Spotlight

Spotlight

Spotlight

Spotlight

Spotlight

Wolfgang Bremer: Insights from an A+ Design Veteran

Wolfgang Bremer: Insights from an A+ Design Veteran

Wolfgang Bremer: Insights from an A+ Design Veteran

Wolfgang Bremer: Insights from an A+ Design Veteran

Wolfgang Bremer: Insights from an A+ Design Veteran

Jan 8, 2024

Jan 8, 2024

Jan 8, 2024

Jan 8, 2024

Jan 8, 2024

Hamza Labrinssi

Founding Designer/ CEO

Hamza Labrinssi

Founding Designer/ CEO

Hamza Labrinssi

Founding Designer/ CEO

Hamza Labrinssi

Founding Designer/ CEO

Hamza Labrinssi

Founding Designer/ CEO

Wolfgang Bremer
Wolfgang Bremer
Wolfgang Bremer
Wolfgang Bremer
Wolfgang Bremer

Intro

Welcome to Spotlight, your gateway to the UX/ Content Design world, through a distinctive series of interviews that spotlight the industry's leading voices. Our succinct, direct-to-the-point approach poses ±10 sharp questions to veterans and rising stars, gathering insights and perspectives shaping the UX scene.


Meet our guest ⸻ Wolfgang Bremer, VP of Design at Elli (Volkswagen Group), Speaker, Educator, and Host of the Pixelish Podcast

There are many design leaders, but only a few that actually understand the power of design. With a down to earth, humorous personality, Wolfgang Bremer is one of those leaders who are fluff-free, business-oriented and users-focused. He is an unusual character with a nice German accent :) Alles gut.

Wolfgang Bremen - Content Design Manager at McAfee


Wolfgang
is a 🇩🇪 🇨🇦 German-Canadian award-winning design veteran with 20+ years of experience and a rare combination of design & product knowledge.

Currently, Wolfgang is the Vice President of Design at Elli - A Brand of the Volkswagen Group. He also advises companies in all things design and speaks about design, leadership, team development and more. You can hire Wolfgang to work with you and you can invite him to speak.

As a design leader in multiple Fortune 500 companies, like Nokia and SAP, as well as several highly funded startups, Wolfgang has managed global design orgs & teams and worked on products used by companies like Google, Coca-Cola, Porsche, Red Bull, Sony, Unilever, and more, as well as by tens of millions of users in 190+ countries. He has been involved in countless B2C & B2B projects for mobile & desktop, including mapping services, music apps, social networks, marketing & enterprise software and more on client & agency side.

Equipped with an entrepreneurial mindset, creative problem solving skills, and an excellent eye for detail, Wolfgang drives product design & development and creates outstanding consumer & business products. He feels comfortable working in both international corporate and startup environments.

Today, we have the opportunity to learn directly from Wolfgang. We asked 16 questions to gain his insights from a top-level position. He shared a wide-ranging, strategic view on the necessary functions of companies through the lens of design leadership, ensuring alignment with core business targets and distinguishing from fleeting trends and imitations. Today is going to be a treat!



Without further ado, let's get to the Q&A:

16 Questions with Wolfgang Bremer


  1. What does your day-to-day look like as Vice President of Design at Volkswagen Group Charging (aka Elli)?

    I would say that not one day is similar to the next. I guess I could group my work into three different areas, vision work, planning, and execution.

    In my position and for the vision part of things, I very often work with fellow executives on what’s the idea, what’s the plan and how do we make it happen. Given that there’s always a lot of things going on at any given moment, it very often comes down to prioritization, return of investment, etc.

    For the planning part, I’m often involved with different kinds of stakeholders from all sorts of areas - like hardware, software, and so forth - to better understand the current situation, the possibilities, the struggles and ways of finding solutions.

    For the execution part, I’m leading the cross functional design org, which is responsible for basically everything which has to do with design, no matter if software or hardware, or anything in between really.

    A very important part of my responsibilities are of course the members of the design org themselves. For me it’s very important to be close to the people I work with and the people I'm responsible for. I always try to keep in mind the people behind the work, not just the work itself. It's crucial for me to know the people, their backgrounds, their motivation, etc. to be able to be a good leader for them, the org and the company as a whole. Only if I’m a good leader for my team, I can be a good leader for the overall organization.

    Given that the company is spread across three offices and quite some people - including myself - are working remotely, I do spend a lot of time in phone calls or online meetings while using online tools, which enable us to work together efficiently synchronously and asynchronously.

    In addition, I do spend a lot of time using software like email, Excel and last but not least Figma. I do enjoy the hands-on time I get, still doing actual design work, even if it might be only high-level vision work. I do see myself as a high-level problem solver, who's main goal is to bring people together, to overcome obstacles and to move things forward.



  2. What profiles do you oversee and interact closely with (UX Designers, Developers, Content Designers, PMs, Legal) and why?

    I’ve unfortunately seen often enough the struggle of design organizations - and therefore the struggle of the respective companies overall - which were limited too much by only being responsible for, let’s call it the UX/UI design side of things. You see, design should be much more than lipstick service. Design shouldn’t be an afterthought with the aim of just making things pretty.

    At Volkswagen Group Charging I therefore set up the design organization in a way to be able to oversee the holistic customer journey end-to-end, including research, UX/UI design, hardware design, graphic design, brand design, design systems design, and content design, so that we, as a wonderful and diverse org, can tackle any problem and create a meaningful solution at any point in time.

    However, it’s not only about the people and functions I oversee, it’s also very important who we are interacting with outside of our immediate org, like product, engineering and customer support, etc. This is very important because we as an overall team are the players on the field, hopefully winning this game together for the users. The same way we designers always say we would like to be involved, we are proactively involving the others, too.


  3. What are your best practices for bringing PMs, developers, and content writers into your design team process?

    Well, for content writers or content designers, it’s the easiest to simply make them part of the design organization because that’s where they belong.

    For the rest, I think we as designers should take a step back and think about what we ourselves still to this day want in most cases. We would like to be involved, we would like to have the oh so famous seat at the table. So, we should use our empathy to understand the other stakeholders, their positions and their points of view and we should make an effort to proactively work together with them. We should not only explain to them our background, our mission, our motivation, our goals, etc., but also always be working on informing or educating them on our point of view based on our experience, how we think we can work together best, to achieve the best results for all sides.

    I think this is especially true for integrating research into the product development process. Too often I hear the complaint that, oh we can’t do research because it’s taking too long, but that's only true if we didn’t plan for it in the first place. But how can we plan for it, if we designers might know a lot about research but the other areas of the company don’t? Hence we need to explain and educate and showcase what the benefits of research actually are. You probably also have to clear up some of the myths, which might be flying around, e.g. about different types of research, based on the product, situation and budget, and what that means for timelines. Only if we have the same understanding, we can make sure to properly plan together and to properly set expectations.

    In the end, it’s about acting as one team. It’s not them versus us or their processes versus our process. We need to find a way to work together and jointly shape a process that works for all of us. And yes, that will require planning, communicating and negotiating.


  4. What tools do you use at work? Are you more synchronous or asynchronous? And what do you prefer more?

    As designers so famously keep saying, it depends. Although I'm working remotely for years now, I’m still learning new ways of working together, about new tools, solutions, best practices, etc. almost every single day.

    I think it’s good to be aligned to a certain degree, tool, work and habit-wise, yet at the same time, I believe it’s good to keep a certain amount of flexibility in place as this should also help to improve processes and ways of working, rather than being stuck with something.

    I believe in a good mix out of synchronous and asynchronous ways of working, simply because luckily we are all different and we all have different ways of absorbing information, making sense of things, coming up with solutions, etc. - kind of similar I would almost say to the difference between introverts and extroverts. So why not cater to all of us at the same time by enabling all of us? Not everybody feels comfortable in group settings or being put on the spot to come up with an answer or even potential solution, so why force it? Why not rather give people the flexibility to properly think through things and then contribute asynchronously?

    I for example at times prefer to jot down some quick notes and make some rough sketches in the moment but then take the time to sit down and create something more comprehensive out of it when I have some more breathing room later.


  5. Based on your experience advising and leading product teams, what are the common mistakes and challenges product teams face?

    The answer to this could probably fill books and it probably does. One of the big things in my experience is communication, or rather the lack thereof. I think we humans are actually terrible at communicating. Not only do we literally speak different languages to begin with but we also keep using terms which might mean different things to each one of us. Just think about something like an MVP. How can we have the creation of an MVP as a joint goal when we understand different things under this term?

    Then it’s about lines of communication. When two people communicate, you can draw a single line in between them - that’s super easy. Now, when three people communicate, you have to draw three lines already. When four people communicate, you have to draw six lines and it keeps getting more and more complex, the larger the team gets. In my experience, smaller teams are way better at collaborating and getting things done than larger teams, therefore, throwing ‘another few bodies’ at a problem doesn’t usually make it better, rather the opposite.

    So we should on an ongoing basis evaluate if the people who are involved in a project are really the people who should be involved in that project. And this is actually a tough one because most of us humans usually try to be nice and want to include others. But in this situation this just isn't always helpful. So we should reevaluate how we work together again and again over time. Just because something worked well a while ago doesn't mean that it works well now or will in the future.

    Communication and team setup however are only parts of the foundation of being able to do great work. It’s of course also crucial that people are aligned on what they actually want to achieve, they need to ensure to have a vision, they need to ensure to be all aligned on it and they need to ensure to be capable of jointly working towards that vision.

    While working in small teams, people might be wearing different hats at different times, which is fine. It’s still very important though to know who is ultimately responsible for what. Otherwise it will lead to problems with timely and sometimes difficult decision-making.


  6. Can you recall a time when a C-suite member underestimated or challenged the value of design? If so, how did you successfully convey the value of design while maintaining inspiration and motivation within your team?

    I believe there’s always somebody challenging what you’re doing and questioning if what you’re doing is the right thing to do at this point in time and what the ROI of it is and so forth. And that no matter if it’s about design or product related things or engineering or marketing or sales or anything else really. The difference is that in my experience the field of design to executives often feels like a black box, simply because they do not exactly know what design all encapsulates and how design can actually help with making better decisions while saving the company a lot of money along the way.

    To me, the solution is a mix of experience, storytelling, convincing, negotiating and even self-marketing, among other things. You have to be able to adequately sell what you're offering. As a design leader you're ideally offering to better understand the customers and their needs for enabling the creation of a more spot-on solution, costing less money and requiring less re-work in a way that more people will actually want to use it. If that sounds hard, then that's exactly right. It is challenging for us designers to deliver great end-to-end solutions because we also have to be end-to-end experts in whatever we're working on. It’s also always a good idea having a peer from a different department - or even better, one of the C-suite leaders themselves - in your corner, somebody who has your back and is advocating for design and yourself, no matter if you're there at that moment or not.

    While being challenged constantly can feel demotivating at times, it is important to keep in mind why designers are designers: designers are problem solvers and what better problem to solve than ensuring that design is being part of the team-sport we're playing. Despite all possible frustration, we need to keep our eyes on the goal to keep the motivation up and to keep going.


  7. Your work has impacted users in over 190 countries. How did you participate in the localization process? And do you start with German first or English?

    Localization can be the make or break part of your product, always depending on your target market and/or target audience.

    At SAP for example, which is an enterprise-level organization, we were fortunate to have a quite large in-house localization team with proper processes, guidelines, trainings, best practices and so forth in place. There was always somebody available in case of questions and they were always happy to help.

    In other situations it has been a mix of in-house people and/or external suppliers, where we were working hand-in-hand to tackle whatever project we were working on, depending on timelines, budgets, workforce, etc.

    At Volkswagen Group Charging I was very happy to support one of our engineers actually, who first identified the need to change this for the better, pushing for improved localization and having a dedicated localization manager in-house. As from experience I knew how much of an advantage this would be, I gladly supported the effort of tackling the hiring and budget situation.

    In my experience and although I'm German-Canadian, we always start with English but designers also always keep best practices in mind directly while designing, like ensuring to always have extra space of ~40% to accommodate for other languages, e.g. German or Finnish, or avoiding awkward line-breaks within call-to-actions. It becomes more and more complex, the more regions we tackle, when it’s for example about right to left reading/writing or certain other location based differences. Working on Nokia Maps for example, depending on the location, address fields had to be handled differently, to a degree that in certain places in India, the address of a place actually consists of a description of how to get there using landmarks instead.


  8. With over two decades of experience, how do you approach content management within Design Systems? Do you involve content teams in parallel crafting UX writing strings, e.g., CTAs, tooltips, blurbs, and page content architecture, or does the design team handle it with placeholder text (Lorem ipsum)?

    In my experience, it’s best if content design is part of design overall, so that when design works together with product, engineering, sales and marketing, all are able to understand the plan, the budget, the overall concept and being able to see things holistically.

    I’m a big fan of having the designers use real or close to real content while designing much rather than using Lorem Ipsum. Simply because it keeps it much closer to reality right from the get-go and avoids situations where dimensions, sizes, distances, what have you are being planned or designed in a suboptimal way and would require further rework later on.

    I must admit though that my focus for a long time now has been design for products and apps rather than design for marketing websites. I could see it working differently there, to a degree at least.


