What led you into design?
Growing up, I spent most of my time snowboarding, drawing and as much time outdoors as possible. From a young age, I always made crafts out of junk I found around the house, which led to bigger projects like designing shirts for my friends or overlaying wacky illustrations on photos I shot of my friends snowboarding. I never really saw what I was doing as something that I could make a career out of. After highschool I decided to take a year off from school to work and save money when a Burton Snowboards catalog landed in my mailbox. I instantly knew I wanted to create items like that after seeing the high level of craft and intention that went into making the catalog.
From there, I found a technology and art school to attend. My goal for school was to work on my technical foundations and have a better understanding of how I could apply some of my artistic skills to the business side of things so I could build a career out of my passion.
What does a typical day look like?
It’s honestly shifted a lot over the last 6 months. For years I used to wake up very early and workout for a few hours before work. After a snowboarding injury this spring, I had to take a break from most exercise and have found a new love for starting my day by spending quality time with my family, Austin and June. This time is usually spent walking, doing stretching or mobility, or just enjoying my morning coffee(s). I’ve recently gotten back into a workout routine, but now I save that for the after work because I really enjoy our new routine.
I start my work day at Abstract at 8:30am MST. We are a US-based remote company and I tend to start the day answering questions from my more eastern co-workers, including my direct reports. I do my best to make sure I address their questions before diving into a few hours of meetings. My afternoons are usually slower as people sign off, which is when I get the design work I am responsible for done. Then there's a second wave of meetings at the end of my day with our executive team, as most of them are on west coast time.
Now that spring is almost here in Denver, I try and go for a walk after work before I head to the gym. Evenings are sometimes spent on side projects or spending time with my family, but I am looking forward to being able to spend more time outside of the house as the COVID cases go down in the area.
What's your workstation setup?
My office is actually a bit under construction at the moment, so here are a few before photos. I have an autonomous desk which has been a game changer, and am working on setting up a craft area on the opposite side of the room. It will have a tool chest that you would typically see in a garage, but I am using it as a flat file and an area to organize some of my supplies.
My space is filled with my work and the work of my friends and other makers that I admire. I’ve always enjoyed collecting art and supporting other creatives. I’m not precious about my office space and I like to change it up on the regular.
The printer you see is the HP OfficeJet Pro 7740. I love this printer. It prints up to 11x17 and has proven to do a great job with all different kinds of paper and types of work.
Where do you go to get inspired?
Honestly, I still get inspired in the same ways I did as a kid: snowboarding, spending time in nature, motorcycles, and by the design work that you see in those respective industries. Sometimes I go on strolls through antique malls as well. It’s always fun to look at the old packaging and think about how it was created before the luxuries of the software we have access to now.
I’m also guilty of scrolling through Pinterest, Dribbble, Behance like everyone else on the internet.
What product have you recently seen that made you think this is great design?
The first thing that comes to mind is actually a product I discovered by the brand Olive & June, a nail salon and product company. They make something called Dry Drops, which basically dries your nail polish in 90 seconds. I’ve always been more of a tomboy, but love having painted nails. I gave up on having them because I couldn’t sit still long enough and these drops have kind of changed my life.
What pieces of work are you most proud of?
I’m really fond of a few projects I have worked on over the years.
We recently refreshed our brand at Abstract. It was a fun project that helped tell the story of a new chapter of the company. I recently wrote a blog post about it that dives into all the moving parts behind updating a brand
Back when I was working at Hootsuite I had the opportunity to bring our mascot to life in physical form, for the first time. The team worked on creating both a mascot costume as well as a give away item that was shot out of a t-shirt gun.
What design challenges do you face at your company?
My team at Abstract is primarily focused on bringing our brand to life through digital and physical experiences. We tackle such a wide range of projects and need to have a pulse on almost everything that is going on in the company. From redesigning our marketing website, to designing a conference experience, to helping design in-product onboarding for our customers, each day is different.
Although we are a product driven company, we face the same problems as many startups. We’re constantly making sure the work we do on the brand and marketing side is aligned with the future of our product and with company goals. Outside of the business goals, I am always working on finding ways to enable my team to collaborate more intentionally, make space for dedicated focus time, and maintain an open and creative culture, all while being a remote company.
What music do you listen to whilst designing?
Any advice for ambitious designers?
My advice is to focus on yourself and the work you want to bring into the world. It’s important to surround yourself with other creatives in the community, but there is no need to compare yourself to others or be the person with the most Twitter/Dribbble/Instagram followers.
I’d also say, be open minded and never stop learning. There are always going to be new tools and new ways to do similar work. These days there is an online course or YouTube video for just about everything. Want to know how to prototype? Learn it!
Anything you want to promote or plug?
You can follow me on Dribbble or Twitter. I also sell earrings, prints, and stickers on my website dainalightfoot.com.
If you have five minutes I encourage you to visit Native Land and learn about which Indigenous lands you're living on.