Think beyond the pixel


This is part three in my series of articles building on the Adobe 99U profile piece on Katie Dill, the Vice President of Design at Lyft. Katie has made a sizeable team of more than 100 designers at Lyft. In the 99U article, they cover what she regards as eight important parts of scaling a design team.

I will post my article on each of the eight points over the coming days. I hope you stick around for all eight as there is much valuable information and benefit. So, let’s continue with the third of Katie’s topics on scaling your team, that of ensuring your team can think beyond the pixel.

3. Look for designers who ‘think beyond the pixel.’

It’s easy for design leaders at tech companies to get swept up in the online experience, but the offline experience is just as important. “Yes, a lot of our work is related to those pixels, but as a customer, your experience of us isn’t just in the app – it’s on a street corner, it’s sitting in the back of a car, it’s riding a bike, it’s talking to someone who moments ago was a stranger,” says Dill. That’s why she looks for designers who pay attention to more than what is on the screen. “Do they think beyond the pixel? Do they think about every moment of the journey and all of the different modalities of that interaction — from a billboard to an app, to a seat cushion, to the person-to-person interaction? That’s what we want.”

I think that there is much complexity hidden in the simple statement of being able to ‘think beyond the pixel’. You cannot be a successful designer if you are not able to think beyond the screen for the projects and art that you’re creating.

What is the message you are trying to convey and to whom are you trying to communicate it? Flight information in airports is shown on large banks of monitors where 95% of the data displayed is useless to everyone who looks at it? Many of those looking at the arrival and departure boards may also be tired, stressed, dealing with early starts or late finishes, or flying with small children or other family members with a world of their own emotions and events. How do you ensure that the customer receives useful information?

Here is a very, VERY, small selection of examples that go beyond the screen that you need to think about how it will impact and interact with the art you are producing.

Are there any trends in your industry, or society in general such as #MeToo, for marketing and communication material? Should you be following these trends, or not? Whatever your choice you need to know why you made that choice.

Photo by Deva Darshan on Unsplash

For projects with physical material as a finished installation, such as for signage and exhibitions, can you visit the location of where the art will be? Alternatively, can you see photos from different angles and times of day? Can you see floorplans of venues? Do these floorplans show who your fellow exhibitors are, and who will be nearby? Where will your work sit and how will the environment around your art impact it or interact with it? Is the impact or interaction good, or bad? Is it something you can leverage and use to your advantage or an unresolved exposure?

Photo by Andreea Popa on Unsplash

For digital art, will it work in all screen sizes, devices, and orientations? Will the audience be able to see your work and interact with it as you intend?

Are you the final decision maker on the presentation of your work? I once met a team of animators at one of the Creative Mornings breakfasts in London. When the group introduced themselves to me, I knew of their latest work. It was great in many respects, but I challenged them over an element of child safety that I felt it had introduced.

The unfortunate team all dropped their heads in frustration. I was not the first to raise this issue. The BBC had shown their series out of order which had caused many issues around child safety as an unintended consequence.

It’s often good to look at things in isolation, or even backwards, from the end to the start, to identify any problems that you can resolve up front.

Photo by Teemu Paananen on Unsplash

For presentations and pitches do you know what equipment will be used to present your work? I was once involved with a large Tier 1 corporate pitch where there was a fault with the projection equipment that was to be used by the proposal teams at the customer venue. This fault was only identified during the rehearsal by one of the companies presenting. We were prepared for this and won the work.

Even further, regarding presentations, do you know the room size, the screen size, the audience size? Will it be a darkened room or will the lights be switched on? Will you have access to the internet over their network or will you be relying on a mobile device and signal. What’s the smallest font size you should use? What colours project well and which don’t? Will the audience be seated or standing? Do you know of any colour blindness in any of the key decision makers?

For branding – how will this be applied in the real world. Is the brand image impacted if the customer fails to dedicate the budget to office refurbishment and signage?


The issues above are only the very tip of the iceberg of the problems that you may encounter with work relating to branding, design, graphics, and creative work. Your team must be able to consider the real world application of their work and the impact that external factors can have. You can’t always resolve for these external factors, but being aware of the issues positions you and the customer for how to respond and manage for them. Of course, there are also times where you can leverage these factors for even better results.

I’ll address the next element of building a great team, that of transforming your mission into values that can drive the business, in the following article.

I’m currently based in both London and Berlin and on the lookout for new opportunities. Please (get in touch using the Contact page) if you’d like to discuss more.

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