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The Anthrodesigner | Entry 3

Blog - Career Options Series

To be a designer, you have to be an anthropologist. We construct pixel-based visual models based on the most common behaviours of humans by collecting quantitative and qualitative data. Can you imagine having to analyze the data of over 2 billion users? While that amount of data is overwhelming, at Facebook, things seem to be under control. There is so much that goes on behind the scenes that we seldom get to see, unless you are Ryan Fariñas of course.

The Artist

Ryan Fariñas is a Product Designer at Facebook who develops experiences for the Facebook app, the web, and works for the business side of Instagram and Facebook. Ryan is definitely not your typical designer. He did not attend design school but began his studies in colour theory at the age 14 when he began his career as a street artist. Since then he’s been a part of the music scene, owned his own coffee shop and has completed 3 majors in university. All these experiences have shaped him into the person he is today.

With every chapter of his life, Ryan made meaningful connections, invested in the people he’s met and allowed his experiences shape how he thinks. He never lets anyone tell him what to think. He’s built these mental models that help him solve problems, come up with multiple solutions and know the limits/constraints. Otherwise, no matter how amazing the design, you won’t be able to build whatever it is if you don’t understand the constraints. Ryan is a kaleidoscope, a multi-layered, multifaceted individual who is ever changing. He just. Doesn’t. Stop.

The Non-Linear Model

At Facebook, teams are comprised of content strategists, designers, engineers, project managers, researchers and data scientists. Ryan says the process is very much a team effort, and it really is a beautiful thing when everyone works together towards one creative pursuit. In a linear fashion the work flow goes as follows: research > sketch > compose > prototype > feedback > adjust > deliver. According to Ryan, this work flow hasn’t happened since 1999.

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Ryan says, that the ideation and execution is very much a non-linear process and that I should be like that too, in the sense that I should be multidimensional in my thinking.

The Pages Enigma

Facebook has an infinite number of user cases. Researchers have to look at all the data to find patterns and analyze trends to curate the appropriate content.

Ryan told us a story about the Facebook Pages project he was heading. Pages are a part of Facebook for businesses to showcase their services and respond to clients. The data was telling them that maps and messages weren’t doing so well. So Ryan tweaked the interface to make what was obfuscated more dynamic, an inconsistent and irrelevant call to action clearer, and an info panel more engaging. It was a story of a project where Ryan had to trust his gut and not the data.

Data is historic, but you gotta know people, data doesn’t always tell the right story. After much testing, they found one of the reasons there was a decrease in the first place was because of a missing “ . “ in the code. A period took down economies. I didn’t catch all the numbers but the project took a whole year to complete and resulted in a 70% increase in messages. The greatest takeaway from this project was that, little inconsequential details have a massive impact

The Ryan Method

Foster ideation in how you think. This will make you a better designer. Invest in building relationships, even if you don’t connect right away with someone find commonalities and build a culture of safe debate.

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While Ryan Fariñas and Ryan Biega, came to talk to us about Facebook, I found the presentation to be more about Ryan Fariñas than anything else. Facebook is a fascinating company, but I found Ryan to be even more so.

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Thank you Ryan for taking the time to talk about you and your work but also to teach us about some of the things you do.

Some links : Ryan Fariñas | linkedIn | FacebookDesign

P.S. Thank you Andrew for bringing in Ryan and Ryan!

tyana awada