Design Philosophy


highlights :

18+ yrs experience
Training and Education
Various startups w/ big ideas



There was a point in my life where, at cocktail parties and various drinking establishments, I'd try to look smart by throwing out the difference between art and design. Design answers questions. Art asks them, I'd say. It made for some cool conversations.

While that aphorism essentially rings true, the term design means many things to many people. I run a user experience (UX) design department, and Design, with a capital D, runs a thread through everything we do. Interaction design, visual design, systems design, and all the other little designs figure in. I don't always rule the roost; half the time, I've managed visual designers and talked about visual design, only to have that part of the project get done outside my department. In the end, visual design is a clear part of user experience, regardless of whether I (or someone on my team) is responsible for it. Design figures heavily into my UX approach, and I consider it all our responsibility to ensure it's done well. Would you show it to your mom? Ask yourself that golden question and you're half way there. 

My design philosophy

My design philosophy is based on a few guiding principles:

  1. CONTEXT MATTERS. Every interaction depends on the where, when and how it's being consumed. Consider, for example, how a person on a mobile device, in a noisy room, who has a sense of urgency, and is new to a product would accomplish a specific goal. We need to evaluate, understand and plan for as many contexts as we can.
  2. THINGS SHOULD BE BEAUTIFUL. We all know beautiful things seem to work better; our deliverables should be attractive, too, even if they're just flows or wires. Even an MVP should consider cognitive bias and design pattern best practices. It doesn't need to take a ton of time to consider these things, just the right individual on a team. 
  3. MOTION IS NARRATIVE. The space limitations on mobile devices has taught us that we need to be efficient. Motion hints at how interactivity works, transitions guide us,  animations (rather than buttons) save us space. As a bonus, motion also makes most experiences feel more complete.
  4. SIMPLICITY IS KEY. No matter how complex something is, it should feel simple.
  5. PROTOTYPES ARE GOLDEN. No matter how much you describe, mockup, discuss, cajole and interpret for someone, a prototype is worth 1,000 words. Even if it's limited.


My management approach:


People work best when they're excited about what they're doing. There should be some aspect of a job each week that plays to a person's strengths and desires. After all, if the work isn't fun, and at least marginally innovative, why are we here? On hiring, I look to have each person have a baseline skillset so we can cover for each other, and then on top of that each usually has an area of expertise (design, gaming, testing, programming, etc). An eye for design, quick wits and a willingness to learn trump experience every time.

A few other highlights:

  • I'm all for putting together a design system, something that combines templates and rules in a logical sense, even in an agency, UX-department scenario. Systems thinking adds consistency and speed and often an element of beauty into things, even when operating in a black-and-white world. 
  • I'm a firm believer you get more flies from honey than vinegar. Making friends and working across departments goes a long way to improving, well, everything.