Little corners

“You loved September Issue? I didn’t know you were into fashion.”

I’m not. I just love hearing stories and learning about things I don’t know much about. A documentary about the making of the September issue of Vogue was fascinating to me. I’ve watched it a half dozen times.

I’ve always worked at tech companies and been surrounded by people who think that getting ahead means you have to follow all the cool thought leaders on Twitter, read all the books on how to increase productivity and be a better manager, meditate every day, share all the articles with coworkers, listen to the advice of the Tim Ferris’ of the world, and try all the apps. Keeping up with all that is too much and trying to do so won’t make you better at your job. I think that staying in our own tech little bubble is harmful and it stifles creativity.

Instead, take a look around outside the industry for inspiration. Get a glimpse into a little corner of the world you haven’t ever visited, learn about new sub cultures, or anything new or niche. This can be in the form of physical travel, a non work-related book, or my favorite source: Netflix documentaries. I have a collection of the latter below with a brief summary and how I related to each.

Some of my favorites

  • September Issue is a documentary about the making of the September issue of Vogue magazine. I love everything about it, especially Anna Wintour and learning about Grace’s job and seeing the amazing photographs she produces. I learned the importance of editing, saying no, and killing your darlings.
  • Indie Game tells the stories of a few independent video game designers. I don’t play any video games and never really have, but seeing how these people worked and what they had to go through to create and launch their games on their own was really eye opening. I can now relate better to some of my video gamer co-workers 🙂
  • First Position is a documentary about group ballet dancers from all over the world who are trying to turn their passion into a career that pays money. I learned that ballet clothing companies make clothes that cater to light skinned people and the young woman from Sierra Leone in the film has to make her own modifications. Diversity and inclusion isn’t only a tech issue.
  • Barkley marathons is this totally bonkers trail running race that takes place in Virginia. The guy that started and “runs” it is a chain smoker and changes the entry fee based on what he needs more of; for example – a white button down shirt. Also, the race is 100 miles long, not marked, the start time is random, and only 16 people have ever finished it. Brutal! But I did learn some things about people and project management, mostly what not to do.
  • Piece of Work shows a behind the scenes look of the late comedian Joan Rivers. Everyone always focuses on her face and profanity, but this documentary shows her as a real, hilarious, workaholic human. Comedians user test their jokes! 
  • Bonus: Truther Love is a super wild Longreads story about a truther online dating site. There’s someone for everyone.

Balance the thought leader blog posts with something outside the tech realm. Get out and find a new little corner of the world and you just might be surprised.

All together now

The WooCommerce design team is five people strong. At any given time, we have at least that many projects in development. As you may guess, this means that all designers aren’t working together on a single area of WooCommerce. Instead, we each lead a product or project and meet frequently as a team to discuss, share, and give feedback. This ensures we are all aware of each other’s work and that our overall customer experience is cohesive.

There’s a team outside of the WooCommerce division at Automattic working with the greater WordPress community to make a new post and page building experience called Gutenburg. The goal with Gutenburg is to make writing rich posts effortless so you don’t have to know any code at all. Progress on the new editor is moving along really fast. It’s full featured and intuitive, but there hadn’t been any work done into how this will integrate with WooCommerce.

How do you handle adding a high priority item to everyone’s already full schedule without burning your team out or lowering morale? There’s probably many ways, but here’s what we did:

Instead of discussing it separately with each member of the team, I brought it up in one of our team’s twice weekly video calls. This allowed us to discuss it openly as a team. We all ended up agreeing it was part of our responsibility, was of importance, and was worth putting our time into. Time-boxing was brought up as a great way to approach something like this. Since it was summer and there were a few vacations coming up, we decided to have the due date be in one month.

I put up a sticky post on our team’s internal blog and tagged each person on the team so they were all notified. A day before the due date, we each commented on the post with our ideas. That was yesterday 🙂 Today we all met on a video chat. We all started by sharing our experiences we had testing out Gutenburg. For many of us, it was our first time using it.

Then we took turns presenting our ideas. To do this, we simply “went around the room” and took turns sharing our screens so we could walk though our thought process behind our sketches and flows. We didn’t specify a deliverable so we saw pen and paper sketches, Mural boards, high fidelity screenshots, and clickable prototypes. We then gave feedback to each person before we moved on to the next.

