10 Creators On When They Knew They Had to Make a Change in Their Careers

10 Creators On When They Knew They Had to Make a Change in Their Careers

Change is inevitable. Without it, we would cease to exist. It is happening every day, in imperceptible ways and major milestones that alter the course of everything, like getting married, switching careers, and having children.

But sometimes you need to seek out change. You are in a slump, feeling uninspired, unhappy, or stuck. It is during these times that the changes we make – subtle or large – often have the biggest impact on our lives. So we asked 10 creatives, from creative directors to photographers, what change they made in their life and what impact it has had on their work.

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1. When my work values shifted:
Miyako Nakamura, Creative director and head designer, MM.LaFleur

I had to change my perspective about how I created value in my clothing. I spent 10 years working as a designer in the luxury fashion market in New York City. Yet I found there was a disconnect in how people see fashion, and how people inside the industry see clothes.

No matter where I worked, the universal struggle was that I had to define value.  There was a delicate balance between art and commercial potential; there was never an easy answer to satisfy both sides. So I wanted to revisit the idea of my profession and what it means to be a fashion designer. I felt that for the clothing to be appreciated, I had to change how people value the garments I create.

I met Sarah, the founder of MM.LaFleur, during the time I was changing my thinking process. She gave me an opportunity to create a line of dresses that serve professional woman. When I started to design for her, I streamlined my design: less decoration and more focus on cuts and quality of textiles, as well as the way they are manufactured. Then, I focused less on inventive looks and more on an inventive approach to the product. After designing for MM.LaFleur for the past six years, I am proud to have created products that support the lives of our customers in a very true sense.

What this whole experience taught me is that the way you define the value of your creation might not be the same as others around you. It is up to you to decide how valuable things can be.

2. When I recognized the importance of business:
Elaine Chernov, Founder of Shipshape Studio

Somewhere, five or six years into my career, I began to see that having a successful career in design was going to have to be more than just striving to have the most creative awards. Leaving design and advertising school, I believed that if I just worked really hard on making the best ad creative or design work, then nothing else really mattered – it would all fall into place.

But after spending hundreds of late nights in an office working on a pitch or a big branding project, I realized there was not anything really heroic in creating the best work; it was all business. I was just helping to sell more of whatever, and the agency I was working for was using creative people’s inherent need to create their best work to their advantage.

I had a shift in mental attitude that didn’t just come from burnout but also from reading about perspective, being a slave to an agency and, at the time, its toxic culture.

At first, I just wanted to not feel taken advantage of. I started asking for more pay and being clear about when my workday was over. At the time, I had cofounded an all-female design collective in Chicago. We learned about business stuff – salary negotiation, copyright laws, and presenting to boardrooms, to name a few. It was all the other things that design school skipped over because it’s not directly tied to making the best design work.

Eventually, when I went from agency work to working in-house at startups, not only did my quality of life go up but I was also able to see how design directly impacted businesses.

When you understand the lifecycle and gears behind how a business operates, you begin to see what parts of the business can benefit from creative work and which parts just sound fun to work on but won’t move any significant needles. As such, not only do you begin to work smarter but you become an indispensable part of the business – not just a design monkey tapping away on your computer.

3. When I reconsidered what it means to have a ‘real job’:
Stephan Ango, Cofounder, Lumi

I went to college for evolutionary biology but discovered partway through that design was actually a profession. For some reason it had never crossed my mind that this was a job. I had always been interested in making websites and interfaces and various forms of art but didn’t consider them real “jobs.” That changed after a visit to a Muji store in Shanghai. I realized there are people in the world whose job it is to decide how all the things around us are made. It was a life-changing moment and made me want to pursue industrial design. Yet making that switch was quite difficult. With a degree in biology, I applied for internships to more than 50 design agencies in the U.S. and was rejected by all of them because I didn’t have enough experience. I finally found an internship at a great design agency in the Netherlands. This experience convinced me I wanted to pursue design, and I’ve been working as a designer ever since.

At Lumi, my experience as a biologist still shapes the way I think, as I often find myself falling back on scientific methods. Being methodical about my approach to answering a question helps me make progress in a more predictable way. Also, natural selection is a process I think about when developing products over several generations. How do we take what we learned with each iteration and continue making it better?

People should pick an industry they are interested in and become obsessively curious in understanding its inner workings. Too much of education focuses on “problem solving” and not enough on “problem finding.” Getting good at finding interesting, important problems is a skill of its own. I continually ask “But why?” as I delve deeper and deeper into any area.

4. When I felt totally stunted:
Trevor Basset, Senior designer, Starbucks

I once worked at a very small, toxic branding agency. I felt like my work wasn’t being taken seriously, and there was little room to grow. I did not feel inspired coming into work, and my mood was increasingly down. This stemmed from uncommunicative, unavailable, and cold leadership. After two years I knew I needed to move on. I decided to leave the agency. I took a leap of faith. I didn’t have anything lined up but had previously worked as an in-house designer and was interested in returning to that world.

During this time, I felt freedom to try new things, but was hesitant of committing to anything full-time right away. I contracted with Outdoor Research for nearly a year before I transitioned into my role at Starbucks, where I’ve now been working for the past two years. It was the perfect move for me, and I couldn’t be happier going back in-house.

I had primarily worked for smaller companies, so it was a big change moving to an office that has somewhere around 5,000 people in it. There are so many talented artists within the organization. Seeing the work everyone makes has pushed me to continue exploring new styles within my own work and to challenge myself in a way I didn’t feel before. Looking back, I wish I had listened to my gut and left earlier. If things aren’t feeling right, I think it’s important to move on and find an atmosphere that supports you.

5. When I had a change of scenery:
Nina Hans, Cofounder and creative director, Weekday Studio

During a big trip around the world for five months with my now business partner and life partner, we spent the time reflecting on what our lives looked like working for other people and what we wanted for ourselves. That trip was where the idea of Weekday Studio was born.

Our studio has five values, and only one of them is actually about design. Time management, emotional intelligence, problem-solving, conflict resolution, follow-through, resilience, and positivity all affect my job just as much as, if not more than, actual design skill. Doing what you say you’re going to and in the time you committed to doing it can help you stand apart, and get repeat clients and tons of referrals. As obvious as it may it sound, it really has helped our studio grow and sustain itself in a short amount of time.

Since Weekday Studio opened, everything for me has changed. I now focus on learning everything possible about my clients, their customers, and their competitors. I feel it’s one of the greatest strengths we have – listening to and learning about our client’s needs and pain points and utilizing design to solve them.

