TUT 45: Designed in China, Assembled in California

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The 45th edition of the UX Training newsletter looks at a lot of trends in the field of design and technology. I start with the most important article I’ve read about the state of technology in quite a long time. It worries me. Followed by an analysis of Apple Design Winners, an even more comprehensive analysis of the design practices of 500 companies, and then a look at how design is getting more automated.

I used to use IA Writer religiously until switching to Ulysses. But every now and then, I still check IA Writers’ blog…and found this hidden gem of an article. It’s an important read about the rise of China, and how America is following suit in becoming “more Chinese.” Skip to the section called “Numbers” for a damning read.

  • Highlight: But even without us clicking at all, somehow the ad system works. No one knows how, because it all happens in a black box. Only Facebook and Google know the real numbers. But no one questions how it works. Why? Because of the numbers.


I love this type of conversation (“Is X dead? Is X bullshit?”) that questions popular trends. IDEO, in a rare act, explains that companies often use design thinking as part of a superficial “theater of innovation” rather than the deep, strategic power tool that could be used to transform companies and their products.

  • Highlight: “Hendrix recalls seeing a door near a client’s boardroom labeled with a sign reading, ‘creative thinking room/DVD storage.’ It’s a perfect metaphor. Without the strategy and the discipline, the tools–like having a dedicated brainstorming room–ultimately won’t work…access to the tools can be a little deceiving if you don’t understand how to use them in an appropriate way.”


Every year, a handful of designers and teams receive the prestigious Apple Design Awards (ADA). This founder decided to do a deep dive into the data (say that 5x fast) of what makes these apps so award-winning. Productivity apps and flat design are amongst the commonalities in ADA winners.

  • Highlight: “The results show that flat design still reigns supreme…the clean white interface style that dominated in previous years has taken a back seat in 2018 with flat design and simple design the big winners totaling 70% of the winning interface design tags.”


McKinsey & Co, the famous consultancy, released a new report The Business Value of Design. I’ve never seen such an extensive report like this, which tracked the design practices of 300 publicly listed companies and distilled 100,000 “design actions” into 4 themes of good design.

  • Highlight: “Over 40 percent of the companies surveyed still aren’t talking to their end users during development. Just over 50 percent admitted that they have no objective way to assess or set targets for the output of their design teams. With no clear way to link design to business health, senior leaders are often reluctant to divert scarce resources to design functions. That is problematic because many of the key drivers of the strong and consistent design environment identified in our research call for company-level decisions and investments.”


When’s the last time you’ve set type? (Me neither). This lengthy AIGA article explores the new technologies that may threaten to make Graphic Designers “obsolete.” Really interesting read on how various companies are applying AI, automation and smarter algorithms to create technologies that could make entire skillsets obsolete.

  • Highlight: “A lot of the work we do as designers is prescriptive. We work within set screen sizes and resolutions…to colors that have been numerically serialized and indexed…These parts are modular and mechanical, perfect for automation.”

Have you ever had your portfolio reviewed, and heard conflicting pieces of advice? To get objective feedback, focus on these variables:

  1. The UX work itself: the design process and deliverables
  2. The storytelling: what problems were solved? Can you tell it in an interesting way?
  3. Visual presentation: easy to read, attractive visuals that show you can do design work
  4. X factor: whether the case study is unique in its subject matter and/or presentation.

Did you know that the upcoming UX Portfolio Course 2.0 comes with a live, personalized portfolio review with yours truly? Grab your advanced copy if you’re entering interview season.

Keep learning,
Oz, founder @ UXBeginner, instructor @ UX School

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