Hi there! Here’s Noah Fang.
If you’ve read About Me, then you already know that I’m-
a strategic design and user experience professional, interactive storytelling pilgrim and author.
And I was-
creative director, user experience manager, product manager, visual designer, editor, translator, software developer & more.
Checking my LinkedIn profile is also a great start.
What Do You Want to Know More About Me?
What People Say About Noah
Hint: I raise the bar wherever I go.
Noah is a wonderful person who was highly admired and respected by his colleagues for his ability to raise the bar and think bigger. I worked with Noah at Manulife for close to three years and valued him for his unique ability to understand complex architectural concepts and advance strategic thinking, leadership, and culture through creative visualization. His ability to listen and synthesize is remarkable. I highly recommend Noah to anyone looking for not only a designer, but also a philosopher, relentless reader and thinker.
Noah has deep understanding of UX which shows in his work . He is one of those versatile designers who has uncompromising design expertise and provide values by design that goes beyond the delivery, to something holistic, strategic, and business-impacting. His broad knowledge and deep thinking bring about new ideas and new perspectives across products, teams, and businesses. Perhaps more importantly, his understanding on design and the design practice makes him an essential contributor in every project or situation.
I enjoyed intellectual discussion with him on several topics right from design thinking to passion . He continues to impress me with his vast knowledge and his book recommendations.
With a moderate manner, Noah has the qualities of a design leader that are better shown than said. He is a welcomed collaborator and good team player. I’d highly recommend him for any role that demands a design leader with positive business impact.
Noah’s valuable contribution to the team’s success was best described by our colleague who once said, “Noah raises the bar high of every project and every artifact we create, and his efforts make our team look better.”
I enjoyed working with Noah on innovative and critical initiatives that gained recognition of senior management and I highly recommend his services, especially around high-impact, strategic, and challenging projects.
Superficially, it is easy to see Noah as an extremely detailed oriented, process driven designer who raises the standard-of-work of any team he is on. More subtly, however, Noah is someone who modestly combines an extraordinary encyclopedic knowledge of a truly diverse array of subjects – from the history of 20th century western pop music to obscure details of Chinese calligraphy – with sharp observations and obsessive logic to develop unique designs and understandings of human behavior.
Noah Fang: A Very Short Introduction
Here are my keywords:
Whatever they mean, I’m a professional designer.
I solve business problems by design.
So I do far more than pushing pixels.
When we create new things – technologies, organizations, processes, environments, ways of thinking, or systems – we engage in design. To come up with an idea of what we think would be an ideal addition to the world, and to give real existence – form, structure, and shape – to that idea, is at the core of design as a human activity.
(Source: The Design Way)
Designing is a continuum of activities, whose scope ranges from the smallest visual details up to the strategic or philosophical outlook, from for-profit businesses to responsible society.
I do a little bit of everything, with a focus on strategy and solving business problems by design.
You can call me a generalist (albeit partially) or multidisciplinary. To follow the buzz, I’m probably a design thinker (while the notion of design thinking is rather tricky) and design doer.
According to two personality profiling results, I am-
- An Architect (INTJ-A) who’s an imaginative and strategic thinker, with a plan for everything, and
- An Idealist who is a quiet but deep thinker and who raises the fundamental issues.
Noah’s 16Personalities profile (Architect INTJ-A)
Noah’s Facet5 Scores (Idealist)
The thing is, after three mid-to-large companies and another three startups in the course of a dozen plus years, I’ve done very different things in very different roles, including but not limited to:
- Crafting strategies and tactics for business growth
- Mentoring startups
- Designing orgs and workflows
- Designing both consumer products/services and business ones
- Designing and publishing books, as well as coaching authors
- Leading teams (I don’t hate the word “manage”, while I usually direct/supervise/mentor more than manage)
- Facilitating ideas and their executions (while hiding behind the scene)
- Designing marketing rhetorics and initiatives
It is not easy to explain to people what it is to be a designer. They have trouble picturing what a designer does, and seem to think that you are either a vague arty-type or a hard-nosed technologist… The problem is that design is not one way of thinking, but two: it is a mix of creativity and analytical reasoning. There is something peculiar about the way designers work.
(Source: Understanding Design by Kees Dorst)
What Noah Does and How
Here are several things that I do:
- Create strategies and tactics to solve business problems.
- Design products and services, models and processes, interactions and interfaces.
- Design information (e.g. visualization and analytics).
- Research (e.g. user research) and test (e.g. usability test).
- Facilitate ideas and collaborate to realize them.
- Direct creatively, supervise technically, and lead collaboratively.
- Help people tell stories better.
- Help people present or represent better.
Well, that’s vague. You might want to know my processes. But describing one’s process could sometimes be tricky.
The trickiness is two-fold:
- There’s no universal, catch-all design process that makes miracles like the cookie crumbles, but there does be a common core set of skills that are often categorized as design thinking, or the designerly ways of doing things.
- A designer (such as Noah) usually chooses to use different processes, methods, and techniques according to the context, which is usually coupled with the work culture and sometimes even the the project itself.
But let’s give it a try:
Discovering and Defining
Problem solving often starts and ends with measurement.
For all practical decision-making purposes, we need to treat measurement as observations that quantitatively reduce uncertainty.
I usually start by articulating the what and why, and facilitating the ideas for the stakeholders to clarify. That could be discovering problems from research or analysis, or simply exploring the symptoms along with people.
