3 Tips for Moving From Print to Product Design
My design career has come full circle — prior to joining Foundry in March of this year, my first job in the design field back in 2013 was in the then less-mainstream discipline of "responsive web design." I started my design learning by doing experimental media-based installations in art school and building some poorly coded “responsive” websites. Even though I thought of what I was doing as some version of "graphic design," I was very much thinking through a user flow I needed people to have with my pieces — arguably doing UX work before I fully grasped what that was. When I got my first print job later on, I was nervous, thinking I didn't have enough of a "print background." After years of working mostly on print, I felt the same thing when starting at Foundry — worried that my portfolio was no longer "digital" enough.
However, I've come to realize that bringing interface design to print gave me helpful insights, and my years of print experience have also given me useful approaches and foundations to bring to my product work at Foundry. At first, print and digital felt like such different worlds to me, but the truth is they inform and enrich each other if you let them — here's what I've found to be helpful to keep in mind when trying to bridge that imaginary gap.
1. Embrace the learning curve and trust what you know
If you think through a design lens — thinking intentionally and envisioning the full life of what you're building through its intended function and past that — the format you're working with doesn't have to be an obstacle. You're designing something; all while knowing that you're going to lose control over it eventually. But if your design is strong, what you've built can adapt beyond the point where you're able to touch it, and you can be confident in its ability to take off on its own beyond the limits of your vision for it. This is true in fine art spaces and, of course, more concretely true when designing products. If you think UX seems intimidating, start with the basics and keep building. In print, when you think of the user, you often think of hierarchy and scalability: Where does the eye go? What do they need to read first? The same can be applied when you’re designing a digital product. How does a user interact with a feature? Where do they have to click first? As you’re building products, get feedback from peers (designers and non-designers alike), provide context, ask questions, and take notes while you’re problem solving.
2. If you don't know something, ask
In my experience in the design world, there can be a lot of competition and ego, and it's easy to feel afraid of sounding dumb or revealing you don't know something. In healthy tech, as in healthy design spaces, humility and admitting that sometimes you need to Google things is fine, and even a positive. Part of becoming good at something is embracing what you don't know, and being open to learning and admitting what you don't know is a crucial practice. If you're shifting from one kind of work to a less familiar one, it can feel extra anxiety-inducing to admit you don't already know something; it's 2020, we're all familiar with our personal tendencies toward imposter syndrome. But it's good to remember that asking questions, being open about where we can learn more, and enthusiasm about opportunities to learn from others' expertise are healthy practices in all disciplines, no matter how experienced we are at them.
3. Prototyping gets even better
When you work in print, prototyping can look like printing fifty 8 ½ x 11 sheets of paper and spending six hours trying to roughly mock up a how a seven-foot-tall paragraph would look on a wall; there's something really fulfilling and fun about that, the experience of physically building your concept with your hands and watching it take shape, tiny flaw after tiny flaw. Prototyping a digital product you designed and seeing people interact with it offers a joy a lot like seeing the paragraph you spent a bunch of hours kerning to perfection blown up on a wall — you get to see your designs take form in the real world, and you learn something new about the product by having users interact with it; it makes you a better designer. It offers a unique level of satisfaction and growth — you get to see and work through the product's function and utility, always aiming to design for a seamless and pleasant interaction and always aspiring to perfect it even more. Plus, it kills way fewer trees than printing 50 sheets of paper.
Year-round mountain biking on metro-area singletrack trails!
Luminary Loppet at Theodore Wirth Regional Park. An annual event as part of The Great Northern Festival, it’s a fairly magical celebration and a great way to interact with the great outdoors during winter.
Winter walks in Chicago
One of the best parts of moving to a new city is exploring it by foot. This is the Riverwalk in Chicago.
We had no idea how to ice fish, but you only turn five once so we bundled up and had an adventure.
Ice fishing on Lake of the Woods
Our shanty was at this spot on the lake. It took us 30 minutes to drive out to it. And we almost didn’t make it because our guide was the polar vortex equivalent of a Mad Max character and he insisted driving 60 MPH. We were riding in a Prius so it was difficult to keep up.
Iceskating, Fetch, and Snowmobiling
2021 Winter (so far) has brought the following…
1. Many hours of iceskating with a shiny pink cast on the wrist of my 9 year old
2. Lots of playing fetch for our lab
3. My first time snowmobiling! (I’m hooked)
Frozen Lake Biking
No greater way to enjoy Minnesota lakes in a new way than biking on them while frozen.