6. When I sensed that there was more I could be doing:
Sara Woolsey, Creative director, Richer Poorer

During my first six years of working as an apparel designer, I came to realize that working primarily from my desk on my computer was not what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. Gaining experience as a designer was a huge plus for my career, but I wanted to be more involved with an overall brand strategy at a smaller company; I knew designing clothes wasn’t the only piece to running a successful clothing company.

So in 2012, the company I worked for gave me an option to take a promotion that involved more management or be laid off. My husband and I had been talking about doing some traveling for a while, and after being given this choice by my manager it seemed like a natural time to go.

We took an extended road trip around the U.S. in our Volkswagen for three months. While we knew a few people who just got up and left their life, it was really hard for me to make that change. While on the road, I almost had a nervous breakdown when our van broke down. Once I was able to accept that this was just part of our adventure, it was like I gave myself permission to start enjoying myself. Not only did I learn to let go, I also learned to have a different approach to my work.  For so long, I had discerned that I had been trying to fit myself into a certain box of what a designer should be like and what they should reach for. I knew I had to start thinking of each experience – whether at a job or on vacation – as a building block to discovering what I loved. It’s the discipline of choosing what you ultimately strive toward every day. In my case, it was deciding to advance my career as a freelance designer and spend any extra money on travel – my own personal creative R&D. After six years, this led to me gaining my current position.

I learned that we are often our own worst critic. We need to be kinder to ourselves, and give ourselves grace each day.

7. When I was laid off:
Kristian Tumangan, Product designer at the Weather Company

I began my professional career as a graphic designer doing a mix of print and marketing work. While I was working for an online marketing agency, I wanted to know more about the users and customers our clients were trying to reach and know how they built their products and businesses.

I started going to UX workshops and having conversations with designers that made the change from graphic design to user experience design. I also started taking part-time UX classes at institutions like General Assembly and UCLA Extension. While taking classes I was laid off, and as unfortunate as that may sound, it actually pushed me to strive for more opportunities outside of my comfort zone. From those events I was fortunate enough to get hired as a product designer and work at the Weather Company.

The shift helped me design for users and meet challenges to which I never thought I would be exposed. These new experiences are always pushing me to become a more empathetic problem-solver and designer.

I also learned that by taking the time to immerse yourself in a curiosity can not only help you learn something new but it can also lead you to new opportunities you never thought would be there. For those looking to make a change, continue to see how you can always evolve as a professional, and always strive to learn more about the curiosities you may have.

8. When my boss gave me some real talk:
Brooklyn Dombroski, Freelance photographer

Photography has always been my first love. Ever since I picked up a 35mm camera at age 11, it’d be an extension of my arm. But when it came time to go to college, I decided to get a degree in graphic design – and found out pretty early that it wasn’t for me.  But I didn’t think I could make it as a photographer in such a highly competitive field, so I got a job doing visual merchandising and marketing for a corporate surf company in Hawaii. Yet that photography dream kept gnawing at me. Three years down the road, I began visualizing how I could transition into freelance photography. I knew if I was going to make the change, I would have to go all in.

My boss could tell that my heart was no longer in it, and she actually encouraged me to move on and pursue my dreams of becoming a full-time photographer. I respected her so much for that, because it was terrifying for me. I was constantly questioning my ability and self-worth. So honestly, that little push from her changed the trajectory of my life.

I have built my business from grassroots and feel so blessed to do what I love every day. During this transition, I learned to let go of words like stability and security that the corporate world can offer to pursue my passion. I also realized the strength I had – I was more than capable and equipped to take charge of my life and to make my dreams a reality.

And while the freelance lifestyle isn’t for everyone, I do encourage people to relentlessly pursue whatever it is that they are passionate about. I do believe that our souls will forever be restless until we are living out our authentic lives. So take a chance.

9. When I gave myself a reality check:
Suzan Choy, Designer and illustrator

I’ve worked in quite a few different environments and situations in my professional life – everything from a corporate office to an agency and startups. But I’ve learned the most while working at an agency, as rotating projects are frequent and new teams are constantly formed. Yet learning to work happily as a team with new people was a struggle for me. At some point in my agency life, I realized a constant debate wasn’t going to solve any problems. I couldn’t change how other people were going to act or feel, but I could change how I approached the situation.

I started to mentally note when conflicts arose and started asking myself what I was feeling and why it mattered. Then I took a step back and thought about how my teammate or client was feeling. What were all the possible motives behind their words – good or bad? The point was to put myself in everyone’s shoes and think about if there was a way the situation could’ve been handled so we could all feel good about the outcome.

With this change, I started feeling empathy for my clients and teammates. In doing so, I began to feel better in general. That meant whenever a tense topic was brought up or a problem arose, instead of automatically feeling defensive or annoyed, I approached the situation with humor and ease. This created a positive space, and others around me also started approaching situations with less tension.

This process helped me learn to have patience with others and myself. How I react to a situation can also drastically impact how others respond to me. I also learned to trust others. Most people do not have ulterior motives and are just trying to get their jobs done as best as they can.

10. When I got tired of complaining:
Adi Goodrich, Set designer, photographer, and founder of Sing-Sing

A change I recently made was to start a school at our studio, Sing-Sing. It’s called Saturday School. For our jobs, my partner Sean and I work on numerous projects, including set design, photography, animation, and filmmaking. We have this studio in the Cypress Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, and we felt we needed to share it with the community.

Sean and I had been complaining for years about how cool other cities were and how Los Angeles lacked this certain feeling. We longed for more education and chances to meet like-minded artists in our city.

With starting a school, we’re able to attack the negative feelings we had about Los Angeles. We invite artists we don’t know into the studio, teach our 20 combined years of experience to them, and have great discussions about art, creativity, and collaboration. The last class we did was a music and figure-drawing class. Fifteen people attended while our friend John Bowers played music. The proceeds went to paying the model and the musician – which is pretty amazing that they could show up for two hours and take home some cash while feeling like they gave back to a group of artists.

Los Angeles often feels lonely, and we feel more connected to the city by simply using our skills and inviting our friends to share their talents with the people who show up. This is also a way to combat the time we put into commercial projects. Advertising can leave you feeling a bit hollow.

If you have negative feelings about the community you live in, it’s up to you to make that change. I understand most people don’t have studios to share, but this is the thing we had to offer. To imagine them also sharing their obsessions and meeting new collaborators is blowing my mind.

from Adobe 99UAdobe 99U https://adobe.ly/2QSHQP6

After an Iconic Logo, What’s Left to Create?

After an Iconic Logo, What’s Left to Create?

It was 1977. Robert Janoff had been out of school for seven years and was working at public relations and advertising firm Regis McKenna in Palo Alto, California. Intel was one of his biggest accounts.

One day, a guy entered the office holding a machine that looked vaguely like a typewriter. With long stringy hair and holes in his jeans, he was looking for the person working on Intel’s ads. His name was Steve Jobs, and he very much wanted Janoff to design the logo for his new company, to be put on the Apple II computer.

