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Mason meets Margaret Gould Stewart
VP of Product Design at Facebook

Mason meets Margaret Gould Stewart | Kidspiration

Did you know that some 22 billion times a day, someone sees the Facebook Like button?!

That little button is just one small element of Facebook, but those elements really matter, says Margaret Gould Stewart. She’s Vice President of Product Design at Facebook, meaning she uses visual design to help people get the most out of the giant social networking site. Margaret has also worked at Google and You Tube, and at Facebook, her team is designing for a worldwide audience, a big and complicated job when you consider how many different people in the world with use Facebook. Through good visual design, she helps make Facebook accessible to absolutely everyone, including people who may have a hard time even connecting to the Internet. One fascinating part of coming up with new elements for this huge global audience, she says, is finding out that people use the designs in exciting ways that she, and other designers, never expected!

In this Episode, Mason interviews Margaret Gould Stewart at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, California.



Mason:
Hey, I’m Mason, and today I’m talking with Margaret Gould Stewart, the vice president of product design at Facebook. She decides how the user interacts with the web service. I’m at the Facebook headquarters in California and I’m hoping to see what it’s like to design something that is used by over a billion people each day. Now let’s go and meet Margaret and see what she has to say.

Hi, nice to meet you. I’m Mason.

Margaret:
Great to meet you.

Mason:
Could you tell me who you are and what you do?

Margaret:
So I’m Margaret Gould Stewart and I lead part of the design team here at Facebook. And the group helps design the interfaces that you interact with if you use the Facebook app on your phone or on your laptop and also a lot of tools for businesses to help them create a presence on the internet and to interact with people.

Mason:
I don’t have a Facebook, so –

Margaret:
I know, cause you’re only 12.

Mason:
Yes.

Margaret:
But you’ll be 13 soon. It’s cool.

Mason:
Yes, ma’am. Now what exactly is the whole entire aspect of user interface and the whole entire aspect of the user trying to use a specific website? What all goes into that and what exactly is it?

Margaret:
Yeah. So there’s a couple of different things that we do. We do what’s called user research where we kind of study people and what they want and need and we observe how they work and how they play and how they want to use technology. And then we work with engineers to create what’s called the front end of the product. So the back end is all of the code that engineers develop. But that code needs to be attached to an interface, the front end, which is the thing that you and I see when we load the app. And it’s the thing that you press on and when you press this button this thing happens. And then these words appear. All of that, which we call interaction design or user experience design, those are the things that my team helps do.

Mason:
Now, Margaret, where are we exactly?

Margaret:
This called the Facebook analog research laboratory. In the lab we do a lot of printing, physical printing on paper. And I think when teams come down and they see the difference between a print that’s okay versus a print that’s really, really beautiful, they start to appreciate the craft of digital design and why sometimes it’s really worth it to take a little bit of extra time to get it right.

Mason:
How did you exactly fall into the realm of design?

Margaret:
I didn’t really know design was a job until I was well into college. And so for me it was about really being interested in human behavior and why people do what they do. And then how can we connect people who are going through similar things but feel like they’re the only ones. That was my initial interest in design and technology.

Mason:
How was your childhood and how did that affect what you do now?

Margaret:
Mm. That’s a good question. I grew up in a really big family. Do you have brothers and sisters?

Mason:
Yes, ma’am.

Margaret:
How many do you have?

Mason:
I have two sisters and one brother. And they are way older than I am.

Margaret:
Are you the youngest?

Mason:
Yes, ma’am.

Margaret:
I am too. All right. I have eight older brothers and sisters. And some of them are a lot older than me.

Mason:
Wow.

Margaret:
And I think that that really influenced me and kind of what I liked to do and how I behave. That’s probably true for you too. I think that I get along with people well because when you have eight older brothers and sisters you have to. Am I right?

Mason:
Yes, ma’am.

Margaret:
Yeah. So it’s – I think that my family upbringing had a big part of it. I also always liked to perform and entertain people. And I really liked doing creative things and making things when I was younger. And so that inclination I think definitely mapped to me getting into design and technology.

Mason:
Now do you love colors?

Margaret:
Yes.

Mason:
You do?

Margaret:
Yeah.

Mason:
All right. Fun little thing. I’m gonna say a color and you’ll tell me just one word.

Margaret:
Okay.

Mason:
Just a feeling that you get when you hear that color.

Margaret:
Okay.

Mason:
It’ll be fun. It’ll be fun. I promise.

Margaret:
Okay. Okay.

Mason:
Pink.

Margaret:
Happy.

Mason:
Grey.

Margaret:
Sad.

Mason:
Green.

Margaret:
Fresh.

Mason:
Blue.

Margaret:
Facebook [laughs].

Mason:
Why did I see that coming? Now what is your favorite color?

Margaret:
I was just gonna say you left out orange. It’s my favorite color.

Mason:
Orange. Wow. Now you mentioned reaching to the people that are using your product. Now what are some efforts that you have made to really try to improve the person that is using your specific website or products life?

Margaret:
Yeah.

Mason:
Like how do you try to get in there and help them out?

Margaret:
One really good example of that is, you know you can, if you have a Facebook account, log on and just, you know post something that says, “hey, I’m at the coffee shop. This is a really good latte. Great day.” Right. It kinda feels like a maybe not so critical message but just kind of fun thing to put out there. But because so many people are on Facebook and so many of their friends and family, the people who they love the most are also on Facebook, we found that when really scary things happen, like major earthquakes or terrorist attacks, people naturally came to Facebook. And so now we have this product called Safety Check. And when there’s a major natural disaster or , you know recently with terrorist attacks, we’ve put safety check into effect so that if we know that you are from that area or that you are physically in that area, you’ll get a message that says, hey, let your friends and family know that you’re okay cause they’re worried about you.

Mason:
Wow. What advice could you give to other kids?

Margaret:
I think being proud of who you are and not trying to be somebody else is really important. That’s really easy to say and very hard to do. Because there’s a lot of things in this world that make you feel like you need to look a certain way, act a certain way, sound a certain way. Sometimes, and I can say this as a parent, like your parents make you feel like you need to be a certain way or your school or your friends. And it’s really important to be respectful of those opinions, but it’s also really important to know who you are and what’s important to you.

Mason:
Well, thank you. It was very nice talking to you.

Margaret:
It was a pleasure. Thank you.

Mason:
Thank you.

Margaret:
Yeah.

Mason:
It was great being able to get a glimpse into what it takes to create the biggest social network ever. Well, I hope you liked it and I’ll see you next time.