Beyond Pixels: The Hidden Traits of Great Designers


Last Friday, Steve Johnson gave a talk at the Jacobs Center about the traits that define great designers and how good design has the capacity to change the world.

For Johnson, one of the greatest design minds was Gene Roddenberry, creator of Star Trek, because he inspired an entire generation of thinkers, creators, and innovators. Johnson believes in dreaming big and looking to the future, to do more and build more.

Johnson calls design ‘user experience’. Designers should create with the user in mind. Excellent design should be integrated and tailored to daily life, including cars, fashion and interior space. He especially emphasized that one size does not fit all, and that a designer should continually seek out competing perspectives to improve the end product. Users do not struggle to use a product because of lack of intelligence, but rather a design flaw.

That interest in other perspectives should extend to the designer’s team, by filling out the team with people who represent the audience. Steve emphasized having both bridge architects to design success across divisions and amplifiers to bring out other people’s talents to solve for success.

Similarly the team should value and support creativity and quirkiness. The best and strongest ideas are those that do not conform. Often, good designers have to adapt to new situations and become trendsetters. Hierarchies and conservatism are not conducive to ensuring that the best ideas come to the top. Good design does not assume that everyone is in the same situation or has the insight of the designer.

He made the difference between urgent and important. Urgent is something that is important to someone else and important is something that is important to you. A good designer is a good leader and ensures that his team understands and is equally passionate about every project. Good designers are emotionally available, love their work, and are excited to learn, teach and share with those around them.

Johnson concluded by highlighting the importance of the designer and product reflecting the values of the company. Success comes when personal beliefs line up with the beliefs of the workplace.

— Nicolas Chang

Check out photos from the event below:

2016: Beyond Pixels with Steve Johnson

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Join Steve Johnson, Director of User Experience Design at LinkedIn for a lunch time lecture!


Johnson is a pop culture fanatic, and avid musician whose career in user-centered design started as a Skills Trainer with Autistic children. By redesigning and tweaking everyday objects for children with mild to severe autism, he developed a design philosophy focused on observing behaviors, mapping patterns, identifying goals and testing key assumptions. After Pacific Autism, Johnson worked in interactive gaming with Electronic Arts, and later moved to Adobe Systems where he led the User Experience Design Group, a team responsible for Adobe’s Mobile, Consumer, and Professional product lines. Now with LinkedIn, Johnson leads a multi-disciplinary team of User Experience Design (UED) professionals, made up of Marketing & Brand Communication Designers, Voice and Tone Specialists, User Researchers, and Product Designers. Responsible for creating experiences across Mobile, Desktop and Web, the UED team plays an integral part in improving usability, growing member engagement, and increasing revenue across Linkedin.

Co-presented by the Arts + Design Initiative, Berkeley Center for New Media, and the Jacobs Institute for Design Innovation.

RSVP here.