by Justin Rosenstein
January 3rd, 2013
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.
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.
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.
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.