  9. UX teams often skip the research phase to save time waiting for UX researchers to prepare and deliver their results in a presentable format they can reuse. What's your take on this?

    In my 20+ years I’m being confronted with this over and over and over again and to this day it’s ridiculous to me. It's like saying we had to delay our vacation because we didn’t plan for packing the bags. While it pains me that other stakeholders still way too often feel this way, it reminds me of how important it is to evangelize for what design really is all about, how we work, what we all tackle and why.

    As designer I feel we shouldn’t seek fault in others for this but should first look at ourselves. What have we done to pick up the other stakeholders, to give them an idea about our work, motivation and goals? While it’s easy to say well, they didn’t invite us to the table, I would much rather say that it looks like we didn’t fight hard enough to be included in all parts of the journey yet. To me, it often is because we have not yet clearly articulated what design can actually bring to the table and what the ROI of good design really is.

    When I put on my designer hat, then I of course would advocate for doing research for everything we're working on. However, in many circumstances that is unfortunately not possible - sometimes timelines, budgets, workforce or other factors simply don’t allow us to go all the way. Thinking realistically, we have to find creative ways of dealing with it. Yes, this can be a problem but it shouldn't be an unsolvable one.



  10. You have designed many products (Websites, Mobile apps, Software) for different devices (mobile, desktop, In-Car-Entertainment Systems). Did you have to start from scratch for each platform design, or was there a tool or way to repurpose the same content and UX you had already prepared?

    While certain products may share certain similarities - like glanceable interfaces on smartphones and in-car entertainment systems - they can still be very different: while on smartphones, we try to cramp a lot of information into a relatively small screen real estate, I would argue we are aiming to do the exact opposite for in-car entertainment systems to not distract the driver. In these situations, and when it’s about a companion app for the car, we might want to ensure that it’s somewhat similar to the in-car entertainment system experience, so that the user already has a common ground that feels familiar. In these situations you probably don’t have to start from scratch.

    That being said, there are a lot of situations where starting from scratch can do you a lot of favors because it makes you reconsider every single choice you make instead of sticking to your decisions from the past. Reevaluating what is really important for the user can be a very powerful tool to help you focus.

    Tool-wise I would say that the usual suspects are making it quite easy these days to design for different screen sizes pretty much in one go and requiring only a few adjustments. That's very different to how it was 20 years ago when we were all still designing in Photoshop - that was definitely more work.


  11. Do you believe in bypassing wireframes? Do they remain pertinent, especially when grounded in thorough UX research and well-defined personas, not merely attractive shapes in Figma filled with placeholder copy? I'm eager to hear your perspective.

    While rumor has it that when designing something at Apple, everything from the beginning is done in a pixel perfect way, so that at any point in time, it is clear to every involved stakeholder how something will look and work, I would still argue that it depends on the product, the timeline, the budget and other factors, if wireframes should be done or not.

    I remember many years ago I was working on a project where I was translating a complex social media like desktop application into a mobile website/app. My first step was to create a document consisting of ~100 pages of wireframes, showing every single page using a mobile form factor. This helped me enormously to decide on what from my point of view should be available on mobile and because it was created as wireframes the overall process only took a couple of days. I would then use this document to run stakeholders through my proposal, gather feedback and iterate. If I would have done the same doing pixel perfect work, I would have wasted a lot of valuable time.

    That is not to say that I do not see the value and doing things pixel perfect from the get-go in certain situations, it just really depends on the project. Definitely not to be overlooked is one of the core advantages of pixel perfect design: ensuring that every stakeholder understands right away how something is going to look like. There’s no wiggle-room for misunderstandings or room for (mis-)interpretations.


  12. You had a distinguished career in UX Design focusing on SaaS Products before becoming Vice President of Design for Volkswagen Group Charging's experience design organization, including research, product design (UX and UI), hardware design, brand design, graphic design, and writing. How does designing digital products differ from designing physical products?

    What Steve Jobs famously said during the introduction of the original iPhone, you can’t simply add a button after you shipped it, sums it up quite nicely actually.

    But joking aside, hardware is complex. It often takes years to bring something to market and then you still have to ensure that once it gets to market, it’s actually still a viable product. It’s like you have to be able to predict the future to a certain degree. Then of course you rarely have hardware just by itself, there’s usually software involved as well and software together with hardware tends to have some kind of interface your users will be interacting with. So also here you have to ensure that what you’re going to ship in a few years, will still be up to par or better.

    In most situations, you will be working with multiple suppliers, and you need to be very specific about what you want, in what quality and for what price. And yes, even seemingly small things like LEDs do come with a price tag, which in return might influence your decision making.

    That being said, my advice would be to always do a good amount of research and testing before finalizing your product. Shipping hardware that fails in the market usually is very expensive.

    Now, if you compare that to pure product design for software applications, you of course also better get it right the first time around, but in most cases, even if you don't, you can still make amendments or fix certain things via an update.


  13. On the same note, how do you test accessibility for people with disabilities? Do you design a unique user experience for them, or have it baked in and enabled in the settings? Is that enough, and does it not require any physical changes to hardware projects?

    Many years ago, I used to work at a mid-sized agency and we were contracted to create all the local government websites. One of the key requirements was to ensure that they were all accessible. During that time I learned a lot about accessibility, what it actually means and what it all entails. Also, during my time at SAP we had a strong focus on accessibility, which again helped me a lot to grow in this area. This knowledge helps me to make sure to always keep an eye on accessibility, no matter what I work on. The basics - things like contrast and support of screen readers for design in software - is hopefully common knowledge among designers these days but it goes beyond that. Also and especially for hardware we have to keep accessibility in mind and it does play a role for instance when it's about the advised mounting heights or cable lengths/weights, etc. Luckily also for these kinds of things research and testing can be done.


  14. Electric vehicles are still an emerging industry, and authorities are still adapting and figuring out laws and regulations for a rising environmental solution. From your side at Volkswagen Group, do you involve legal teams in design decisions? How often do you collaborate with legal teams? What process do you follow to collaborate with them? Do you have an internal legal team or consult an external law firm?

    Honestly, I would be surprised if any company of the size of the Volkswagen Group would not be working with lawyers a lot of the time. But joking aside, it always depends on the situation. If you operate in a global market, you probably want to ensure that what you are designing and building actually complies with local laws and regulations. It’s doubtful that designers are knowledgeable enough for all these markets to know all the details about these things, so working closely with legal departments is very important. Similar to involving other departments like e.g. sales, marketing and customer support, it’s important to involve legal, too. And just like with the other departments there will be conversations, negotiations and decision-making.


  15. We're shifting gears to collaborate with hardware teams now. Are you involved with the hardware engineering team when designing? How hard is that for your UX/UI team since everything is proprietary and custom-made and not regular, familiar web patterns that we all know? How do you manage prototyping? What tools do you guys use, and how collaborative is it between digital and hardware teams? Any past mistakes learned from the past will be extremely helpful for our readers outside the car UX industry.

    Design is working very closely with the hardware and the software teams. In my humble opinion, there is no other way of creating a great product, if not working together as one team, especially at the intersection of hard- and software.

    Luckily we are in a position to have experts for pretty much any area, that includes hardware and industrial design, so we don’t need to have our UX/UI designers do the actual hardware design. That being said, I started my career as a hands-on designer for UX and UI, doing research, also writing and many other things in-between, so I enjoy being challenged diving into new areas solving problems there. I therefore encourage and sometimes challenge others to do the same, to go beyond their comfort zone. In the end work should be a good mix of challenge and stability.

    Prototyping - similar to research - is very important to me and I can’t recommend doing it enough, as it simply will help you avoid making mistakes before shipping anything. This also counts for hardware design of course. As part of the Volkswagen Group - and before during my time at SAP and Nokia - we have access to testing labs where we can try out real hardware products and prototypes and it’s always fascinating to see how people use these products. It leads to real insights, which lead to change for the better by avoiding making mistakes.



  16. Finally— at Punkt, we are revolutionizing the UX industry by building the Content-First UX Platform where Content Designers and UX Writers co-lead the product UX/Design decisions. We believe a holistic context, Content-First UX approach will fix too many daily issues most product teams deal with. What’s your take on this?

    I'm intrigued by this. As I said earlier, I think it’s very important to keep challenging ourselves in our ways of working, the tools we're using, our approaches or what have you. We should be open to trying new things more often with the goal of constant improvement.



👋 Don't forget to follow Wolfgang

Website https://bremer.co
LinkedIn https://linkedin.com/in/wolfgangbremer
Threads https://threads.net/wolfgangbremer
Twitter https://twitter.com/wolfgangbremer


Intro

Welcome to Spotlight, your gateway to the UX/ Content Design world, through a distinctive series of interviews that spotlight the industry's leading voices. Our succinct, direct-to-the-point approach poses ±10 sharp questions to veterans and rising stars, gathering insights and perspectives shaping the UX scene.


Meet our guest ⸻ Wolfgang Bremer, VP of Design at Elli (Volkswagen Group), Speaker, Educator, and Host of the Pixelish Podcast

There are many design leaders, but only a few that actually understand the power of design. With a down to earth, humorous personality, Wolfgang Bremer is one of those leaders who are fluff-free, business-oriented and users-focused. He is an unusual character with a nice German accent :) Alles gut.

Wolfgang Bremen - Content Design Manager at McAfee


Wolfgang
is a 🇩🇪 🇨🇦 German-Canadian award-winning design veteran with 20+ years of experience and a rare combination of design & product knowledge.

Currently, Wolfgang is the Vice President of Design at Elli - A Brand of the Volkswagen Group. He also advises companies in all things design and speaks about design, leadership, team development and more. You can hire Wolfgang to work with you and you can invite him to speak.

As a design leader in multiple Fortune 500 companies, like Nokia and SAP, as well as several highly funded startups, Wolfgang has managed global design orgs & teams and worked on products used by companies like Google, Coca-Cola, Porsche, Red Bull, Sony, Unilever, and more, as well as by tens of millions of users in 190+ countries. He has been involved in countless B2C & B2B projects for mobile & desktop, including mapping services, music apps, social networks, marketing & enterprise software and more on client & agency side.

Equipped with an entrepreneurial mindset, creative problem solving skills, and an excellent eye for detail, Wolfgang drives product design & development and creates outstanding consumer & business products. He feels comfortable working in both international corporate and startup environments.

Today, we have the opportunity to learn directly from Wolfgang. We asked 16 questions to gain his insights from a top-level position. He shared a wide-ranging, strategic view on the necessary functions of companies through the lens of design leadership, ensuring alignment with core business targets and distinguishing from fleeting trends and imitations. Today is going to be a treat!



Without further ado, let's get to the Q&A:

16 Questions with Wolfgang Bremer


  1. What does your day-to-day look like as Vice President of Design at Volkswagen Group Charging (aka Elli)?

    I would say that not one day is similar to the next. I guess I could group my work into three different areas, vision work, planning, and execution.

    In my position and for the vision part of things, I very often work with fellow executives on what’s the idea, what’s the plan and how do we make it happen. Given that there’s always a lot of things going on at any given moment, it very often comes down to prioritization, return of investment, etc.

    For the planning part, I’m often involved with different kinds of stakeholders from all sorts of areas - like hardware, software, and so forth - to better understand the current situation, the possibilities, the struggles and ways of finding solutions.

    For the execution part, I’m leading the cross functional design org, which is responsible for basically everything which has to do with design, no matter if software or hardware, or anything in between really.

    A very important part of my responsibilities are of course the members of the design org themselves. For me it’s very important to be close to the people I work with and the people I'm responsible for. I always try to keep in mind the people behind the work, not just the work itself. It's crucial for me to know the people, their backgrounds, their motivation, etc. to be able to be a good leader for them, the org and the company as a whole. Only if I’m a good leader for my team, I can be a good leader for the overall organization.

    Given that the company is spread across three offices and quite some people - including myself - are working remotely, I do spend a lot of time in phone calls or online meetings while using online tools, which enable us to work together efficiently synchronously and asynchronously.

    In addition, I do spend a lot of time using software like email, Excel and last but not least Figma. I do enjoy the hands-on time I get, still doing actual design work, even if it might be only high-level vision work. I do see myself as a high-level problem solver, who's main goal is to bring people together, to overcome obstacles and to move things forward.



  2. What profiles do you oversee and interact closely with (UX Designers, Developers, Content Designers, PMs, Legal) and why?

    I’ve unfortunately seen often enough the struggle of design organizations - and therefore the struggle of the respective companies overall - which were limited too much by only being responsible for, let’s call it the UX/UI design side of things. You see, design should be much more than lipstick service. Design shouldn’t be an afterthought with the aim of just making things pretty.

    At Volkswagen Group Charging I therefore set up the design organization in a way to be able to oversee the holistic customer journey end-to-end, including research, UX/UI design, hardware design, graphic design, brand design, design systems design, and content design, so that we, as a wonderful and diverse org, can tackle any problem and create a meaningful solution at any point in time.

