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By Tom Cunningham, Craig Phillips

A podcast about working in design.
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32. A Bid Farewell

OpacityJan 14, 2022

32. A Bid Farewell

32. A Bid Farewell

After 32 episodes, Tom and Craig record one last episode of Opacity in Jan 2022. In what we hope is an on-brand move, we explain our reasons for wrapping the podcast up. Thank you so much for all the listeners and guests we've had over the past few years. We hope that you found something interesting, insightful or just plain fun about the content we've put out. We've both really enjoyed doing this podcast and getting to know each other in the process. If you're new to the industry, we hope some of the words we've shared will help demystify the industry for you. There's so much to learn and so much room to grow. We hope your journey through the world of design is a fulfilling one.


From Tom & Craig

Jan 14, 202234:39
31. Generalists and Specialists
Jan 21, 202135:47
30. Wrapping up 2020, Lacing up for 2021
Dec 31, 202048:42
29. Starting your design career (part 1)
Dec 07, 202027:17
28. The moments that matter most

28. The moments that matter most

Looking back through your career you'll find a series of memorable moments that stand out. Highs, lows, and transitions likely make up the bulk of those memories. These memorable, defining moments are some of the most impactful on your career. These ideas are explored in depth in the well-known book, The Power of Moments, by Dan and Chip Heath.

Knowing this, how can we think about creating defining moments for others as a form of design impact? When thinking along these lines, how can we broaden out perspective on what it means to bring impact as a designer?

Hope you enjoy the episode! To read more on this topic, we recommend The Power of Moments, as well as checking out Craig's recent article, Designing for impact through defining moments on the Shaping Design blog.

Nov 23, 202035:12
27. Ethics on the Table

27. Ethics on the Table

It's easy to assume that UX design is inherently ethical. After all, designing with people's interests in mind is a big part of what we do. So why then, are certain technologies driving the downfall of civilization? ::cue ominous thunder:: Technologies that designers have played a big role in creating.

Regardless of what we're designing, ethics needs to be on the table. No product is immune from ethical dilemmas. And every product—or perhaps the companies that build these products—wants to be something. It wants to grow, get more users, increase market share, make more money, keep investors happy, buy more pool tables and give employees free massages. But at what cost?

In this episode, Tom and Craig scratch the surface of this big, important topic. tl;dr -- actively think about ethics, and interrogate your work, your employer, and yourself about upholding ethical standards.

Enjoy the episode! If you do, please share with your friends and colleagues. And subscribe to Opacity anywhere audio is served.

Nov 16, 202041:46
26. Embracing Serendipity

26. Embracing Serendipity

Our careers (and life) are made up of cross-roads and decisions we make on where to go next. We can approach these moments through detailed calculation—trying to find the right way to go based on the information we have available. Or, we can embrace a bit of randomness, and follow our gut. 

In this episode Tom and Craig talk about their experiences with key decision points in their careers, and how they calculated (or rather, didn't calculate) them. Really, this is about much more than career, as it gets down to what we all believe is a life well-lived. 

How do you approach career and life decisions? What do you intentionally calculate, and when do you embrace randomness. 

If you enjoy'ed this episode, please subscribe to Opacity anywhere, and share with others who might like it. 

Oct 26, 202036:08
25. Designing Design Systems

25. Designing Design Systems

We all know about them. Probably even dipped our toes into making one. Everyone wants one. Many are willing to sell their souls for the chance at designing one. They're a lot of work, but they're worth every drop of blood, sweat, and tears. Of course, we're talking about design systems.

There are a million books, blog posts, and podcast episodes about design systems. In this chat, Tom and Craig speak a little about their experiences building design systems. Tom coming from the "design systems at scale" perspective, and Craig from the "scrappy small team trying to make it happen" side. 

Hope you enjoy the conversation! If you do, please share with your fellow designers, and subscribe to Opacity wherever you consume audio.