“Talk about being in the right place at the right time,” says Janoff, now 70.

The only direction he received from Jobs was to “not make it cute.” Janoff got to work, designing what would become one of the most iconic logos on the planet. He played with the dichotomy of a complicated electronics company having the name of a simple fruit, focusing on an apple shape and adding in the bite for scale and the multicolor stripes as a way to represent the test pattern bars shown on computer screens.

He presented only this one idea to Jobs. “I just did the one – I have never done that after that,” Janoff says. “I was so clear this was exactly the thing it should be that there weren’t any alternatives.”

Fortunately, Jobs approved – and the logo, while tweaked in the coming years, remains Janoff’s original design.

“Today, when I go into an airport and everyone’s on their laptops, I’ve got these little white logos looking at me all over the place,” says Janoff.  “It’s a great reward to see it all over the place.”

It’s easy to imagine that Janoff’s life changed the day he created that logo. But it took years for Apple to become the trillion-dollar tech giant it is today, years for its logo to brand itself in consumers’ minds. And the reality is, if Apple hadn’t become a great company, Janoff’s great logo might have faded into oblivion.

“Success is not a certificate that promises you smooth sailing after that.”

That’s the thing about logo design – so much of its success is wrapped up in external factors, particularly the fate of the company itself. With no guarantees that one “big break” will lead to another, designers must develop their own barometers for success.

Ruth Kedar, the designer behind Google’s original logo, came to terms with that reality long ago. “I am absolutely positive that if Google had not gone to the great heights that it has gone, and that if the Google logo had not become the most ubiquitous design of all time, you would not be talking to me,” she says.  

Kedar, 63, had been introduced to Sergey Brin and Larry Page through a mutual friend while she was teaching at Stanford. Recognized for her forward-thinking approach and interest in arts and technology, the two founders sought out Kedar for their Google logo. Using a unique Catull typeface, Kedar set out to create a logo that was approachable, disruptive, and different, with an anti-establishment tone.

Logo iterations of Ruth Kedar's famous Google logo.

Logo iterations of Ruth Kedar’s famous Google logo. Photo used with permission courtesy of Google Inc.

After getting blessings from Brin and Page, the logo remained with the company until 2015 – and is forever imprinted in consumers’ minds.

“We started a very small company with a great vision, but none of us envisioned the company to be where it is today. And the fact that the brand allowed them to use and grow them with them for such a long time was my biggest success,” she says.

Yet similar to Janoff, Kedar didn’t become an overnight success. While the public’s response was positive, there was no major media coverage, accolades, or peer recognition. After its completion, Kedar continued teaching at Stanford before she transitioned into the online marketing world, focusing more on her design firm, Kedar Designs.

“Success is not a certificate that promises you smooth sailing after that,” says Kedar. “Because the truth is, if everything is fantastic after that, what do you really draw your inspiration from?”

It wasn’t until Google’s 10th anniversary, in 2008, that the world would pay attention to Kedar.

Not only did the U.S. media want to meet the woman behind the Google logo, but so did press outlets from all over the world, including Brazil, Israel, and Argentina.

“There was definitely a lot more interest, no doubt about that,” she says. “There were a lot of opportunities that I had that I would not have had, had those articles not been published.” It helped her get more clients for logos and also provided her a platform to mentor young women designers, participate in speaking engagements, and inspire others.  

The Sean Kenney’s Lego Wall located in the New York Google office.

The Sean Kenney’s Lego Wall located in the New York Google office. Photo courtesy of Ruth Kedar

For Janoff, his opportunities arose only after getting over internal conflict about what success should look like for a designer behind such an iconic brand.

“For the longest time, I didn’t talk about it that much. I believed that people thought the person who designed the Apple logo must have a huge design studio and be really rich,” he says. “I was neither of those things.”

It wasn’t until meeting a business partner pushed him to share his story with the world that opportunities based on the Apple design started coming in.

“People love Apple. People love American stuff,” Janoff recalls his business partner telling him. After sharing his story on his website, he says, “We started getting inquiries from companies, and I am having a wonderful time working for international companies all over the world doing interesting work.”

“Greatness is not created by always trying to do something better than you did last time; it’s a constant expression of where you are in your own evolution.”

Because achieving external success often takes a long time in the creative world, many designers continue to build their portfolio in the ensuing years – focusing less on what the public may one day deem successful and more on how they continue to raise their own bar in their career, including creating milestones.  

“Whether they are personal goals or business goals, the idea is that they have a clear direction,” says success coach and mentor David Neagle on how to stay inspired. “They should not be focused on a destination at which they can stop, but focused on opportunities to step into situations that will challenge them and also give them experiences that then lead them to achieve their next set of goals.”

For Mike Deal, 31, one of the designers behind the Pinterest logo, success, even in the digital age, took years. Yet he never waited for external recognition to push himself to the next level; it had to come from inside.

“At the time the Pinterest logo came out, it wasn’t a highly recognized brand, and so it was kind of a slow build over time,” says Deal, who even before Pinterest had successful ventures early on in his career, at around the age of 23. Rather than wait for any sort of recognition, he focused on his next milestone, which took him to the media industry and soon to the blockchain world.

“A lot of designers, creative types – you are driven by a kind of curiosity, and it’s at odds with what makes more business sense, which is to specialize deeply in something and command a high asking price for those services,” he says. “But a lot of designers and artist types are more prone to leaping around and trying new things and chasing butterflies.”

And that sort of mind-set is what success tends to be about: an individual’s internal journey. Creatives often look to use their skills to finish a problem, and due to their ambition and drive, once solved, they want to try something new. Otherwise, life can become a bit stagnant.

“Greatness is not created by always trying to do something better than you did last time; it’s a constant expression of where you are in your own evolution,” adds Neagle. “Your mindset should be that you can be constantly creating throughout your entire lifetime.”

from Adobe 99UAdobe 99U https://adobe.ly/2Hcji4a

Vivienne Ming: The High Stakes of AI Will Make Us All Explorers and Entrepreneurs

Vivienne Ming: The High Stakes of AI Will Make Us All Explorers and Entrepreneurs

Vivienne Ming seems to be as indefatigable as the AI robots she studies. She has more than one PhD to her name, has started six different companies, and now travels the world under the titles of (in her words) “self-appointed do-gooder,” “mad scientist,” and “professional jackass.” Her latest venture is Socos Labs, where she uses machine learning to help children cultivate resilience, empathy and other increasingly important traits. And she also has 11—that’s right—11 books in the works.

We sat down with Ming to discuss the purpose that drives her superhuman energy, what she wishes every Silicon Valley leader knew, and how AI will continue to impact creativity and work.