    However, it’s not only about the people and functions I oversee, it’s also very important who we are interacting with outside of our immediate org, like product, engineering and customer support, etc. This is very important because we as an overall team are the players on the field, hopefully winning this game together for the users. The same way we designers always say we would like to be involved, we are proactively involving the others, too.


  3. What are your best practices for bringing PMs, developers, and content writers into your design team process?

    Well, for content writers or content designers, it’s the easiest to simply make them part of the design organization because that’s where they belong.

    For the rest, I think we as designers should take a step back and think about what we ourselves still to this day want in most cases. We would like to be involved, we would like to have the oh so famous seat at the table. So, we should use our empathy to understand the other stakeholders, their positions and their points of view and we should make an effort to proactively work together with them. We should not only explain to them our background, our mission, our motivation, our goals, etc., but also always be working on informing or educating them on our point of view based on our experience, how we think we can work together best, to achieve the best results for all sides.

    I think this is especially true for integrating research into the product development process. Too often I hear the complaint that, oh we can’t do research because it’s taking too long, but that's only true if we didn’t plan for it in the first place. But how can we plan for it, if we designers might know a lot about research but the other areas of the company don’t? Hence we need to explain and educate and showcase what the benefits of research actually are. You probably also have to clear up some of the myths, which might be flying around, e.g. about different types of research, based on the product, situation and budget, and what that means for timelines. Only if we have the same understanding, we can make sure to properly plan together and to properly set expectations.

    In the end, it’s about acting as one team. It’s not them versus us or their processes versus our process. We need to find a way to work together and jointly shape a process that works for all of us. And yes, that will require planning, communicating and negotiating.


  4. What tools do you use at work? Are you more synchronous or asynchronous? And what do you prefer more?

    As designers so famously keep saying, it depends. Although I'm working remotely for years now, I’m still learning new ways of working together, about new tools, solutions, best practices, etc. almost every single day.

    I think it’s good to be aligned to a certain degree, tool, work and habit-wise, yet at the same time, I believe it’s good to keep a certain amount of flexibility in place as this should also help to improve processes and ways of working, rather than being stuck with something.

    I believe in a good mix out of synchronous and asynchronous ways of working, simply because luckily we are all different and we all have different ways of absorbing information, making sense of things, coming up with solutions, etc. - kind of similar I would almost say to the difference between introverts and extroverts. So why not cater to all of us at the same time by enabling all of us? Not everybody feels comfortable in group settings or being put on the spot to come up with an answer or even potential solution, so why force it? Why not rather give people the flexibility to properly think through things and then contribute asynchronously?

    I for example at times prefer to jot down some quick notes and make some rough sketches in the moment but then take the time to sit down and create something more comprehensive out of it when I have some more breathing room later.


  5. Based on your experience advising and leading product teams, what are the common mistakes and challenges product teams face?

    The answer to this could probably fill books and it probably does. One of the big things in my experience is communication, or rather the lack thereof. I think we humans are actually terrible at communicating. Not only do we literally speak different languages to begin with but we also keep using terms which might mean different things to each one of us. Just think about something like an MVP. How can we have the creation of an MVP as a joint goal when we understand different things under this term?

    Then it’s about lines of communication. When two people communicate, you can draw a single line in between them - that’s super easy. Now, when three people communicate, you have to draw three lines already. When four people communicate, you have to draw six lines and it keeps getting more and more complex, the larger the team gets. In my experience, smaller teams are way better at collaborating and getting things done than larger teams, therefore, throwing ‘another few bodies’ at a problem doesn’t usually make it better, rather the opposite.

    So we should on an ongoing basis evaluate if the people who are involved in a project are really the people who should be involved in that project. And this is actually a tough one because most of us humans usually try to be nice and want to include others. But in this situation this just isn't always helpful. So we should reevaluate how we work together again and again over time. Just because something worked well a while ago doesn't mean that it works well now or will in the future.

    Communication and team setup however are only parts of the foundation of being able to do great work. It’s of course also crucial that people are aligned on what they actually want to achieve, they need to ensure to have a vision, they need to ensure to be all aligned on it and they need to ensure to be capable of jointly working towards that vision.

    While working in small teams, people might be wearing different hats at different times, which is fine. It’s still very important though to know who is ultimately responsible for what. Otherwise it will lead to problems with timely and sometimes difficult decision-making.


  6. Can you recall a time when a C-suite member underestimated or challenged the value of design? If so, how did you successfully convey the value of design while maintaining inspiration and motivation within your team?

    I believe there’s always somebody challenging what you’re doing and questioning if what you’re doing is the right thing to do at this point in time and what the ROI of it is and so forth. And that no matter if it’s about design or product related things or engineering or marketing or sales or anything else really. The difference is that in my experience the field of design to executives often feels like a black box, simply because they do not exactly know what design all encapsulates and how design can actually help with making better decisions while saving the company a lot of money along the way.

    To me, the solution is a mix of experience, storytelling, convincing, negotiating and even self-marketing, among other things. You have to be able to adequately sell what you're offering. As a design leader you're ideally offering to better understand the customers and their needs for enabling the creation of a more spot-on solution, costing less money and requiring less re-work in a way that more people will actually want to use it. If that sounds hard, then that's exactly right. It is challenging for us designers to deliver great end-to-end solutions because we also have to be end-to-end experts in whatever we're working on. It’s also always a good idea having a peer from a different department - or even better, one of the C-suite leaders themselves - in your corner, somebody who has your back and is advocating for design and yourself, no matter if you're there at that moment or not.

    While being challenged constantly can feel demotivating at times, it is important to keep in mind why designers are designers: designers are problem solvers and what better problem to solve than ensuring that design is being part of the team-sport we're playing. Despite all possible frustration, we need to keep our eyes on the goal to keep the motivation up and to keep going.


  7. Your work has impacted users in over 190 countries. How did you participate in the localization process? And do you start with German first or English?

    Localization can be the make or break part of your product, always depending on your target market and/or target audience.

    At SAP for example, which is an enterprise-level organization, we were fortunate to have a quite large in-house localization team with proper processes, guidelines, trainings, best practices and so forth in place. There was always somebody available in case of questions and they were always happy to help.

    In other situations it has been a mix of in-house people and/or external suppliers, where we were working hand-in-hand to tackle whatever project we were working on, depending on timelines, budgets, workforce, etc.

    At Volkswagen Group Charging I was very happy to support one of our engineers actually, who first identified the need to change this for the better, pushing for improved localization and having a dedicated localization manager in-house. As from experience I knew how much of an advantage this would be, I gladly supported the effort of tackling the hiring and budget situation.

    In my experience and although I'm German-Canadian, we always start with English but designers also always keep best practices in mind directly while designing, like ensuring to always have extra space of ~40% to accommodate for other languages, e.g. German or Finnish, or avoiding awkward line-breaks within call-to-actions. It becomes more and more complex, the more regions we tackle, when it’s for example about right to left reading/writing or certain other location based differences. Working on Nokia Maps for example, depending on the location, address fields had to be handled differently, to a degree that in certain places in India, the address of a place actually consists of a description of how to get there using landmarks instead.


  8. With over two decades of experience, how do you approach content management within Design Systems? Do you involve content teams in parallel crafting UX writing strings, e.g., CTAs, tooltips, blurbs, and page content architecture, or does the design team handle it with placeholder text (Lorem ipsum)?

    In my experience, it’s best if content design is part of design overall, so that when design works together with product, engineering, sales and marketing, all are able to understand the plan, the budget, the overall concept and being able to see things holistically.

    I’m a big fan of having the designers use real or close to real content while designing much rather than using Lorem Ipsum. Simply because it keeps it much closer to reality right from the get-go and avoids situations where dimensions, sizes, distances, what have you are being planned or designed in a suboptimal way and would require further rework later on.

    I must admit though that my focus for a long time now has been design for products and apps rather than design for marketing websites. I could see it working differently there, to a degree at least.


  9. UX teams often skip the research phase to save time waiting for UX researchers to prepare and deliver their results in a presentable format they can reuse. What's your take on this?

    In my 20+ years I’m being confronted with this over and over and over again and to this day it’s ridiculous to me. It's like saying we had to delay our vacation because we didn’t plan for packing the bags. While it pains me that other stakeholders still way too often feel this way, it reminds me of how important it is to evangelize for what design really is all about, how we work, what we all tackle and why.

    As designer I feel we shouldn’t seek fault in others for this but should first look at ourselves. What have we done to pick up the other stakeholders, to give them an idea about our work, motivation and goals? While it’s easy to say well, they didn’t invite us to the table, I would much rather say that it looks like we didn’t fight hard enough to be included in all parts of the journey yet. To me, it often is because we have not yet clearly articulated what design can actually bring to the table and what the ROI of good design really is.

    When I put on my designer hat, then I of course would advocate for doing research for everything we're working on. However, in many circumstances that is unfortunately not possible - sometimes timelines, budgets, workforce or other factors simply don’t allow us to go all the way. Thinking realistically, we have to find creative ways of dealing with it. Yes, this can be a problem but it shouldn't be an unsolvable one.



  10. You have designed many products (Websites, Mobile apps, Software) for different devices (mobile, desktop, In-Car-Entertainment Systems). Did you have to start from scratch for each platform design, or was there a tool or way to repurpose the same content and UX you had already prepared?

    While certain products may share certain similarities - like glanceable interfaces on smartphones and in-car entertainment systems - they can still be very different: while on smartphones, we try to cramp a lot of information into a relatively small screen real estate, I would argue we are aiming to do the exact opposite for in-car entertainment systems to not distract the driver. In these situations, and when it’s about a companion app for the car, we might want to ensure that it’s somewhat similar to the in-car entertainment system experience, so that the user already has a common ground that feels familiar. In these situations you probably don’t have to start from scratch.

    That being said, there are a lot of situations where starting from scratch can do you a lot of favors because it makes you reconsider every single choice you make instead of sticking to your decisions from the past. Reevaluating what is really important for the user can be a very powerful tool to help you focus.

    Tool-wise I would say that the usual suspects are making it quite easy these days to design for different screen sizes pretty much in one go and requiring only a few adjustments. That's very different to how it was 20 years ago when we were all still designing in Photoshop - that was definitely more work.


  11. Do you believe in bypassing wireframes? Do they remain pertinent, especially when grounded in thorough UX research and well-defined personas, not merely attractive shapes in Figma filled with placeholder copy? I'm eager to hear your perspective.

    While rumor has it that when designing something at Apple, everything from the beginning is done in a pixel perfect way, so that at any point in time, it is clear to every involved stakeholder how something will look and work, I would still argue that it depends on the product, the timeline, the budget and other factors, if wireframes should be done or not.

    I remember many years ago I was working on a project where I was translating a complex social media like desktop application into a mobile website/app. My first step was to create a document consisting of ~100 pages of wireframes, showing every single page using a mobile form factor. This helped me enormously to decide on what from my point of view should be available on mobile and because it was created as wireframes the overall process only took a couple of days. I would then use this document to run stakeholders through my proposal, gather feedback and iterate. If I would have done the same doing pixel perfect work, I would have wasted a lot of valuable time.

    That is not to say that I do not see the value and doing things pixel perfect from the get-go in certain situations, it just really depends on the project. Definitely not to be overlooked is one of the core advantages of pixel perfect design: ensuring that every stakeholder understands right away how something is going to look like. There’s no wiggle-room for misunderstandings or room for (mis-)interpretations.


  12. You had a distinguished career in UX Design focusing on SaaS Products before becoming Vice President of Design for Volkswagen Group Charging's experience design organization, including research, product design (UX and UI), hardware design, brand design, graphic design, and writing. How does designing digital products differ from designing physical products?

    What Steve Jobs famously said during the introduction of the original iPhone, you can’t simply add a button after you shipped it, sums it up quite nicely actually.

    But joking aside, hardware is complex. It often takes years to bring something to market and then you still have to ensure that once it gets to market, it’s actually still a viable product. It’s like you have to be able to predict the future to a certain degree. Then of course you rarely have hardware just by itself, there’s usually software involved as well and software together with hardware tends to have some kind of interface your users will be interacting with. So also here you have to ensure that what you’re going to ship in a few years, will still be up to par or better.

    In most situations, you will be working with multiple suppliers, and you need to be very specific about what you want, in what quality and for what price. And yes, even seemingly small things like LEDs do come with a price tag, which in return might influence your decision making.

    That being said, my advice would be to always do a good amount of research and testing before finalizing your product. Shipping hardware that fails in the market usually is very expensive.

    Now, if you compare that to pure product design for software applications, you of course also better get it right the first time around, but in most cases, even if you don't, you can still make amendments or fix certain things via an update.


  13. On the same note, how do you test accessibility for people with disabilities? Do you design a unique user experience for them, or have it baked in and enabled in the settings? Is that enough, and does it not require any physical changes to hardware projects?

    Many years ago, I used to work at a mid-sized agency and we were contracted to create all the local government websites. One of the key requirements was to ensure that they were all accessible. During that time I learned a lot about accessibility, what it actually means and what it all entails. Also, during my time at SAP we had a strong focus on accessibility, which again helped me a lot to grow in this area. This knowledge helps me to make sure to always keep an eye on accessibility, no matter what I work on. The basics - things like contrast and support of screen readers for design in software - is hopefully common knowledge among designers these days but it goes beyond that. Also and especially for hardware we have to keep accessibility in mind and it does play a role for instance when it's about the advised mounting heights or cable lengths/weights, etc. Luckily also for these kinds of things research and testing can be done.