At the end of the call, we remarked on how this was such a treat that we all got to work on the same thing together. It was really fun to see how my teammates approached the same problem and it made me excited to go back and iterate. My goal is make these group time-boxed design problems a more regular occurrence on our team.

This post was originally published on automattic.design

Should designers API?

There’s plenty of discussions on the internet about whether or not designers should code, but what about API’s? Hear me out. I’m going to tell you about a project I’m working on and how I went from knowing almost nothing about API’s to knowing a little more than nothing and along the way, discovered how we could use the data in our design sketches.

This post was originally a talk given at AIGA West Michigan’s Design Week. Continue reading “Should designers API?”

Cyclocross

Every year our entire company gets together and one of the things we all have to do is give a four minute talk on any subject. In the past, this has always made me super nervous, and this was the first year that I wasn’t shaking in my boots. Progress!

The slides aren’t exactly synced up, but if you have ever wanted to learn more about cyclocross or have no idea what it is, your wait is over!

Two things I want to work on for next time:

  1. Look at the audience instead of the slides
  2. Less “um”s and “yeah”s

Looking forward

One year turning into the next is exciting. I feel filled with hope and reenergized. It’s not about resolutions; I don’t really make goals. If I want to do something, I’ll just do it. It’s more about the feeling of knowing there’ll be new places to explore, relationships to grow, things to make, ideas to form, and lessons to learn.

Cheers 🎊

Sketch notes from WordCamp Denver

I went to my first WordCamp this weekend in Denver. What’s a WordCamp?

WordCamps are informal, community-organized events that are put together by WordPress users. Everyone from casual users to core developers participate, share ideas, and get to know each other.

It was a great to see coworkers from far away places and talk to real live users and developers of WordPress and especially WooCommerce. I also sat in on quite a few talks and sketched some notes on my iPad.

CritiquePress
Sonja Leix and Meg Delagrange critiqued websites that were submitted by a few brave conference-goers.

img_0020

eCommerce Townhall
Caleb Burks of WooCommerce and Pippin Williamson of Easy Digital Downloads answered any and all questions the audience had about eCommerce and selling things online.

img_0022

Accessibility Testing
Robert Jolly gave a great talk about accessibility and testing for WordPress development.

img_0023

Marketing and Growth Townhall
Tracy Malone and Amber Hinds answered everyone’s marketing questions.

img_0024

Forms that Don’t Suck
Steve Wells and Jessica Wittmier told us how to engage users with forms that aren’t terrible.

img_0027

Business Townhall
And Vi Wickam, Miles Kailburn, D’nelle Dowis, and Gordon Seirup ended the first day with a great Q&A about all things business.

img_0028

design.blog

At Automattic, we have an online design magazine at design.blog. It’s something that our Head of Design, John Maeda created and it has become a joint effort across all the designers and design lovers I work with.

Every Thursday we publish a new issue, which involves 2-3 articles from design leaders and a brand new homepage created by an Automattic designer. This week, it was my turn! I used the Paper app on the iPad Pro with the Apple Pencil to illustrate the cover. It was really fun and actually made me want to get back to my ink and watercolors doodles.

Design.blog cover:

design-blog.png

Individual images:

wc-34-e1476298866709.png

coworkingflashtojs

Press:

Turn your brain off

Screen Shot 2016-08-04 at 2.21.57 PM.png

I turn my brain off.

I was recently explaining my strategy when mountain biking  up a seemingly endless hill. I ignore the voice in my head that says to stop the second it becomes too hard. I only stop after its nagged me a few times. This helps me get better at climbing and eventually I’ll only have to stop three times on the way to the top. And then two. And then one day I’ll make it up without stopping at all. 🙌

I do a version of this while descending. I try to only brake a little bit after my scared brain wants* to. Then I try to add a bit more time to that. And then a tiny bit more. This is my way of getting a faster and also helps me become more confident to shred the downhill sections, through rock gardens, around berms, over drops, or whatever comes my way.

Easy to say, hard to do.

*Notice it says ‘wants’ and not ‘needs’. I’m not trying to hurt myself. I’ve done that already

%d bloggers like this: