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How 5 of your favorite things explain the design process

At Refresh Baltimore, Nick Whitmoyer of D.C.'s Whistle Studios used pizza and Dan Deacon to explain how to make better stuff.

Nick Whitmoyer talks design process at Betamore. (Photo by Stephen Babcock)

People in the design community use plenty of terms like UX and design thinking to explain what they do and how they do it. But if you want to understand what those ideas mean, Nick Whitmoyer encourages you look no further than pizza.
Whitmoyer, of D.C.’s Whistle Studios, expounded on pizza and other things that everyone can understand to illustrate the design process Wednesday night at Betamore. (Here are his slides.) It was the latest in a series of talks hosted by Refresh Baltimore.
Here are five real-world examples he used, and one resource to help keep the conversation going:

1. Pizza


(Photo by Flickr user A.Currell, used under a Creative Commons license)

There are a lot of different approaches to pizza. A meetup junkie, Whitmoyer got tired of Papa John’s and Domino’s. Unlike those nationwide brands, the pizza from Maria D’s in Federal Hill (which the crowd ate while Whitmoyer talke) is authentic, and actually good, he said.
Elsewhere, Chicago has deep dish, and California has their own style. New Haven-style pizza, anyone? Multiple approaches work, even if they’re different. Same with design.

2. Dan Deacon’s Tiny Desk Concert

Whitmoyer has done design work with NPR. When he was there, he saw the organization do a lot of things to change up its content. One example is Tiny Desk Concerts, which provided a new way to listen to NPR. And Baltimore’s own Dan Deacon did a really good one.
The fresh approaches can come from a variety of sources, and that means letting in new voices. When it comes to design, lots of firms are trying to get the most experienced people possible, Whitmoyer said. “I think every organization should have a place for junior-level designers to come and grow,” he said.

3. Starbucks


(Photo by Flickr user Lil’ El, used under a Creative Commons license)

Whitmoyer said user-testing is key to the design process. One way to get users to test the product is to put up a flier asking people to test a product at Starbucks. Just be sure to give them gift cards for their troubles, he advised.

4. Netflix


(Photo by Flickr user jovino, used under a Creative Commons license)

Always be thinking about output vs. outcomes, Whitmoyer said.
The outcome is the goal, and the output is how to get there. When something goes viral, think about how it got that way and how your content can evolve. Look at the changes that happened at Netflix as it went from a video store to a content creator: “They went from disrupting Blockbuster to being in the same playing field as HBO,” Whitmoyer said.

5. The TV at Betamore

(Photo by Stephen Babcock)

“Failure is important,” Whitmoyer said. That’s how a product improves, and how designers get insights about what doesn’t work.
“It’s okay to suck,” he said. And then, the TV at Betamore that showed Whitmoyer’s slides went out for a few minutes.


As you’ve probably gathered by now, the design process can apply to many different disciplines.
Whitmoyer referenced design thinking, which is an idea that creative, solutions-based thinking can help refine normally complex processes. For a deeper dive, you might want to check out this month’s Podcast. Our editors and reporters delve into how design thinking is spreading to the wider world.

  • Listen below, download the episode or subscribe to the Podcast on iTunes or Stitcher.
Companies: Betamore

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