Dynamic Duos: Flipboard’s Mike McCue and Marcos Weskamp On Spiraling Toward Solutions

Since 2010, Flipboard has been transforming messy shared content into beautiful tablet magazines.


Mike McCue, CEO
Marcos Weskamp, Head of Design


WESKAMP: I was scared. I remember coming into the office that first week and realizing that I had no idea what I was doing. What is this? What are we designing for? But I have always understood that that is actually part of design. Design is really clearing a path on the things that you don’t know about.

Most of I’d say 90% of everything that we do never ships. We always joke in the design team that our job is to be wrong 99% of the time.

MCCUE: Do you have your spiral thing? [Laughs]

WESKAMP: I have it somewhere, but you can start.

MCCUE: When you’re designing a product, it’s [a spiral]. It would be awesome if you just could say, “Okay, designer, give me an awesome product now!” But you have to go on a journey. There is no way you can just go from an idea to the ideal product. What happens, and Marcos drew this, is you start from point A and go “Wheeew!” in smaller and smaller circles. Eventually we land close to point B.


WESKAMP: But even then, you’ve learned so much that you will amplify that point-B dot and there’s another spiral. You are still far from your actual target.

MCCUE: Yeah, you keep dividing. Like if you keep dividing by two, you never quite get there.

WESKAMP: Needs change. I have never seen a product that has been finished, especially in software. As we better understand users, we need to adapt–actually it’s not just adapting, it’s visualizing what users don’t know they need yet, where they will be in a few years.

MCCUE: And you have to have a team that knows it’s okay to sit there in this tiny little spiral. The clock is ticking and we’re sitting here like [makes a drilling sound]. But there is this magic moment when we finally get close enough to that dot where we’re like, “Got it!” It doesn’t have to be perfect. We don’t have to be right on the dot. We just need to be close enough where we say, “Okay, we’re there.”

WESKAMP: I don’t know, Mike has that magic thing, he comes over to our desks, to the design corner and he waves his hand and we suddenly believe in the idea. It’s pretty crazy. [laughter] The few times that he’s been out of the office while we’re doing design reviews, you definitely feel that. It’s like things move slower; everyone is not as excited. Just having him around is actually crucial to the design process because he keeps us all moving, trying new things, pushing forward and not giving up at the first doubt, when you find that first bump of difficulty. He’s the guy who will push us way beyond that.


MCCUE: Well, and one thing that I think makes the collaboration work so well is that they don’t just say, “It can’t be done.”

WESKAMP: There’s none of that.

MCCUE: What they say is, “Well look, here are the trade offs, then. If we did it this way then you’re gonna have this issue and that issue,” and then I listen heavily to that feedback. And so then more often than not what happens is I come in with sort of a crazy idea that ends up just being the irritant that ultimately creates a much more interesting pearl of design where ultimately through the conversation together we circle into something that’s way more interesting and far more doable. And so that’s usually what ends up happening.

WESKAMP: And this is something not only between us but again with the rest of the company. You never hear anyone say that’s impossible or that’s a bad idea. It’s always, “Well okay, that’s interesting, but here’s how I can top that!”

Read more pairings from Fast Company‘s 10th Annual Innovation By Design issue:


About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company who has written about design, technology, and culture for almost 15 years. His work has appeared at Gizmodo, Kotaku, PopMech, PopSci, Esquire, American Photo and Lucky Peach