  14. Electric vehicles are still an emerging industry, and authorities are still adapting and figuring out laws and regulations for a rising environmental solution. From your side at Volkswagen Group, do you involve legal teams in design decisions? How often do you collaborate with legal teams? What process do you follow to collaborate with them? Do you have an internal legal team or consult an external law firm?

    Honestly, I would be surprised if any company of the size of the Volkswagen Group would not be working with lawyers a lot of the time. But joking aside, it always depends on the situation. If you operate in a global market, you probably want to ensure that what you are designing and building actually complies with local laws and regulations. It’s doubtful that designers are knowledgeable enough for all these markets to know all the details about these things, so working closely with legal departments is very important. Similar to involving other departments like e.g. sales, marketing and customer support, it’s important to involve legal, too. And just like with the other departments there will be conversations, negotiations and decision-making.


  15. We're shifting gears to collaborate with hardware teams now. Are you involved with the hardware engineering team when designing? How hard is that for your UX/UI team since everything is proprietary and custom-made and not regular, familiar web patterns that we all know? How do you manage prototyping? What tools do you guys use, and how collaborative is it between digital and hardware teams? Any past mistakes learned from the past will be extremely helpful for our readers outside the car UX industry.

    Design is working very closely with the hardware and the software teams. In my humble opinion, there is no other way of creating a great product, if not working together as one team, especially at the intersection of hard- and software.

    Luckily we are in a position to have experts for pretty much any area, that includes hardware and industrial design, so we don’t need to have our UX/UI designers do the actual hardware design. That being said, I started my career as a hands-on designer for UX and UI, doing research, also writing and many other things in-between, so I enjoy being challenged diving into new areas solving problems there. I therefore encourage and sometimes challenge others to do the same, to go beyond their comfort zone. In the end work should be a good mix of challenge and stability.

    Prototyping - similar to research - is very important to me and I can’t recommend doing it enough, as it simply will help you avoid making mistakes before shipping anything. This also counts for hardware design of course. As part of the Volkswagen Group - and before during my time at SAP and Nokia - we have access to testing labs where we can try out real hardware products and prototypes and it’s always fascinating to see how people use these products. It leads to real insights, which lead to change for the better by avoiding making mistakes.



  16. Finally— at Punkt, we are revolutionizing the UX industry by building the Content-First UX Platform where Content Designers and UX Writers co-lead the product UX/Design decisions. We believe a holistic context, Content-First UX approach will fix too many daily issues most product teams deal with. What’s your take on this?

    I'm intrigued by this. As I said earlier, I think it’s very important to keep challenging ourselves in our ways of working, the tools we're using, our approaches or what have you. We should be open to trying new things more often with the goal of constant improvement.



👋 Don't forget to follow Wolfgang

Website https://bremer.co
LinkedIn https://linkedin.com/in/wolfgangbremer
Threads https://threads.net/wolfgangbremer
Twitter https://twitter.com/wolfgangbremer


Intro

Welcome to Spotlight, your gateway to the UX/ Content Design world, through a distinctive series of interviews that spotlight the industry's leading voices. Our succinct, direct-to-the-point approach poses ±10 sharp questions to veterans and rising stars, gathering insights and perspectives shaping the UX scene.


Meet our guest ⸻ Wolfgang Bremer, VP of Design at Elli (Volkswagen Group), Speaker, Educator, and Host of the Pixelish Podcast

There are many design leaders, but only a few that actually understand the power of design. With a down to earth, humorous personality, Wolfgang Bremer is one of those leaders who are fluff-free, business-oriented and users-focused. He is an unusual character with a nice German accent :) Alles gut.

Wolfgang Bremen - Content Design Manager at McAfee


Wolfgang
is a 🇩🇪 🇨🇦 German-Canadian award-winning design veteran with 20+ years of experience and a rare combination of design & product knowledge.

Currently, Wolfgang is the Vice President of Design at Elli - A Brand of the Volkswagen Group. He also advises companies in all things design and speaks about design, leadership, team development and more. You can hire Wolfgang to work with you and you can invite him to speak.

As a design leader in multiple Fortune 500 companies, like Nokia and SAP, as well as several highly funded startups, Wolfgang has managed global design orgs & teams and worked on products used by companies like Google, Coca-Cola, Porsche, Red Bull, Sony, Unilever, and more, as well as by tens of millions of users in 190+ countries. He has been involved in countless B2C & B2B projects for mobile & desktop, including mapping services, music apps, social networks, marketing & enterprise software and more on client & agency side.

Equipped with an entrepreneurial mindset, creative problem solving skills, and an excellent eye for detail, Wolfgang drives product design & development and creates outstanding consumer & business products. He feels comfortable working in both international corporate and startup environments.

Today, we have the opportunity to learn directly from Wolfgang. We asked 16 questions to gain his insights from a top-level position. He shared a wide-ranging, strategic view on the necessary functions of companies through the lens of design leadership, ensuring alignment with core business targets and distinguishing from fleeting trends and imitations. Today is going to be a treat!



Without further ado, let's get to the Q&A:

16 Questions with Wolfgang Bremer


  1. What does your day-to-day look like as Vice President of Design at Volkswagen Group Charging (aka Elli)?

    I would say that not one day is similar to the next. I guess I could group my work into three different areas, vision work, planning, and execution.

    In my position and for the vision part of things, I very often work with fellow executives on what’s the idea, what’s the plan and how do we make it happen. Given that there’s always a lot of things going on at any given moment, it very often comes down to prioritization, return of investment, etc.

    For the planning part, I’m often involved with different kinds of stakeholders from all sorts of areas - like hardware, software, and so forth - to better understand the current situation, the possibilities, the struggles and ways of finding solutions.

    For the execution part, I’m leading the cross functional design org, which is responsible for basically everything which has to do with design, no matter if software or hardware, or anything in between really.

    A very important part of my responsibilities are of course the members of the design org themselves. For me it’s very important to be close to the people I work with and the people I'm responsible for. I always try to keep in mind the people behind the work, not just the work itself. It's crucial for me to know the people, their backgrounds, their motivation, etc. to be able to be a good leader for them, the org and the company as a whole. Only if I’m a good leader for my team, I can be a good leader for the overall organization.

    Given that the company is spread across three offices and quite some people - including myself - are working remotely, I do spend a lot of time in phone calls or online meetings while using online tools, which enable us to work together efficiently synchronously and asynchronously.

    In addition, I do spend a lot of time using software like email, Excel and last but not least Figma. I do enjoy the hands-on time I get, still doing actual design work, even if it might be only high-level vision work. I do see myself as a high-level problem solver, who's main goal is to bring people together, to overcome obstacles and to move things forward.



  2. What profiles do you oversee and interact closely with (UX Designers, Developers, Content Designers, PMs, Legal) and why?

    I’ve unfortunately seen often enough the struggle of design organizations - and therefore the struggle of the respective companies overall - which were limited too much by only being responsible for, let’s call it the UX/UI design side of things. You see, design should be much more than lipstick service. Design shouldn’t be an afterthought with the aim of just making things pretty.

    At Volkswagen Group Charging I therefore set up the design organization in a way to be able to oversee the holistic customer journey end-to-end, including research, UX/UI design, hardware design, graphic design, brand design, design systems design, and content design, so that we, as a wonderful and diverse org, can tackle any problem and create a meaningful solution at any point in time.

    However, it’s not only about the people and functions I oversee, it’s also very important who we are interacting with outside of our immediate org, like product, engineering and customer support, etc. This is very important because we as an overall team are the players on the field, hopefully winning this game together for the users. The same way we designers always say we would like to be involved, we are proactively involving the others, too.


  3. What are your best practices for bringing PMs, developers, and content writers into your design team process?

    Well, for content writers or content designers, it’s the easiest to simply make them part of the design organization because that’s where they belong.

    For the rest, I think we as designers should take a step back and think about what we ourselves still to this day want in most cases. We would like to be involved, we would like to have the oh so famous seat at the table. So, we should use our empathy to understand the other stakeholders, their positions and their points of view and we should make an effort to proactively work together with them. We should not only explain to them our background, our mission, our motivation, our goals, etc., but also always be working on informing or educating them on our point of view based on our experience, how we think we can work together best, to achieve the best results for all sides.

    I think this is especially true for integrating research into the product development process. Too often I hear the complaint that, oh we can’t do research because it’s taking too long, but that's only true if we didn’t plan for it in the first place. But how can we plan for it, if we designers might know a lot about research but the other areas of the company don’t? Hence we need to explain and educate and showcase what the benefits of research actually are. You probably also have to clear up some of the myths, which might be flying around, e.g. about different types of research, based on the product, situation and budget, and what that means for timelines. Only if we have the same understanding, we can make sure to properly plan together and to properly set expectations.

    In the end, it’s about acting as one team. It’s not them versus us or their processes versus our process. We need to find a way to work together and jointly shape a process that works for all of us. And yes, that will require planning, communicating and negotiating.


  4. What tools do you use at work? Are you more synchronous or asynchronous? And what do you prefer more?

    As designers so famously keep saying, it depends. Although I'm working remotely for years now, I’m still learning new ways of working together, about new tools, solutions, best practices, etc. almost every single day.

    I think it’s good to be aligned to a certain degree, tool, work and habit-wise, yet at the same time, I believe it’s good to keep a certain amount of flexibility in place as this should also help to improve processes and ways of working, rather than being stuck with something.

    I believe in a good mix out of synchronous and asynchronous ways of working, simply because luckily we are all different and we all have different ways of absorbing information, making sense of things, coming up with solutions, etc. - kind of similar I would almost say to the difference between introverts and extroverts. So why not cater to all of us at the same time by enabling all of us? Not everybody feels comfortable in group settings or being put on the spot to come up with an answer or even potential solution, so why force it? Why not rather give people the flexibility to properly think through things and then contribute asynchronously?

    I for example at times prefer to jot down some quick notes and make some rough sketches in the moment but then take the time to sit down and create something more comprehensive out of it when I have some more breathing room later.


  5. Based on your experience advising and leading product teams, what are the common mistakes and challenges product teams face?

    The answer to this could probably fill books and it probably does. One of the big things in my experience is communication, or rather the lack thereof. I think we humans are actually terrible at communicating. Not only do we literally speak different languages to begin with but we also keep using terms which might mean different things to each one of us. Just think about something like an MVP. How can we have the creation of an MVP as a joint goal when we understand different things under this term?

    Then it’s about lines of communication. When two people communicate, you can draw a single line in between them - that’s super easy. Now, when three people communicate, you have to draw three lines already. When four people communicate, you have to draw six lines and it keeps getting more and more complex, the larger the team gets. In my experience, smaller teams are way better at collaborating and getting things done than larger teams, therefore, throwing ‘another few bodies’ at a problem doesn’t usually make it better, rather the opposite.

    So we should on an ongoing basis evaluate if the people who are involved in a project are really the people who should be involved in that project. And this is actually a tough one because most of us humans usually try to be nice and want to include others. But in this situation this just isn't always helpful. So we should reevaluate how we work together again and again over time. Just because something worked well a while ago doesn't mean that it works well now or will in the future.

    Communication and team setup however are only parts of the foundation of being able to do great work. It’s of course also crucial that people are aligned on what they actually want to achieve, they need to ensure to have a vision, they need to ensure to be all aligned on it and they need to ensure to be capable of jointly working towards that vision.

    While working in small teams, people might be wearing different hats at different times, which is fine. It’s still very important though to know who is ultimately responsible for what. Otherwise it will lead to problems with timely and sometimes difficult decision-making.


  6. Can you recall a time when a C-suite member underestimated or challenged the value of design? If so, how did you successfully convey the value of design while maintaining inspiration and motivation within your team?

    I believe there’s always somebody challenging what you’re doing and questioning if what you’re doing is the right thing to do at this point in time and what the ROI of it is and so forth. And that no matter if it’s about design or product related things or engineering or marketing or sales or anything else really. The difference is that in my experience the field of design to executives often feels like a black box, simply because they do not exactly know what design all encapsulates and how design can actually help with making better decisions while saving the company a lot of money along the way.

    To me, the solution is a mix of experience, storytelling, convincing, negotiating and even self-marketing, among other things. You have to be able to adequately sell what you're offering. As a design leader you're ideally offering to better understand the customers and their needs for enabling the creation of a more spot-on solution, costing less money and requiring less re-work in a way that more people will actually want to use it. If that sounds hard, then that's exactly right. It is challenging for us designers to deliver great end-to-end solutions because we also have to be end-to-end experts in whatever we're working on. It’s also always a good idea having a peer from a different department - or even better, one of the C-suite leaders themselves - in your corner, somebody who has your back and is advocating for design and yourself, no matter if you're there at that moment or not.

    While being challenged constantly can feel demotivating at times, it is important to keep in mind why designers are designers: designers are problem solvers and what better problem to solve than ensuring that design is being part of the team-sport we're playing. Despite all possible frustration, we need to keep our eyes on the goal to keep the motivation up and to keep going.


