Jesper Kouthoofd interview highlights on Figma Config 2024

Great thoughts by one of the coolest dudes I’ve ever seen.

Jesper Kouthoofd interview highlights on Figma Config 2024

Jesper Kouthoofd is the CEO and head of design at teenage engineering and he threw one of the most inspiring interviews last week on Figma's developer conference. Originally I just wanted to collect a few quotes from it but it's so good I almost practically transcribed the whole interview:

I left [the advertising industry] when I felt that was like "okay this is done" and then I had a break for a couple of years and then we met a couple of friends, shared some space. I started collecting cars because you make a lot of money when you make commercials, it was like good times back then so I started collecting Lamborghinis.

(A-ha! So that's the trick.)

I didn't want to start a business. Handling employees, having meetings, it's super-boring. I realised I had to create my own space or company together with like-minded people, because I couldn't be employed anywhere else (...)
(On hiring at TE) We started in a garage. So one guy knocked on the door and said "I love your products". Okay come down for a coffee. He's head of development now. He was like a nice guy and we had an empty spot in the marketing so he actually started in marketing and he was kind of useless in that, and we put him in the support department. We really liked to hang out (...) he's head of development, I'm not sure he's like super good at it.
I'm CEO but I'm also head of design. The CEO is a virtual thing. I'm basically still at the drawing board with the design team but we did it that way so we always have someone that is close to the product that make the final decisions but I don't put my fingers into the daily operations. (...) I'm like a moral compass, but they run the business.
(On mixing up the culture) I bypassed [the middle management] and just hired a sales guy without almost telling the head of sales because I felt we need this young person to do some other kind of sales. (...) I've done that a couple of times just to mix up the culture. Also, like really old people, one guy that was like super depressed, I hired him. I hired him like four years ago and he's been at work for like one week in total. We have also one guy that he's at work but he hasn't done any work for 8 years. But he's nice for the culture, he's like a mascot.
You will never have a problem-less company.
I don't know so much about IDEO. Honestly I'm not that into design. I don't follow, I don't know any names.
(On design culture at TE) Basically it's a single brain operation. I'm the only one that is allowed to do design. But I have a design team of 8 to 10 people. They ask "can I do some design", "no you're not ready yet". And the reason is, design is extremely hard. To me design is everything, it's politics, it's culture, it's the brand.
You need to know how to play the instrument before you design it. I've been working on an organ for five years now so I sit every night for at least one to two hours rehearsing the organ.
When you design something, you need to exactly know why you do what you do, otherwise it's called styling.
Red, white and black. It always works.
I think it's all about positive thinking. Having a positive attitude. Technology will always win, we know that. If you're resistant and scared then you will lose. So you have to see it from a positive side, so like, how can we use it in the best possible way and also for humanity. To me creativity is positive thinking.
Creativity is positive thinking

Dylan: When do you design for yourself and when do you design for others?

I always design for myself.
If I wouldn't buy it or use it, I would probably be super depressed. I was in the advertising business so I know how it goes. I was a prostitute for 20 years.
D: Do you believe in user testing?
J: Huh?
D: Do you believe in user testing? Or user research?
J: No.

[Dylan Field's face] ⬇️

Dylan Field's reaction to Jesper not believing in user testing

Everything from now on should be, you look at it in 20 years and you're still proud of it.
Good design doesn't have to be beautiful. It has to be personal.