Mom's New Mac

I’m moving to New York in eight days. Wow. My mother and I are very close, and I know she’s having a hard time accepting the fact that I will be so far away. We went shopping today and I decided to buy her a MacBook Air so we can talk on FaceTime and Skype. It’s not the same as in real life, but hopefully it’ll help her.

Mom bought me so many things for me when I was a kid. Now that I have money, it’s time for me to return the favor.

Pencils Before Pixels: Why You Should Draw UIs First

I was sitting at the coffee shop with one of my friends co-working the other day. She wanted to see my mockups I do for iPhone apps. It surprised her that I pulled out a pad and sketchbook. Even with all the technology and tools we have, I always like to start with pencil and paper.

During the wireframing process there should be multiple iterations. Drawings are something that everyone can understand. I start with the basics with a client versus wasting time on refining. I learned in art school to start with a rough sketch and then refine, refine, refine.

Give it a try next time. Pencils before pixels.

Why Designers Should Know How to Write Code

Several years ago I was chatting with my friend Adam McDonald (now my co-founder at Xhatch) on chat. We were still undergraduates in college. He was pursuing CS and I was pursuing fine arts. He kept telling me "you need to learn to write code." I resisted then and said "I just want to design." McDonald is one of my best friends, so I decided to give it a try.

It is one (of not THE) of the smartest decisions I've ever made to become an effective designer.

You might ask yourself, "why does a designer need to know how to code?" Some things to think about. Would you want to hire an architect who is familiar with the building process and know the amount of effort and costs it will take? A clothing designer who understands the impact of the materials selected for a certain article? How about a barista who knows how coffee beans are harvested and prepared for a roast?

As the late and great Steve Jobs said, "Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works."

I personally would not hire a designer who does not know how to write at least HTML/CSS. If they don't know how to build something, how do you expect them to build something that will work?

Some reasons why:

  • Designers who can code will understand the structure of  a website—how certain elements will vary depending on the amount of content in it. A typical struggle for print designers is they do not consider dynamic element since they are accustomed to designing on a 2 dimensional surface that does change. Interactive is living and it looks different on certain platforms.
  • A designer who understands programming will be more appreciated by developers. There is nothing more frustrating for a developer to be handed a design without programming elements being considered. Don't be the designer that creates more work for developers.
  • Having a designer on the same page as the developers will make a more fluid transition. From our experience, I don't have to send Adam so much documentation or blueprints on the designs because he knows I've already considered what he has.

Writing code isn't hard to learn. Just start with a personal project and hack away. I know many people who learned how to code from just messing around on their MySpace profile. You have no excuse!

I'm moving to New York City

I have some bitter/sweet news to share with everyone. It is bitter because of how much I will miss everyone but sweet because of the fresh opportunity and adventure. After living in the Emerald City, a place I've called home for the last five years, I have decided to move to Brooklyn, New York.

My desire to move to the Big Apple was not a quick decision, but rather one brewing over the course of many years. In high school, I always talked to my art teacher about dreaming about New York to see Warhol paintings in real life and photography all the urban landscapes. After college I had the hope of going to grad school at The School of Visual Arts or Hunter College in which the opportunities did not pan out. Finally, I went to visit NYC with my college roommate Scott and it blew me away.

It was everything I hoped for and imagined…and more. I absolutely loved the pace there, and the people were so nice. Yes, I said New Yorkers were nice. After a few days in New York I realized, "you can ride the wave of energy or just get totally consumed by it." I decided I want to choose the latter. There are so many people here—the best in the industry.

Dreamers are here. Hopeless romantics are here. Yeah, creeps are crackheads are here too, but you see where I'm going.

After returning from Europe I had this realization about Seattle. At first it was negative, but then it revealed it's true self. My desire to move from Seattle is not "to get away from Seattle", but rather, "to experience the rest of the world."  There is so much in the world I want to see.

My recent visit in September confirmed that I wanted to be in Brooklyn, New York. The place fits me like a glove and I feel like I'm in my element there.