Winter geocaching is a great way to stay warm and explore favorite places around the city in a new way.
This is Benke (pronounced ben•kuh). He's a one year old rescue. He's afraid of big bags and loves cuddling on the couch.
- Travis Meyer
Kuri (Maori for dog)
Kuri acts more like a dog than a cat. She once found her way into a drywall resulting in us having to cut through our wall to get her out. She has lived in several countries, and 9 different houses/apartments with me.
- Per Kvanbeck
Flynn or Flynnigan
At the first glance, he may appear a tad dopey, but once you get to know him you see that his charm is that he is a love-able lug that just wants to be a part of the pack and please his humans. Getting up there in years, you will find him asleep in whatever room the rest of his humans are in.
- Leana Stone
Lou and Winnie
This pair of energetic pups love to bark at seemingly nothing. With kids around and a constant need to eat anything that hits the floor, you will often find Lou with food somewhere in his fur or Winnie with the occasional popcorn bag on her head.
- Joe De Jarnett
Nori, Dee, and Janet
Here’s my cool, calm, and collected bunch. This is Nori (a Norfolk Island Pine – left), Dee (a Bird of Paradise – back), and Janet (a Dracaena Janet Craig – right). Despite their tropical roots, they seem to have adjusted nicely to their Minnesota home.
- Kelsey Schwalbach
Cabela enjoys long walks in the park, hunting for pheasants, grouse and crumbs off the floor. She can nap just about anywhere but she is a champion dock jumper. Flying through the air at the ol’ age of 10 just makes makes her feel like a young pup!
- Sarah Bruss
This is Groucho, my adopted stray cat (we checked for previous families.) He started following me while I was walking our dog. We fed him for a winter, a summer, and another winter, and only then he finally decided to let us bring him inside. This is a particularly glorious BLEP he gifted me that lasted several minutes.
- David Middlecamp
This is Jerry. I mean what else can I say? We love him and are glad he is faring well, even while at our Foundry office.
- Foundry Office
Hunter was found alone in the middle of a freeway when she was 8 weeks old. She’s a year and half old german shepherd/chow mix. She enjoys attention more than anything: from dogs, cats, people, you name it, she wants to be your friend. Her favorite toys are extra small...preferably cat toys.
- Mika Albornoz
Meet my dog. She makes no effort to help around the house, and gets depressed on car rides. Her Olympic level shedding is world renowned. When she’s not trying to get me to play instead of work, she sleeps. And sleeps. Her hobbies include barking at people we pass on walks, removing her toys from the bin and evenly distributing around my office, and tricking me into feeding her dinner twice.
- Robert Nelson
As much as I hate to admit it, he runs the house. He even has his own bedroom and sleeps all day on his queen-sized bed. When he’s awake, he wrestles with his brother, but it’s hard to tell whether or not he’s having fun. He also yells at his humans constantly for food when his bowl is clearly full. He won’t eat if he even sees a speck at the bottom of the bowl. You know, cats.
- Ashley Kim
Together with Io and Callisto (Europa's cat siblings) they almost complete the set of Jupiter's four Galilean moons. We Just need Ganymede...
- Nils Hansen
Rachel and Oliver
When they’re not chasing each other in circles around the apartment, Oliver enjoys sitting on laps and Rachel enjoys biting feet. Rachel uses her extra thumb to get an exceptionally good grip to scratch furniture, while Oliver prefers to serenade us in the middle of the night with a variety of his greatest hits, including “Mrreeeeww” and “Brrrrwwoowww”.
- Claudio Rivera
This is Podrick. He’s a happy, smart, and stubborn corgi with a passion for blueberries (and anything that his grandma sneaks him, really.) He prefers humans over dogs, but he’s pretty good when it comes to the ladies. In his free time, he enjoys destroying toys, harassing his brother, napping on the couch and borking at nonexistent sounds.
- Ashley Kim
Emerson and Noodle
No introduction required.
- Evan Kearney
This is Baymax. We have tried multiple times to grow our favorite herbs and have failed miserably... To our rescue is our new buddy, that helps us grow our herbs and vegetables. With Baymax’s help, we hope to have cilantro to add to our dinners!
- Andy Stone