Plus an idea to keep social networks in their place 
The Last Few Weeks.

A monthly roundup of product design, email, and climate news.
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Welcome to Issue #9.

Winter’s almost over here in the northern hemisphere. It FINALLY snowed in the NYC metro area, so I enjoyed a few days on the slopes 🏂

For me, winter also means putting gloomy, post-punk, shoegaze bands like Esben and the Witch, Interpol, and Film School on repeat. Music like this hits different when the weather’s cold and dark. I’m gonna milk these last few weeks of winter for all their worth. Musically, at least.

Here’s my current playlist. If you have a winter playlist, I’d love to know what’s in it. HMU on twitter or reply to this email.

In this issue: Building design system teams, unsolicited redesigns, and a case for designers knowing code.

artwork by MUTI

Product Design

Designers should know code. Before you hit ‘reply’ to tell me what an idiot I am, let me explain where I’m coming from.

I read Ahmad Shadeed’s Guide To Responsive Design In 2023 the other day and it blew my mind. It introduced new things I’d never heard of before.

I learned responsive design in 2010 when Ethan Marcotte first coined the term and immediately applied it in my own work. Over years, however my job’s required me to code less. While I still keep up with CSS ongoings, I apply them less and less.

So when I read Ahmad’s article about modern responsive design, I learned a bunch. But I didn’t run out and immediately start writing responsive CSS. Instead, I read enough to get the gist, and tucked it away in the back of my brain. Someday when this new knowledge is helpful, I’ll come back to this article and learn it more in depth.

That’s generally how I approach front-end these days. Be aware of stuff even if I don’t use it.

If you look at The State of CSS results each year, it’s pretty common for folks to report being aware of CSS concepts while not actually using them.

So, do I think designers should code? I don’t know, who cares? But I think designers should know enough about code to know what’s possible and push their engineers (who might not know everything about HTML and CSS). It’s often the difference between a good design and a great design.

Email Geeks

Some of us have built email design systems, and others have built out teams, but very few have combined the two. In a recent discussion, Crystal Ledesma shared her experience in establishing an email design system team at Zillow.


I don’t know anyone whose taken email design systems as far as Crystal. It was fascinating listening to her journey from individual contributor to design manager. Hiring as been on my mind lately, so I enjoyed hearing about how Crystal is building out her team.


I’ve been 😂-ing at Soren Iverson’s unsolicited feature ideas for popular products. I loved his idea to “gift” someone a spam call. Guat’s done a bunch of these parody designs too.

But Soren’s idea to include the carbon footprint on Chipotle’s menu struck me as something that might actually have legs.


Everything in our capitalist society is meant to reduce friction, and products often do this by hiding the true cost behind the things we buy.

  • A bacon cheeseburger with fries sounds great when we don’t realize it’s 1,500 calories.
  • 1-2 day shipping seems nice when we don’t see the stress it imposes on supply chain workers.

What if products exposed some of that previously hidden cost?

In 2018, the US passed a law requiring any restaurant with more than 20 locations to provide customers with a calorie count on their food items. Because customers should know what they’re putting in their bodies. Total transparency between the customer and the restaurant.

So why should the environment be different?

People should know how their purchases impact the environment, just as they know how the food they eat impacts their body. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this start to pop up in the next few years.


Here’s another unsolicited redesign I’d love to see:


I don’t understand LinkedIn. To me, it always seems like a bunch of corporate types being “thrilled” about something. So I just don’t visit much and let the business crowd do their thing.

Twitter is more my speed, so it’s annoying when I see LinkedIn-style content in my Twitter feed. I’d love to use the “For You” tab without seeing these types of posts.

Before I close out this issue, you’ve probably noticed that AI having its moment in the sun. Designing for AI is actually a big part of my job right now, and I’m working with our ML and NLP team on a guide to designing for AI (not with AI, there are enough of those articles already).

More on that next month.

Until then, hats off to everyone who’s not building a ChatGPT wrapper right now ✌️