  7. Your work has impacted users in over 190 countries. How did you participate in the localization process? And do you start with German first or English?

    Localization can be the make or break part of your product, always depending on your target market and/or target audience.

    At SAP for example, which is an enterprise-level organization, we were fortunate to have a quite large in-house localization team with proper processes, guidelines, trainings, best practices and so forth in place. There was always somebody available in case of questions and they were always happy to help.

    In other situations it has been a mix of in-house people and/or external suppliers, where we were working hand-in-hand to tackle whatever project we were working on, depending on timelines, budgets, workforce, etc.

    At Volkswagen Group Charging I was very happy to support one of our engineers actually, who first identified the need to change this for the better, pushing for improved localization and having a dedicated localization manager in-house. As from experience I knew how much of an advantage this would be, I gladly supported the effort of tackling the hiring and budget situation.

    In my experience and although I'm German-Canadian, we always start with English but designers also always keep best practices in mind directly while designing, like ensuring to always have extra space of ~40% to accommodate for other languages, e.g. German or Finnish, or avoiding awkward line-breaks within call-to-actions. It becomes more and more complex, the more regions we tackle, when it’s for example about right to left reading/writing or certain other location based differences. Working on Nokia Maps for example, depending on the location, address fields had to be handled differently, to a degree that in certain places in India, the address of a place actually consists of a description of how to get there using landmarks instead.


  8. With over two decades of experience, how do you approach content management within Design Systems? Do you involve content teams in parallel crafting UX writing strings, e.g., CTAs, tooltips, blurbs, and page content architecture, or does the design team handle it with placeholder text (Lorem ipsum)?

    In my experience, it’s best if content design is part of design overall, so that when design works together with product, engineering, sales and marketing, all are able to understand the plan, the budget, the overall concept and being able to see things holistically.

    I’m a big fan of having the designers use real or close to real content while designing much rather than using Lorem Ipsum. Simply because it keeps it much closer to reality right from the get-go and avoids situations where dimensions, sizes, distances, what have you are being planned or designed in a suboptimal way and would require further rework later on.

    I must admit though that my focus for a long time now has been design for products and apps rather than design for marketing websites. I could see it working differently there, to a degree at least.


  9. UX teams often skip the research phase to save time waiting for UX researchers to prepare and deliver their results in a presentable format they can reuse. What's your take on this?

    In my 20+ years I’m being confronted with this over and over and over again and to this day it’s ridiculous to me. It's like saying we had to delay our vacation because we didn’t plan for packing the bags. While it pains me that other stakeholders still way too often feel this way, it reminds me of how important it is to evangelize for what design really is all about, how we work, what we all tackle and why.

    As designer I feel we shouldn’t seek fault in others for this but should first look at ourselves. What have we done to pick up the other stakeholders, to give them an idea about our work, motivation and goals? While it’s easy to say well, they didn’t invite us to the table, I would much rather say that it looks like we didn’t fight hard enough to be included in all parts of the journey yet. To me, it often is because we have not yet clearly articulated what design can actually bring to the table and what the ROI of good design really is.

    When I put on my designer hat, then I of course would advocate for doing research for everything we're working on. However, in many circumstances that is unfortunately not possible - sometimes timelines, budgets, workforce or other factors simply don’t allow us to go all the way. Thinking realistically, we have to find creative ways of dealing with it. Yes, this can be a problem but it shouldn't be an unsolvable one.



  10. You have designed many products (Websites, Mobile apps, Software) for different devices (mobile, desktop, In-Car-Entertainment Systems). Did you have to start from scratch for each platform design, or was there a tool or way to repurpose the same content and UX you had already prepared?

    While certain products may share certain similarities - like glanceable interfaces on smartphones and in-car entertainment systems - they can still be very different: while on smartphones, we try to cramp a lot of information into a relatively small screen real estate, I would argue we are aiming to do the exact opposite for in-car entertainment systems to not distract the driver. In these situations, and when it’s about a companion app for the car, we might want to ensure that it’s somewhat similar to the in-car entertainment system experience, so that the user already has a common ground that feels familiar. In these situations you probably don’t have to start from scratch.

    That being said, there are a lot of situations where starting from scratch can do you a lot of favors because it makes you reconsider every single choice you make instead of sticking to your decisions from the past. Reevaluating what is really important for the user can be a very powerful tool to help you focus.

    Tool-wise I would say that the usual suspects are making it quite easy these days to design for different screen sizes pretty much in one go and requiring only a few adjustments. That's very different to how it was 20 years ago when we were all still designing in Photoshop - that was definitely more work.


  11. Do you believe in bypassing wireframes? Do they remain pertinent, especially when grounded in thorough UX research and well-defined personas, not merely attractive shapes in Figma filled with placeholder copy? I'm eager to hear your perspective.

    While rumor has it that when designing something at Apple, everything from the beginning is done in a pixel perfect way, so that at any point in time, it is clear to every involved stakeholder how something will look and work, I would still argue that it depends on the product, the timeline, the budget and other factors, if wireframes should be done or not.

    I remember many years ago I was working on a project where I was translating a complex social media like desktop application into a mobile website/app. My first step was to create a document consisting of ~100 pages of wireframes, showing every single page using a mobile form factor. This helped me enormously to decide on what from my point of view should be available on mobile and because it was created as wireframes the overall process only took a couple of days. I would then use this document to run stakeholders through my proposal, gather feedback and iterate. If I would have done the same doing pixel perfect work, I would have wasted a lot of valuable time.

    That is not to say that I do not see the value and doing things pixel perfect from the get-go in certain situations, it just really depends on the project. Definitely not to be overlooked is one of the core advantages of pixel perfect design: ensuring that every stakeholder understands right away how something is going to look like. There’s no wiggle-room for misunderstandings or room for (mis-)interpretations.


  12. You had a distinguished career in UX Design focusing on SaaS Products before becoming Vice President of Design for Volkswagen Group Charging's experience design organization, including research, product design (UX and UI), hardware design, brand design, graphic design, and writing. How does designing digital products differ from designing physical products?

    What Steve Jobs famously said during the introduction of the original iPhone, you can’t simply add a button after you shipped it, sums it up quite nicely actually.

    But joking aside, hardware is complex. It often takes years to bring something to market and then you still have to ensure that once it gets to market, it’s actually still a viable product. It’s like you have to be able to predict the future to a certain degree. Then of course you rarely have hardware just by itself, there’s usually software involved as well and software together with hardware tends to have some kind of interface your users will be interacting with. So also here you have to ensure that what you’re going to ship in a few years, will still be up to par or better.

    In most situations, you will be working with multiple suppliers, and you need to be very specific about what you want, in what quality and for what price. And yes, even seemingly small things like LEDs do come with a price tag, which in return might influence your decision making.

    That being said, my advice would be to always do a good amount of research and testing before finalizing your product. Shipping hardware that fails in the market usually is very expensive.

    Now, if you compare that to pure product design for software applications, you of course also better get it right the first time around, but in most cases, even if you don't, you can still make amendments or fix certain things via an update.


  13. On the same note, how do you test accessibility for people with disabilities? Do you design a unique user experience for them, or have it baked in and enabled in the settings? Is that enough, and does it not require any physical changes to hardware projects?

    Many years ago, I used to work at a mid-sized agency and we were contracted to create all the local government websites. One of the key requirements was to ensure that they were all accessible. During that time I learned a lot about accessibility, what it actually means and what it all entails. Also, during my time at SAP we had a strong focus on accessibility, which again helped me a lot to grow in this area. This knowledge helps me to make sure to always keep an eye on accessibility, no matter what I work on. The basics - things like contrast and support of screen readers for design in software - is hopefully common knowledge among designers these days but it goes beyond that. Also and especially for hardware we have to keep accessibility in mind and it does play a role for instance when it's about the advised mounting heights or cable lengths/weights, etc. Luckily also for these kinds of things research and testing can be done.


  14. Electric vehicles are still an emerging industry, and authorities are still adapting and figuring out laws and regulations for a rising environmental solution. From your side at Volkswagen Group, do you involve legal teams in design decisions? How often do you collaborate with legal teams? What process do you follow to collaborate with them? Do you have an internal legal team or consult an external law firm?

    Honestly, I would be surprised if any company of the size of the Volkswagen Group would not be working with lawyers a lot of the time. But joking aside, it always depends on the situation. If you operate in a global market, you probably want to ensure that what you are designing and building actually complies with local laws and regulations. It’s doubtful that designers are knowledgeable enough for all these markets to know all the details about these things, so working closely with legal departments is very important. Similar to involving other departments like e.g. sales, marketing and customer support, it’s important to involve legal, too. And just like with the other departments there will be conversations, negotiations and decision-making.


  15. We're shifting gears to collaborate with hardware teams now. Are you involved with the hardware engineering team when designing? How hard is that for your UX/UI team since everything is proprietary and custom-made and not regular, familiar web patterns that we all know? How do you manage prototyping? What tools do you guys use, and how collaborative is it between digital and hardware teams? Any past mistakes learned from the past will be extremely helpful for our readers outside the car UX industry.

    Design is working very closely with the hardware and the software teams. In my humble opinion, there is no other way of creating a great product, if not working together as one team, especially at the intersection of hard- and software.

    Luckily we are in a position to have experts for pretty much any area, that includes hardware and industrial design, so we don’t need to have our UX/UI designers do the actual hardware design. That being said, I started my career as a hands-on designer for UX and UI, doing research, also writing and many other things in-between, so I enjoy being challenged diving into new areas solving problems there. I therefore encourage and sometimes challenge others to do the same, to go beyond their comfort zone. In the end work should be a good mix of challenge and stability.

    Prototyping - similar to research - is very important to me and I can’t recommend doing it enough, as it simply will help you avoid making mistakes before shipping anything. This also counts for hardware design of course. As part of the Volkswagen Group - and before during my time at SAP and Nokia - we have access to testing labs where we can try out real hardware products and prototypes and it’s always fascinating to see how people use these products. It leads to real insights, which lead to change for the better by avoiding making mistakes.



  16. Finally— at Punkt, we are revolutionizing the UX industry by building the Content-First UX Platform where Content Designers and UX Writers co-lead the product UX/Design decisions. We believe a holistic context, Content-First UX approach will fix too many daily issues most product teams deal with. What’s your take on this?

    I'm intrigued by this. As I said earlier, I think it’s very important to keep challenging ourselves in our ways of working, the tools we're using, our approaches or what have you. We should be open to trying new things more often with the goal of constant improvement.



👋 Don't forget to follow Wolfgang

Website https://bremer.co
LinkedIn https://linkedin.com/in/wolfgangbremer
Threads https://threads.net/wolfgangbremer
Twitter https://twitter.com/wolfgangbremer


Intro

Welcome to Spotlight, your gateway to the UX/ Content Design world, through a distinctive series of interviews that spotlight the industry's leading voices. Our succinct, direct-to-the-point approach poses ±10 sharp questions to veterans and rising stars, gathering insights and perspectives shaping the UX scene.


Meet our guest ⸻ Wolfgang Bremer, VP of Design at Elli (Volkswagen Group), Speaker, Educator, and Host of the Pixelish Podcast

There are many design leaders, but only a few that actually understand the power of design. With a down to earth, humorous personality, Wolfgang Bremer is one of those leaders who are fluff-free, business-oriented and users-focused. He is an unusual character with a nice German accent :) Alles gut.

Wolfgang Bremen - Content Design Manager at McAfee


Wolfgang
is a 🇩🇪 🇨🇦 German-Canadian award-winning design veteran with 20+ years of experience and a rare combination of design & product knowledge.

Currently, Wolfgang is the Vice President of Design at Elli - A Brand of the Volkswagen Group. He also advises companies in all things design and speaks about design, leadership, team development and more. You can hire Wolfgang to work with you and you can invite him to speak.

As a design leader in multiple Fortune 500 companies, like Nokia and SAP, as well as several highly funded startups, Wolfgang has managed global design orgs & teams and worked on products used by companies like Google, Coca-Cola, Porsche, Red Bull, Sony, Unilever, and more, as well as by tens of millions of users in 190+ countries. He has been involved in countless B2C & B2B projects for mobile & desktop, including mapping services, music apps, social networks, marketing & enterprise software and more on client & agency side.

Equipped with an entrepreneurial mindset, creative problem solving skills, and an excellent eye for detail, Wolfgang drives product design & development and creates outstanding consumer & business products. He feels comfortable working in both international corporate and startup environments.

Today, we have the opportunity to learn directly from Wolfgang. We asked 16 questions to gain his insights from a top-level position. He shared a wide-ranging, strategic view on the necessary functions of companies through the lens of design leadership, ensuring alignment with core business targets and distinguishing from fleeting trends and imitations. Today is going to be a treat!



Without further ado, let's get to the Q&A:

16 Questions with Wolfgang Bremer


  1. What does your day-to-day look like as Vice President of Design at Volkswagen Group Charging (aka Elli)?

    I would say that not one day is similar to the next. I guess I could group my work into three different areas, vision work, planning, and execution.

