Silicon Valley's Designing Women Give Tips On Talking Tech

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By E.B. Boyd (Silicon Valley Reporter, Fast Company) Some of tech's leading designers gather at 500 Startups to inspire the next generation. Step one: Learn how to code.

On Friday, a dozen of Silicon Valley's top women designers gathered at 500 Startups for a sold-out mini-symposium on everything from design best practices to how best to chart careers. The event titled "Women in Design" was put on by The Designer Fund. The idea behind the gathering, Designer Fund co-founder Enrique Allen tells Fast Company, is to "inspire the next generation of designers through storytelling."

Among the heavy hitters: Kate Aronowitz, Director of Design at Facebook; Nancy Broden, a design lead at Twitter; and Janice Fraser, co-founder of LUXr and former founding partner at Adaptive Path.

Here are some of their insights:

Kate Aronowitz (Director of Design, Facebook) Advice to designers: "Learn how to code. I never did, but the next person who has my job will. It makes you a better designer if you understand how to talk to engineers and you actually have to think through how something works. It makes you think much more mechanically about the design, and it enables you to actually build something."

Karen Kaushansky (Principal Device Interaction Designer, Jawbone) Advice to designers: "One of the design principles we work towards at Jawbone is to create things that are both beautiful and usable. We work in a design partnership with Yves Behar and fuseproject. They are responsible for all of our industrial design. Internally, we work on the usability of these products. [We think about] what kinds of things our users are going to want to do with our devices. [We focus on making them] beautiful and usable, and then we work on adding the little things. This is what makes me excited to come to work every day: Adding the little magical things to our devices that make people want to use them."

Elle Luna (Senior Communication Designer, IDEO) Advice to designers: "You can't just walk into India and design for India. It doesn't translate. If you are going to design for cultures that you're not from or you do not understand, you need to spend greater time immersing yourself in the visual language of that culture -- the people and the culture itself."

Sasha Lubomirsky (User Experience Researcher, Airbnb) Advice to designers: "There's something that happens when a person observes a user [using the software they designed] and realizes at that moment, 'I've been making all these wrong assumptions because I assumed that everyone thinks the way I do….' Most of the time, you're not the target user. You have a more sophisticated grasp, and you're more tech savvy. The more people see user research in action, the more they realize it's part of the process, and it's important."

This post was originally posted at Fast Company.

Photo credit: Mads Boedker.

About the guest blogger: E.B. Boyd is the Silicon Valley Reporter at Fast Company, trying to explain how the world is changing and where the new opportunities lie. She has written about everything from health care to politics to troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. In a previous life, she worked in Silicon Valley tech companies, helping building software and websites. E.B. has reported from the Middle East, China, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Afghanistan. She currently resides in San Francisco. Follow her on Twitter at @ebboyd.