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Q: We’re hearing a lot about how AI is going to affect the future of work. Aside from the job market, how might AI intersect with creatives’ work itself?

A: If you want to know how AI actually should be thought of: it’s a tool. It’s a paintbrush. It is part of a whole set of tools to creatively explore the world. Where we begin to fail is where we lose touch with that; when we think AI is intelligent like we are or will solve our problems for us. But if a genuinely creative person has a powerful tool, then they are empowered to do even more.

Google doesn’t hire people because they know how to program. It hires people who know how to come up with creative solutions to complicated problems. It just so happens many of them do it by programming. If we get too obsessed with the tools, we will fail to realize that it’s actually about the craftsmen. Stop thinking of it as artificial intelligence and start thinking of it as augmentation.

Q: How does AI relate to how we educate the next generation for a completely different world of work?

A: The one thing I can’t build an AI to do is explore the unknown. That, at least for now and the foreseeable future, is the unique domain of humans. So, what we’re trying to build into the parent and into the kids, are all of the factors that make an explorer. Because, it turns out, the best way to help a kid is to help the parents develop those skills themselves. We started to think: how could we build things that could help people be better parents?

We took a hundred years of research and we said, “What do we know makes a difference in a child’s life outcomes?” And then we built a little AI that tries to understand resilience, or attention, or self-assessment. Then it looks for those qualities in the kids’ actual behavior. We’ve built these tools in a project called Muse that creates a new activity every night for a parent to spend 20 minutes with that child. But the dirty, open secret is we’re actually trying to change the parent, not the kid. It’s about emotional intelligence and social skills and creativity itself. AI is involved. But it’s not some massive deep neural network.

Vivienne Ming explains an idea to a group of seven students

Vivienne Ming travels the world under the titles of “self-appointed do-gooder,” “mad scientist”. Photo by Erik R Jepsen.

Q: What exactly are you trying to shift in the parent?

A: We don’t tell parents what to do. We absolutely don’t tell them who their kids are. We say: “Here’s who this child could be. And here’s what you could do to help get them there.” An example: “Today we’re going to go take a toilet apart to figure out how it works.” That was an activity I got to do with my daughter. And it was awesome. We’re augmenting parenting, trying to help people be the best parents they can be.

“What if everyone saw everyone else for their creative potential?”

Q: You co-founded your first tech company with your wife. How did you guys manage the blend of home life versus work life?

A: It was challenging. One of the things we did was split things up clearly. There’s just been a lot of mutual support. One of us has always been the rock when the other really needed a chance to explore. Both of us understand that it’s not about being perfect; it is about being purposeful.

Q: What does ‘being purposeful’ mean to you?

A: The paradox of purpose is it’s about sacrifice for something bigger than you; something you will never reap the benefits from. And yet, the people who make those sacrifices—when you do the statistics on very large numbers—they live longer, they earn more, they go further in their education, and they’re happier.

Vivienne Ming speaking to a crowd at the Adobe For All Summit.

Vivienne Ming addresses the audience at the Adobe For All Summit 2018. Photo by Joe Buchwald.

Q: As head of Socos Labs, you work with business and policy leaders domestically and abroad. What is it that you’re trying to make them see?

A: We talk about what it takes to build a creative economy. What if everyone saw everyone else for their creative potential? I don’t want decide who people should be. But I do want to make certain everyone doesn’t just have the opportunity but the actual tools to write their own life story. I’m out to maximize human potential. I’m not just talking about the people immediately around me, I’m talking about all 8 billion people on the planet.

“We have one possible world where we can augment everybody, and we have another world in which we can substitute for them. I know which one I want.”

Q: What a vision.

A: Yeah, it’s expansive and demented but the whole point is it’s something that’s bigger than you. There’s a line that I’ve used in my talks: “The world gets better when old men plant trees.” I like to imagine a world in which everybody’s planting trees. That’s not the world we have right now, so the first thing I need to do is plant some seeds in people themselves so that those might grow and they can carry it on themselves. I think that’s what leaders should be: people that explain why something should happen and then spend all the rest of their time helping other people achieve it. And my point of reference is my own life.


Q: In what way?

A: I hit more than a rough patch. I certainly started off with a lovely life. My dad was a doctor. My mom was a teacher. I was supposed to win Nobel prizes, be this exceptional athlete, be so many things. And almost immediately I wasn’t. By the time I got out of the standardized testing world and into university, I flunked out. Then I was homeless for a couple years. I wish more leaders in Silicon Valley and around the world had to worry about where their next meal was coming from. Because I’ve been there and it changes your perspective on the world.

Q: Overall, do you feel like creatives should feel optimistic about AI and the future of work?

A: Just being a creative is not a protection against a big 30 year-long trend to de-professionalize and drive labor costs down. The majority of employers and industries are going to follow that garden path toward zero labor cost. It’s a bit of a bait and switch, because we have one possible world where we can augment everybody, and we have another world in which we can substitute for them. I know which one I want.

The best thing you can do as an individual is dive deep into your creative instincts. We’re finally at the point where all that’s left is being human. I actually find it hopeful that, in this highly technologized world, the final story is “be all the more human.”

from Adobe 99UAdobe 99U https://adobe.ly/2smCrpN

The First Five Years: How Do I Network?

The First Five Years: How Do I Network?

Getting started in your creative career is tough. You’ve got boatloads of ambition and energy, but you lack experience, the kind of knowledge that feels like you can see into the future because you’ve been there before. So we’ve introduced a new column that will allow you to get the benefit of hindsight before you’ve actually gone through the experience. Welcome to “The First Five Years” where Mitch Goldstein, a professor of design at Rochester Institute of Technology, answers reader questions related to the uncharted waters of beginning a career. This month, Mitch answers a question about the best strategies for — don’t cringe! — networking.

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Q. How do I network?

The most important thing about building a network of clients and collaborators is to be a good person first, and a good designer second. No matter how brilliant you may be, no matter how exceptional your portfolio might look, no matter how elite of a college you graduated from, none of these things matter if you are a jerk — nobody wants to work with a talented jerk. Clients or studios are going to collaborate with you, and the soft skills of interpersonal relationships matter greatly. You need to be someone people want to work with, want to talk to, and want to take seriously as a creative practitioner. Employers like designers who are enthusiastic and intelligent about their field, and presenting yourself as someone who cares about the work is important. Remember: clients and employers hire people, not portfolios.

“The more you are honest with yourself, the more you will naturally gravitate to the right kinds of events for you.”