    In my position and for the vision part of things, I very often work with fellow executives on what’s the idea, what’s the plan and how do we make it happen. Given that there’s always a lot of things going on at any given moment, it very often comes down to prioritization, return of investment, etc.

    For the planning part, I’m often involved with different kinds of stakeholders from all sorts of areas - like hardware, software, and so forth - to better understand the current situation, the possibilities, the struggles and ways of finding solutions.

    For the execution part, I’m leading the cross functional design org, which is responsible for basically everything which has to do with design, no matter if software or hardware, or anything in between really.

    A very important part of my responsibilities are of course the members of the design org themselves. For me it’s very important to be close to the people I work with and the people I'm responsible for. I always try to keep in mind the people behind the work, not just the work itself. It's crucial for me to know the people, their backgrounds, their motivation, etc. to be able to be a good leader for them, the org and the company as a whole. Only if I’m a good leader for my team, I can be a good leader for the overall organization.

    Given that the company is spread across three offices and quite some people - including myself - are working remotely, I do spend a lot of time in phone calls or online meetings while using online tools, which enable us to work together efficiently synchronously and asynchronously.

    In addition, I do spend a lot of time using software like email, Excel and last but not least Figma. I do enjoy the hands-on time I get, still doing actual design work, even if it might be only high-level vision work. I do see myself as a high-level problem solver, who's main goal is to bring people together, to overcome obstacles and to move things forward.



  2. What profiles do you oversee and interact closely with (UX Designers, Developers, Content Designers, PMs, Legal) and why?

    I’ve unfortunately seen often enough the struggle of design organizations - and therefore the struggle of the respective companies overall - which were limited too much by only being responsible for, let’s call it the UX/UI design side of things. You see, design should be much more than lipstick service. Design shouldn’t be an afterthought with the aim of just making things pretty.

    At Volkswagen Group Charging I therefore set up the design organization in a way to be able to oversee the holistic customer journey end-to-end, including research, UX/UI design, hardware design, graphic design, brand design, design systems design, and content design, so that we, as a wonderful and diverse org, can tackle any problem and create a meaningful solution at any point in time.

    However, it’s not only about the people and functions I oversee, it’s also very important who we are interacting with outside of our immediate org, like product, engineering and customer support, etc. This is very important because we as an overall team are the players on the field, hopefully winning this game together for the users. The same way we designers always say we would like to be involved, we are proactively involving the others, too.


  3. What are your best practices for bringing PMs, developers, and content writers into your design team process?

    Well, for content writers or content designers, it’s the easiest to simply make them part of the design organization because that’s where they belong.

    For the rest, I think we as designers should take a step back and think about what we ourselves still to this day want in most cases. We would like to be involved, we would like to have the oh so famous seat at the table. So, we should use our empathy to understand the other stakeholders, their positions and their points of view and we should make an effort to proactively work together with them. We should not only explain to them our background, our mission, our motivation, our goals, etc., but also always be working on informing or educating them on our point of view based on our experience, how we think we can work together best, to achieve the best results for all sides.

    I think this is especially true for integrating research into the product development process. Too often I hear the complaint that, oh we can’t do research because it’s taking too long, but that's only true if we didn’t plan for it in the first place. But how can we plan for it, if we designers might know a lot about research but the other areas of the company don’t? Hence we need to explain and educate and showcase what the benefits of research actually are. You probably also have to clear up some of the myths, which might be flying around, e.g. about different types of research, based on the product, situation and budget, and what that means for timelines. Only if we have the same understanding, we can make sure to properly plan together and to properly set expectations.

    In the end, it’s about acting as one team. It’s not them versus us or their processes versus our process. We need to find a way to work together and jointly shape a process that works for all of us. And yes, that will require planning, communicating and negotiating.


  4. What tools do you use at work? Are you more synchronous or asynchronous? And what do you prefer more?

    As designers so famously keep saying, it depends. Although I'm working remotely for years now, I’m still learning new ways of working together, about new tools, solutions, best practices, etc. almost every single day.

    I think it’s good to be aligned to a certain degree, tool, work and habit-wise, yet at the same time, I believe it’s good to keep a certain amount of flexibility in place as this should also help to improve processes and ways of working, rather than being stuck with something.

    I believe in a good mix out of synchronous and asynchronous ways of working, simply because luckily we are all different and we all have different ways of absorbing information, making sense of things, coming up with solutions, etc. - kind of similar I would almost say to the difference between introverts and extroverts. So why not cater to all of us at the same time by enabling all of us? Not everybody feels comfortable in group settings or being put on the spot to come up with an answer or even potential solution, so why force it? Why not rather give people the flexibility to properly think through things and then contribute asynchronously?

    I for example at times prefer to jot down some quick notes and make some rough sketches in the moment but then take the time to sit down and create something more comprehensive out of it when I have some more breathing room later.


  5. Based on your experience advising and leading product teams, what are the common mistakes and challenges product teams face?

    The answer to this could probably fill books and it probably does. One of the big things in my experience is communication, or rather the lack thereof. I think we humans are actually terrible at communicating. Not only do we literally speak different languages to begin with but we also keep using terms which might mean different things to each one of us. Just think about something like an MVP. How can we have the creation of an MVP as a joint goal when we understand different things under this term?

    Then it’s about lines of communication. When two people communicate, you can draw a single line in between them - that’s super easy. Now, when three people communicate, you have to draw three lines already. When four people communicate, you have to draw six lines and it keeps getting more and more complex, the larger the team gets. In my experience, smaller teams are way better at collaborating and getting things done than larger teams, therefore, throwing ‘another few bodies’ at a problem doesn’t usually make it better, rather the opposite.

    So we should on an ongoing basis evaluate if the people who are involved in a project are really the people who should be involved in that project. And this is actually a tough one because most of us humans usually try to be nice and want to include others. But in this situation this just isn't always helpful. So we should reevaluate how we work together again and again over time. Just because something worked well a while ago doesn't mean that it works well now or will in the future.

    Communication and team setup however are only parts of the foundation of being able to do great work. It’s of course also crucial that people are aligned on what they actually want to achieve, they need to ensure to have a vision, they need to ensure to be all aligned on it and they need to ensure to be capable of jointly working towards that vision.

    While working in small teams, people might be wearing different hats at different times, which is fine. It’s still very important though to know who is ultimately responsible for what. Otherwise it will lead to problems with timely and sometimes difficult decision-making.


  6. Can you recall a time when a C-suite member underestimated or challenged the value of design? If so, how did you successfully convey the value of design while maintaining inspiration and motivation within your team?

    I believe there’s always somebody challenging what you’re doing and questioning if what you’re doing is the right thing to do at this point in time and what the ROI of it is and so forth. And that no matter if it’s about design or product related things or engineering or marketing or sales or anything else really. The difference is that in my experience the field of design to executives often feels like a black box, simply because they do not exactly know what design all encapsulates and how design can actually help with making better decisions while saving the company a lot of money along the way.

    To me, the solution is a mix of experience, storytelling, convincing, negotiating and even self-marketing, among other things. You have to be able to adequately sell what you're offering. As a design leader you're ideally offering to better understand the customers and their needs for enabling the creation of a more spot-on solution, costing less money and requiring less re-work in a way that more people will actually want to use it. If that sounds hard, then that's exactly right. It is challenging for us designers to deliver great end-to-end solutions because we also have to be end-to-end experts in whatever we're working on. It’s also always a good idea having a peer from a different department - or even better, one of the C-suite leaders themselves - in your corner, somebody who has your back and is advocating for design and yourself, no matter if you're there at that moment or not.

    While being challenged constantly can feel demotivating at times, it is important to keep in mind why designers are designers: designers are problem solvers and what better problem to solve than ensuring that design is being part of the team-sport we're playing. Despite all possible frustration, we need to keep our eyes on the goal to keep the motivation up and to keep going.


  7. Your work has impacted users in over 190 countries. How did you participate in the localization process? And do you start with German first or English?

    Localization can be the make or break part of your product, always depending on your target market and/or target audience.

    At SAP for example, which is an enterprise-level organization, we were fortunate to have a quite large in-house localization team with proper processes, guidelines, trainings, best practices and so forth in place. There was always somebody available in case of questions and they were always happy to help.

    In other situations it has been a mix of in-house people and/or external suppliers, where we were working hand-in-hand to tackle whatever project we were working on, depending on timelines, budgets, workforce, etc.

    At Volkswagen Group Charging I was very happy to support one of our engineers actually, who first identified the need to change this for the better, pushing for improved localization and having a dedicated localization manager in-house. As from experience I knew how much of an advantage this would be, I gladly supported the effort of tackling the hiring and budget situation.

    In my experience and although I'm German-Canadian, we always start with English but designers also always keep best practices in mind directly while designing, like ensuring to always have extra space of ~40% to accommodate for other languages, e.g. German or Finnish, or avoiding awkward line-breaks within call-to-actions. It becomes more and more complex, the more regions we tackle, when it’s for example about right to left reading/writing or certain other location based differences. Working on Nokia Maps for example, depending on the location, address fields had to be handled differently, to a degree that in certain places in India, the address of a place actually consists of a description of how to get there using landmarks instead.


  8. With over two decades of experience, how do you approach content management within Design Systems? Do you involve content teams in parallel crafting UX writing strings, e.g., CTAs, tooltips, blurbs, and page content architecture, or does the design team handle it with placeholder text (Lorem ipsum)?

    In my experience, it’s best if content design is part of design overall, so that when design works together with product, engineering, sales and marketing, all are able to understand the plan, the budget, the overall concept and being able to see things holistically.

    I’m a big fan of having the designers use real or close to real content while designing much rather than using Lorem Ipsum. Simply because it keeps it much closer to reality right from the get-go and avoids situations where dimensions, sizes, distances, what have you are being planned or designed in a suboptimal way and would require further rework later on.

    I must admit though that my focus for a long time now has been design for products and apps rather than design for marketing websites. I could see it working differently there, to a degree at least.


  9. UX teams often skip the research phase to save time waiting for UX researchers to prepare and deliver their results in a presentable format they can reuse. What's your take on this?

    In my 20+ years I’m being confronted with this over and over and over again and to this day it’s ridiculous to me. It's like saying we had to delay our vacation because we didn’t plan for packing the bags. While it pains me that other stakeholders still way too often feel this way, it reminds me of how important it is to evangelize for what design really is all about, how we work, what we all tackle and why.

    As designer I feel we shouldn’t seek fault in others for this but should first look at ourselves. What have we done to pick up the other stakeholders, to give them an idea about our work, motivation and goals? While it’s easy to say well, they didn’t invite us to the table, I would much rather say that it looks like we didn’t fight hard enough to be included in all parts of the journey yet. To me, it often is because we have not yet clearly articulated what design can actually bring to the table and what the ROI of good design really is.

    When I put on my designer hat, then I of course would advocate for doing research for everything we're working on. However, in many circumstances that is unfortunately not possible - sometimes timelines, budgets, workforce or other factors simply don’t allow us to go all the way. Thinking realistically, we have to find creative ways of dealing with it. Yes, this can be a problem but it shouldn't be an unsolvable one.



  10. You have designed many products (Websites, Mobile apps, Software) for different devices (mobile, desktop, In-Car-Entertainment Systems). Did you have to start from scratch for each platform design, or was there a tool or way to repurpose the same content and UX you had already prepared?

    While certain products may share certain similarities - like glanceable interfaces on smartphones and in-car entertainment systems - they can still be very different: while on smartphones, we try to cramp a lot of information into a relatively small screen real estate, I would argue we are aiming to do the exact opposite for in-car entertainment systems to not distract the driver. In these situations, and when it’s about a companion app for the car, we might want to ensure that it’s somewhat similar to the in-car entertainment system experience, so that the user already has a common ground that feels familiar. In these situations you probably don’t have to start from scratch.

    That being said, there are a lot of situations where starting from scratch can do you a lot of favors because it makes you reconsider every single choice you make instead of sticking to your decisions from the past. Reevaluating what is really important for the user can be a very powerful tool to help you focus.

    Tool-wise I would say that the usual suspects are making it quite easy these days to design for different screen sizes pretty much in one go and requiring only a few adjustments. That's very different to how it was 20 years ago when we were all still designing in Photoshop - that was definitely more work.


  11. Do you believe in bypassing wireframes? Do they remain pertinent, especially when grounded in thorough UX research and well-defined personas, not merely attractive shapes in Figma filled with placeholder copy? I'm eager to hear your perspective.

    While rumor has it that when designing something at Apple, everything from the beginning is done in a pixel perfect way, so that at any point in time, it is clear to every involved stakeholder how something will look and work, I would still argue that it depends on the product, the timeline, the budget and other factors, if wireframes should be done or not.

    I remember many years ago I was working on a project where I was translating a complex social media like desktop application into a mobile website/app. My first step was to create a document consisting of ~100 pages of wireframes, showing every single page using a mobile form factor. This helped me enormously to decide on what from my point of view should be available on mobile and because it was created as wireframes the overall process only took a couple of days. I would then use this document to run stakeholders through my proposal, gather feedback and iterate. If I would have done the same doing pixel perfect work, I would have wasted a lot of valuable time.

