What led you into design?
Design wasn’t something my family steered me towards. It was out of the blue. I’ve always been very interested in computers. I remember nerding out with my buddies playing, or trying to play, Ghostbusters on a Commodore 64. I didn’t have a floppy disk either, straight out of a cassette.
But still, before college, I wasn’t planning to study design by any means. I mean I would create templates for websites, skins for Winamp player, or even patches for video games to replace graphics. So somehow I started college out as a computer science major. I thought that was it if you liked computers, then you studied computer science. This is back in a small town in Missouri by the way, where technology, computers are just not a thing. Even though my grades were looking alright, I decided to switch my major to something that is a little more on the front end of the software. So I talked to my academic advisor, and he steered me towards this new major called Interactive Digital Media where you get to pick your concentration. I picked visual imaging as mine and loved every minute of it. These were the first steps in learning design principles and getting a structured education around them.
What does a typical day look like?
I literally don’t have a typical day. Nowadays I’m freelancing and have a few clients I’m working with. Generally, on Sundays, I try to make my schedule to figure out which days I will be going onsite to my clients, which days I will be staying home or going to a coffee shop. I’m not a big morning person, so without a cup of coffee, you won’t find me making small talk or being upbeat. I would start the day off with a shot of espresso, then take my dog out for a big walk. Either go to the beach or walk alongside water. I see this as cleansing my head and getting the day started. Then I would generally either come back home or go straight to my onsite gigs. I take Lola (my dog) with me to work, so we would ideally walk to work, which is somewhere between 3-4 miles. Yeah, I do a lot of walking. Each onsite gig has a different dynamic. Generally, when I’m onsite at a client, I would be attending meetings, work on my tasks, join stand-up meetings where we check-in quickly on what the team is working on, and do design reviews. I’m also working on a side project called Schedual. Shameless plug — it’s an easy to use scheduling app to remove the hassle from scheduling events, you should probably sign up for early access. When I’m working on Schedual, I like to stay home, close all the blinds, create a cave-like environment, put on my headphones and focus. Since I’m juggling a few projects at the same time, productivity is everything for me. I like to get as much done when I sit down, and not spend too much time making lists of things that I need to be doing. I also like to switch between projects during the day, but I need to do a physical activity between switching, this sort of how I trained my body/brain to switch on and off between projects.
What’s your setup?
I used to have a clean desk, neat organizers, cool posters and plants once. Can’t say the same these days. As for technical setup, I have a MacBook Pro (15-inch, 2016), 2.9 GHz Intel Core i7, 16GB Memory and Intel HD Graphics 530. I also have an older MacBook Pro that I use my 27” Apple Display with.
“If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?”
Where do you go to get inspired?
Inspiration is important. One of two waves that I ride while designing. Inspiration and motivation. I find inspiration everywhere. I generally get inspired when I’m not on my computer. I know computers have been around for a while, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s still a new medium. So the number of things that have been created for computers are limited, and the things we have created so far are still— I believe— the things we’re constantly iterating on and creating. So I like to look at older mediums. I find lots of inspiration from architecture, nature, urban design, old graphic design, packaging. I’m a nerd for packaging. To the point, I like to keep packages of things I adore. My wife is not a fan, but I like to refer back every now and then, so it’s nice to keep them around.
What product have you recently seen that made you think this is great design?
Beginning of this year, I bought a Everyday Backpack by Peak Design and I carried it probably 90% of the week. It’s probably one of the better products I’ve used in my life. It’s well thought out. Flexible, adjustable and pretty comfortable. You should definitely watch their product videos, you can tell their design approach is the differentiator.
What design challenges do you face?
As a freelancer, I wear a bunch of different hats. I have to manage my projects, do research, manage my time, manage expectations, communicate clearly, be on top of my finances. So combining all of this is quite challenging. So maybe not just a design challenge, but on a daily basis, I try to find patterns, automate to improve my process.
What music do you listen to whilst designing?
Any advice for ambitious designers?
Keep asking questions, keep reaching out. Don’t forget, a large part of what you do is empathize with the people you design for. Understand their situations and perspectives. Approach with basic design principles. Ask the right set of questions to understand the entirety of the problem. Try to put yourself into foreign paradigms. Be comfortable with being uncomfortable. Keep learning, keep questioning, and keep applying your learnings to new problems.
Anything you want to promote or plug?
Yes! I’m working on a side project to make scheduling events/meetings easier. It’s called Schedual, Sche - dual, get it? 😃 Okay— go sign up, we’re still working on it, but soon we will be giving access to a small group of beta testers. 👉 schedual.com