Why my next UX hire will be Don Draper

Session Title

Why my next UX hire will be Don Draper: What the TV show Mad Men can teach us about interacting with our clients.


Dwayne King, Pinpoint Logic

Session Type: Presentation

Mad Men, a series on AMC about a mid-century ad agency provides lessons on soft skills for the user experience practitioner, including usability folks. The lead character, Don Draper, is skilled at leading, understanding and selling. This talk is a light case study surrounding the non-tactical skills needed to succeed in our field.


Dwayne is a leader in design of information solutions and products. Since 1995, he has led teams and designed elegant interfaces to complex systems for world-class clients including Stanford University, Cisco Systems, The Army and Boeing. Dwayne is a skilled architect, team leader, and innovator.

He has managed a team of user experience designers and strategists (agency side), for the last 8 years. He found that the growth limiter for career advancement isn’t as often the hard skills advancement, but the soft skills. Watching Mad Men and the interactions he noticed that much of what the main character addresses in the ad world translates directly to the UX world in selling our solutions.


  1. Susan
    Posted September 8, 2009 at 12:32 pm

    This is an interesting idea. The title immediately caught my eye. However, the description is disappointing and does not live up to the promise in the title. Simply put, I want to know more. What are “soft skills?” How do we know UX hires don’t already have them? What is a “light case study?” And what is this case study based on?

    Finally, if the author is going to discuss a show that has been critically acclaimed for presenting darker aspects of business (e.g., antisemitism, misogyny, and racism) I would encourage him to describe the drawbacks of suggesting this character epitomizes charactersitics desirable for a UX professional.

    In its current format I would not recommend this session for acceptance.

  2. Posted September 8, 2009 at 4:19 pm

    Hi Susan,

    All good questions and points. There was limited space in pitching the idea, so not much detail. I’ll elaborate a bit here and fee free to write directly if you want more detail.

    Soft skills to cover:

    Understand the customer & Problem
    See past the obvious solutions
    When to give the hard sell on an idea and when to back off
    Selling an idea

    The idea for the pitch came from my history of hiring and managing UX folks and finding the above issues being the more difficult to find and foster.

    The format of the talk is to introduce the concepts above, followed by a clip from the show illustration how Draper dealt with it, then pulling in a real world example form our shop. I used the word “light” as it’s not a deep dive into a particular issue and is mean to be entertaining both as the show as entertaining and people being able to relate to situation. I expect that this talk with be less likely to introduce entirely new concepts to the attendees, rather it would serve to reenforce elements they’ve already been told while providing context around what it looks like and mens to utilize that skill.

    Regarding the drawbacks, I do intend to point out that Draper is a flawed person and that there are obvious issues in his approach, but to leave it pretty much at that.

    I hope this helps define some of my thoughts and is more interesting to you as a result.


  3. Kathryn
    Posted September 10, 2009 at 4:31 pm

    I think Don Draper is a perfect case study for an interaction discussion. I think his quote sums it up, “You’re not an artist. You solve problems.”

  4. Posted September 10, 2009 at 4:33 pm

    This sounds so exciting! Definitely different than the normal hum drum in conferences these days. I’m looking forward to it.

  5. Posted September 21, 2009 at 5:23 pm

    Too general–UX vs. IxD. Not IxD enough. Sounds like a better fit for SxSW.

  6. Posted September 22, 2009 at 6:17 pm

    I’m not only fan of the TV series, but also inspired by how Don Draper handles the dynamics of the advertising agency. I’m curious to see the parallels you got in mind.

  7. Posted September 25, 2009 at 3:01 pm

    I think this will be a great talk. I love how it will focus on solutioneering as that is often a challenge for IxDs to overcome. I also like how you didn’t just stop with problem before solution and pulled it all the way through pitching. I can’t wait to see this talk.