Oct 19, 202036:29
24. Accessible Analogies
Oct 12, 202036:33
23. Getting to Know Yourself
Oct 05, 202036:25
22. Content & Conversational Design with Grace Hughes, Fjord

22. Content & Conversational Design with Grace Hughes, Fjord

Content is integral to good quality products and services, but doesn't always get the attention it deserves. In this episode Grace Hughes, Content Design Lead at Fjord joins Tom & Craig to discuss the role of content design, conversational design, content strategy and much more. You'll never use Lorem Ipsum again! Connect with Grace on Twitter at @GraceHughes22 or on LinkedIn While you're at it, check the rest of us out as well. Tom, Craig, and the official account for Opacity. And, of course, subscribe to Opacity everywhere audio is distributed.
Jul 01, 202053:03
21. Research & Plan Your Career, with Sinead Davis Cochrane, Workday

21. Research & Plan Your Career, with Sinead Davis Cochrane, Workday

In this episode Tom sits down with Sinéad Davis Cochrane, a User Experience Manager at Workday, where she lead a team of designers and researchers. We discuss her education, career path from researcher to manager and views on planning your career. As well as advice for listeners who may be finding the current COVID situation difficult. What if you suddenly find yourself out of work with an out of date portfolio? How do you navigate these uncertain waters? We discuss that and much more!
Connect with Sinéad on Twitter at @sineadcochrane or on LinkedIn
While you're at it, check the rest of us out as well. Tom, Craig, and the official account for Opacity. And, of course, subscribe to Opacity everywhere audio is distributed.
May 04, 202047:21
20. Looking After Yourself - From Burnout to Pandemic

20. Looking After Yourself - From Burnout to Pandemic

It's been a while, but we're back!

After taking a few months off from the podcast, Craig and Tom are back in the saddle to discuss the state of being a designer (and person) in troubling times. We discuss Tom's burnout—which led to us taking the break in recording—as well as the situation we're all dealing with as COVID19 spreads globally. Self-isolating, working from home, managing kids, and the importance of looking after ourselves, our families, and the world.
And very importantly, finding some good in all of it.

Enjoy, and let us know what you're thinking about with all that's going on!
You can reach out to Tom, Craig, and the official Twitter account for Opacity. And, of course, make sure to subscribe to Opacity everywhere audio is distributed. Share with others who you think would enjoy too.
Mar 23, 202047:06
19: Baking your Design Roll, with Mindaugas Petrutis, Invision

19: Baking your Design Roll, with Mindaugas Petrutis, Invision

Helping designers have more fulfilling careers is like being a baker. An artisanal bread baker, where the designer is the dough in your hands. Or maybe the job is the dough... Regardless, the analogy is oven-proof. 

This week, we talk with an expert baker. From hospitality, to design recruitment, to building a design community with InVision, Mindaugas Petrutis has baked a lot of loaves over the years. We talk about the insides of design recruitment, the concept of dream jobs, and other related ideas.

Connect with Mindaugas on Twitter at @MindaugasLT or on LinkedIn

While you're at it, check the rest of us out as well. Tom, Craig, and the official account for Opacity. And, of course, subscribe to Opacity everywhere audio is distributed. 

Oct 15, 201949:37
18. Making a Design Podcast

18. Making a Design Podcast

With over 700,000 podcasts in the world, why make another one?

Early in 2019, Tom and Craig decided to get together to create Opacity, a podcast framed around the general topic of working in design. 18 episodes and 8 months later, they reflect on how it started, what they've learned along the way, and why they keep doing it. 

Podcasting is technically simple, but many things about it aren't that easy. If you've ever wanted to start your own, or have enjoyed listening to Opacity, this episode sheds more light into how they've tried to learn with each step of the journey. And, most importantly, how they keep it fun and interesting.

Thanks to everyone who listens. For newcomers, subscribe to Opacity anywhere you get podcasts. 

Sep 24, 201950:12
17. Dazed & Composed, with Ben Taylor, Hubspot
Sep 03, 201946:38
16. Is anyone a designer?
Aug 13, 201928:35
15: Time & Energy

15: Time & Energy

Time and energy are the elusive fuel for projects, both personal and professional. In this episode Craig and Tom discuss their thoughts on how to deal with finite resources and getting things done.

Thanks for listening—share and subscribe! 

