When will design actually be respected at Amazon?

Amazon hSxe66
Jul 6, 2018 72 Comments

I know some people respect it but overall, I feel true design (not UI output) is thought of as unnecessary by devs and directors/managers think they can do it, which is why we get prescriptive feedback.

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TOP 72 Comments
  • Compass / Eng
    FUPayMe

    CompassEng

    PRE
    Google
    FUPayMemore
    Design isn’t super important if the core product is compelling enough. See Craigslist for example.
    Jul 6, 20186
    • Amazon hSxe66
      OP
      Not true. What will happen is if something better designed comes along and offers the same thing as CL, CL will be dead. MySpace, MP3.com, you name it. Also the first MP3 player to be put in a phone was invented by Samsung. Just no one has tackled the CL area. Probably because it’s really not super interesting.
      Jul 6, 2018
    • Compass / Eng
      FUPayMe

      CompassEng

      PRE
      Google
      FUPayMemore
      There are dozens of better designed Craigslist alternatives. The reason you don’t use them is that while Craigslist isn’t beautiful it’s effective. And that’s what you need when trying to use this service.

      MySpace wasn’t compelling. It was just the most accessible option. When a better option came around people rotated to it.

      A better example would be google. It is a very simple design, it doesn’t have the best features when compared to bing or DuckDuckGo, and yet, it’s still #1. This is because it is able to accomplish its core dusty effectively, and thus even when newer, possibly better designed alternatives, with more features arrive it maintains its staying power.

      Same could also be said of salesforce. There are tons of better designed, easier to use, alternatives and yet, they maintain.

      Additionally it shows a massive amount of hubris to just state that my point in untrue in its entirety. Perhaps this is part of the reason you, in particular, are not well respected. You should work on this.
      Jul 6, 2018
    • Uber ettutk
      Craigslist is compelling because of it's design. Not it's visual design mind you, but how it works. Thoughts I'd argue Craigslist always had solid fundamental type design (hierarchy etc ). I've issd CL for decades and have never gotten overwhelmed by all the options.
      Jul 6, 2018
    • Amazon hSxe66
      OP
      @FUPayMe just because something maintains doesn’t mean another is not catching up gaining traction. How brands climb to the top is another convo. Indeed and Monster are a good example. I do not think Google and Bing are a great example LOL To get your site crawled on Bing you have to submit it. That’s a pretty weird UX for a search company. Top of Mind brands have inertia and that is hard to stop it takes a powerful force. I don’t think I was showing anything but telling you what I think isn’t true. You stated that you thought “design isn’t super important if the core product is compelling enough” I don’t think it’s true and I stated why I thought so with examples. MySpace in my opinion was compelling because it was the first traction anything like that caught on. It was the gateway to Facebook.

      Additionally I think it shows you have a hard time with someone challenging your point of view which is sad. You also couldn’t state your point of view without giving a personal judgement and attack. I do not have an issue with being respected, I feel that I am very respected, design as a whole is not being respected because it is not valued the way it should be. I hope you have a better day.
      Jul 6, 2018
    • Compass / Eng
      FUPayMe

      CompassEng

      PRE
      Google
      FUPayMemore
      Who determines what value should be? Typically things are valued according to market factors. Currently AI /ML experts are valued higher than standard web developers, which are valued higher than call center operators. I’m unclear on how to make sense of your main concern that design is undervalued.

      If my point that companies need design more to compensate for a less compelling product offering then is wrong then wouldn’t the best designed products simply win out? Juicero was a very well designed product. One might even say overly designed. And it failed.

