Eating Your Own Dog Food

On October 1st 2012 I wrote about a ‘fresh change‘ for my little home on the web. I’d decided that I was no longer going to use a theme for the design and I’d reverted back to a barebones created by myself stylesheet. It didn’t last long.

We’ve been working tirelessly over the past few months at Obox on producing products which people can just use and Principles is one of those. A blogging theme where you can just write and writing is the focus. Not only that, but Principles also came with a portfolio element built in. Great for designers.

So after some mild customisations I ate my own dog food and got it installed. I’ll be filling out the portfolio section in due course but for now, it’s good to show off what we work on day in, day out.

Going Forwards

I say this every year but the past 11 months have been insanely busy.

From December 2011 to July 2012 I was the Product Designer at Happiest and when I left I knew I needed to regroup. For 7 months I’d worked nearly every single day, often 6-7 days a week with little to no time to myself. I missed so much of my daughters first six months that it breaks my heart but you live and learn and now I’m making up for lost time.

Hello, Obox.

I’ve known Dave and Marc for about 4-5 years. I was an early watcher of their ‘From The Couch‘ series and since then have chatted to Dave nearly every working day. He’s been the best sounding board and feedback giver that you could ever ask for. Often, when he’s needed feedback I’ve been there to give an opinion or point of view and there’s a lot of mutual respect so when I told him that I was no longer at Happiest we had a ‘chat’.

Dave and Marc used to do client work, well, they still do but not as much as the old days. They began Obox Themes about 3 years ago giving themselves a goal of setting up the theme business in a month. Delivering 4 themes initially in that month as well as the Obox Themes website, I’ve never seen such inhumane working to reach a goal. Not only did they reach it and launch the business but since that point they’ve gone from strength to strength but managing to keep the team small.

I like small teams and fully believe that a small group of talented individuals can achieve a lot. When it came to Dave and I having a chat about me joining Obox I was genuinely excited, not only to work with two friends who I respect a hell of a lot but working on products with customers is something I adore. I’ve been at Obox for nearly 4 months now, time has flown by and I’m only now getting round to writing/announcing me joining the team. It’s been busy, very busy as my role there isn’t as a product designer. You’ll see on the about page that my role title is ‘Executor’, I’m not one for titles but the meaning behind it is pretty succinct. I just get shit done. Very similar to a COO (Chief Operating Officer) in a larger organisation, I keep people on their toes creating endless manageable to-do lists for the team and take what I’ve learned over the past 8 years and put it in place to affect the way we move forward as a business.

Just a few small things I do are;

  • Communicate with our customers for all pre-sales support – if they have a question, I’m there to answer. These communications happen from various places on the web, with creating WordPress.com themes, tumblr themes and having a listing on ThemeForest the questions come in from all directions.
  • I work with partners or potential partners which could compliment our core offering and make plans for implementing them within the business.
  • I’m the go to guy for all of our affiliates, working with them to expand their commissions.
  • Marketing Obox, whether that be blog posts and advertising or anything else. Infact, it’s not just Obox as a whole, individually each new product needs marketed so people know about it.
  • I’m working towards getting the team to release more products more often but making sure that quality and UX are at the heart of what we do.

That is just a small part of what I do every day and each new day is different.

Going forwards the future for me is Obox.

Fearing the Unknown

As designers we work a lot, we work for customers and clients and sometimes we’re lucky enough to work for ourselves on our own projects.

I’ve had the privilege of doing all three over the years and whilst having a conversation with Vic Bell a few days ago I realised there was a residing emotion and feeling which stayed with all three. It was fear.

The conversation surrounded Vic wanting to try her hand at web design when her work predominantly is illustration and graphical work like icons etc. Vic is incredibly talented in what she does but wanted to try and expand her portfolio and move in to web design.

Whilst Vic is hugely confident with illustration and icon creation, when it came to designing for the web an immediate wall came up where she thought they didn’t know what she was doing and everything that Vic tried was rubbish.

Followers

The fear of doing something wrong invoked psychological barriers which stopped them from having the ability to be creative. It was painful to watch as I could recognise full well that I’d been through that many many times before. We chatted about “but other people do web design like X”, “X designer uses gradients” and “their UI is more shiny and appealable”. I offered the advice that just because another designer designs in a certain way doesn’t mean that you have to do the same. Every designers style is different, some use gradients and some don’t, some use flat color and many don’t.

We chatted more about doing what you just wanted to do without restraint and then critique later. That way, the style that you want to use isn’t constrained by anything giving you the freedom to do anything you want.

But why is it, when we do start designing do we have so many heart-stopping moments of “this isn’t working”? Why do we go as far to look at other designers work for ‘inspiration’ to merely become followers of trends? Do we really appreciate other designers work because they’re liked by so many people. Can we not just do what we do because that’s what we feel is right and that is ok?

I personally suffer from elements of this even when I can justify many of my own decisions. There will be a part of my design process where I question myself to the point that I’ll start completely fresh feeling that if I received feedback on it, it would be heartbreaking feedback when indeed it might not at all and it could be quite positive.

Draplin

I’m currently at Build Conf and sat in a talk last night listening to Aaron Draplin. It was one of the most profound, inspiring and honest talks I’ve ever seen. I felt myself agreeing over and over again with what he was saying. Aaron seemed to have this natural knack of being able to ‘just design’, and shortly before he showed a set of files to the audience which he sent to a client I queried in my head how he handled feedback. The files which he showed were approx 12 grouped art boards chock-full of designs to get feedback on. The turnaround for that piece of work was super quick where he had to design with another designer and then present the designs for feedback before editing and finalising the files. It would seem that this enabled him to just do what he needed due to the time constraint, he didn’t have time to think more than “that’s shit, I’ll leave it out” and that’s as far as the self-feedback went.

It’s about time I abandoned my fear of the unknown and embraced the feeling of being free to design in any which way I want. Fearing the unknown is tiring, I’m always second guessing it and I don’t want to do it anymore.

Joe Kittinger Space Jump

Last month, Felix Baumgartner jumped from the edge of space in to the fastest freefall a human has ever made, breaking the speed of sound. Joe Kittinger the ex-record holder was the man who talked to Felix on his ascent. The video below shows the Joe Kittinger space jump in 1960.