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Dan Mall Teaches

by Dan Mall

I teach designers how to get the respect they deserve. I share tips, tricks, and tools about design systems, process, and leadership.

Featured Post

Starting is easy. Sustaining is hard.

Reading time: around 1 minute It's easy to open a gym membership. It’s hard to schedule time to go to the gym every week. It's easy to start a blog. It’s hard to schedule the time write a blog post every week. It's easy to buy a bunch of plants. It’s hard to remember to water them every week. It's easy to create a bunch of design tokens. It’s hard to carve out time to answer the Slack posts from all the people using your design tokens. It's easy to sign up your kid for swim class. It’s hard...

5 days ago • 1 min read

Reading time: around 2 minutes Thrice, I’ve been involved in business-related lawsuits. The first time, an agency subcontracted my agency SuperFriendly to do work for a client through them. The work was ambitious and exciting, and it had a ridiculously tight deadline. Our team came up with some pretty creative solutions that worked within agreed-upon constraints. In the meeting where I was supposed to present the ideas to the client, the agency’s CEO—who hadn’t been involved in the work at...

12 days ago • 2 min read

Reading time: around 6 minutes “Looks like you’re killing it.” “Someday I want to be where you are in your career.” “You seem so grounded and focused about pursuing what you want.” “It seems like this new phase of your career is going well.” These are just a few messages I’ve received lately from some of my friends and social media followers. I’m incredibly flattered by these messages. It feels good to be recognized. I also feel wholly delusional about it, as what people seem to be seeing...

about 1 month ago • 6 min read

Reading time: around 4 minutes In 2011, I had the chance to work with another dream client. Crayola, a company that makes somewhere between $500M and $750M every year, hired Big Spaceship—the agency where I was working—to revamp their digital strategy. I was fresh off another successful dream project—art directing the Star Wars website—and I got promoted to design director to have my own team to lead. My bosses decided the Crayola work was a great first project for us, and I was excited to...

about 1 month ago • 4 min read

Reading time: around 6 minutes I have a book called Where Chefs Eat. As a reluctant foodie—who still enjoys a Big Mac from time to time—I bought it as soon as I saw it. I figured if I want to eat good food, I should imitate people who know good food. I think that advice holds true for becoming a better designer too, in areas like choosing a typeface, for example. There’s no shortage of guidance on the internet about how to pick a typeface—over 10 million results, to be exact—but many of them...

about 2 months ago • 5 min read

Reading time: around 1 minute It's a beautiful thing to have friends who aren't afraid to compliment you through an insult. Over lunch one day, I was whining to my friend Wil Reynolds about how frustrated I was that a few members of my team weren’t seizing the opportunities to push the limits of work on the projects I had put them on. Wil asked me what kind of support I was giving them to get them to do that, and I replied that I was putting them in situations to succeed. Then Wil really laid...

about 2 months ago • 1 min read

Reading time: around 2 minutes A few years ago, my former agency SuperFriendly started a new high-stakes project. We were one of a few different vendors handling different parts of a brand new digital product we making together. Our main project sponsor was the client’s Chief Marketing Officer, and she was used to orchestrating multiple parties that often ran behind schedule and needed specific and clear direction. She kicked off the project by sending us a 305-word email with some polite...

2 months ago • 2 min read

Reading time: around 2 minutes When you’re faced with a challenge that seems unlikely to lean in your favor, the common wisdom is to “shoot your shot.” I was unable to track the origin of the phrase, but I’ve always heard it in relation to sports—basketball in particular. The most common translation is that, between the choices of doing something and not doing something, you might as well do anything to give yourself a chance. It’s related to the quote most famously attributed to both Michael...

2 months ago • 3 min read

Reading time: around 1 minute I’m an ambitious person, which means I attempt things that might be scary or intimidating to other people—starting businesses, public speaking, etc. It’s not that they’re any less scary to me. It’s that I’ve assembled tools over years that help me get over the fear or trepidation more quickly than others. For example, one of the upcoming projects I’d to tackle soon is to revive the dormant social media accounts for Design System University. But ugh. Emotionally,...

3 months ago • 1 min read

Reading time: around 6 minutes A few years ago, a company hired my agency SuperFriendly to create a new marketing site for one of their products. Some snippets from our Statement of Work: Key Outcomes. SuperFriendly shall design and build a new marketing site for Client with the goal of creating a relevant and attractive marketing and communications plan for Client’s Product’s business. Client agrees that it is hiring SuperFriendly as an expert with appropriate experience and ability to...

3 months ago • 7 min read
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