      Put simply, you can have a million shades of lipstick to apply but if your pig is dead, it doesn’t really matter. People are buying the pig. Not the lipstick.
      Jul 6, 2018
    • Amazon hSxe66
      OP
      Who determines the value? Main stakeholders. I have never said that a less compelling product would win if they had better design. In fact I’ve always said that it takes both development and design to make something work. To have one more important than the other is a recipe for disaster. Your comment about lipstick on a pig is pretty weird. That term is used for making something shitty look better than it is, so that doesn’t make sense in this conversation. No product should be designed to fool someone that it is better than it is. It also is a comment from someone that definitely doesn’t value design.
      Jul 6, 2018
  • Amazon huh88
    I've seen way too many executive overrides of design, forcing un-best practices, ignoring user research, competitor audits prioritizing random features on whim rather than customer and even beta feedback--all of which is what designers utilize. so I can sympathize when op says amazon ignores design.
    Jul 11, 201821
    • Amazon Boldemort
      All I am saying is that it is most likely you will not 100% of the time get 100% if the buy in. If that is the expectation it will be a disappointment, you def should try for that but not expect it
      Jul 14, 2018
    • Amazon / Design!important
      You may or may not expect it, but it’s expected of you. Be right a lot...right?
      Jul 15, 2018
    • Amazon Griphook
      All of Amazons leadership principles are not expected. We are taught to cultivate the principles that people are best at. Even if being right a lot is something you are good at think about that statement, it is being right A LOT not being right all of the time. If you read that principal it talks more about that. So I think it’s safe to say that, no it is not expected that you are right 100% of the time. Jeff B isn’t right 100% and neither was Steve Jobs.
      Jul 15, 2018
    • Amazon / Design!important
      Maybe we’re veering off topic here. If you’re being run over by leadership and don’t feel like your design proposals are being heard, it’s your job to earn trust (usually by demonstrating bias for action or being right a lot). There’s no LP that says “listen to the designer”.
      Jul 15, 2018
    • Amazon / DesignMiddleWest
      If Apple had used data and Amazon LPs to make stuff, they would never have conceived the iPhone or the ecosystem that followed it. It’s not that Amazon creates mediocre stuff; Amazon makes plenty of really good and even great things. It’s that Amazon never does anything that’s insanely great.
      Jul 15, 2018
    • Amazon Griphook
      👏🏽👏🏽
      Jul 15, 2018
    • Amazon / Design!important
      I would argue that Apple observes many of the Amazon LPs. I haven’t worked there, but from what I hear from designers, design fights for their seat at the table just like at any other company. If you get pushback on a great idea, your job is to evaluate why you got the pushback, and course-correct to better communicate concepts to drive alignment.

      Unless you were on the team that designed the iDevices, how could you know LPs weren’t present? Even if they weren’t, I’d say Amazon’s built much better products in some cases than Apple.

      Does Apple store more than half the data in the world? Does Apple have their own holiday? Is Apple pioneering voice design and home automation?

      Alexa beats the daylights out of Siri because the product was designed with intent and thoughtfulness. All the iPhone had was “flash” and glitter with great marketing.
      Jul 16, 2018
    • Amazon / DesignMiddleWest
      I agree with most of that, but you’re wildly oversimplifying the iPhone or just missing the value of “flash.” While I think there’s more to it than just glitz and glam, that flash and great marketing has led to the a valuation of more than $900 billion. While it might stall there, whereas Amazon conceivably has no ceiling, you can’t be so dismissive. And my comment was brief, I should articulate further—Apple has done insanely great work that has radically changed things, but it’s still kind of a cult, and it is at times shallow.

      Apple doesn’t have their own holiday, but they have inspired millions to stand in line. Amazon gets people excited about selection and low prices, while Apple has made people feel something much deeper and imagine possibilities far more. You can scoff at that, too, if you wish.

      But no, Apple can’t match Amazon’s cloud or AI work. In the long run, Amazon will be the more valuable company, and perhaps more fascinating.
      Jul 16, 2018
    • Amazon / Design!important
      Wouldn’t you agree that Amazon’s success is largely attributed to its data-driven culture and the LPs?

      Still comparing Apple to Amazon, I think that’s a great depiction of the difference between designing products that are customer “focused” vs customer obsessed. Both are great, but the obsession Amazon has with delivering long-term value to customers will always prove more valuable than Apple’s increasingly customer hostile ecosystem of iDevices.
      Jul 16, 2018
    • Amazon / DesignMiddleWest
      I think Amazon’s customer obsession strategy drives its success, fundamentally. The LPs provide a good framework for finding the right decisions to make on behalf of customers and implementing them.

      Thus, we are immune to “innovators dilemma” type situations because we accept that we might have to lose for awhile in order to gain in the long run.

      Really enjoying this discussion by the way! Great perspectives.
      Jul 16, 2018
  • New / Eng
    albion

    NewEng

    PRE
    Facebook
    BIO
    Political dynamite.
    albionmore
    Jeff fundamentally does not get design. At all. until he defers to someone that does, Amazon will treat design as a just a value-add of its processes.

    See fire phone, Wayfair’s entire existence etc.
    Jul 6, 20180
  • Amazon / Design!==!
    Design at Amazon might get some respect once a majority of the designers are worth respecting. Most of them now are boring as shit, have limited visual design skills, and think that yammering off small upticks in this or that means their work is profoundly effective. While carrying this weird air of elitism. I’ve never been around so many designers this bland and difficult to like. There are some who are cool, but it’s not the norm.
    Jul 12, 20183
    • Amazon Pandapal
      Agreed. I would say the design bar is low across the company minus a few orgs.
      Jul 12, 2018
    • Amazon / Design!==!
      Which orgs have a high bar for design? Certainly not EDG or Core Shopping. One does empty-headed shit work, the other couldn’t make their trashy-but-not-as-ugly-as-Beacon AUI win a Web Lab.