Jul 30, 201929:56
14: Interview with Kim Lenox, VP Design at Zendesk
Jul 02, 201950:27
13. Before we were designers

13. Before we were designers

The jobs that we've had in the past shape the professionals we become. No matter how mundane, low paid, or seemingly inconsequential. 

A recent twitter dot com trend had people from far and wide sharing 5 past jobs they had. In the process, we saw people we know (and many we don't) showing how they started out. The result was a lot of random, windy paths. Humble beginnings that showed many of us begin our work like in similar ways. So much of work in these times is impacted by social media, and the FOMO we experience seeing everyone advance and get promoted around us. Some of us think about career switches, but put it on the back burner because it seems too late. 

In lucky episode 13, Craig and Tom talk about a few of their early jobs. From Tom's week-long stint as a lounge boy, to Craig's cold winter nights spent pitching for charities door to door—they're tales of hardship and struggle. But also of learning, growth, and the process of maturing into professional designers. 

We hope you enjoy the episode. Share your past jobs with us when you share the episode on Twitter or elsewhere. And if you're listening on the Anchor mobile app, send us a audio clip—if we get some submissions maybe we'll start a new segment in future episodes! 🥳

Thanks for listening—share and subscribe! 

Jun 18, 201937:17
12: Don't be an Asshole, with Paul Woods, Edenspiekermann

12: Don't be an Asshole, with Paul Woods, Edenspiekermann

Has your mother ever told you to not be an asshole? In case not, this episode should do the trick. 

Paul Woods is Chief Creative Officer at the renowned design firm Edenspiekermann. He has accomplished much in his career as a designer,  working with companies like Red Bull, Google, The City of Santa Monica, Morgan Stanley, and Time Inc. 

Now he's written a book to share wisdom on a very important and relevant topic. It's called How to Do Great Work Without Being an Asshole. It's both informative and entertaining, about how we all can be a little bit better people at work. Or at least less bad. But definitely more good. In this episode we talk about the theme of assholes, and learn more about why it's important for designers to think and talk about. 

Not sure this point needs mention, but the term asshole is used semi-frequently in the episode. Listener discretion is advised. 😅

If you enjoy the episode please share with everyone you know. And subscribe to Opacity anywhere (and everywhere).

May 14, 201901:00:49
11: Banking on Research, with Lar Veale, AIB

11: Banking on Research, with Lar Veale, AIB

If you know Lar Veale, and his current role at the bank AIB, then you know the title of this week's episode is a pun. 

If you don't know Lar, this is a great chance to hear from someone who has a lot of experience bringing research into the design practice at a big financial institution. And coming from years in an agency setting, he's seen the work from many vantage points. He gets to the heart of why he finds research so critical to make design successful.

Tom and Lar go way back, and Craig is clearly a third wheel in the conversation. But Lar brought donuts to the recording session, so we all won in the end. 

Enjoy the episode, and share the joy of Opacity with everyone you care about. 

May 01, 201950:58
10: Learn by Doing

10: Learn by Doing

'Twas a dark and stormy night in Dublin...

Tune into this week's episode to hear Tom tell a riveting tale of a disaster corrected by the power of DIY. 

Experience makes life bigger. It expands our worldview. People decide more and more to pay for experiences than buy stuff. The same goes for learning to be a better designer. Going through the experience, learning by doing, trial and error—it all make us better at what we do. And enjoy the journey a bit more along the way.

Here are some highlights from the episode

  • What makes good advice, and when should you take it
  • Learning tools with tutorials and not
  • Milestones in life: houses and kids
  • The case for thrusting yourself into experiences
  • Outsourcing life

And some fun facts

  1. This is episode 10! I think we're real podcasters now
  2. We  planned to record a whole different topic, but changed at the last second after Tom told his car bumper story. We like how it turned out.

Hope you enjoy the episode—please share, subscribe, and review Opacity!

Apr 16, 201929:05
9: Design Education, with Colman Walsh, UX Design Institute

9: Design Education, with Colman Walsh, UX Design Institute

Colman Walsh's head has been in UX design education for the past decade. Who better to continue our design education topic from episode 4?

