Almost exactly two years ago, my Co-Founders and I joined the first class of companies at Matter in San Francisco, a mission-driven accelerator focused on transforming media and culture.
Today, GoPop has been acquired by BuzzFeed. This means I am starting a new job leading product for BuzzFeed’s core mobile apps, and working on launching a new design and development group focused on experimental apps.
I’ve said this to Corey many times, and I don’t think it’s over-stated: Matter truly transformed how I approach my creative process. Reflecting, the two most fundamental learnings from the Matter experience that I plan to bring into this next chapter are simplicity and user feedback.
It’s become such a cliche within design circles to trumpet the value of simplicity, but that’s because it’s just so damn true. One of the hardest things for me personally to learn at Matter was how to focus creative energies on the most simple, quality solution. I mean, I was coming straight from writing a dissertation — simplicity is not exactly what doing a PhD is about! By no means have I mastered this, but I feel like as a product designer, there is a clear before and after Matter.
Before Matter, my idea of user testing was to get feedback after I had finished making something. It had never really occurred to me that it would be possible to get extensive feedback before really making anything. At Matter, I fell in love with the process of rapid prototyping, often without coding anything, and the idea of really getting early experiments in front of real users to accelerate learning. Interestingly, I feel like this is where my academic background had the greatest contribution. Through Matter, I learned that product design has enormous overlap with anthropology — quality design often comes from extended, thoughtful observation and conversation.
Matter is built on a culture of constant experimentation. The program itself is always changing, and the methodology of design thinking is driven by articulating hypotheses and running experiments to quickly learn as much as possible. At Matter, I learned how to evaluate experiments and make decisions that reinforce the values of simplicity and the insights of user feedback. Matter imbued myself and our team with a strong foundation that is perfect for a company like BuzzFeed, where experimentation is built into the core of the culture.