Freelance Design Director
Joshua
Mauldin

Joshua Mauldin is a design leader who builds successful product design teams, loves design, and is also a visual artist. He lives in Los Angeles.

Los Angeles, United States • September 30, 2022

What led you into design?

I got into design because I wanted to make record art for bands. The artwork that framed the listening experience always spoke to me. I tried to convince a few bands to hire me, but I wasn't great. I was also 17. I did, however, manage to start doing band websites. It grew from there into app design and beyond.

What does a typical day look like?

I'm currently taking a sabbatical, so it's a little different than the usual. I'm focusing my efforts on meeting a writing deadline, so it's a lot of research and focused writing time. And long walks with the dog. When I am working, it's anything from helping a designer work through a problem, polishing up a sales deck (an underrated bit of work), or finding new folks to bring onto the team.

What's your workstation setup?

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Where do you go to get inspired?

So many places, mostly where I don't expect it. Old horror movies are fantastic because they do incredible work in making you believe the story with things that seem primitive today. Also, I read a lot. It's so fun to imagine the weird world of people like Ursula K. Le Guin.

What product have you recently seen that made you think this is great design?

I'm very into what's going on with Light Phone. It's a phone that doesn't try to suck your attention—it just calls, texts, and lets you live your life. The company's very mission-driven, and their phone is a decent compromise between living your life and being connected to the world. We could use more of this.

What pieces of work are you most proud of?

I've done lots of digital work, like helping Candy launch their first digital collectible partnership with MLB, but I also really enjoy the analogue work I do.

Lately I've enjoyed breaking apart old pocket watches and customizing skulls with it. I'm a little goth kid at heart, I guess. Doing the analogue work helps me be better and more thoughtful at the digital stuff.

What design challenges do you face at your company?

I'll answer this in a more general sense, as I've helped loads of companies work through this. It's the friction between following a process and actually doing the work that needs to be done. If we focused more on principles and how to support them, we'd be way better off. We think of design more like a scientist in a lab than we do an explorer getting dropped off in the middle of a forest with just a knife and a compass. It takes the fun and adventure out of things. You can't apply the same process over and over to different scenarios and expect to get perfect (or even medicore) results. We hold process sacred when we should be holding intuition in a higher regard.

What music do you listen to whilst designing?

Any advice for ambitious designers?

Software and design trends comes and go, but people mostly stay the same. If you can learn to work with people and embrace (healthy) conflict, you're going to be way ahead of everyone else.

Anything you want to promote or plug?

I've got a book coming out next year on how to have hard conversations. I've got a mailing list set up for announcements: https://joshuamauldin.substack.com/p/coming-soon?showWelcome=true

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