February 25, 2020

Shallow Design

I’ve been reading and enjoying Deep Work by Cal Newport this week. The concept of deep work is easy to understand for the creative community. Protected time for flow state seems to be a critical process component for high-quality craftsmanship.

The more I sat with this concept I began to question the idea that deep work is something that can be adopted by everyone. In theory, isn’t some shallow work required to keep things moving? As an example, we have to do the work to create complex systems for creating artifacts (deep work) and use those systems to quickly iterate on solutions. (Potentially shallow work.)

It’s common to see designers disengaged when working on seemingly shallow tasks: mocking up a templated email, designing a flow for an obviously simple user task, etc. Tasks obviously critical to the business.

The flaw in my thinking is that while these tasks are seemingly simple in nature, the ability to craft them in a way that retains a high-level quality requires intense focus on the detailed parts of the creative process.

In short: I don’t believe that shallow design exists. Only unfocused design.

February 24, 2020

Shifting Design at Start-Ups

As we enter a new era of start-up culture, I’ve started to think about the shift in how we grow as designers in start-up environments.

As a designer, I have always valued working with other designers who could help me grow in areas of design that interested me. I have always pursued gaps in my skillset and tried to focus on going deep on subjects that appeared valuable in the context of where the industry was heading.

As managers, I feel it’s our job to do the same for the designers we work with. We must establish relationships with everyone on our teams that allow us to be honest about our weaknesses. Together, we can support each other through growth that helps us bridge gaps in our understanding and helps us break through to new levels in our careers.

Having worked at big tech companies with a healthy amount of funding, I have noticed a trend where design teams create systems for growth through passion projects and conceptual design work. Often, the output of these projects doesn’t align with the needs of the business but presents the designer with an opportunity to try new things and push the boundaries.

These projects are valuable to the designer. It’s important to take opportunities to try new things and learn by doing. However, what cost does this present to the business? As we enter a new chapter of VC funded start-up life, it’s hard to justify design teams that aren’t extremely focused on creating design work that not only ships but contributes directly to the success of the business. As designers at start-ups, we might need to redefine what good” design looks like.

September 9, 2019

Panini

Panini

Acorns made an appearance in the music video for Panini.

August 7, 2019

Imposter Syndrome

I see a lot of advice that people shed imposter syndrome. Imposter syndrome is a psychological pattern of thinking where people doubt the worth of their experience and accomplishments. The fear of being exposed as a phony controls the thinking and takes the wheel of the person’s confidence and drives the person to take actions to prevent exposure.

Imposter syndrome can be a major negative force in people’s lives. However, we sometimes confuse imposter syndrome with the nagging reality of inexperience.

It’s important for us to embrace our inexperience and honest with ourselves when we have things to learn. Growth is positive and new experiences require a void of experience to fill. We should embrace the void and shouldn’t confuse its presence with Imposter Syndrome.

Don’t get it twisted; you should be proud of your experience and own the person you are in this moment. Just don’t let your aversion to the feeling of inexperience trick you into thinking you know more than you really know. Focus on growth and be kind to yourself.

August 5, 2019

Clooney

Clooney

George Clooney’s 1995 airport fit is a big look. Stolen from this amazing GQ gallery.

July 23, 2019

Future Fit

Future Fit

I’ve been using Future (a fitness app, not the rapper) for over six months and I’ve really enjoyed the experience. The easiest way to summarize the concept is that it’s a personal trainer who trains you via an app and sends you text and audio messages to track progress and keep you motivated. The app pairs with an Apple Watch to get your fitness metrics and track your progress.

Fitness has been a hobby for me for a long time. I’ve never been much of a sports person, but lifting weights and running has been a way for me to get healthy and push myself. My problem has never been the habit of going to the gym. (In fact, the first thing I learned with Future was that I was going too much.) My issue has always been hitting plateaus. Future changed this.

My trainer, Parker, started me off with a weekly plan of four days in the gym and we’ve been tweaking things for over half a year. Every time I hit a plateau, he switches things up on me. When I travel, he contacts the hotel I’m staying at and tweaks my workouts to accommodate the limitations with the facility and equipment.

Every workout starts with a little audio message from Parker with daily goals. At the end of each session, I send him a summary of how I felt during the workout and he uses that information to plan the next week’s workouts. It’s a solid routine, and it has been awesome to get to know Parker.

The biggest hurdle for most people would probably be the price. $150 / month is no small fee. However, fitness is my main hobby and I can honestly say that it has been the most impactful change in my personal fitness that I have ever made. Plus, if you trained with a personal trainer as much as I use Future you would spend 10x this cost.

From a tech perspective, the team keeps iterating and adding features that make the experience better. I already love the product, but the tweaks they make add a lot of value to already solid experience. Specifically, the Apple Watch UX improvements. It’s the best fitness experience I’ve had on the Apple Watch, which is saying a lot because I’m a huge Strava fan. (Shout out, Strava.)

If you’re looking to step your fitness game up to the next level try Future. The extra motivation and personal guidance go a long way and the personal connection to another human makes the product super unique in the space.