design

Come design the future of work

Justin Rosenstein

Dustin and I started Asana to bring great product design, great user experience, and even beauty to a place they haven’t gone before — into the part of people’s lives where we spend most of our days, contribute to the world, and do great things.

Back at Facebook, we felt constantly stymied by the friction and overhead of coordination. We tried everything. But from email to expensive enterprise software, existing solutions were too hard to use, or cumbersome, or poorly considered, or just plain ugly. This was shocking to us: these are the tools we all use at work all day. There had to be a better way.

Great user experience is, ultimately, Asana’s raison d’etre.

We’re now looking to add one more person to our talented four-member UX/Product Design team. Someone who is looking for a big challenge to work on a fascinating design problem with a potential for positive world impact, in an environment that’s optimized for turning ideas into reality with speed and joy.

The Impact You Can Have

Enable human achievement. From skyscrapers to software, from vaccines to space travel, greatness is the fruit of human collaboration, of groups of people with a shared vision working together. But coordination is notoriously difficult. That’s why human progress is basically the story of improving the technology of coordination: language, writing, telephones, and email increase the scope of what can accomplish. By re-imagining how teams work together, we want Asana to be the next step in unlocking human potential.

Already, Asana has customers who are building great businesses, curing disease, alleviating poverty, and building large-scale art. Asana isn’t just making them incrementally more efficient; many say it’s fundamentally changed the kinds of goals they can accomplish.

By designing tools that make everyone more effective, we get to play a small part in all of their goals, from curing cancer to helping Dropbox cross the 100M user mark.

Create happiness. I don’t know a single knowledge worker who doesn’t feel overwhelmed and stressed by information overload. How do we create a world where we feel calm and in control — aware of just the information we need and undistracted by all else?

Eliminate drudgery. I often ask people how much of their workday they spend on this “work about work” — like sifting through low-priority email or sitting through status meetings — and frequently hear answers like “70%.” This isn’t just time-consuming; it’s soul-sucking. We believe software can automate most of it, and make all of our lives better.

Solve a universal problem. “Business software” conjures images of faceless IT department in gray buildings, but this is really about software for people, when they’re at work. People deserve great design, not just when they go home, but from 9 to 5, or 10 to 10. There’s an untapped opportunity to build software environments that are beautiful, thoughtful, and humane — particularly important for Asana, which you leave a tab open for and interact with all day.

Inspire love. The upshot is that our core users love Asana. They send us love letters and marriage proposals. They love it in a way that was formerly unimaginable for “business software.” We’re making emotional in-roads into a part of people’s lives they really care about: How do I accomplish my life goals? How do I actualize my potential?

This is a great start. Now we want to make Asana useful for and used by hundreds of millions of people around the world.

team

The Environment You Can Work In

To help us achieve that impact, we’ve been very mindful about creating a great culture and a great design team.

Design-driven. Asana is a company driven by vision and design, not A/B tests. We look at data, but aren’t slaves to it. We take customer requests seriously, but we interpret them in the context of our larger vision. This vision is developed to a large extent by our design team.

Size & Ownership. At four designers, the team is still very small, especially relative to the amount of functionality in the product. It’s big enough that you have peers to bounce ideas off, but small enough that every person is working on meaty projects that are essential to our roadmap. Our next designer will have ownership on big parts of the product, and even the opportunity to influence the team’s culture and process.

A mindful approach. We value mindfulness and reflection, and are constantly finding ways to improve our process. (Recently we’ve experimented with design sprints.) It’s a highly collaborative environment (including weekly team-wide design critiques), but it also leaves space to be alone when it’s time to do creative flow work.

Mutual mentorship. The team is structured around everyone helping everyone improve their craft.

Great engineering. Asana has a phenomenal engineering team. We look for design-minded engineers, who work closely with designers to bring ideas to life. Working relationships are strong and frictionless. Both the design and the engineering teams have a culture of pride and craftsmanship in getting the details right, but also in moving quickly. We push new code every day, and have invested a lot in Luna, our proprietary technology stack that enables us to go from prototype to production very quickly. The result of that is that it’s not uncommon for someone to have an idea in the morning, design it in the afternoon, and ship it that evening.

cliff

The Design Problems You Can Solve

Asana’s day-to-day design challenges require inventing ways to deliver great experiences that strike a right balance between important but seemingly-contradictory impulses. Sometimes balance entails compromise, but we strive for clever solutions that achieve the best of both worlds.

Power and simplicity. Asana enables people to communicate in rich sophisticated ways that weren’t possible before, and to tackle complex goals with many people and moving parts. Delivering this power in a way that’s simple to understand is a fascinating problem.

Efficiency and emotion. Knowledge work is stressful. We spend a lot of time asking: How can we make productivity software that feels warm, engaging, and inviting? How do we create emotional connections not only between Asana and its users, but also among teammates — to help them “feel like a team”?