So what's next? Well, I'm going to sell everything and get rid of all my posessions, then move. The only thing I'm bringin: A bag of clothes, my Mac and my cat. I will continue to work with Xhatch Interactive and am excited about us having our presence in New York.

This is not an easy move for me. Five years of my life, important years, have been here in Seattle, Washington. I was raised in the Northwest, and I will dearly miss all of my friends I have made here, it it is a bit emotional for me to think about leaving everyone. Seattle may not be the city where I was born, but it was indeed the place that defined my identity and took care of me. I will be forever grateful.

The bitter is leaving my dear friends, but the sweet is the potential and opportunity. I am looking forward to people watching on the subway and long walks through the neighborhoods. Everything will be seen through a fresh lens. Let's not forget I can easily go watch the New York Yankees play next Spring. I see  New York as a place I can make a career here, meet new friends, converse with passing strangers, and hopefully meet that special person and fall in love.

There is much work to be done before I leave. No Sleep 'Till Brooklyn.

P.S. Here's a clip of Mike Doughty performing "The Idiot Kings", one of the songs that inspired me to move to New York.
P.P.S. What's that saying..."If I can move a 23 pound cat to New York, I can make it anywhere"? I think Sinatra said it.

Let Go

Been thinking about the concept of "letting go" recently. However, I haven't thought of it in the sense of "losing something" or moving forward, but applying less pressure. When it comes to work, loosen up a little bit for breathing room. When it comes to dating, don't look to too hard or try to hang on. Because when we hold on two tight, we can break things and never recover from it.

My New Morning Coffee Rule

It seems like I have no time for anything these days. Work has been very busy in terms of time and also my personal life seems to be trying to match that intensity. Have you ever had that feeling when you don't even have time to think? This is what I've been feeling like lately. As I grabbed my Kenya Pourover coffee from Zoka this morning, I came up with a new rule: work computer does not open until I finish enjoying my coffee.

Though I love having a cup of coffee while I'm working, and as much as we humans like to think we can multi-task well, I need time to focus, reflect and think—whether it is work related or not. I am giving myself the following options for my morning coffee:

  • Sit and enjoy it alone.
  • Read a book or magazine (not work-related) while drinking it.
  • Have a quick coffee meetup with someone.
  • Draw in the sketch book.

Once that has been done, the work computer can open. I was so amazed how clear my mind was to think of ideas and plan my life. Even just 20-30 minutes made the difference. I even came up with an idea for a Star Trek Pillow.

My work day even improved tremendously. The morning coffee break allowed me to think about the entire day, so when it was time to work, I just executed with no hesitation.

My Twitter friend Aviv shared his rule about not checking email until lunch time. I might have to try that out.

How about you? Do you do anything to try to block out some thinking time?

Dear Steve: My Letter to Steve Jobs

Dear Steve:

I never got the honor or pleasure of meeting you in person, but I feel compelled to write this to share with you and others in the community about how much you meant (and continue to mean) to me.

Hearing the News

I was at Uptown Espresso near downtown Seattle, where I was working on some User Interface designs on my 15" MacBook Pro. It was a normal day of sitting with my computer, thinking, creating and designing. My friend Melissa IMs me and asks if I was okay. I said "Yeah, why?"

I had no idea what she was talking about.

Mel asked me if I heard about you, and I said no. She told me that King 5 News and Komo were reporting that you died. I responded to her "Steve Jobs has died about five times on Twitter." I didn't want to believe her, but was very afraid that what she was telling me was true. I was praying and hoping that she was pulling my leg.

She wasn't.


I couldn't help myself but started crying at the coffee shop. People were wondering what was wrong with me. I was not heartbroken by the loss of the man who is CEO of Apple, or the guy who unveils products, but a teacher and mentor I never met.

There were two instances where I remember feeling this type of sadness for the passing of two people I have never met, when Pope John Paul II and Michael Jackson passed. This one was the worst.

