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310: Work, Culture, and Experimentation at a Product Design Agency (feat. Skyler Balbus)

August 21, 2019

In today's episode we catch up with Skyler Balbus, the Director of Product Design at Postlight. We dig into what it means to build products within the agency model, the decision to move from working in-house to working with clients, and how to build a culture where designers can experiment freely. Skyler also shares her ideas for how to build a strong design culture within an agency, tips for junior designers in the hiring process, and ways to build effective feedback loops within an organization. This, plus our weekly followup, news, and cool things!


  • We're trying a new experiment: ask your questions for us on GitHub by opening a new issue. These issues will allow us to reply directly, keep a public backlog, and let the questions and answers be more readily searchable on Google!
    • You can create a GitHub account for free, in just a few minutes, in case you want to make a fake account for an anonymous question.


  • Brian made a Figma plugin, Responsify, to quickly test your designs across multiple device sizes.
  • He also made Dominant Color Toolkit, a plugin to generate a palette from an image to automatically populate your designs.


  • Today we caught up with Skyler Balbus, the Director of Product Design at Postlight in New York.
    • Skyler shared the process of building the Audubon Society's mobile app, which included deep research that took the team into the field to birdwatch.
    • Postlight's work with Village Voice demonstrated the way designers can build deep ownership in the work, despite not being in-house.
    • Postlight has an interesting side channel, Labs, where the team experiments with small, quirky, and interesting technologies.
      • GIF Battle was the team's first Labs project.
      • Mercury is a tool to extract meaningful content from the chaos of web pages.
      • Fyre Ipsum is lipsum, but from the Fire Festival pitch deck.
      • Tinysheet is a mobile-first spreadsheet.
  • You can find Skyler on Twitter for all the Tweets.

One Cool Thing:

  • Skyler shared a video game by Crows Crows Crows, creators of Accounting+ and The Stanley Parable, called The Club. The website's design is 1995 incarnate and is worth checking out. Skyler also snuck in an extra cool thing with Bubsy 3D, a game to explore the art of James Turrell.
  • Marshall shared Mindhunter which recently entered its second season on Netflix. It's a show about the creation of the Behavioral Science Unit at the FBI, which led to the creation and understanding of the term "serial killer."
  • Brian shared a GitHub repository called awesome-mac in which the community has compiled a master list of apps for macOS.

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