The Product Design Podcast: Designing phone skins to leading design systems at Facebook with Eric Lobdell
Eric Lobdell - Designing phone skins to leading design systems at Facebook

Eric Lobdell - Designing phone skins to leading design systems at Facebook

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Highlights

Eric Lobdell's tips on how to best approach a long term career in product design

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Learn what area of design you are passionate about by saying yes to everything early in your career

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Uncover what kind of work environment fits your personality by working for different types of companies, from startups to large corporations.

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Expand your knowledge and your network by sharing your work and reaching out to experts online for feedback.

Table of contents

Designing phone skins to leading design systems at Facebook with Eric Lobdell

In this episode of The Product Design Podcast, Seth Coelen interviews Eric Lobdell, who leads the design systems at Facebook! He lives in Oakland, California, in the Bay Area, and he is a typography enthusiast.

During our interview with Eric, he shares several specific ways that product designers can manage a long-term career in the industry. From getting started to staying relevant and leading large design systems teams, we have collected great pieces of knowledge from him in this episode.

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Eric's start in product design

Eric became interested in this industry when the web was young. He started with a personal Pokemon website, which eventually led him to a small startup called Myspacesupport.com, where he made glitter graphics and custom Myspace layouts. He also worked for another small startup that specialized in making customizable mobile phone skins.

What works well consistently is if you just share your work and you're doing good work; those are the two elements you need to be successful.
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What nearly every designer will tell you is that quantity will lead to quality. The more you do, the better you get at it. The better you get at it, the more eyeballs you get on it. The more eyeballs you get on your work, the more opportunities will pop up.

Later in his career, Eric landed a contract with an incubator for startups that put him into a role that was a bit outside of his normal scope of work. He looked at this as an opportunity to learn, grow and figure out how to become successful in this specific role.

Leading large design systems teams across an organization

These days, Eric is leading design systems at Facebook. Eric shared with us that everyone in the organization has the autonomy to make good decisions and drive their vision.

Part of his role in the organization is to support teams where he is not always the expert and helping other teams think more like systems designers to contribute back to the organizational systems. This experience helped him learn how to work with people differently from the past at smaller startups. He has changed his approach and strategy to support numerous teams in the organization to help everyone operate more efficiently within the design systems. Building trust and working closely with people generally results in systems adoption, and that's a much better recipe for success.

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Building trust and working closely with people generally results in systems adoption and that's a much better recipe for success.

Staying relevant as you get started in product design and along your career path

Tips on how to get started:

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Be curious and find work. Support a friend that can't afford to pay you yet or find side work to keep expanding your knowledge and ability.

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Say yes to everything early on. Saying yes is the best way to expand your portfolio and learn more about your craft. Approach each opportunity as a chance to figure out something new to build your portfolio with valuable experience.

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When you can't get your vision created through someone else, learn to build it yourself. An engineer may not always understand what you are looking for, but you can bring your vision to life on your own if you learn how to code.

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Reach out to experts online to receive feedback on your work while expanding your network. By putting yourself out there, you develop your knowledge, leading to work or new opportunities down the road.

Tips to stay relevant along your career path:

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Startups are a great place to learn what aspect of design you enjoy most. In smaller companies, you can be working on numerous aspects of design and uncover what you are passionate about in design.

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Larger companies are the best place to understand better what kind of environment you prefer to work in. Learn in a larger company whether you are the kind of person who enjoys getting your work done on your own with some collaboration with your design peers, or you prefer working cross-functionally with multiple departments and teams to accomplish a goal together.

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Don't be lazy. Keep your portfolio up to date to ensure that you are maintaining your brand and can quickly share your work to support finding a new opportunity.

Thanks, Eric!

We are so grateful for the time we spent with Eric on this episode. He brought so many valuable tips and tricks for those interested in product design, regardless of the company's scale. Listen to the complete episode, which includes an in-depth discussion about Eric's career path, including his life, over at The Product Design Podcast.

Don't forget to follow Eric to watch as he keeps growing in his design systems leading role at Facebook. You can find him on Twitter and his website!

Where to find Eric Lobdell

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