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My first creative outlet was the computer, so in some ways I’m hard coded to the mindset. While part of my drive is to make work that appears online, another part is discovering new ideas and soliciting feedback. There’s something intoxicating about the peer validated nature of the Internet especially social media.

question Please give us a brief bio of yourself.

Even as a child I was a visual thinker. Early on, I found it easier to recognize differences over similarities. Coming of age in the 90s, Surfer magazine was my first real encounter with design. However, it wasn’t until I was at UCLA that I learned about David Carson, and other designers who influenced me in my younger years. 

UCLA Design | Media Arts (DMA) was my first foray into design education. It can best be described as a little art school tucked into a big university. DMA was unique opportunity to explore not only the design process but also experimental media. At DMA, I learned how to think and speak critically about design, a skill that has taken my work to the next level as a designer and creator.

The past six years I’ve spent at Use All Five have been a series of ups-and-downs, as I grew from a designer in a three man outfit, to Creative Director at a studio of nearly 20. Through each up and down, we’ve remained focused on how we can improve. We wouldn’t have the success we have today if we hadn’t learned from our failures in the past.

What do you do for inspiration?

I have a loose “no screen after work” policy and I try to surround myself with as much analog content as possible. Magazines, books, and one-off publications are in stacks around my apartment. There’s a fine line between collecting and hoarding, and I walk it carefully. In my reading I try to alternate between fiction and nonfiction, although I’ve been leaning fiction heavy lately. 

Please list 3 of your favourite sites.

Google will always be my gateway drug to discovery. vvork.com was a unique combination of a mind and body high that is now only a living archive. Twitter used to have a numbingly strong purity, but lately finding uncut accounts are harder to come by.

How do you relax or unwind?

I started competing in athletics at an early age, and since then fitness has been core to my life. For me, there’s a strong correlation between how I feel physically and how I feel mentally. Working out allows me to hit the reset button and clear my mind.

If you weren't working on the internet what would you be doing?

My first creative outlet was the computer, so in some ways I’m hard coded to the mindset. While part of my drive is to make work that appears online, another part is discovering new ideas and soliciting feedback. There’s something intoxicating about the peer validated nature of the Internet especially social media.

What's your favourite part of your job? What's the hardest part of your job? What do you do when you get stuck?

My favorite part of my job–or at least the part I’ve learned to embrace–is the uncertainty of outcome. There’s a phase in every project where ideas manifest as fuzzy pictures in your head. Sometimes only sounds or gestures can describe the idea, they’re so nascent language fails you. This is the moment of uncertainty. I’ve learned to embrace uncertainty, to swim in it knowing that even in the deep end there is still a bottom.

The most challenging part of my job is communication, not writing emails or holding meetings, but communicating ideas. Understanding means the essence of the picture in your head was effectively communicated to another person. It sounds simple until you consider all the times your ideas have been misunderstood.

If there are any pivotal experiences/decisions you could point to that helped shape your career, what would they be?

At the beginning of 2013, Use All Five began the challenging transition from a loose group of talented individuals to a manageable and structured team. Prior to the shift,  we joked that we started the studio so we’d never have a boss. I don’t think we considered that as we grew we’d have to manage a staff and each other. The role of Creative Director at Use All Five has pushed me to take on new responsibilities and look at my work from an entirely new perspective.

How many projects does your company juggle at any one time?

On average, the Use All Five team is working seven projects, in various  phases of our process. We have a five step process (the five is merely a coincidence): Understand, Explore, Focus, Prototype, and Iterate.

Who is your target audience?

At Use All Five, how we do work is as important as the work we do, from this philosophy we’ve developed a process we call Culture Centered Design Thinking. Rather than defining audiences by demographic, we look for shared interests and values across varied demographics to surface significant cultural relationships. Basic demographic data tends to focus on weak bonds between audiences such as age, location, gender, and income. Cultural data looks deeper into shared values and interests: warehouses over music festivals, craft beers over cocktails, experiences over purchases, Netflix over cable, and so on.  With our approach, the audiences are extremely varied, but cultural values are the through line for each project’s audience.