With this in mind, if you are an outgoing person, attending events where you will meet like-minded creative professionals is a good idea. AIGA talks, Creative Mornings, design conferences, etc… can all be valuable ways to connect with other designers. Designers often pass work to each other when they don’t have time or ability to take on a new project, so having a community of other creative pros can be really valuable. If you are a more introverted person, then maybe huge events like national conferences are a scary thing — in which case, don’t go! Maybe you would enjoy yourself more at smaller local events, or possibly online communities like Slack. The more you are honest with yourself, the more you will naturally gravitate to the right kinds of events for you.

Social media can be a valuable way to connect with others around the world, or it can be a toxic nightmare of derogatory comments and snarky subtweets (it is very often both). What is more important than how many followers you have is what comes up when a potential client or job searches for your name online. Think about how you present yourself on social media — are you a generally positive entity, or a negative one? Are you excited about what you and others are making, or are you constantly belittling other designers’ work? Criticism about our profession is both important and necessary, but bashing other people’s projects for the sake of retweets helps nobody, and reflects far more poorly on you than on the work you are throwing under the bus. Everything you put online under your own name — absolutely everything — is a part of your portfolio whether you want it to be or not. Think about what you say, and how you say it, before hitting “tweet.”

from Adobe 99UAdobe 99U https://adobe.ly/2VIVOqi

Lyft’s VP of Design: 8 Principles on Scaling a Design Team

Lyft’s VP of Design: 8 Principles on Scaling a Design Team

When Katie Dill joined Lyft as vice president of design, she had a team of 40. In just over a year, she’s grown that number to more than 100.

Dill, who was formerly the director of experience design at Airbnb, knows a thing or two about what it takes to build a thriving team at a fast-growing tech company. In a recent interview with 99U, she shared her strategies for hiring the right people, executing on a vision, and creating a culture that scales with the company.

Here are her top principles for building a design team.

***

1. Get designers involved from the ground up.

Lyft’s design team used to operate as a centralized design agency, coming up with solutions when approached by product teams. Today, the team is integrated in every step of the product development process, which Dill says has led to more creative, customer-driven results. “It’s a great example of how design is a part of the product development process at all stages, and how design is partnering with product management, engineering, and data science to determine the right thing to do for our consumers and our drivers,” she says.

“For example, we go on city tours with our product partners which helps us identify opportunities together.”

2. Think of building a team as mixing a great cocktail.

One area where managers tend to develop a blind spot is in who they hire – often, they look for the same type of person over and over without thinking of the overall mix of skills, backgrounds and perspectives needed for the team to thrive. Dill, however, likens her approach to building a team to mixing a cocktail. “You really have to think about the different way that ingredients play off each other – to create a nice comprehensive and elegant composition,” she says. “When I think about building a team, I look at all of that. Do we have people who are going to lead? Do we have people who are going to support that leadership? Are we going to have people to fill the different skills that we need? Having a diverse team not only leads to more comprehensive work, but a greater diversity of ideas and learning opportunities for all.”

Members of the design team conversing in a lounge space accompanied by a dog.

Members of the design team conversing in a lounge space accompanied by an office dog. Photo courtesy of Lyft

3. Look for designers who ‘think beyond the pixel.’

It’s easy for design leaders at tech companies to get swept up in the online experience, but the offline experience is just as important. “Yes, a lot of our work is related to those pixels, but as a customer, your experience of us isn’t just in the app – it’s on a street corner, it’s sitting in the back of a car, it’s riding a bike, it’s talking to someone who moments ago was a stranger,” says Dill. That’s why she looks for designers who pay attention to more than what is on the screen. “Do they think beyond the pixel? Do they think about every moment of the journey and all of the different modalities of that interaction — from a billboard, to an app, to a seat cushion, to the person-to-person interaction? That’s what we want.”

4. Translate your mission into values.

As a design leader, it’s important that you find people who have the necessary skills and experience, but it’s also important that they demonstrate the values that reflect your mission. At Lyft, Dill looks for people who have “humility, strong proactive hustle, and great craft.” All three things tie into the company’s mission of changing the world through better transportation, which requires employees who have a great deal of user empathy, passion and quality standards.

Designers at their desk at the Lyft office in San Francisco. Photo courtesy of Lyft

An open and bright floorplan at the Lyft office in San Francisco. Photo courtesy of Lyft

5. Remove barriers to productivity.

Look at the way your organization is structured, how people communicate and the systems they’re using. Are there problems that can be fixed to make things more
effective and efficient? “You can hire the best people in the world, but if they have everything working against them, interference in the system, or interference based on the company itself, it’s going to be hard to get the best out of them,” says Dill. “It’s related to my favorite management ‘formula’: Performance = potential-interference.”

Designers collaborating in a common area of the Lyft office.

Designers utilizing a common area of the Lyft office to collaborate. Photo courtesy of Lyft

6. Get creative with the way you communicate.

Today’s 24/7 hyperconnected workplace means people can work from anywhere in the world. While there are many upsides to that, one downside is that people have less of a chance of bumping into each other and discussing what they’re working on. To invite sharing across the organization, for the last 5 years, Dill has been having designers share weekly screenshots of their work in a shared Google Doc — she calls it a “visual stand-up”. “You get to see what 100 different people are doing, which gives you insight into what’s going on.”

7. Recognize that not every tradition scales.

What works in a small group doesn’t always work when that group grows. A perfect example is birthday celebrations – Dill recalls how her team used to have cake when it was someone’s birthday or for a new hire’s first day. It was a wonderful tradition, but when the team size ballooned, it became a bit ridiculous. “It was like that Seinfeld episode where Elaine’s coworkers bring a cake in for some celebration every day,” she says. Instead, Dill encourages managers to think about bringing the organization together in ways that are more scalable. “We do have at least one opportunity every week to bring the whole team together through bi-weekly stand-ups and all-hands. We are constantly sharing information with each other. We’re highlighting people from the team so others get to know them, see what they’re all about.”

8. Encourage a culture where people feel comfortable sharing lessons learned.

Teams, especially fast-growing ones, can benefit when their individual members are open about mistakes they’ve made and the lessons they learned. One thing Dill does is send her team an update every week that often includes some insight she recently learned. “I say, ‘Hey, I did something last week where I accidentally switched off a tool and it didn’t go well. Here’s why, and this is what I learned.’ I do think it helps to set an example with the team, and it’s kind of become part of our culture.”

from Adobe 99UAdobe 99U https://adobe.ly/2M0kBSh

Jon Burgerman: Dispatches from the Edge of the Burgerworld

Jon Burgerman: Dispatches from the Edge of the Burgerworld

Ninety Nine U recently visited the artist known for bringing new realities everywhere, from the Tate Modern to Instagram Stories, for a cup of tea in his new workspace in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. It wasn’t only Burgerman in the studio – the space is crowded floor to ceiling with paintings of the creatures who inhabit “Burgerworld,” plus a puppet sidekick he uses in his Skillshare class and a 3-D printed doll of Burgerman that sits next to his assistant’s computer keyboard to make sure she’s working. “I used to have my whole head as the wallpaper on the iMac, but I thought it was a bit much,” Burgerman says.

