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Failing companies the most open to new ideas - Wes Yun, UX Design Day


“The most exciting places to work are those big companies that are failing. They’re most open to ideas, they have nothing to lose. They’re looking for the Hail Mary pass.”

[American gridiron quarterback’s hope and a prayer hurl of the ball down the field in the faith it’ll be caught by one of his own players]

Wes Yun
This counter-intuitive comment, in an offline conversation with the UX Design Day’skeynote speaker Wes Yun, was one of the unexpected aha moments of an event which attracted a fullhouse of 360 attendees. It was also the first conference to be held in Wellington’s refurbished Shed 6.


(No doubt) using design thinking, the organisers had Yun as the last speaker of the day rather than the first – so there wasn’t that gradual crowd erosion that often happens at these sort of do’s.

The self-deprecating American designer these days is creative director at Samsung (USA), but among other stints has been Motorola, RIM (on its last legs at now renamed Blackberry) and FHM (as it was creating its online platform in the early 2000s).

A few of his take home points in his hour-long (but it didn’t seem it) presentation were:

  • When you’re designing something new, you have to be aware of the old thing you’re displacing (the old thing, or the people attached to it in various ways may not be that keen to be replaced)
  •  Get comfortable with failure. If at first you don’t fail…try…fail again
  • Don’t fail fast. Listen fast

Yun also made the observation that it is a fascinating time to be a designer.

“Everybody ‘gets’ what you’re talking about, that your trying to influence for the better, culture society, the world, behaviour.”

And for a couple of other take home points (unfortunately I was only able to make the later afternoon session).

Ruth Brown, head of UX at Trademe:

Ruth Brown

  • Data is the new coal. Abundant, dirty and bloody difficult to mine…but coal drove the industrial revolution (told to her by her friend Hansa, who received it from her friend Pierre, who is not sure where he got it from)
  • Design like you know everything. Listen like you know nothing

Resn designer Marcus Brown:

Marcus Brown

  • Audio adds the emotion. (Marcus reckons that so often designers are concentrating on the pictures, graphics and movement, they tack on the music and sound at the end almost as an after-thought. Compare that to the movies where audio is a key component right from the beginning – it adds to the overall feeling

This was an excellent event, and those people I asked who had been there all day felt they’d learned lots.

As a plug, and a hope that this inaugural UX Design Day is repeated next year, get there if you can.



sticK is run by Peter Kerr. As a writer for hire, especially in the science and tech area, and in making the complicated more simple, I’m happy to yarn – if you’ve got a challenge you’d like a conversation about, it costs nothing.


You can contact him at:

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