Hear from Ethan Eismann, Slack VP of design

Slack is an online communication tool for teams and workplaces. As VP of Design at Slack, Ethan’s days are spent refining this enterprise tool, to encourage greater collaboration, participation and productivity for its users.

He aims to translate workplaces into work spaces.


Ethan joined us virtually to share his thoughts on the tools of industry, the exponential evolution of tools we use, and how to get more out of them.

Tools build tools

“Our first tools came from combining materials, and those fundamentals haven’t changed. New tools are variations and combinations of existing knowledge and science.

“What we’ve seen in tech is simply learnings and tools combined in different ways to create new things, and our growth and advancement comes from the trial of different configurations.”

He says it’s the learnings in this process that push us along in industry and business, and similarly this is how the team at Slack work – sometimes drawing on ideas dating back to the foundation of the company.

The exhausting rituals of communication

How can we integrate more human inputs into technology tools? Ethan suggests future tools could include recognition of microactions: from facial responses to blinking when tired.

“These nuanced experiences we have online are qualitatively different to sharing a real-world space. They exhaust us as we ‘perform’ the rituals that show we are being attentive, but also try to read those in others.”

Higher fidelity emotion

“What we need to strive for, is greater fidelity.” says Ethan. He believes future bandwiths will allow more human data to be registered by tools. This data can be converted to actions that help improve communication on digital channels.

Ethan is also an advocate for a healthy digital culture. He’s observed the anthropological change thats happened as our work places become online environments. He even describes the emoji as a digital heiroglyph, and finds it utterly fascinating.

“What we see are new symbols being minted within organisations, each with their own unique history that transcends, in some cases, changes in staff.”

Watch now

To hear more from Ethan, watch a ten minute video from Ethan's talk above.

You can also watch the full live stream on YouTube. Watch on YouTube