For me, Apple is about the community before it is the product. Your ability to capture and recognize beauty and innovation in the simplest things were inspiring to me. The emphases you had on typography for computers, inspired by a calligraphy class you took at Reed College—that was (and is) the type of inspiration I wanted to have.

You were (and are) one of the reasons I became passionate about design—ever since I was a kid, but especially in the most recent years. I began to discover design as functionality, which grew my passion for User Experience Design and User Interface Design. I didn't want to make things just pretty, but simple, functional and practical. Besides Marie, you are one of my greatest mentors. It was not necessarily his products that inspire me, but how you innovated and the process of creating those products...what considerations were made to create it.

My Promise to You

I thought about how I could honor you; if I should make a design tribute, a video, or something like that. It became clear to me that there is only one way to honor you.

To keep living, and keep shipping.

My promise to you is that I continue to live my life how I have been—full of inspiration, wonder and most importantly, curiosity.  It is my obligation as a designer and creator to do this. I need to remember how much hard work it takes to be innovative, imaginative and creative.

For me, I still need to mourn. After that, it's back to the wireframes, drawings and designs.

Thank you for everything you have taught me, Steve. I will honor your legacy the only way I know live my life as inspiring as possible.

Oh. One more thing...

After I heard about your passing, I saw someone trip over a power adapter of a PC and almost knocked the entire computer down. I can't help but think you might have chuckled.

“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.”

[Stanford commencement speech, June 2005]

My thoughts on Tac Anderson's Change Story

My twitter friend Tac Anderson, whom I've never met, but soon will once I go to London to visit him, wrote a great post about his change story. As he felt compelled to record a video and share this very personal story, I was compelled to write my thoughts about his post. This video really touched my heart because I have a lot of friends going through a hard time similar to what Tac speaks of. I feel he and I seem to relate a lot on our emphasis on change (sometimes drastic) and what you need to do to re-invent your career.

Some of points I would like to touch on that Tac mentioned:

Sometimes you have to let things break all the way and build something new.
This one really touched me because I've been there before. I was in a job (not career) in an industry that I did not really want to pursue. My realization was I had to find a breaking point and completely separate from that industry and move into the User Experience Design industry.

Find that one thing you need to be where you want to be.
Probably the one thing that people forget about most. Tac mentioned that if you had everything you needed to do what you want to do, you would be doing this. So true. I don't want to take this lightly either, but if you are looking for change, there is something you have to do about that change. The reality is, which is unfortunate, is that a lot of people are in this situation. There are a lot of qualified people trying to find work, and that makes things tough. You need to find something that will separate yourself from everyone. Maybe it's a skill, or a professional connection, or a mentor.

I can't stress enough how much getting a mentor can benefit.

The pressure put on men
This. This right here. This isn't to say things are easier for women or that there is no pressure, but Tac hit it on the spot. This is something not often talked about. I come from a pretty traditional family where it is seen that the man is the provider. There are no pills tougher to swallow than this for men; to not be able to provide and support his family, or himself for that matter. This touches on the first point of somethings you have to meet the breaking point or hit rock bottom. That almost happened to me.

When I was at the job I didn't see a future in, I quit in the midst of the collapse of the economy in 2008. I had a few months of rent saved up, but time was running out, and my plan was collapsing. I was getting no calls or interviews for design jobs that I was seeking. I was getting to the point that I thought I would have to find a job just to pay the bills, one that might be seen as humbling or (for lack of better words) "embarrassing" considering where I was before.

I knew I had about one month before I ran out of money, so I spent every day (literally) at Zoka coffee and started learning more HTML/CSS, UX Design and whatever I needed to find a job. Six weeks later, I got a job at ExactTarget. Yes, your math is correct. I ran out of money and had to put some charges on my credit card. However, I knew I had to go all the way with it.

Check out Tac's full article here. Read the full story here. If you want to read my story, it's here.

P.S. Never leave David + Tac in a room with Excel.