Q&A with Dantley Davis

At Config 2021, Figma’s virtual design conference, Dantley Davis closed out day two by detailing his journey to Chief Design Officer at Twitter and what he has learned along the way: the challenges facing digital products, how design can make a difference, and what it means to channel adversity into impact. 

In our new series, we’re highlighting design leaders beyond their work. In the second installment, we asked Dantley 25 quick questions. Read on for his answers, and watch his keynote below.

1. What would you like to bring back: Apple 1990s aesthetic or web 1990s aesthetic?
90s web aesthetics <blink>blink</blink>.

2. Favorite font for UI?

3. Type or color?

4. Hex or RGB or HSL?
Hex #000000.

5. Describe your creative process in one word.

6. When do you feel you’re at your best?
I feel at my best when I have personal time to spend with side projects. I need space and time to be creative outside of work.

7. What’s your idea of the perfect design?
The design that solves a problem that I didn’t realize needed to be solved, but once it was solved I couldn’t live without it.

8. What’s your greatest design fear?
Someone not having any reaction to my work.

9. What’s your biggest design pet peeve?
Designing for yourself.

10. What makes a good teammate or collaborator?
Someone who is curious and doesn’t have an ego.

11. Who do you admire and why?
Issa Rae—she’s a phenom. Writing, producing, and acting all while being authentic to herself and her story.

12. What in the design world do you feel is overrated?
Being a thought leader.

13. Underrated?
Leveraging data to inform your work.

14. What’s one thing you dislike about the last thing you shipped?
That it took us so long to remove it when it wasn’t meaningfully benefiting people.

15. What one design do you wish you were the mastermind behind?
I’m a huge fan of Porsche as a company and a car maker and would love to be the mastermind behind their ecosystem—from the driving experience to the app.

16. What makes a team feel like a team?
There are a couple things that make a team feel like a team to me:

  • Everyone is seeking feedback from each other because we trust each other and know that we’re all trying to make us and the team better.
  • Team members inspire one another either through their work of perspectives.
  • There is no ego.

17. How would you describe your relationship with Design Twitter?
I try to be a mentor within the Design Twitter community. I’ve had to navigate the tech world as a design practitioner and leader and I share my experience to help designers whenever I can.

18. What’s something you’ve loved on the internet recently?
Afrotech had a virtual conference where you made an avatar and traveled to a virtual world. It was great that the conference was virtual, but also had a sense of presence.

19. Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want in your design critique?
Clement Mok, who was the first professional designer I was made aware of early in my career. His work had an impression on me and I’d love to hear his thoughts on the work my team is doing today.

20. What’s an unsung design that you think is great and why?
Roblox - while not conventionally thought of in a design context, the game allows kids to play, socialize, and build, which is counter to so many apps that are purely about consumption.

21. What is the greatest accomplishment of your career so far?
Building the most diverse team in tech.

22. Is there something that you’ve dreamed of designing for a long time?
I’ve wanted to design a car interface for a long time.

23. What does design mean to you?
Design is problem solving through form and function.

24. What would you tell your young designer self about being a designer?
Make sure to study adjacent disciplines like business, engineering, and finance to make you a more well rounded thinker.

25. Favorite Figma feature?
Observation mode.

For more on Dantley’s experience, watch his keynote from Config 2021. You can also check out Figma’s YouTube channel to see all of the 40+ breakout sessions.