As a kid who grew up in the Midwest, I aspired to be an architect and would draw plans for homes or amusement parks. I also spent a lot of time building things and working with raw materials like wood or granite, instilling in me an early appreciation for how everything fits together. There is a system for the objects we interact with, the spaces we occupy, and the services we use. The more I created, the more I learned. I chased that feeling, read books about the Greats and collected objects that inspired me.
I was involved in the arts throughout high school, and able to recognize at an early age how important the process of creating is to me. As I learned more about modern architecture, I realized how much bureaucracy and training goes into becoming a well-seasoned architect. Around the same time I was sketching buildings, I also began creating little publications for myself and found an equal passion for typesetting. When you look at design problems, the rules are a lot less strict than those of architectural problems. You can design something very unconventional without the risk of your building collapsing.
During my senior year in high school, I had the opportunity to work a graveyard shift at a local daily advertising newspaper. I worked pre-press there, and learned how to create negatives and plates for the giant press. I was able to learn how a newspaper worked from the press perspective. Understanding the ‘how’ of design really played a big role in my development as a designer. I eventually worked my way up to the art department and began my first design job making funny 1–by ads for local garage sales and tow shops.
In college, I fell deeply in love with typography and the creation of brand systems. A friend of mine opened a design studio and I had the job opportunity to work alongside him. We would work on web and branding projects by day, and then use one of our restored letterpresses by night. Again, understanding how a design becomes a physical product further contributed to my development as a designer.
From there, I invested more time in designing and building things for the web. The more I experimented, the more programing languages I wanted to learn. Now I sketch ideas out on paper and translate them into code pretty quickly, just as a sculptor will rough out first and then roll up their sleeves and break out the chisel.
It’s hard to pin-point where it all really clicked. A few years ago, I had the opportunity to work with the Mies van der Rohe Society and created a digital archive of the great architect’s work. When I dived deeper into his work, I realized that I had unknowingly been inspired by his Chicago buildings since my earliest days, as I used to walk around the Loop with my family. I remember staring up at the clean steel lines and glass panes. It’s funny to see how those buildings have influenced the work I do today and how it all comes full circle.
I’m the Senior Design Engineer at Noun Project, but I consider myself the bass player of our operation. I have a hand in both the rhythm (engineering team) and the strings (design team). I work on various aspects of our products, from business strategies to customer service and design to implementation. Our team is largely comprised of individuals with a wide range of technical capabilities, allowing for us to really understand what we’re building and solve problems unilaterally. I take pride in belonging to such a great team.
Three books come to mind in almost every project I work on.
1. Elements of Typography - A typographic foundation is key to any written communication.
2. The Order of Things - Understanding how humans have organized our world comes into play with every project I’ve been involved with.
3. Creative Confidence - Learning the skills to harness your creativity in a productive and scientific manner is so helpful.
At any given time, a dozen or so passion projects are cultivating. Over the years, I’ve played in bands, created art pieces, collaborated on friends’ ideas, organized community meet-ups, and built furniture. I’m hoping to get started on some new passion projects soon including a podcast, a simple mobile game, an easy way to create presentations, spreading the message of empathy, a cult, a clock company, encouraging U.S. voter participation, and bringing the community together in an accessible way. I’m sure there are a ton of passions I’ve left out, but you can always look to my twitter for new announcements.
In the past few years, I’ve adopted an open policy for collaboration. Most of the time, I’ll jump on an idea and iterate. I’ve found that the best ideas I’ve sketched out are actually the ones surrounded and evolved by talented people because through working together, we challenge each other to be better. Recently, I worked with my dear friend Matthew Hoffman on his long-term project, You Are Beautiful. We brought technology, art, and community values together to share a simple message to the world: You Are Beautiful.
Start making, and never stop. Making leads to learning.
Community is very important and special to me. After moving to Los Angeles in 2014, I’ve been trying my best to bring people together around design. I’m a producer with AIGA, an organizer with IxDA, a helper for LAUX and a bunch of meet-up groups. I created a little web-app called ladesign.community to help Los Angeles creatives find and embrace their community.
A year about sharing new ideas with the world and collaborating as much as possible.