Power users and casual users. Asana must work for everyone on a team, from power users and project managers to people still getting used to Gmail. How do you give power users a high-powered command center while giving normal users something usable and pleasant? How do you empower them to work at the rate they think, to minimize the latency between having a thought and the computer understanding it? We optimize interfaces down to individual mouse clicks, obsessed with achieving the ultimate efficiency.

Unobtrusiveness and beauty. The user is here to focus on their work, so it’s critical to stay out of their way. On the other hand, users spend so much time living in Asana, it should be beautiful and emotionally appealing in its own right. How do you achieve both?

Information density and serenity. Eye movement is the fastest form of navigation, and it’s useful to be able to process and manage lots of information on one screen. Building something dense — not only in static information but also in interactive elements — that is also simple, clear, and beautiful is hard. There are few other products you can work on as a designer that are as rich with information as Asana.

The Opportunity

Building a great design team is one of the most important things we do, and my hope in writing this essay is to connect with the perfect fit for the role of the fifth Asana designer. Someone who’s stirred by the opportunity to solve intellectually-meaty design challenges, in the service of improving our world. This is a really special opportunity for the right person, to help design the future of how people work together. If you are or know that person, send me an email.

  1. avatarDavid

    Amen! I have worked with and developed several enterprise systems in the past and one of the things that always bothered me, was this notion that you needed to modify your business operations to fit the software package (or shell out a HUGE amount of money!). I think one of the things that really stands out about Asana is its flexibility and ability to almost “get out of your way,” so that you can focus on doing what you do best. Well done!
    -David

  2. avatarAndrea Jones

    I have loved Asana since the first day I started using it. As a graphic designer, it helps coordinate my work with others outside of the art department at work. I especially appreciate how quickly Nick has responded to my emails when I have questions or comments.

    You will be receiving my application very soon for this job!

    -Andrea

  3. avatarSandra Harriette

    This blog provides a very intriguing view into the atmosphere and company culture of Asana.
    On creating happiness: it is very possible to hone in on a specific set of information uninhibited by distractions. I believe that both people independently and collectively can achieve this. I am still mastering the art myself.
    Since we’re on the topic of good design, I would say that it infiltrates more than just fine art, graphics, architecture, or, in this context, software. Everyday I wake up I have the opportunity to create myself. That right there is also design. I sit and wonder the best way to trickle down my infinite Twitter and Facebook streams. (There it goes again.) I approach things systematically because of my own personal vision for what I want to be like as well.
    Where the left cerebral hemisphere meets the right, there one finds a burst (a menagerie rather) of ingenious, modern innovation of which design is a key catalyst.
    I like the way you all think! Keep up the innovation for sure.

  4. avatarSam Gerber

    Hi Justin, I don’t comment often, and I’m not looking for a job, but I loved how you led with meaning here. It’s refreshingly human, and does justice to the values you’re trying to bring into both the software world and the workplace. How cool that the vision is all you really need to make the opportunity at the end speak for itself. It sounds like a dream job for a designer who really cares about people.

    Thanks. I’ve always had a good feeling about your company, and this gave me a better sense of ‘why’.

    I’m really curious to know more about how you structure your design team, and what UX really means to you. If you’d write a blog post about that I’d read it. I think I’d learn a lot.

    Best,
    Sam

  5. avatarSam Gerber

    I appreciate the reply, and I’m looking forward to it if you do write that article.

    If you have a moment I’m curious if you have any thoughts about something I’ve been wrestling with about UX in general: How to balance product vision with data/user-feedback.

    It seems the UX world is enamored by the idea of empathy, and “user-first”, but it’s begun to take the customer too far into the organization (possibly as a backlash against the almost inhumane lack of recognition customers have gotten in the past). This leaves us with products that have no soul, no one really home behind the wheel…things that don’t touch us because their creators put themselves aside in order to make something for someone else.

    I feel like something magic is lost when you base a project in data and what the customer wants, rather than what you feel is necessary for YOUR world. Steve jobs’ vision was the same no matter what users wanted.

    When designing I try to get in their shoes, when the truth is all I can do is design for me, and use best-practices, push my craft, simplify etc. It seems like it’s a 2-step: first make something for you, then validate it and repeat.

    How do you approach it?

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  13. avatarCaitlin Asana Team Member

    Sam, I thought I’d share with you an article Justin wrote that addresses part of what you’re grappling with. We recognize that building business software that people love is no small feat! We push the boundaries to find ways to transcend the design-tension contradictions and achieve both goals at the same time. Justin will also be addressing these things and more this Monday, March 10th at Bloomberg’s DesignWeek.
    http://www.fastcodesign.com/1672511/4-ways-to-build-business-software-users-actually-love
    http://www.bloombergbusinessweekdesign.com/

  14. avatarShahan

    Hi Asana team,

    Using asana is just amazing for me, hearing that you love more design suggestions, makes me even more happier.

    I was thinking about the asana, its usability and the features that could be added,
    I would like to share some suggestions and likes to think of design solutions for this product to solve the existing requirements.

    Thanks

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