We asked Burgerman about his early days developing his signature style, what his art has in common with the music industry, and the one thing we can all do to be more creative.  

***

Q. You started out doing a fine arts degree. What did you plan to do with that degree, and what did you envision your career being?

A. I did start a fine arts degree and finished it in Nottingham. I never fit in any way. For my degree show – people go all out for their degree shows – I really couldn’t think of what to do. So I just collected all of the stuff I’d been making. I had a little cabinet of objects that I’d customized as sort of fake products. One of them was a Pepsi can, and I used a rubber band and a sticker and I put a flag on the top and people thought I was crazy. I remember having a really vivid dream of a toy train with my name, J-O-N, in wooden letters on the carriages of the train going around in a circle. I spent a week and ran to all the toy stores looking for it. Thank God I didn’t do that. I put them all together, and that was my show.

And all the tutors, friends of mine, asked me the same question: “What are you going to do? What are you going to be?” It’s weird when people ask you that. Well, I thought, Isn’t it obvious? Surely, all this suggests a really successful career.

Burgerman dressed in an 8-bit style hoodie working on a colorful ink piece in his studio. Photographed by

Burgerman working on a colorful ink piece in his studio.

Q. What career were you picturing?

A. I had a vague dream of being a painter and having exhibitions. But whilst on the course, I was really into sort of design, sort of illustration – I didn’t know it was those things – like record sleeves, T-shirts, crappy merchandise. I was really torn. I liked going to galleries and museums, but I was particularly fascinated by the gift shops. You know, here are the Van Gogh sunflowers. And now, here they are as a tea towel. It’s so weird, but yeah – that is what I want to wash my dishes with. Even now, I just came back from London and I went to the Royal Academy’s summer exhibition. And the gift shops are full of crap: weird toys and things.

Q. Do you think it’s crap?

A. I mean, in a good way.

Q. How did you decide to move to America and why did you give everything away before you did?

A. Not everything. You know Michael Landy? He’s the artist that did Breakdown. It’s an amazing project. He destroyed everything he’d owned. I did a really mini, puny version of that.

Q. So it was an artistic gesture?

A. Not really. I just wanted to live somewhere else. I’d been traveling a lot and I’d come into New York for exhibitions and things, and I was having a great time coming here. And I said, “Well, I could be somewhere else; live another life.” I had a really successful run of it and decided to start again; hit reset. I came here with two suitcases and nowhere to live. If I had known what I was going to do, I would never have done it. I went to see an immigration lawyer in London. I was like, “I want to live in New York.” And she was like, “Do you have a job there?” “No.” “Do you have family there?” “No.” “Are you getting married to someone?” “No.” “Are you going to start a business there?” “Not really.” And then I left her office and I was like, “Shit, what have I done?” I just thought I should challenge myself a little. I’m not normally like that. I’m very lazy by nature.

Q. You are?

A. Yeah, completely. What you’re seeing – this is the least of what I could be doing. I do the bare minimum, which is why I’m always a bit down on myself. I know I could do more, be better.

Burgerman moving around his studio adorned with handmade shelves and doodle covered walls. Photo by

Burgerman moving around his studio adorned with handmade shelves and doodle covered walls.

Q. So how do you manage yourself?

A. I don’t know. I just work. I work all the time. It’s not just that I go home and I take off my hat and I’m done for the day. It’s 24/7. It’s a lifestyle business. I know I am a freelancer, but I don’t really think of myself in that way. I have to be careful not to become President Business. I don’t want to be a company or a brand. I just like being a human being that makes stuff. I have to be a business to stay alive and stay in New York. But I can’t really get my head around it, because a lot of what I do is terrible business. Risks are not great business decisions.

Q. What’s a risk you’ve taken?

A. When I first moved here, I was in a band. That was a risk of time. Time is the commodity that I gamble with the most. Why would you spend all this time rehearsing and writing and performing? The only people who are going to come and see you are your friends, and people accidentally coming to the venue too early or too late. It was a completely frivolous thing. We painted backdrops on cardboard boxes and we’d get people onstage and then we’d do silly things. We’d auction our paintings during a song. I miss it a lot.

Q. Did you write lyrics?

A. Yeah, I would write the words and do sort of a skeleton of the song, like this chord and then this chord. And then [another bandmate] would flesh it out to an actual, real song. I still like making music, but the length of a song I’ll write now is only like 15 seconds.

Q. That’s the attention span we all have.

A. Exactly. It’s Instagram Story length.

Q. Do you remember lyrics from any of the songs?

A. Yes.

Q. Can you tell me?

A. No. It’s too embarrassing.

Q. Please?

A. There was a song called “Salad Ballad,” and I was always proud of the line. It’s…I can’t do it; it’s too embarrassing.

Q. Please do it.

A. A lot of the songs were about heartbreak, and obviously that’s what “Salad Ballad” was. So it’s a song saying to a girl, “You should come over and watch Columbo.” And then, “Don’t be such a dumbo.” Everyone asked us if the band was serious. And the sad thing is, it was. But it was really silly and goofy at the same time.

That problem with the band, I think, relates to my art practice. There are a lot of people who say, “Are you serious? We get that it’s funny or silly, or colorful – playful.” People find it difficult to think about it the way they would if the artwork was about heavier, weightier things. Because it’s casual and funny and weird, they treat it in that way.

Burgerman in New York City.

Q. Can you tell me how you think about color? Thinking about what makes people take work seriously, I feel like there’s pushback when something is brightly or joyfully colored.

A. I can’t make stuff without color. It’s just a gut thing. Look at this paper. Just look at this paper. [Rifling through construction paper] Look at it; look. You don’t need to do anything to it. The yellow is really amazing. I love color. I find it very similar to music. The black and white is like the structure of the work. It’s the rhythm section. And maybe if you do a big swell of black, it’s a bit bass-y, and has some deep heaviness to it. I love drum and bass. I like rhythm and beats. But man can’t exist on beats alone. We can’t live just on rhythm. We need flavor. We need taste. We need sour and sweet. And that’s where all the color comes from. And these are all the notes. These are all the chords. The pink is all the high notes, the highlights, the squeaky voices, and little cheeky details. That’s why a lot of my work is very colorful. Black and white is good. And you’re right – I think people take it seriously because it’s more chic. If you go to an event and you’re wearing all black, people think you’re cool. “Oh, she’s a designer. An architect, maybe,” something like that. If you go dressed wearing bright yellow – yellow shoes, patterned trousers – they’ll think you’re a hippie. I’m getting aware, as I’m getting older, that maybe I should tone down wearing bright colors, because people are going to think I’m some strange-uncle weird guy. Coupled with my googly eyes, I’m not doing myself any favors in trying to be taken seriously. What can I do? I like working with colored paper and Play-Doh. Those are the materials of children.