    That is not to say that I do not see the value and doing things pixel perfect from the get-go in certain situations, it just really depends on the project. Definitely not to be overlooked is one of the core advantages of pixel perfect design: ensuring that every stakeholder understands right away how something is going to look like. There’s no wiggle-room for misunderstandings or room for (mis-)interpretations.


  12. You had a distinguished career in UX Design focusing on SaaS Products before becoming Vice President of Design for Volkswagen Group Charging's experience design organization, including research, product design (UX and UI), hardware design, brand design, graphic design, and writing. How does designing digital products differ from designing physical products?

    What Steve Jobs famously said during the introduction of the original iPhone, you can’t simply add a button after you shipped it, sums it up quite nicely actually.

    But joking aside, hardware is complex. It often takes years to bring something to market and then you still have to ensure that once it gets to market, it’s actually still a viable product. It’s like you have to be able to predict the future to a certain degree. Then of course you rarely have hardware just by itself, there’s usually software involved as well and software together with hardware tends to have some kind of interface your users will be interacting with. So also here you have to ensure that what you’re going to ship in a few years, will still be up to par or better.

    In most situations, you will be working with multiple suppliers, and you need to be very specific about what you want, in what quality and for what price. And yes, even seemingly small things like LEDs do come with a price tag, which in return might influence your decision making.

    That being said, my advice would be to always do a good amount of research and testing before finalizing your product. Shipping hardware that fails in the market usually is very expensive.

    Now, if you compare that to pure product design for software applications, you of course also better get it right the first time around, but in most cases, even if you don't, you can still make amendments or fix certain things via an update.


  13. On the same note, how do you test accessibility for people with disabilities? Do you design a unique user experience for them, or have it baked in and enabled in the settings? Is that enough, and does it not require any physical changes to hardware projects?

    Many years ago, I used to work at a mid-sized agency and we were contracted to create all the local government websites. One of the key requirements was to ensure that they were all accessible. During that time I learned a lot about accessibility, what it actually means and what it all entails. Also, during my time at SAP we had a strong focus on accessibility, which again helped me a lot to grow in this area. This knowledge helps me to make sure to always keep an eye on accessibility, no matter what I work on. The basics - things like contrast and support of screen readers for design in software - is hopefully common knowledge among designers these days but it goes beyond that. Also and especially for hardware we have to keep accessibility in mind and it does play a role for instance when it's about the advised mounting heights or cable lengths/weights, etc. Luckily also for these kinds of things research and testing can be done.


  14. Electric vehicles are still an emerging industry, and authorities are still adapting and figuring out laws and regulations for a rising environmental solution. From your side at Volkswagen Group, do you involve legal teams in design decisions? How often do you collaborate with legal teams? What process do you follow to collaborate with them? Do you have an internal legal team or consult an external law firm?

    Honestly, I would be surprised if any company of the size of the Volkswagen Group would not be working with lawyers a lot of the time. But joking aside, it always depends on the situation. If you operate in a global market, you probably want to ensure that what you are designing and building actually complies with local laws and regulations. It’s doubtful that designers are knowledgeable enough for all these markets to know all the details about these things, so working closely with legal departments is very important. Similar to involving other departments like e.g. sales, marketing and customer support, it’s important to involve legal, too. And just like with the other departments there will be conversations, negotiations and decision-making.


  15. We're shifting gears to collaborate with hardware teams now. Are you involved with the hardware engineering team when designing? How hard is that for your UX/UI team since everything is proprietary and custom-made and not regular, familiar web patterns that we all know? How do you manage prototyping? What tools do you guys use, and how collaborative is it between digital and hardware teams? Any past mistakes learned from the past will be extremely helpful for our readers outside the car UX industry.

    Design is working very closely with the hardware and the software teams. In my humble opinion, there is no other way of creating a great product, if not working together as one team, especially at the intersection of hard- and software.

    Luckily we are in a position to have experts for pretty much any area, that includes hardware and industrial design, so we don’t need to have our UX/UI designers do the actual hardware design. That being said, I started my career as a hands-on designer for UX and UI, doing research, also writing and many other things in-between, so I enjoy being challenged diving into new areas solving problems there. I therefore encourage and sometimes challenge others to do the same, to go beyond their comfort zone. In the end work should be a good mix of challenge and stability.

    Prototyping - similar to research - is very important to me and I can’t recommend doing it enough, as it simply will help you avoid making mistakes before shipping anything. This also counts for hardware design of course. As part of the Volkswagen Group - and before during my time at SAP and Nokia - we have access to testing labs where we can try out real hardware products and prototypes and it’s always fascinating to see how people use these products. It leads to real insights, which lead to change for the better by avoiding making mistakes.



  16. Finally— at Punkt, we are revolutionizing the UX industry by building the Content-First UX Platform where Content Designers and UX Writers co-lead the product UX/Design decisions. We believe a holistic context, Content-First UX approach will fix too many daily issues most product teams deal with. What’s your take on this?

    I'm intrigued by this. As I said earlier, I think it’s very important to keep challenging ourselves in our ways of working, the tools we're using, our approaches or what have you. We should be open to trying new things more often with the goal of constant improvement.



👋 Don't forget to follow Wolfgang

Website https://bremer.co
LinkedIn https://linkedin.com/in/wolfgangbremer
Threads https://threads.net/wolfgangbremer
Twitter https://twitter.com/wolfgangbremer


Intro

Welcome to Spotlight, your gateway to the UX/ Content Design world, through a distinctive series of interviews that spotlight the industry's leading voices. Our succinct, direct-to-the-point approach poses ±10 sharp questions to veterans and rising stars, gathering insights and perspectives shaping the UX scene.


Meet our guest ⸻ Wolfgang Bremer, VP of Design at Elli (Volkswagen Group), Speaker, Educator, and Host of the Pixelish Podcast

There are many design leaders, but only a few that actually understand the power of design. With a down to earth, humorous personality, Wolfgang Bremer is one of those leaders who are fluff-free, business-oriented and users-focused. He is an unusual character with a nice German accent :) Alles gut.

Wolfgang Bremen - Content Design Manager at McAfee


Wolfgang
is a 🇩🇪 🇨🇦 German-Canadian award-winning design veteran with 20+ years of experience and a rare combination of design & product knowledge.

Currently, Wolfgang is the Vice President of Design at Elli - A Brand of the Volkswagen Group. He also advises companies in all things design and speaks about design, leadership, team development and more. You can hire Wolfgang to work with you and you can invite him to speak.

As a design leader in multiple Fortune 500 companies, like Nokia and SAP, as well as several highly funded startups, Wolfgang has managed global design orgs & teams and worked on products used by companies like Google, Coca-Cola, Porsche, Red Bull, Sony, Unilever, and more, as well as by tens of millions of users in 190+ countries. He has been involved in countless B2C & B2B projects for mobile & desktop, including mapping services, music apps, social networks, marketing & enterprise software and more on client & agency side.

Equipped with an entrepreneurial mindset, creative problem solving skills, and an excellent eye for detail, Wolfgang drives product design & development and creates outstanding consumer & business products. He feels comfortable working in both international corporate and startup environments.

Today, we have the opportunity to learn directly from Wolfgang. We asked 16 questions to gain his insights from a top-level position. He shared a wide-ranging, strategic view on the necessary functions of companies through the lens of design leadership, ensuring alignment with core business targets and distinguishing from fleeting trends and imitations. Today is going to be a treat!



Without further ado, let's get to the Q&A:

16 Questions with Wolfgang Bremer


  1. What does your day-to-day look like as Vice President of Design at Volkswagen Group Charging (aka Elli)?

    I would say that not one day is similar to the next. I guess I could group my work into three different areas, vision work, planning, and execution.

    In my position and for the vision part of things, I very often work with fellow executives on what’s the idea, what’s the plan and how do we make it happen. Given that there’s always a lot of things going on at any given moment, it very often comes down to prioritization, return of investment, etc.

    For the planning part, I’m often involved with different kinds of stakeholders from all sorts of areas - like hardware, software, and so forth - to better understand the current situation, the possibilities, the struggles and ways of finding solutions.

    For the execution part, I’m leading the cross functional design org, which is responsible for basically everything which has to do with design, no matter if software or hardware, or anything in between really.

    A very important part of my responsibilities are of course the members of the design org themselves. For me it’s very important to be close to the people I work with and the people I'm responsible for. I always try to keep in mind the people behind the work, not just the work itself. It's crucial for me to know the people, their backgrounds, their motivation, etc. to be able to be a good leader for them, the org and the company as a whole. Only if I’m a good leader for my team, I can be a good leader for the overall organization.

    Given that the company is spread across three offices and quite some people - including myself - are working remotely, I do spend a lot of time in phone calls or online meetings while using online tools, which enable us to work together efficiently synchronously and asynchronously.

    In addition, I do spend a lot of time using software like email, Excel and last but not least Figma. I do enjoy the hands-on time I get, still doing actual design work, even if it might be only high-level vision work. I do see myself as a high-level problem solver, who's main goal is to bring people together, to overcome obstacles and to move things forward.



  2. What profiles do you oversee and interact closely with (UX Designers, Developers, Content Designers, PMs, Legal) and why?

    I’ve unfortunately seen often enough the struggle of design organizations - and therefore the struggle of the respective companies overall - which were limited too much by only being responsible for, let’s call it the UX/UI design side of things. You see, design should be much more than lipstick service. Design shouldn’t be an afterthought with the aim of just making things pretty.

    At Volkswagen Group Charging I therefore set up the design organization in a way to be able to oversee the holistic customer journey end-to-end, including research, UX/UI design, hardware design, graphic design, brand design, design systems design, and content design, so that we, as a wonderful and diverse org, can tackle any problem and create a meaningful solution at any point in time.

    However, it’s not only about the people and functions I oversee, it’s also very important who we are interacting with outside of our immediate org, like product, engineering and customer support, etc. This is very important because we as an overall team are the players on the field, hopefully winning this game together for the users. The same way we designers always say we would like to be involved, we are proactively involving the others, too.


  3. What are your best practices for bringing PMs, developers, and content writers into your design team process?

    Well, for content writers or content designers, it’s the easiest to simply make them part of the design organization because that’s where they belong.

    For the rest, I think we as designers should take a step back and think about what we ourselves still to this day want in most cases. We would like to be involved, we would like to have the oh so famous seat at the table. So, we should use our empathy to understand the other stakeholders, their positions and their points of view and we should make an effort to proactively work together with them. We should not only explain to them our background, our mission, our motivation, our goals, etc., but also always be working on informing or educating them on our point of view based on our experience, how we think we can work together best, to achieve the best results for all sides.

    I think this is especially true for integrating research into the product development process. Too often I hear the complaint that, oh we can’t do research because it’s taking too long, but that's only true if we didn’t plan for it in the first place. But how can we plan for it, if we designers might know a lot about research but the other areas of the company don’t? Hence we need to explain and educate and showcase what the benefits of research actually are. You probably also have to clear up some of the myths, which might be flying around, e.g. about different types of research, based on the product, situation and budget, and what that means for timelines. Only if we have the same understanding, we can make sure to properly plan together and to properly set expectations.

    In the end, it’s about acting as one team. It’s not them versus us or their processes versus our process. We need to find a way to work together and jointly shape a process that works for all of us. And yes, that will require planning, communicating and negotiating.


  4. What tools do you use at work? Are you more synchronous or asynchronous? And what do you prefer more?

    As designers so famously keep saying, it depends. Although I'm working remotely for years now, I’m still learning new ways of working together, about new tools, solutions, best practices, etc. almost every single day.

    I think it’s good to be aligned to a certain degree, tool, work and habit-wise, yet at the same time, I believe it’s good to keep a certain amount of flexibility in place as this should also help to improve processes and ways of working, rather than being stuck with something.

    I believe in a good mix out of synchronous and asynchronous ways of working, simply because luckily we are all different and we all have different ways of absorbing information, making sense of things, coming up with solutions, etc. - kind of similar I would almost say to the difference between introverts and extroverts. So why not cater to all of us at the same time by enabling all of us? Not everybody feels comfortable in group settings or being put on the spot to come up with an answer or even potential solution, so why force it? Why not rather give people the flexibility to properly think through things and then contribute asynchronously?

    I for example at times prefer to jot down some quick notes and make some rough sketches in the moment but then take the time to sit down and create something more comprehensive out of it when I have some more breathing room later.


  5. Based on your experience advising and leading product teams, what are the common mistakes and challenges product teams face?

    The answer to this could probably fill books and it probably does. One of the big things in my experience is communication, or rather the lack thereof. I think we humans are actually terrible at communicating. Not only do we literally speak different languages to begin with but we also keep using terms which might mean different things to each one of us. Just think about something like an MVP. How can we have the creation of an MVP as a joint goal when we understand different things under this term?

    Then it’s about lines of communication. When two people communicate, you can draw a single line in between them - that’s super easy. Now, when three people communicate, you have to draw three lines already. When four people communicate, you have to draw six lines and it keeps getting more and more complex, the larger the team gets. In my experience, smaller teams are way better at collaborating and getting things done than larger teams, therefore, throwing ‘another few bodies’ at a problem doesn’t usually make it better, rather the opposite.

