Communicating with developers
  • Gender differences when it comes to verbal communication in workplace
  • Giving and receiving feedback
  • Facilitating user interviews
  • Leading UX and stakeholder workshops
  • Leading multidisciplinary team meetings
  • Presenting your design ideas to clients and doing pitch presentations
  • Networking for introverts

Which of these sections above would you be most interested in? Take this quick survey.

If you fancy helping, get in touch by email or through Twitter.

The iterative way to write a book, by Leo Babauta

This is an interesting application of the MVP (minimal viable product) and Agile approach.

I particularly like the idea of having alpha testers.

“Write a minimum viable book for alpha testers. I wrote each chapter for a group of 10 alpha testers who generously agreed to read early versions of the book and put it into practice. Because I was writing for them, I was more motivated to write regularly.”

Read blog post: Writer as Coder: The Iterative Way to Write a Book, by Leo Babauta


pianoOnce in a restaurant* in Brussels my mum and I sat at a table next to an elderly couple who were celebrating their 50th anniversary. Our tables were close enough that the interaction between us happened naturally. I say naturally because my mum is incredibly interactive and communication with strangers is not uncommon for her.

By seeing that we were impressed by how long the couple were together, the man gave us a piece of advice:

“Hobbies! That’s our secret for staying together for so long. You need to have hobbies. Hobbies that you can do together and, most importantly, hobbies that you do on your own. Because when it all goes, jobs, kids, that’s what you’ll have and what will keep your minds sane.”

This kept in my mind and I believe it has directly influenced me to start a few hobbies like learning to play the piano. Sometimes it can be difficult to fit hobbies in our day to day, when we’re so busy, but it’s worth the effort (for these reasons). Who knows, when we’re celebrating our 50th anniversaries, we can then pass on the advice.

*If you like mussels and you go to Brussels, check out the restaurant Leon de Bruxelles. They are also located in London and in Paris, but if you can, go to the original.

Beautiful Reykjavik, Iceland

We went to Reykjavik for 5 days. It is absolutely beautiful and I totally recommend a visit.

One day we hired a car and did the Golden Circle tour, which includes seeing the huge Gulfoss waterfall, Geysirs and tectonic plates. They are super impressive! On another day we went to the Blue Lagoon, a geothermal lagoon.

We tried a few traditional Icelandic foods. The main one was Hákarl, a fermented shark. The smell of ammonia is so strong that the tiny pieces of shark come in a small closed jar. I hope I’ll never have to eat it again. After this experience we tried other traditional “safer” foods like their famous tasty lamb, the lamb hotdog from the most famous stand in Reykjavik and Skyr which is a no-fat type of yogurt. More about Icelandic traditional food.

We went to a the Reykjavik 871 +/-2 The Settlement Exhibition which gave a very good overview on how Reykjavik was settled and formed.

For a more complete blog post about this trip, check out my husband’s blog post.

Running out of patience

Running has been a good exercise for me not only for the physical aspect of it but for the mind. Besides being a good way to release stress, running long distances (10k, 15k, 20k) has been a great exercise for patience and determination. The former I find the most challenging.

In our day to day, we are constantly connected and being distracted. We are not used to feeling bored anymore, we change subjects, we change channels, we pick up our phones. Being on your own with your own thoughts for a long period of time, whilst struggling, can feel boring. Oh, so very boring at times! “Why am I doing this? I want to stop.” but you just keep going.

While running, you hit the famous “running walls”. For me these are around 3k, 5k and 10k. When you hit these walls, you are aware of how much more there is ahead of you. This is not an easy thought. Boredom is a big part of running but you just learn to be more patient and you keep going because you know that at the end you’ll feel awesome because you made it!

Related posts:

Photo copyright: Photo by Glen Carrie (Licensed under CC0 1.0)

The making of the Lambeth Parks Challenge

Was very happy to receive by email a lovely video made by Stephen the project manager I worked with last year on the Lambeth Parks project at White October. In this project, I was responsible for the creative direction and user experience. The team included Sophie Klevenow, who did the amazing illustrations and animations and Pete West, who did the development.

See the project on my portfolio or see the Lambeth Parks Challenge website.