One of the most creative parts of my day is actually before I’ve arrived at work. I know it sounds like a cliché but I find often that solutions to design problems come to me while I’m in the shower. For me one of the primary goals of a designer is to solve problems and often staring at your computer (massive 27” iMac of course) and pushing pixels around can just lead you down a dead end. I’m a huge believer in thinking really hard about a design challenge for a while then not thinking about it for a while. Often the solution will then bubble up to the surface when you are least expecting it – and for me that’s in the shower.
My daily commute takes about 12 minutes by bike – and like the shower this can often result in ‘Eureka!’ moments. On an almost daily basis I give silent thanks to St Dieter Rams that Madgex is based in Brighton (along with a lot of other of tech companies) and that I don’t have to get on the train to London.
On hitting the office the first thing on my mind is to get some coffee followed pretty swiftly by checking emails. Essentially the bulk of my time is spent on ‘Project’ and ‘Platform’ work. ‘Projects’ are brand new job boards or redesigns of existing job boards and ‘Platform’ is the work we put into improving the core design and usability of the underlying system on which all of our job boards depend.
If I am in the middle of some project work my inbox can get pretty full of feedback from clients (hopefully glowing and positive) on a design we have sent to them or some communication from the Project Manager following a ‘Discovery Day’ – which is a physical or online meeting with the client to discover what their requirements are for this particular website.
‘Platform’ work can involve designing small but significant changes along with my UX colleagues like the recently added star icon next to the job details on the Lister page, or can be huge intensive projects like the ‘Responsive’ white label job board we are looking to launch later this year.
What makes my job really challenging and interesting (and perhaps unique) is that I design digital products and interfaces for three very distinct user groups –the job board owners, jobseekers and recruiters – this is a very delicate balancing act that I have to consider in everything I do. My other ‘clients’ can be my own Madgex colleagues. There are a lot of non-web items that need designing as part of running a company like Madgex such as brochures, business cards, exhibition stands, t-shirts, graphics and slides for presentations. There is rarely a day that goes by without a member of staff (usually from Sales) sidling up to my desk and asking if I ‘can just knock something together’ for them, a phrase that us designers love by the way.
One of the hardest things for me to do during my workday is to step away from my computer. Obsession is a common trait in designers and I am certainly guilty of this. Madgex is great at encouraging us to take breaks and we have a thriving table football scene but I am useless at it and avoid it at all costs. I am more likely to have a quick look at Twitter where I follow all the big players in the design and tech world. It’s a fantastic way to keep abreast of new trends and technologies – and cats playing the piano of course. I also find inspiration and refresh my creative brain in non-tech things such as some typography on a drain cover, something in the natural world or a brilliantly designed bicycle.
Design is a strange job in some ways as everyone has an opinion on it. With the explosion of popularity of Apple products the general public is now much more design savvy – which I think is a great thing. Although some people think what I do is just ‘colouring in’ I honestly feel good design can make a positive difference to everyday life in many small ways. Have you ever been annoyed by a badly designed product or an arcane website? Well it’s my mission to eradicate that feeling from your life. As the mighty Saul Bass once said “There is nothing glamorous in what I do. I’m a working man. Perhaps I’m luckier than most in that I receive considerable satisfaction from doing useful work which I, and sometimes others, think is good.”