    So we should on an ongoing basis evaluate if the people who are involved in a project are really the people who should be involved in that project. And this is actually a tough one because most of us humans usually try to be nice and want to include others. But in this situation this just isn't always helpful. So we should reevaluate how we work together again and again over time. Just because something worked well a while ago doesn't mean that it works well now or will in the future.

    Communication and team setup however are only parts of the foundation of being able to do great work. It’s of course also crucial that people are aligned on what they actually want to achieve, they need to ensure to have a vision, they need to ensure to be all aligned on it and they need to ensure to be capable of jointly working towards that vision.

    While working in small teams, people might be wearing different hats at different times, which is fine. It’s still very important though to know who is ultimately responsible for what. Otherwise it will lead to problems with timely and sometimes difficult decision-making.


  6. Can you recall a time when a C-suite member underestimated or challenged the value of design? If so, how did you successfully convey the value of design while maintaining inspiration and motivation within your team?

    I believe there’s always somebody challenging what you’re doing and questioning if what you’re doing is the right thing to do at this point in time and what the ROI of it is and so forth. And that no matter if it’s about design or product related things or engineering or marketing or sales or anything else really. The difference is that in my experience the field of design to executives often feels like a black box, simply because they do not exactly know what design all encapsulates and how design can actually help with making better decisions while saving the company a lot of money along the way.

    To me, the solution is a mix of experience, storytelling, convincing, negotiating and even self-marketing, among other things. You have to be able to adequately sell what you're offering. As a design leader you're ideally offering to better understand the customers and their needs for enabling the creation of a more spot-on solution, costing less money and requiring less re-work in a way that more people will actually want to use it. If that sounds hard, then that's exactly right. It is challenging for us designers to deliver great end-to-end solutions because we also have to be end-to-end experts in whatever we're working on. It’s also always a good idea having a peer from a different department - or even better, one of the C-suite leaders themselves - in your corner, somebody who has your back and is advocating for design and yourself, no matter if you're there at that moment or not.

    While being challenged constantly can feel demotivating at times, it is important to keep in mind why designers are designers: designers are problem solvers and what better problem to solve than ensuring that design is being part of the team-sport we're playing. Despite all possible frustration, we need to keep our eyes on the goal to keep the motivation up and to keep going.


  7. Your work has impacted users in over 190 countries. How did you participate in the localization process? And do you start with German first or English?

    Localization can be the make or break part of your product, always depending on your target market and/or target audience.

    At SAP for example, which is an enterprise-level organization, we were fortunate to have a quite large in-house localization team with proper processes, guidelines, trainings, best practices and so forth in place. There was always somebody available in case of questions and they were always happy to help.

    In other situations it has been a mix of in-house people and/or external suppliers, where we were working hand-in-hand to tackle whatever project we were working on, depending on timelines, budgets, workforce, etc.

    At Volkswagen Group Charging I was very happy to support one of our engineers actually, who first identified the need to change this for the better, pushing for improved localization and having a dedicated localization manager in-house. As from experience I knew how much of an advantage this would be, I gladly supported the effort of tackling the hiring and budget situation.

    In my experience and although I'm German-Canadian, we always start with English but designers also always keep best practices in mind directly while designing, like ensuring to always have extra space of ~40% to accommodate for other languages, e.g. German or Finnish, or avoiding awkward line-breaks within call-to-actions. It becomes more and more complex, the more regions we tackle, when it’s for example about right to left reading/writing or certain other location based differences. Working on Nokia Maps for example, depending on the location, address fields had to be handled differently, to a degree that in certain places in India, the address of a place actually consists of a description of how to get there using landmarks instead.


  8. With over two decades of experience, how do you approach content management within Design Systems? Do you involve content teams in parallel crafting UX writing strings, e.g., CTAs, tooltips, blurbs, and page content architecture, or does the design team handle it with placeholder text (Lorem ipsum)?

    In my experience, it’s best if content design is part of design overall, so that when design works together with product, engineering, sales and marketing, all are able to understand the plan, the budget, the overall concept and being able to see things holistically.

    I’m a big fan of having the designers use real or close to real content while designing much rather than using Lorem Ipsum. Simply because it keeps it much closer to reality right from the get-go and avoids situations where dimensions, sizes, distances, what have you are being planned or designed in a suboptimal way and would require further rework later on.

    I must admit though that my focus for a long time now has been design for products and apps rather than design for marketing websites. I could see it working differently there, to a degree at least.


  9. UX teams often skip the research phase to save time waiting for UX researchers to prepare and deliver their results in a presentable format they can reuse. What's your take on this?

    In my 20+ years I’m being confronted with this over and over and over again and to this day it’s ridiculous to me. It's like saying we had to delay our vacation because we didn’t plan for packing the bags. While it pains me that other stakeholders still way too often feel this way, it reminds me of how important it is to evangelize for what design really is all about, how we work, what we all tackle and why.

    As designer I feel we shouldn’t seek fault in others for this but should first look at ourselves. What have we done to pick up the other stakeholders, to give them an idea about our work, motivation and goals? While it’s easy to say well, they didn’t invite us to the table, I would much rather say that it looks like we didn’t fight hard enough to be included in all parts of the journey yet. To me, it often is because we have not yet clearly articulated what design can actually bring to the table and what the ROI of good design really is.

    When I put on my designer hat, then I of course would advocate for doing research for everything we're working on. However, in many circumstances that is unfortunately not possible - sometimes timelines, budgets, workforce or other factors simply don’t allow us to go all the way. Thinking realistically, we have to find creative ways of dealing with it. Yes, this can be a problem but it shouldn't be an unsolvable one.



  10. You have designed many products (Websites, Mobile apps, Software) for different devices (mobile, desktop, In-Car-Entertainment Systems). Did you have to start from scratch for each platform design, or was there a tool or way to repurpose the same content and UX you had already prepared?

    While certain products may share certain similarities - like glanceable interfaces on smartphones and in-car entertainment systems - they can still be very different: while on smartphones, we try to cramp a lot of information into a relatively small screen real estate, I would argue we are aiming to do the exact opposite for in-car entertainment systems to not distract the driver. In these situations, and when it’s about a companion app for the car, we might want to ensure that it’s somewhat similar to the in-car entertainment system experience, so that the user already has a common ground that feels familiar. In these situations you probably don’t have to start from scratch.

    That being said, there are a lot of situations where starting from scratch can do you a lot of favors because it makes you reconsider every single choice you make instead of sticking to your decisions from the past. Reevaluating what is really important for the user can be a very powerful tool to help you focus.

    Tool-wise I would say that the usual suspects are making it quite easy these days to design for different screen sizes pretty much in one go and requiring only a few adjustments. That's very different to how it was 20 years ago when we were all still designing in Photoshop - that was definitely more work.


  11. Do you believe in bypassing wireframes? Do they remain pertinent, especially when grounded in thorough UX research and well-defined personas, not merely attractive shapes in Figma filled with placeholder copy? I'm eager to hear your perspective.

    While rumor has it that when designing something at Apple, everything from the beginning is done in a pixel perfect way, so that at any point in time, it is clear to every involved stakeholder how something will look and work, I would still argue that it depends on the product, the timeline, the budget and other factors, if wireframes should be done or not.

    I remember many years ago I was working on a project where I was translating a complex social media like desktop application into a mobile website/app. My first step was to create a document consisting of ~100 pages of wireframes, showing every single page using a mobile form factor. This helped me enormously to decide on what from my point of view should be available on mobile and because it was created as wireframes the overall process only took a couple of days. I would then use this document to run stakeholders through my proposal, gather feedback and iterate. If I would have done the same doing pixel perfect work, I would have wasted a lot of valuable time.

    That is not to say that I do not see the value and doing things pixel perfect from the get-go in certain situations, it just really depends on the project. Definitely not to be overlooked is one of the core advantages of pixel perfect design: ensuring that every stakeholder understands right away how something is going to look like. There’s no wiggle-room for misunderstandings or room for (mis-)interpretations.


  12. You had a distinguished career in UX Design focusing on SaaS Products before becoming Vice President of Design for Volkswagen Group Charging's experience design organization, including research, product design (UX and UI), hardware design, brand design, graphic design, and writing. How does designing digital products differ from designing physical products?

    What Steve Jobs famously said during the introduction of the original iPhone, you can’t simply add a button after you shipped it, sums it up quite nicely actually.

    But joking aside, hardware is complex. It often takes years to bring something to market and then you still have to ensure that once it gets to market, it’s actually still a viable product. It’s like you have to be able to predict the future to a certain degree. Then of course you rarely have hardware just by itself, there’s usually software involved as well and software together with hardware tends to have some kind of interface your users will be interacting with. So also here you have to ensure that what you’re going to ship in a few years, will still be up to par or better.

    In most situations, you will be working with multiple suppliers, and you need to be very specific about what you want, in what quality and for what price. And yes, even seemingly small things like LEDs do come with a price tag, which in return might influence your decision making.

    That being said, my advice would be to always do a good amount of research and testing before finalizing your product. Shipping hardware that fails in the market usually is very expensive.

    Now, if you compare that to pure product design for software applications, you of course also better get it right the first time around, but in most cases, even if you don't, you can still make amendments or fix certain things via an update.


  13. On the same note, how do you test accessibility for people with disabilities? Do you design a unique user experience for them, or have it baked in and enabled in the settings? Is that enough, and does it not require any physical changes to hardware projects?

    Many years ago, I used to work at a mid-sized agency and we were contracted to create all the local government websites. One of the key requirements was to ensure that they were all accessible. During that time I learned a lot about accessibility, what it actually means and what it all entails. Also, during my time at SAP we had a strong focus on accessibility, which again helped me a lot to grow in this area. This knowledge helps me to make sure to always keep an eye on accessibility, no matter what I work on. The basics - things like contrast and support of screen readers for design in software - is hopefully common knowledge among designers these days but it goes beyond that. Also and especially for hardware we have to keep accessibility in mind and it does play a role for instance when it's about the advised mounting heights or cable lengths/weights, etc. Luckily also for these kinds of things research and testing can be done.


  14. Electric vehicles are still an emerging industry, and authorities are still adapting and figuring out laws and regulations for a rising environmental solution. From your side at Volkswagen Group, do you involve legal teams in design decisions? How often do you collaborate with legal teams? What process do you follow to collaborate with them? Do you have an internal legal team or consult an external law firm?

    Honestly, I would be surprised if any company of the size of the Volkswagen Group would not be working with lawyers a lot of the time. But joking aside, it always depends on the situation. If you operate in a global market, you probably want to ensure that what you are designing and building actually complies with local laws and regulations. It’s doubtful that designers are knowledgeable enough for all these markets to know all the details about these things, so working closely with legal departments is very important. Similar to involving other departments like e.g. sales, marketing and customer support, it’s important to involve legal, too. And just like with the other departments there will be conversations, negotiations and decision-making.


  15. We're shifting gears to collaborate with hardware teams now. Are you involved with the hardware engineering team when designing? How hard is that for your UX/UI team since everything is proprietary and custom-made and not regular, familiar web patterns that we all know? How do you manage prototyping? What tools do you guys use, and how collaborative is it between digital and hardware teams? Any past mistakes learned from the past will be extremely helpful for our readers outside the car UX industry.

    Design is working very closely with the hardware and the software teams. In my humble opinion, there is no other way of creating a great product, if not working together as one team, especially at the intersection of hard- and software.

    Luckily we are in a position to have experts for pretty much any area, that includes hardware and industrial design, so we don’t need to have our UX/UI designers do the actual hardware design. That being said, I started my career as a hands-on designer for UX and UI, doing research, also writing and many other things in-between, so I enjoy being challenged diving into new areas solving problems there. I therefore encourage and sometimes challenge others to do the same, to go beyond their comfort zone. In the end work should be a good mix of challenge and stability.

    Prototyping - similar to research - is very important to me and I can’t recommend doing it enough, as it simply will help you avoid making mistakes before shipping anything. This also counts for hardware design of course. As part of the Volkswagen Group - and before during my time at SAP and Nokia - we have access to testing labs where we can try out real hardware products and prototypes and it’s always fascinating to see how people use these products. It leads to real insights, which lead to change for the better by avoiding making mistakes.



  16. Finally— at Punkt, we are revolutionizing the UX industry by building the Content-First UX Platform where Content Designers and UX Writers co-lead the product UX/Design decisions. We believe a holistic context, Content-First UX approach will fix too many daily issues most product teams deal with. What’s your take on this?

    I'm intrigued by this. As I said earlier, I think it’s very important to keep challenging ourselves in our ways of working, the tools we're using, our approaches or what have you. We should be open to trying new things more often with the goal of constant improvement.



👋 Don't forget to follow Wolfgang

Website https://bremer.co
LinkedIn https://linkedin.com/in/wolfgangbremer
Threads https://threads.net/wolfgangbremer
Twitter https://twitter.com/wolfgangbremer


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A few of our
early adopters

Leading international companies have joined our early access program.

A few of our early adopters

Leading international companies have joined our early access program.

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