Here at Marvel, we love finding out about how designers of different disciplines work alongside others in their company and with other stakeholders. We talk to Josh Knilans about his design workflow and how he likes to stay organised as an Interaction Designer at Red Hat.
👋 Josh! Why don't you introduce yourself to Marvel's design community?
I am an Interaction Designer at Red Hat and currently live in Raleigh, NC. I’ve lived in 5 different states and 2 countries in the last ten years. My wife and I have fun in our daily attempts to keep 3 kids under 5 from destroying our house and chasing our cat. I love learning new things, listening to podcasts, and reading between 20-30 non-fiction books per year. Pro-tip: reading 20+ books per year is definitely possible when you play audiobooks from your local library on your daily commute.
“Pro-tip: to reading 20+ books per year, play audiobooks on your daily commute.”
How did you get into design, was it something that you knew from a young age or an interest much later in life?
I have been active in design since I was in middle school, but didn’t seriously consider design as a career until my first full-time job after college. I worked at an insurance company that used an industry-specific software program that had been on the market for 30 years without much of an update (we’re talking MS-DOS). It was universally disliked and the training schedule lasted between 6 and 9 months. My company decided to upgrade to a modern software provider and the training time dropped to 1 month and everyone was happier with their job. I wanted to be a part of creating good software that makes people’s jobs and lives better. A few months later I quit my job and pursued graduate school for product design/development.
What is your company culture like?
Red Hat attracts passionate people that want to see open source take over the world. We celebrate success, obsess about open-source, embrace openness and transparency, and value collaboration. We encourage and expect everyone to contribute to the conversation-even if they’re the least senior person in the room. We value individuality, even to the point where each team can choose what they want to use for a messaging application. (Google Chat, Slack, IRC) Sometimes this causes some inefficiencies between teams that primarily use different applications, but most of the time it works out.
“We encourage everyone to contribute to the conversation, even if they are the least senior person in the room.”
What is your design team culture like?
We have around 100 team members mostly based in and around Boston, MA and Raleigh, NC. Our team is made up of people you would want to be friends with outside of work. We value helping others, whether that’s providing for feedback in design reviews, walking through a new user flow at the whiteboard, or suggesting a 16px spacer instead of a 24px spacer between two components. Some team members have just graduated from college whereas others are nearing retirement but both are valued. We collaborate in person, via Slack, and on BlueJeans video. We also contribute to our open source design system, Patternfly which we use in all of our products.
“We value helping others, whether that’s providing for feedback in design reviews, walking through a new user flow at the whiteboard, or suggesting a 16px spacer instead of a 24px spacer between two components.”
What does your design workflow look like? Is this what you would call the dream workflow and what other tools do you use to make your life easier?
Since I work on fairly technical products (Linux containers, operators, etc) I usually start by reading documentation or interviewing stakeholders to better understand what the problem is that needs to be solved. During this step I typically use Google Docs/Sheets to take notes and Lucidchart to generate flowcharts and/or diagrams. Once there’s enough detail to begin wireframes, I use Sketch for creating wireframes and Marvel to share designs with stakeholders and gather feedback. When deadlines and calendars permit, I schedule feedback sessions with users to get input and validate design decisions.
“Marvel solves many of my problems when it comes to sharing wireframes with stakeholders and gathering feedback.”
What is it about your workflow or process that you would recommend to other people in the Marvel community that could inspire them to work more efficiently?
It seems obvious, but really understanding the problem you’re trying to solve is key to becoming more efficient. No matter how beautiful your design is, if you’re solving the wrong problem... you’re still solving the wrong problem. And you will need to do rework later.
Another time saver has been using Sketch symbols. Our team uses the Patternfly symbol library so that our designs are consistent across products and it has allowed me to spend more time focusing on how to solve the problem and less time designing individual components that may or may not be consistent with other products in our portfolio.
“Being able to really understand the problem at hand is key to becoming more efficient.”
What advice would you give to other designers when working with developers?
I think in general we should involve developers earlier in the design process. The times that I have done this have led to constructive feedback from developers and has prepared me for additional stakeholder feedback later in the process. Often they will also become advocates for your design in further conversations with stakeholders.
“Engage with developers earlier in the design process will lead to constructive feedback and often they become advocates for your designs at later stages.”
Last question, how do you stay organized, not just in Marvel but also in your day-to-day?
I use the Notes app in iOS, Google docs, and Airtable to keep organized in my day-to-day life