      Devices seems to have some strong work though.
      Jul 12, 2018
    • Amazon Pandapal
      Have you worked with devices before ? I think they are strong too.
      Jul 13, 2018
  • Amazon / DesignHot==dog
    I find that designers are respected quite a bit at Amazon. Never had a problem and have always been seen as someone who adds value.

    What’s tricky though is that Amazon realized that a lot of “good enough” products/services are plenty effective. And that designing something to be insanely great isn’t necessarily worth the additional investment.

    It’s frustrating, but even though my team’s more ambitious thinking often never materializes, all of our colleagues appreciate the effort.

    Much of your best work will wind up in the trash. But you keep doing it anyway because not all of it gets tossed.
    Jul 9, 20181
    • Amazon Boldemort
      Yes I to point out I don’t believe designers personally are not respected I think design as a way to solve something is not as respected as it should be.
      Jul 12, 2018
  • IBM / EngHGKE00
    OP seems highly combative. Maybe people respect design fine, but just not him.
    Jul 6, 20181
    • Amazon hSxe66
      OP
      Interesting that pointing out gaps in knowledge are combative.
      Jul 6, 2018
  • Microsoft Masterful
    The moment employees are respected
    Jul 6, 20181
    • Amazon / Eng
      Hooliganss

      AmazonEng

      BIO
      AWS
      Hooliganssmore
      Might have to leave the US for that
      Jul 6, 2018
  • Amazon / Eng
    el Zombie

    AmazonEng

    BIO
    all the messages posted here are a work of fiction and have nothing to do with the real life, used only for therapeutic interactions with imaginary chatbots
    el Zombiemore
    Design, as OP describes it, is a solution looking for a problem.
    Jul 6, 20186
    • Amazon hSxe66
      OP
      Because I said design comes after the idea? That’s just creativity 101. Sorry you missed that in engineering school.
      Jul 6, 2018
    • Amazon / Eng
      el Zombie

      AmazonEng

      BIO
      all the messages posted here are a work of fiction and have nothing to do with the real life, used only for therapeutic interactions with imaginary chatbots
      el Zombiemore
      With this kind of arguments you will not get too far. You know that you are not Dieter Rams and never will be. Why should someone waste money on your useless designs if you cannot quantify their benefits? Designer Fallacies 101.
      Jul 7, 2018
    • Amazon hSxe66
      OP
      The designs are always quantified just like everything else. If you can’t understand that good UX leads to more money because of faster delivery, better checkout processes and better understanding of information you are missing a lot of things. I guess Netflix and Apple should just fire all designers. Sounds like you are trying to prove points to things you do not understand. While design strives to solve a problem you can’t even look past your nose to see things holistically. You are the type of engineer that gives them a bad name.
      Jul 7, 2018
    • Amazon / Eng
      el Zombie

      AmazonEng

      BIO
      all the messages posted here are a work of fiction and have nothing to do with the real life, used only for therapeutic interactions with imaginary chatbots
      el Zombiemore
      So you are Dieter Rams, eh? And you know about as little design and possible, right? And you just successfully sold me your magic services using powerful words "holistically", "nose", and "understand" (3 times). Go work for apple then. Why whine here?
      Jul 10, 2018
    • Amazon Boldemort
      It’s interesting you resort to personal attacks when someone uses logic and knowledge to combat you. I would also point out that what you are doing would be what you have just considered to be “whining” just in the opposite way.
      Jul 12, 2018
    • Amazon / Eng
      el Zombie

      AmazonEng

      BIO
      all the messages posted here are a work of fiction and have nothing to do with the real life, used only for therapeutic interactions with imaginary chatbots
      el Zombiemore
      Try harder.
      Jul 13, 2018
  • Amazon / Engbbserver
    Most companies don’t respect design as much as they should. It’s not an Amazon specific thing.
    Jul 6, 20183
    • Amazon hSxe66
      OP
      Yeah prob right. The trick is finding a company that values it enough because they know if they don’t they will be behind.
      Jul 6, 2018
    • Microsoft compute
      While I value good design, my experience is that it is easier to find bad designers than good ones. That might be contributing to the problem.
      Jul 6, 2018
    • Amazon djrwcjo
      Starbucks does. Target does. FANG just doesn't.
      Aug 6, 2018
  • Amazon hSxe66
    OP
    Sounds like mostly engineers in this thread and now the original question is answered. If you value design, don’t go to Amazon.
    Jul 6, 20180
  • Amazon / Design!important
    The role of a designer is to help others make better decisions, not to make them themselves. If you view design as your responsibility, I’d wager that’s where your frustration is stemming from.
    Jul 11, 20185
    • Amazon Boldemort
      I’m not sure what org you are in or what role you are in but I have to make decisions along with PM and research. We make the decisions together. If you are making designs and sending them over to have other people make the decision I hope you are in a junior position. Design is a skill and as a professional you give your best professional opinion. The group together makes the decision, that includes you.
      Jul 12, 2018
    • Amazon / Design!important
      You’re right. We do need to make decisions together, but designers own the design decisions. When others start making them for you, you haven’t earned trust, demonstrated ownership, or shown any backbone.