Q. What is Burgerworld?

A. Burgerworld is the title I gave an exhibition a few years ago. It’s this imaginary place where all this work lives. This is how I explain it to myself, but I never had to articulate it before. All these different things in my practice are connected. Imagine it as a world. In this country, there are these colorful, goofy characters, and they look very clean and well produced. Then, in the neighboring country or village, they’re a bit scrappier, gruffer, weirder. Maybe they’re a bit more liberal. It was a way of thinking, because I really struggle with, What is all this stuff? Where does it all fit together? So I kind of imagine it in that place. And then there’s a Burgerworld book, which is a coloring book.

The cover of Burgerman's coloring book of the intricate land of Burgerworld. Image courtesy of Jon Burgerman

The cover of Burgerman’s coloring book of the intricate land of Burgerworld. Image courtesy of Jon Burgerman

Q. I thought Burgerworld might be your imagination, but it almost sounds like this is a thing that is beyond you.

A. It could live on once I’m gone. A big part of my practice in the last 10 years is getting other people to make stuff and sharing the world. If you love a thing, set it free; that kind of thing. I’m inspired by a lot of stuff, and so it’s really amazing if people are inspired by what you do, right? Rather than try and protect all this stuff, I think you have to purposely get rid of it. And then make something else.

People coloring in a Burgerworld mural during an interactive art exhibit at Hudson Yards in Manhattan

An interactive Burgerworld mural at Hudson Yards in Manhattan. Photo courtesy of Jon Burgerman

Q. Talking about the things that you’re inspired by, I’m thinking about your Jeff Koons adaptation or about the Infinity Room adaptation, where you created small models of both.

A. That’s the thing. They put out something, and then you can take it, tweak it to your end, and then put it back out into the world. That’s what music does. “Oh, they sampled this.” “Oh, this sounds like the ’80s.” They’re taking it, tweaking it, and putting it back.

Art does it a lot. I really love the idea of subverting it and playing with it. And I hope it doesn’t really upset anyone. But that’s what we should all be doing. It is kind of funny to see someone reinterpreting what you do. I know Matt Groening, the creator of The Simpsons, used to collect all the fake Simpsons merchandise. Because that’s a huge form of flattery, right? I’ve got folders on my computer of stuff that I know is a knockoff. And most of the time, it’s very innocent.

Q. What advice do you have for people looking to add some more creativity to their lives?

A. One thing you can do: read more. I guarantee you, it’ll increase your creativity. Reading is the number one thing that any human being can do to increase their creativity, because it’s fertilizer for your imagination. You’re reading these little black shapes on a white background, converting them into words, and then those words become sentences and those sentences are telling you something. And then in your head, you’re feeling and imagining things: what it looks like, what they sound like. That’s the best thing you can do for your imagination and your creativity and your general well-being.

Q. Would you like to be more in the fine art world?

A. Fine art seems like the best thing, right? You just make what you want to make and put it in a gallery, and there are no clients or briefs. I’m in a kind of limbo world. Do I want to do more paintings and drawings just for the sake of it? Yes. But I don’t know if I would actually say I want to do more fine art. I’m happier on the edges of things.

from Adobe 99UAdobe 99U https://adobe.ly/2CMY2xu

Tea Uglow: Shed the Armor of Identity to Embrace Creative and Personal Transformation

Tea Uglow: Shed the Armor of Identity to Embrace Creative and Personal Transformation

I met Tea Uglow on a misty day in New York City, where tourists in Chelsea were braving the threat of rain for sidewalk cafés and city strolls. Uglow herself was coming from the second of two brunches when she met me at Soho House, squeezing in meetings before she flew back to Australia and her role as Experimental Person in Charge at Google Creative the next day. She brewed – appropriately enough – tea in blue china cups.

Perhaps it was the rainy day and comfy armchairs, which dwarfed us as well as our cups and saucers, that gave me the sense of time traveling into a British novel. But maybe what was really transporting me to another world was the feeling of talking with Uglow, who, in an age of glib answers and press-ready catchphrases, pushes at the unfinished edges of ideas like time, self, and creativity. “This perspective would change massively if you interviewed me on a different day,” she told me. Her ideas are shifting and in progress, just as Uglow herself – and all of us – are ever-transforming works in progress, from who we are to our creative output.

In our conversation, we returned often to Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself”:

Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)

Welcome to a transformative cup of tea with Tea Uglow.

***

Q. Your one bio says, “She writes, talks, arts, geeks, queens, parents, and humans.” What does it mean to human?

A. There are lots of things we are expected to do that don’t make all that much sense to me. Well, they do make sense within the conventions, the values, and the expectations of society. But often you don’t really know where these things come from. We don’t stop and examine them. “Humaning” is where you do all the things that don’t really make any sense to make everyone else understand that you are also human. If you weren’t human and you came to be human, it would be a fairly fundamental culture shock. We see that in sitcoms all the time: “Hey, it’s an alien in a human body. Aren’t humans weird?” And you go, “Yeah, they really are.”

Q. That’s not at all how I expected you define humaning.

A. What did you think I was going to say?

Q. I think people sometimes say things about working to be more human in a more true-to-themselves sort of way.

A. I don’t really buy into the self thing for mental health reasons. I don’t have that solidity of self, that constancy that you’re talking about, that idea of having a set of values or a set of principles. I’m not amoral, but I have assorted value sets, and they’re often in conflict with one another. When I’ve had nervous breakdowns, often what happens is you strip away – especially if you’re transitioning – lots of ideas of identity and self, anything which you feel is being constructed by society, which you’ve been told you have to be. And you find yourself with very little. There is very little. My friends might call it the spirit or the soul. The only thing I really thought I had was certainly not a sense of self; it was the place that ideas come from. It’s why I’m comfortable with the notion of creativity.

Uglow sporting a tropical dress sitting in front of an orange backdrop.

Uglow sporting a tropical dress.

Q. Can you describe that for me?

A. Yeah, sure. We often ask ourselves, “Who do you want to be?” For me, that’s always been a very collaged thing. I am different things for different people at different times, which is difficult – partly because I’m trans. From the age of three, I’ve been assembling myself as a boy to fit in, to get along, and to not get killed. You learn to assemble the self according to what is asked of you, not what you feel you are. I never really had an opportunity to find that idea of true self. As I was transitioning, I assumed that’s what would happen: I would find my true self.