What area of web design lacks the most?

Creative concepting. So much ideation in digital falls into two distinct categories: aesthetic outcomes and technical executions. Creative concepting is an interdisciplinary understanding of design, requiring a focus on technically sound concepts and aesthetically considered outcomes. Until we’re able to these camps, digital conversations  will continue to focus on executions rather than concepts.

When dealing with major clients, how difficult is it to meet the needs of such wide target audiences?

Wide target audiences mean not just varied devices, but varied cultures and behaviors across devices. The challenge is for the creative and development to work together to speculate, take risks, and compromise. The successful project is not the one with the lowest common denominator of IE8 compatibility, it’s one that respects that technology and creative must inform each other.

Are there things you do OUTSIDE of work to ensure that you are in the right mindset to be creative and/or successful in whatever you are doing?

Getting enough sleep, working out, and not drinking too much during the week I feel is a good recipe for success. When I can, I like to check out from work on the weekend, but still stay stimulated. If I spend zero time thinking over the weekend, Monday morning has an air of panic to it.

The web is getting out of the web. Do you find that thinking in digital solutions alone hinders you? Do you feel the urge to solve the problem using all mediums necessary?

If we consider the web as a means for individuals to connect and share, those behaviors can manifest themselves in a variety of ways. If “digital” is a “website” or an “app” in the most traditional sense of the word, then thinking in digital alone is a hinderance. However,  if we consider connected objects like Nike FuelBand, Nest, or Tesla as digital solutions then I feel we’re on the right track.

Looking 10 years in to the future, how far can websites go?

Everyone born in the last 5 years and on will encounter the Internet first on a touchscreen device, which is the closest analog we have to interacting with objects IRL. Web browsing as a chair and keyboard experience will be a relic confined to the dinosaur of corporate culture. The one constant will be the need for intuitive and delightful interfaces that compel people to engage with connected experiences.

What are your views on design/graphic school. Do you think someone can get into the field without educational experience in a school environment?

Yes. The actual act of design in the real world is more focused on producing than concepting, and there’s a real risk there of hitting a glass ceiling of conceptual ability.

The one thing I’ve found that design school provides are the abilities to think critically, self-criticize, and fail safely. In the classroom, design is discussed, teased, mocked, mirrored, torn apart, tossed about, adored, deplored, envied, judged, and rewarded. In the working world design is on-brand, on-deadline, and often after hours.

When your company was just getting started, what did you find was most effective for getting new clients?

When we were getting started, we had two main goals: do as much work as possible and build as many relationships as possible. Something that our co-founder Levi Brooks continually reminds us is that customer service is really our first deliverable. Building portfolio of appealing client work comes second, because most clients don’t want to hire a 22-year-old based on his poster for typography class.

There are three pieces of advice I can give to designers just starting out. Work in the city you live in, it makes it a lot easier to build a network and meet people even if it’s just for advice or a recommendation. Find your community, these are the people that you will collaborate with and will think of you first when they need help. Say yes to everything, you never know where a meeting, a project, a party, or a drink will take you.

What does the future hold for your company, or you as a person?

The fundamental measure of our future success at Use All Five will be our ability to make a positive impact at the intersection of culture and technology. As much as we value our role as disruptive innovators, we see this is as a stepping stone to greater opportunities. We feel that when we combine our ability to build from scratch with the transformative power of technology and art, we can change the world.

What are you excited about learning next and is there a long term challenge you are considering tackling?

The next long term challenge is to develop visibility around our creative thinking through an event series called localhost.us. It’s an opportunity for us to shape a conversation around the intersection of culture and technology with the Los Angeles creative community. So many meaningful conversations take place in isolation, localhost.us is a venue to share ideas that just might end up as a subtweet.

Any parting shots or pearls of wisdom?

Be your own harshest critic, but know when to let go.


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