In 2013 he founded, and ran it successfully as in-person training for individuals to corporate groups. Then came the opportunity to scale this work, and reach a global audience through online education. In 2017 Colman founded the UX Design Institute, fully online courses for certifications in UX. Interestingly, it offers accreditation through Glasgow Caladonian University. In the episode Colman describes this as a type of disruption through traditional education.

Here are some of the other highlights from the chat:

  • Importance of student feedback, then and now
  • The decision to go for accreditation 
  • Importance of uncommon common sense for a UX career
  • Gaps in design education

Check out the UX Design Institute to learn more. 

Subscribe to Opacity everywhere audio is available 🔈

Apr 02, 201937:08
8: Imposter Syndrome, with Aoife O'Dwyer, Each&Other
Mar 19, 201901:02:47
7: Interview with Pete Bowker, CEO of Glug

7: Interview with Pete Bowker, CEO of Glug

This is exciting. Did I say how excited I am? We've hit episode 7, and are bringing on a new format with special guests.  

In this episode I had the privilege of chatting with Pete Bowker, CEO of Glug. We talked about everything from his childhood eating bee larva in Papua New Guinea, through his career path building creative businesses, and how he's now embarked on a new journey to expand Glug's community around the world. I pick his brain a little on what creatives need, what value we give back, and where we're headed. 

Check out the links below to learn more about Glug. Glug is a global creative community connecting, inspiring & educating creatives. Find an event near you, or start a local chapter in your city. 

  • Glug Events
  • Twitter
  • Instagram

Subscribe to Opacity wherever you get your podcasts. 

Mar 05, 201943:38
6: What's in a Process?

6: What's in a Process?

What's in a process? That which we call design, by any other name would still smell as sweet.

What's design process, and what's the value in following one? Having a process is a good thing, but does that mean not following one is a bad thing? Tom and Craig get into it, exploring when they're dogmatic, and when agnostic, about design process.

Here are some highlights that you'll have to listen to understand 😅

  • Accordions 
  • Process is a marketing tool
  • It depends
  • Willy nilly
  • Process iteration
  • Process is a people thing

Please give us a review with all the stars on iTunes, or wherever you listen. If you liked the episode, please share with your fellow designers, and subscriiiiiibe 😘

Feb 26, 201936:25
5: Expectations of the Modern Designer

5: Expectations of the Modern Designer

We started this episode with a simple question. "What's expected of the modern designer?" Turns out it's the perfect topic to uncover rabbit holes. 

Tom and Craig have a convo that starts here, and ends somewhere else altogether. From specialists/generalists, to management career tracks, to the worlds of doing design on in-house and agency teams.

Listen, enjoy, rate, and share! Subscribe to Opacity wherever you listen to podcasts.

Feb 19, 201938:47
4: The Design of Design Interviews
Feb 12, 201933:19
3: What's the Future of Design Education?
Feb 05, 201943:29
2: Hot/Mild Takes on the Year to Come
Jan 29, 201936:51
1: Experience Design—High Horses & Reality Checks

1: Experience Design—High Horses & Reality Checks

Welcome to the first ever episode of Opacity!

Tom and Craig go down a variety of rabbit holes as they think out loud about experience design. Craig tries to instigate, but Tom remains stoic as ever. Everything is on the table, from the designing bathroom experiences to artificial intelligence. In the end, experience design wins, but not without a few scratches.

Here are a few highlights from the episode.

- Poking at UX Design

- The Best Experience is No Experience

- Humility & Ego in Computational & Classical Design

- The Commodification and Bubblefication of UX

- Artificial Intelligence, Creativity

Theme music by Tom Cunningham

Jan 22, 201934:59


Welcome to Opacity, a podcast about working in design.

What does it mean to be a designer? As a craft, design lives and grows. But with growth comes complexity. 

Designers today are often navigating their career paths on their own. Forging new ways to do new types of design. It isn't easy, and the rate of change in the industry makes it even harder.

Opacity is a podcast about working in design, hosted by Tom Cunningham and Craig Phillips. Designers that live at the intersection of design, product, and strategy. But with distinct paths and perspectives. 

Join us by subscribing to Opacity. 

Recorded and produced in Dublin, Ireland.

Jan 05, 201901:22