All the way through the chain of clarification.
What I usually do:
- Creating mindmaps
- Asking many questions
- Analyzing any available data
- Creating all kinds of models for that analysis
- Co-writing (with stakeholders) stories about the problem and the post-solution world
- Conducting some handy researches if feasible
- Helping people frame the problem (e.g. lean canvas, business model canvas)
Exploring and Envisioning
Divergent thinking takes over. Generate as many ideas as possible. Validate/verify by storytelling and quick prototyping.
I don’t want to mention lean or agile, because: duh? Who doesn’t do it?
What I usually do:
- Creating more mindmaps
- Asking more questions
- Co-writing vision statement and mission statement
- Sketching on papers
- Creating digital mockups or physical props
- Drawing storyboards
- Creating journey maps, service blueprints, and stakeholder maps
- Conducting all kinds of tests to validate or verify assumptions
- Giving presentations to communicate the core ideas
Synthesizing and Iterating
Convergent thinking. Ideas are refined and grouped by themes and then are mixed and remixed, all the way down to one theme and a few synthesized ideas.
Then prototyping and development kick in by iterations. There are micro-iterations even in a traditional linear process.
What I usually do:
- Prioritizing goals, functionalities, and design tasks
- Establishing and refining conceptual models (e.g. user mental model)
- Narrowing down the potential solutions by verifying and testing
- Creating interactive prototypes along with developers and clients
- Establishing design standard and guidelines (if necessary)
Refining and Measuring
With the solution defined and refined, and likely the development already on the way, the design effort turns to refining, improving, and measuring both the user experience and the quality of the solution.
What I usually do:
- Conducting tests (usability, etc.)
- Measuring the user experience (effectiveness, efficiency, and satisfaction)
- Proposing improvements
- Refining the solution on a data-driven basis
Reframing and Evolving
Problems themselves usually change even after the solutions. So the design never stops.
Cost-effective feedback loops are usually defined in previous steps and established here.
Design must be driven by insight, creativity, and data. All three of them, not one less.
What I usually do:
- Following up with the deployment of the solution
- Looking to the feedback loops
- Analyzing initial data from measurement
- Proposing next-step design plan
Leading and Collaborating
I used to lead teams to deliver publications, products, services, and marketing initiatives.
I creatively directed and managed groups of designers on graphic design, interaction design, as well as product design.
I supervised teams of developers on development.
I mentor startups.
I prefer collaboration to coordination, and leading to managing.
I’m not a manager per se. I’m a designer who leads.
Just so we’re clear:
A design is a plan.
To design is to plan.
A designer is a planner.
(Source: The Tao of User Experience)
All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. …It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions.
(Source: Ira Glass)
Noah’s Design Artifacts
If you’ve read the Ira Glass quote above, you probably already know that my past work surely disappoints me. I designed some book covers I regarded as pretty good back then. I designed systems I thought to be cool and user-friendly. Not so anymore.
That’s the natural tendency of growing – we become better and wiser if we try hard enough.
Here are some of my stuff.
Strategy & Planning
Everything in business starts somewhere, usually in problem, vision, and strategy.
One of the things I’m best at is to facilitate the formation of those problems, visions, and strategies.
Experience & Interaction Design
Interaction, workflow, and measurement are at the core of execution.
I use any way necessary to communicate the design ideas.
Emotional design concerns both psychology and aesthetics.
The visual derives from standard, higher-level reasoning, as well as taste. The wow factor surely matters, while the form still follows function.
As a designer, you are not hired to produce the obvious. You have to go beyond the client’s or employer’s preconceived image of the new design, and employ your specialist knowledge and skills to design something that is better than they could imagine. This way of not precisely doing what you are asked to do may be interpreted as arrogance by those at the other side of the table. So be it. This is the only way to give them value for money. It is all part of being a designer.
With the help of some creativity techniques and a bit of luck everybody can generate nice ideas – you do not need to be a designer for that. The strength of a designer lies in his/her ability to develop ideas into a good design.
(Source: Understanding Design by Kees Dorst)
Good to Know About Noah
I have a few publications.
I’m seriously into Interactive Storytelling (I translated one of the pioneering books about it, after all). Nobody knows what that means anyway:
[Interactive storytelling is] not “games with stories added.
[It is] not “movies with interaction added.
There’s a fundamental conflict between plot and interactivity.
There’s no conflict between process-driven narrative and interactivity.
[Interactive storytelling] rely on lots of small decisions rather than a few big decisions.
However, I do believe the rise of AI can lead to significant breakthroughs in the application of interactive storytelling.
I read slowly by starting two dozen books at once. Call it a time-sharing-and-multi-tasking reading paradigm.
It’s not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me.
The best part of a job is often not in the job description. The best part of design is often invisible.
An Invitation for Good Conversation’s Sake
Not convinced? Hardly impressed? That’s fine.
Eventually, it’s not what I say, but what I do that defines me.
Usually I raise the bar wherever I go. And I get to work with great people on great things.
Most of the people who worked with me ended up recognizing and respecting my talent and expertise. Some of them have become close friends of mine.
But that’s the catch:
Design thinking takes the buzz, design doing takes time.
It takes time to see what values I can create.
So, why not start now?
Meet and chat with me, for good conversation’s sake.
Tell me your problems. Show me your solutions. Let’s discuss.
Thinking is free. Doing is priceless.
Let’s see what’s out there in the think-do continuum.