November 07, 2019

Five Questions with Jasmine Friedl: Intercom’s Director of Design

We are beyond excited Jasmine Friedl has confirmed she’ll be one of our speakers at In/Visible Talks 2020. She has has been an attendee at past events with us, and we’re looking forward to welcoming her back as a Lunch + Learn host and workshop leader.

Currently the Director of Design at Intercom, Jasmine previously led product design at Udacity, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, and Facebook. She’s also a co-founder of Shape—an initiative to help designers kick off their careers in product design—with her husband, Tanner Christensen (who moderated a panel for us at the 2019 conference).

As you read Jasmine’s answers to our questions below, you’ll get a sense of how inspiring she is. She clearly gets what it’s like to be in the trenches of the creative process, and we know her workshop on “Bring Your Whole Self to Work: How Your Purpose Drives Impact” is going to change how we approach our everyday practices.

What is your relationship to the creative process?

“I tend to lean into the ‘process’ part of the creative process. It’s not something that I view as magical. Elizabeth Gilbert has spoken a number of times on this idea of a ‘genius spirit’ that comes upon us to generate creative achievement, when, in reality, creative achievements are the result of a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. To the point of process, creativity with process feels more like problem solving to me. And sure, I have a little sadness in there not being a ‘problem-solving spirit’ that comes to my aid, but the benefit of instilling process to solve problems means that you can achieve positive results repeatedly.”

How or where do you find inspiration?

“Mostly from people. As a design leader, most of the projects I’m approaching are those that are related to strategic, process, or people problems. I usually find that to build momentum on these types of things, I need to thoroughly understand problems—where they came from, who’s affected by them, how they’ve been solved before, what success looks like—in order to uncover creative and appropriate solutions. For me, that usually means I need to turn to people in order to broaden my perspective, which could be anything from having a conversation with a teammate to listening and learning from a relevant book that someone has written.”

What was one of your biggest creative challenges?

“The longest ongoing creative challenge has been designing my career (please don’t be scared if you’re coming to my workshop!). One of my big reflections lately is that in my earlier career, I hadn’t approached my choices with much intentionality, and instead found myself continually going with the flow and taking what was in front of me. Now, later in life, I find myself continually adding new information to this ‘problem’ that I’m solving: things like finding purpose, discovering things that bring me joy, and evaluating environments. Learning to manage all the variables that a fast-paced career can bring in a fruitful and fulfilling way is a clear challenge in creativity.”

When did you first realize you needed to be in a creative field?

“When I found myself out of one! I had studied graphic design in undergrad; I chose it because I was headed to a career in mechanical engineering and wanted to take a drawing class, and to take any art class, you had to enroll in an art degree. After school, I moved to San Francisco and couldn’t find a role, so took a job in retail management. Six years later, I toured the graphic design department at the Academy of Art University and nearly broke down crying wandering the halls looking at student work. I felt like a piece of me was missing. After four years of grad school and an arm and a leg, I got that piece back.”

Who is one of your heroes and why?

“I’ll replace ‘heroes’ with ‘mentors’ here. The people I look up to are all human and are deeply flawed. Maria Giudice—who spoke at In/Visible Talks last year—is an amazing business leader, mentor, and friend. I was fortunate enough to work for her at Hot Studio and at Facebook. The things I’ve learned from Maria aren’t few, and she’s modeled authenticity and vulnerability in a way that few people are able to. She has admirable self-awareness, tenacity, and humor. I truly love her and wouldn’t be where I am in my career without her belief in me, her advocacy for me, and her continued support.”

Bonus Round: What drives you to create?

“I’ve been cooking to find my creative outlet. The life of a design leader in tech is pretty draining, and I have little desire to pull out a design project in my non-work time. I happened to see Samin Nosrat at two events in two consecutive weeks and have started reading Salt Fat Acid Heat. I’ve always enjoyed being a cook who can look at an empty fridge and throw something (usually) delicious together, and now I’m learning the basics of how to do this with higher quality outcomes.”