On growing my intuition

I used to think I have pretty good intuition in design and creative.

I come from the advertising agency world. In the ad world, things are done a certain way. When we create an ad campaign, we usually receive a request from a client with a problem to solve. If we’re lucky, we’ll have a bit of data regarding the problem and the customers whom we’re designing for. Then the agency makes a creative brief to define the problem and deliverables. We then do big brainstorming sessions to come up with the coolest ideas that we think will solve the problem. We then pitch the ideas to the clients and hope that one of the ideas is liked. We then go on and produce the videos, ads, and website and launch them into the world, again, hoping that the world would like it. Project over. We probably won’t hear back on how the campaign did.

When I joined Automattic about a year and a half ago, it was a huge culture shock. Things are quite different. Apart from the expected agency to in-house transition, I was quite surprised and impressed with the way we design here. I enjoyed the closeness to our customers when we’re designing — from product to marketing. We use data to inform our designs and iterate them after we launch. This is part of our Project Muriel design process of orbiting the four planets: Planet Discovery, Planet Hypothesis, Planet Deliver and Planet Listen. For more background on the planets and our space travels, check out Tammie’s post.

For the recent freedom video prototype for instance: In addition to the usual design process of drafts, collaborating internally to iterate on the creative. We’ve also opened up the design process and conducted customer interviews with various business owners to get their feedback on the video, as well as understanding their business and the value of using our products. In my opinion, it resulted in a much better video. Not only did we receive invaluable feedback from our actual customers on the creative to challenge Automattic’s internal biases, it also increased our understanding and empathy of whom we’re ultimately designing for — our customers.

Which brings me to one of Automattic’s design principles:

Intuition is grounded in interpretation through iteration.

When I worked in the ad agency world, it was mostly about depending on intuition without much iteration, as we didn’t get much data about the customers, and how the final product performed. On the contrary, at Automattic, we strive to use data to inform and shape our intuition continually, hence crafting and improving our intuition as we iterate and grow.

Now I humbly grow my intuition by learning and experiencing.

Featured photo by asoggetti on Unsplash


By Ballio Chan

Creative Director - Marketing @Automattic | Creative | Brand |
Connecting the dots between design and technology.


I’m a back-end and hardware developer facing the task of designing a multifunction website for the first time. As I’m learning, I can’t help but notice you guys and gals at Automattic have even gotten the background colors and fonts right. By that I mean I’m drawn in by them. Reading is easier. You front-end developers and designers are truly amazing. Even now, I’m using font tools to determine what you’re using so I can ride on your research and hard work. I hope you’ll take that as a compliment and not as just another parasite. Iteration and evolution. Where would we be without them?

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