Funny enough, having gotten to rock bottom and stripped of all the things I thought I was to other people, all the things I was scared of losing – Who am I without those things? Will you still like me? Will I still have any meaning? – it’s very like getting naked, but getting all of your invisible armor off as well. It turned out there wasn’t really anything there, apart from this thing I clung to: The ideas were still there. The things that I thought about remained constant. I still think about time. I still think about space. I think about information and how we relate information, culture, and art. So that’s what I had. And all the other bits are quite constructed. So I don’t really believe in self.

Q. It sounds like a very unnerving process to go through.

A. I wouldn’t recommend it. Our idea of self and identity is armor. I think that it’s fundamentally something we construct in order to keep ourselves sane.

Uglow hudled on a sidewalk in New York City

Uglow hudled on a sidewalk in New York City.

Q. You gave a talk a few years ago, and you mentioned that moving from England to Australia and physically distancing yourself allowed you to experiment and think about new things.

A. I don’t have those memories. I remember the talk, but I couldn’t tell you one thing I said in it. Someone else completely gives my talks. I have no idea who they are. They’re very good at it. They just turn up, they do the talk, and then they move on. And every now and again they turn up in emergency situations, like I had to give a little speech at a pronoun party and it was really not going very well, because who likes doing public speaking? I was really struggling and started to cry and all of that. And then someone who was just significantly more comfortable and confident than me turned up and was like, “Oh, get out of the way.” And gave a very good speech. I don’t really know what she said.

Q. Can you describe her?

A. Yeah. She’s about a foot taller than me, and more confident, more present. She’s funny. She understands how to do work with audiences, and she’s watching for stagecraft. I’m not; it’s wild. They’re just more competent and funny. They’re quick on their feet. They know how to move on. And it’s why I quite like being on stage.

But that thing of moving to Australia was really important. You physically extract yourself from a place where people have expectations of you – where you can limit control and access to you. I didn’t realize it at the time, but clearly, based on my work and for my personal transition, that was an essential step: to go find somewhere a really long way away, where we could just cocoon ourselves and get through this.

Q. When you say “get through this,” are you through it?

A. Sort of. The trans bit’s fine. Apart from this weird sense that, every now and again, you forget quite how persecuted trans people are all around the world. And then you forget you’re one of them, which is obviously ideal, because ideally you would forget. It’s like being tall or being Welsh; it shouldn’t really affect your life.

But it does affect your life in these huge ways. Because people kill trans people. And I’m very, very much aware that I am out and proud and public and happy to represent for that community. But I’d rather not have it painted on my forehead.

Uglow in a colorful chevron dress posing by the water and the staircase of a brick building

Uglow venturing around the city.

Q. I read that one of your favorite ways of getting correspondence is via postcard.

A. This is true. I like all the postcards. It is something that gives me great joy.

Q. What is it about postcards?

It’s the physicality of the thing. When we were at university, I had friends around the world, and we used to send each other really strange things through the mail to see if they’d go, like lumps of wood. Or you’d send a T-shirt where the address was on the T-shirt. Someone sent tea bags and those sorts of things. Tea bags were actually very common because it’s like a thing where you’re going, “Oh, tea. We’re having a cup together!” I used to get letters and cards, and my mother has always been a great writer. This is before email. There’s a certain sort of tragedy to the decline of physical mail, because there’s something really lovely about that. I really like it when people send me odd postcards. All of that thought and effort that’s gone into that. It’s quite meaningful. The best ones, obviously, are the ones where you draw something.

Q. It’s ironic, given that your career is so founded in totally new digital concepts.

A. One of the weirdest things about my career is this opportunity to try to make adverts for things that people didn’t know were things. Like Chrome. When we started trying to get people to use Chrome, people didn’t know what a browser was.

Q. Is there a particular project that was fun to work on?

A. It was one of Google’s early adverts. When Google Plus came along, we really wanted to explain to people that all this photo stuff was bundled into it. There’s a setting so that when you take a photo, it uploads to an album that’s in the cloud. The whole idea was really novel, and we were trying to think why this would be useful. Up until that point, humankind had managed fine without phones that automatically upload your photos. And then we found this lovely story of this guy. He had a kid. He took lots of photos of the kid. And then he lost his phone. All the photos of his kid were on the phone, and he thought he’d lost all the photos of his kid. And then it turned out that he had the feature turned on. So he gets back home and finds all of the photos have already been saved.

Q. That’s a perfect little nugget of a story.

A. Yeah. But he didn’t want to use the photos of his kid for the story. And I had just had a kid and I was taking a lot of photos. My partner at the time was like, “What’s it going to be used for? Is anyone going to see this?” “No, no, no; it’s just an online ad,” I said. “No one watches these.” So she said yeah. And we uploaded them. And then it got shown on TV at the Grammys or Oscars or something. It’s had like 20 million views and it got translated into Portuguese. I’m not sure whether the firstborn will be more bothered that we used his photos to sell the company, or whether his younger brother will be more upset that he doesn’t have a video. That’s the lot of the second child.

Q. Was becoming a parent transformative?

A. Oh, it’s astonishing. You’re not aware how much your goals will change, how much your life will require you to take on new value sets, and how hard it is to remember that other people who don’t have children don’t share those values. Every child turns every new parent into a very new being. And it will  – almost without fail – affect relationships and change how you relate to the world. For me it was peculiar, because that whole idea of performing gender immediately became tighter; there was less space for me to not be this idea of masculinity.

We generally don’t talk about it being a difficult time, but it’s incredibly difficult. And we don’t give moms space to struggle, or we don’t give moms credit for doing it in the first place. It’s really difficult for me to talk about because I’m not the mom. I’m not their mom; I’m their parent. And I have enormous love and respect for their mother, who is doing an incredible job.

Q. In a funny way, has Google been one of the most consistent things in your life?

A. Yes. They’ve been incredibly supportive. Their main thing is like, “What can we do?” You read about people who transition or have mental health problems or disabilities or anything. We spend most of our lives at work. The idea that that would be a hostile environment to a challenge that you’re facing just feels wrong. Why would that ever be the case? But it is.

Q. There’s a trope that goes around the creative world a lot, which is the idea of bringing your whole self to work. What do you think about that idea?

A. The idea of bringing your whole self to work should really be understanding that every single person is completely different, which is much more what it is, because there’s no point in bringing your whole self to work if it’s not accepted. “Yeah, maybe not quite that much – perhaps half of yourself. How about these selves? Can you just do these parts?”

If you make sure that the environment that you’re working in is supportive, and that people believe that it’s alright to be in a caring environment when they’re at work, it makes it easier. And I have never met anyone who’s taken advantage of that. You don’t repay that by exploiting it; that’s not what you do. You tend to respond to love with love and creativity.

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