      - L7 Designer
      Jul 12, 2018
    • Amazon Boldemort
      I see, so you’ve never had to disagree and commit? I think not
      Jul 13, 2018
    • Amazon / Design!important
      Of course I do. I still consider it a failure (being self critical) and learn from it to be right more often. It’s cool when the LPs come together.
      Jul 13, 2018
    • Amazon Boldemort
      It definitely is
      Jul 14, 2018
  • IBM / EngHGKE00
    IBM values design over product. Which one is doing better?
    Jul 6, 20185
    • Amazon hSxe66
      OP
      They absolutely do not. I worked at IBM for almost 4 years on several big products. That company is a damn mess. Design isn’t valued. We couldn’t get shit built.
      Jul 6, 2018
    • IBM / EngHGKE00
      Design isn’t valued. We couldn’t get shit built. Those two aren't mutually exclusive. While I was there we had several floors of designers who kept making shit we never made work and then replaced it with something shiny before the old one ever worked.
      Jul 6, 2018
    • Amazon hSxe66
      OP
      I do not think it is. If it is valued that means it is treated as beneficial and coveted. Design cannot do their job correctly if they cannot improve the product. Design cannot improve a product if development will not build it. Your statement about “making shit we never made work and then replaced it with something shiny before the old one worked” doesn’t make much sense. If you never made it how can someone “make” it? If things are being replaced it’s because users complained, companies complained and sales were terrible.
      Jul 6, 2018
    • IBM / EngHGKE00
      It takes longer to build a front end than have a couple of meetings and mock one up.
      Jul 6, 2018
    • Amazon hSxe66
      OP
      Correct, so it’s better to make sure you are building the right thing which is where design comes in. Measure twice cut once.
      Jul 6, 2018
  • Amazon / Eng
    print('

    AmazonEng

    BIO
    all the messages posted here are a work of fiction and have nothing to do with the real life, used only for therapeutic interactions with imaginary chatbots
    print('more
    When someone proves with data that design is important and increases sales, revenue, customers satisfaction, or any part of the flywheel.
    Jul 6, 20180
  • Amazon Boldemort
    There are def some teams with awesome design chops but I think there is that weird thing about some UX not thinking they should hone in the skill for visual. I very much believe the visual drives it home.
    Jul 13, 20181
    • Amazon / DesignMiddleWest
      Yep, visual design is still how most people think of “design,” fairly or not. You can teach a strong visual designer how to handle many UX challenges, but if someone doesn’t have visual chops it’s often hard to train that.
      Jul 13, 2018
  • Amazon / Eng
    el Zombie

    AmazonEng

    BIO
    all the messages posted here are a work of fiction and have nothing to do with the real life, used only for therapeutic interactions with imaginary chatbots
    el Zombiemore
    Who looks at echo anyway?
    Wasn't echo show stolen from Nucleus?
    Can Amazon design anything better than Braun ca 60s?

    If it is proven, then someone at amazon owns a one pager which directors jump at, without knowing anything about design. Simply because its numbers are too good to be true.
    Business people are simple creatures. They will do everything for better sales or higher profits.
    Jul 6, 20181
    • Amazon hSxe66
      OP
      The one pager is the idea. The design is done by after that. The idea comes from gaps in products or brands. It usually comes from a need. Someone can have a great idea without knowing anything about design, happens all the time.
      Jul 6, 2018
  • Uber ettutk
    A lot of engineers still think design is how it looks? Lulz
    Jul 6, 20180
  • Amazon hSxe66
    OP
    Um it is proven. Most projects are shoved over to design because there is a huge problem, like with the business side of .com or prime now. Every minute a package is late, that is tied to a dollar amount. If the package can be delivered faster then it obviously saves money. Not sure where you are going with that. Do you think the echo would sell like it does if it looked like a modem from 1980? Nope. That’s a design call.
    Jul 6, 20180
  • Amazon hSxe66
    OP
    Exactly. That points to the same problem being brought up. If directors that have no or little knowledge of design there are no checks and balance. They hire the managers and tend to hire the ones who fall in line with their ideals not ours
    Jul 6, 20180

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