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The Last Few Weeks.

A monthly roundup of product design, email, and climate news.
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Welcome to Issue #12.

A coworker recently asked me what I think product designers should do to remain relevant in the age of Ai.

IMO there’s two components here: Designing with Ai and designing for Ai.

Everyone is talking about designing with Ai. How to write effective prompts for ChatGPT or Midjourney. How to speed up design and development with Automator and Github Copilot. Ai tools give us the ability to work faster, but I’m no expert on using Ai tools to their fullest potential. That’s where Twitter threads, Youtube, Github, and courses like Design+Code and Design Dept come in handy (depending on your learning style).

I think we’ll all be forced to learn at least some of this, or risk being left behind.

Designing for Ai is another story. There are lots of problems to solve about our current Ai tools. How can people interact with Ai tools and discover what's possible (a text box usually isn’t the best way)? How should Ai content be explained or attributed in products? Are there adequate feedback loops in place to enable people to report inaccuracies? Ai tools are in a nascent state and moving incredibly fast. Right now tool makers are focused on being first without considering what the best experience is. Designers have the opportunity to shape what the first real version of Ai tools looks like (eg. David Hoang's concept of Dynamic Interfaces in super interesting).

I’m much more interested in this part and hope you are too.

In this issue: Email’s accessibility problem, nature has rights in Aruba, and good product sense.

artwork by Andrey Prokopenko

Product Design

Ai is going to make business majors out of all of us.

That’s what Design Dept’s Mia Blume argues. Humans can no longer solely “make stuff” in the age of Ai.

Creative teams that are solely focused on quality and craft as their outcome are going to find themselves fighting a losing battle.

It’s true. Maker tasks are already disappearing, but there’s one thing humans will always know better than Ai: Humans.

We’re an wildly erratic, unpredictable bunch. While Ai can help with research and do the boring parts of our job, only humans can make sense of it all and make the right decisions about what to make and how people will react.

Product designers are especially well positioned for this. It’s what the “product” in “product designer” is for. We’re expected to have decent product and business acumen. With Ai eating away at other aspects of our job, now is a good time to lean into the product and business aspects of being a product designer.

Ai will either push us up or push us out. Which one, that’s up to us.



Email Geeks

The Email Markup Consortium released it’s second accessibility report and the results are not good.

99.97% of HTML emails tested contain accessibility issues categorized as “Serious” or “Critical”.

Big yikes.

You can question their data and methods, but suffice to say the overwhelming majority of emails being sent today have major accessibility issues. We can safely say the same about web pages too.

In response, Parcel made a tool that automatically changes an email’s code to make it more accessible. This is exactly the kind of thing that machines should be doing for us. When we don't have to spend as much time making routine design and code adjustments, we can focus on bigger things.

Yes, it’s the same argument from the section above 😉

Parcel’s tool only scratches the surface since it only touches an email’s code and without altering its visual design. I expect more progress will come. I’ll be watching this space.




After returning from a family vacation in Aruba, I learned the tiny island nation recently took the first steps to amend its constitution to recognize nature as having inherent legal rights to exist and regenerate. If the process is successful, Aruba would join Ecuador as the only countries with such a law.

We don’t need to be politicians to recognize nature in our work. As designers, we can include environmental considerations into the design process. Sandy Dähnert suggests including nature as a stakeholder when creating user journey maps.

For example, if we’re creating a new Ai feature, we could note the energy it takes to train the data modal and the extra processing power required each time the feature runs. Using a template like Sandy’s helps identify areas where we can minimize the environmental footprint of their products. What may have been overlooked before is now visible.

“Without nature, there is no economy, no health and no tourism. If we don’t have those things, there is no Aruba, no us.” - Ursell Arends

It’s same same for us all.




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Thanks for reading, see you in a fortnight ✌️