Meeting Expectations: A Few Words with Kevin M. Hoffman

Tell us a little about yourself and what you've been doing recently.

I’ve been working in the field of web and application design since 1995, but more recently I’ve been drawn to work in service and product design. I’ve got a lovely collection of titles and business cards—remember those?—which include Webmaster, Director of Communications, UX Director, Founder, and Vice President.

Image: Michelle Gray

Over the last few months, I’ve been training designers to become better facilitators based on material from my latest book, Meeting Design. I’m very interested in continuing to learn about and explore how we normalize design methods and quality of work for different sized teams and different kinds of organizations. This includes things like emerging practices in design operations and strategies for building agreement on what it means to do great work under the real-world constraints designers face every day.

Common constraints I’ve seen are misunderstandings around what design can/cannot/is supposed to do, confusion about where accountability lies for decision making, and the prioritization, and occasional false correlation, of velocity over direction and clarity—faster doesn’t mean better. Real insights about people are hard earned and our digital behaviors are constantly evolving. Shipping more code more often doesn’t get you ahead of that.

What are some tools you find indispensable to your work?

My number one tool is a whiteboard, or a piece of paper and a pencil. There is not a problem or idea that cannot be more clearly understood by spending a little time sketching it out alone or together. Everything from simple use cases to complex UI choices can be quickly illustrated, discussed, and addressed by visualizing things in a rough fashion. Even the most talented visual designers in the world do some of their best thinking through sketching.

Most of the rest of my work involves talking to people, listening, and writing things down, so I’d be dead in the water without good ways of managing text. I’m a huge fan of Bear Notes for iOS, and use it several times a day for capturing and then easily finding all the cool things I learn from the people I work for and with. I particularly dig how it syncs across devices.

Finally, what’s new and coming up with you?

I’m thrilled to announce that I’ve recently joined the United States Digital Services (USDS) team. I’m going to start by working on digital services and products that serve America’s veterans, working with the Digital Services team at the Veterans Administration (DSVA). If you’ve ever been frustrated dealing with a health insurance claim to get the care you need, just imagine layering on the complexity associated with government processes and policies. I’m excited to contribute to the application of great design and user experience in support of streamlining and innovating services for veterans who have been of great service to American citizens.

See Kevin share his hard-won insights in “What is Design Ops, and Why Do I Care?” at An Event Apart DC (July 29-31, 2019). Don’t miss your chance to see Kevin and sixteen other top-notch speakers!