Video: Design Is [Vision]

Ratna Desai, Steve Selzer, and Forest Young explain the the power of storytelling in product design and business strategy

In tech, the immediacy of iterative progress is a strong motivator. The mantra “release early, release often” promises the endless ability to build and patch, or add and reconcile, as a product grows toward its potential. In contrast, speakers from Google, Airbnb, and Wolff Olins describe the benefits of shifting one’s perspective to see the full context and future potential of a product more clearly.

Watch the Design Is Vision talk with creatives from Google, Airbnb, and Wolff Olins

Visioning is the process of evaluating and creating consensus around a product narrative, and it can be harnessed as a tool to align teams toward a north star. When leveraged effectively, visioning encourages proactive innovation that manifests across products, teams, and companies. In this talk, each speaker draws from their own examples to illustrate how visioning strengthened products at their respective companies.


On building meaning through storytelling, 11:18 “Stories are naturally addictive for us. Even when we go to sleep, we’re imagining stories. This is extremely telling because as a species we’re drawn to stories, and they allow us to imagine and to build on that cognitive foundation.This approach of building meaning through storytelling lends itself well to designing products” – Ratna Desai

On using visioning to reach goals, 34:29 “In some ways, the vision gives us a sense of how to work backwards. We can easily move forward, we can continue to optimize, but will we ever make truly big leaps, or know where we’re trying to go unless we actually try to envision something?” – Steve Selzer

On fluidity, 1:01:59 “In visioning you can set a goal post, but ultimately en route to that goal post and during the journey to get there, you may decide to deviate and pivot away from it. It may no longer be relevant.” – Forest Young

Ratna Desai is a UX Lead on Google’s Search & Assistant team. She leads multidisciplinary efforts to define product vision and strategy for engaging, predictive experiences. Prior to Google, Desai served as a Creative Director at frog design, a global design and strategy firm.

Steve Selzer is a creative leader at Airbnb. Over the last decade, he has led design for a broad range of companies—from startups to Fortune 500 companies spanning education, finance, entertainment, consumer products, transportation, communications, and social enterprise. Today, Selzer leads the Airbnb for Work design team, which is focused on transforming the experience people have when they travel for work. Prior to Airbnb, Selzer was a Creative Director at frog design.

Forest Young is a designer and educator. As Head of Design for Wolff Olins San Francisco, Young leads design initiatives for the world’s most influential companies. He is also a critic of graphic design at the Yale School of Art and teaches CCA’s inaugural Future Design course. Young recently served on the Board of Directors for AIGA NY,  and as a judge for The Type Directors Club, Art Directors Club and The One Show.

Design Is […] is a monthly speaker series on the future of design and creativity. Each public talk is centered on a theme, and the series highlights a broad range of perspectives on everything from human-centered design to VR and ethics. Stay up-to-date with future Design Is [...] videos bysubscribing to Google Design's YouTube channel, and reading ourfull collection of Design Is [...] articles.