Maurice Woods shares his one-word advice for making design more collaborative

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The Inneract Project founder shares collaboration tips, leadership advice, and what he thinks design is—and isn't.

3 min read

A headshot of Inneract Project founder Maurice Woods on a dark purple and black gradient background. The text "Maurice" is above the headshot and "Woods" is below.

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In a new series, we’re asking lead designers across the industry to share their work life advice, design do’s and don’ts, and secrets to effective collaboration. Consider it our design take on the Proustian questionnaire, with the aim to give you insight on how top designers work and think about design in a time unlike any other. (And they might just spill a few work-life secrets along the way.)

Maurice Woods is the founder and executive director of Inneract Project, a design education non-profit that empowers underrepresented youth in the San Francisco area. In addition to leading the direction of IP and ongoing efforts to make design more equitable, Woods is a principal design lead at Microsoft with previous experience at Yahoo!, Studio Hinrichs, and Pentagram. Oh, and prior to his design career? Woods played professional basketball.


Here, he shares his one-word advice for making a design team more collaborative, the difference between a good designer and a great one, and what makes design truly innovative (it doesn't have to do with how you push pixels).


What's the key to effective collaboration?

Listening and learning.


What's the most surprising difference between in-office collaboration and remote?

The surprising difference is I feel more burnt out working from home than traveling into the office everyday.


What's your advice for leading a design team?

Set success goals for yourself and the team.


What's your advice for making a design team more collaborative?

Transparency.


Collaboration is most important to which part of the design process?

For me, it is most important during both the planning and iteration stages.


What's the one quality you always look for in a designer?

Hard worker.


What’s your proudest moment?

Name recognized on a statue at the Golden Gate Bridge visitor center for my contribution to the 75th GGB anniversary logo. My son will be able to see this long after I am gone.


What's your biggest realization from the past year and half of working amid a pandemic?

Making time for myself is REALLY hard! Gotta plan time/space to think.


What’s your work mantra?

It is a privilege to design for someone or something.


What's a mistake you’re glad you made?

Working for free, early in my career.


What's the best advice you’ve received? (From whom?)

Never stress over things you cannot control. (My Dad gave me this!)


Who is your dream client?

Don't have one.


What's a design you wish you thought of yourself?

Lighters. I am kinda fascinated by them.


What's a design skill that’s overrated?

For me, probably doodling.


What's a design skill that’s underrated?

Storytelling / visual design.


What's the difference between a good designer and a great one?

Great designers have a handle on the bigger picture, the system, and can challenge systems through design to achieve more efficiency and impact.


What's your favorite question to ask during job interviews?

"What part of the day are you most productive?" In interviews, I am looking to understand how people work, rather than what they can do.


What's your favorite typeface?

Don't have a favorite typeface. My favorite type foundry is VLLG.


How do you avoid team burnout?

Still a work in progress. Ask me next year.


What's the song you listen to when you’re the most productive?

"Lady" by Fela Kuti. The tempo and energy of the song is contagious.