Yaron is a designer and entrepreneur based in Brooklyn NY. He is the co-founder of Made for Humans, a design and development studio that provides services to a variety of clients, from start-ups to fortune 500 companies. They're also the team behind Float, the team scheduling application. Until recently, Yaron was the Design Lead at Twitter New York. He joined Twitter through the acquisition of a company he helped create, called Julpan. Before that, he worked at Fantasy Interactive where he lead designs for EA, National Geographic, and more.
When Yaron has a free moment, he enjoys producing and mixing electronic music, having fun with his family, and eating.
It’s been a year since Alex and Katy asked me to write for the Pastry Box as a recurring contributor. Wow time flies. Initially I wasn’t really sure how to respond to their request. I was in the middle of a long break in my writing and became extremely rusty. At the time I felt completely uninspired to write, and wasn’t really sure why. Writing was a huge creative outlet for me back in the day (I’m talking 8+ years ago or so), and it was something I really enjoyed doing. But as time went by I found myself writing less and less, and focusing my mind on other things. The less I wrote, the less I wanted to write, it was like a self fulfilling prophecy. But after thinking about it for a while, I thought contributing to the Pastry Box would be a great experiment. By forcing myself to write, in a recurring format, and in front of a crowd, it would potentially fuel my excitement in writing again.
That didn't go according to plan.
Turns out that forcing myself to write didn’t mean I would find something I wanted to say. If you look back at my Pastry Box articles, they mostly avoid touching any real topic and are certainly not up to par with people in the roster (not that I stood a chance anyway). I use to have opinions on things, and was able to articulate them in an article format...
At first, this really concerned me. Why am I not able to share my thoughts anymore? Is it me? Is it a change in our industry? Maybe a little of both? I’m not really sure yet, but here’s my current thinking:
When you write something on your blog you are expressing a finite opinion. It’s static. There’s no room for tweaking, having a discussion, or evolving your opinion. It’s like freezing a point of view at a certain point of time, and then sharing it with the world. But that’s not how the world works. Not our jobs as designers, as we constantly iterate and improve our work. Definitely not our relationships, as that is a constant process of learning about others and yourself. The only way to evolve an opinion within the format of a blog post is to write a follow up, or to constantly edit the original one. Lame. That, to me, is a tedious process and one I’m less excited about as time goes by.
Blogging just feels a bit archaic to me. Social media, with all its negatives, better reflects the way we think when it comes to evolving an idea. It’s easier to post thoughts, get immediate feedback, have discussions, iterate on thoughts, and move forward with them. Sure there are certain milestones worth elaborating on in detail. Thoughts and concepts that deserve expanding on outside of the social media noise. But, for me, they are way less frequent and deserve my time and attention so that I can really formulate a strong case for them.
Who knows… This post is another static point in time, so I might change my mind. But one thing is for sure, I’m grateful for the opportunity Alex and Katy provided me to exercise this idea.
Seeya around the internet, folks.
So here we are. I have 2 more days until I need to publish something for the Pastry Box... and I have nothing useful to say. No tricks, no tips, no anecdotes, no tech or design news... I basically got nothing.
I use to see my writing as a way of giving back to our design community that I love so much, but in the past 2 years or so I found myself sharing less and less. This really bothers me. I have a ton of experience and there shouldn't be any reason why not to share that experience with others. So, why am I suddenly having such a hard time?
Perhaps in the meantime there are other ways I can give back? I've been spending my off time producing music, mainly finding and mixing music, and I've been enjoying every minute of it. So perhaps instead of sharing some thoughts on the industry or tips on how to work better, I thought I'd share some music in hope that it'll help you concentrate better while you work.
I recently started a full time job, and I'm super happy. This shouldn't be a controversial thing to say, but whenever I chat with independent designers, developers, or entrepreneurs they look at me as if I've caught some nasty disease.
To be fair, I can somewhat relate. Throughout my career I've had large patches where I've been pretty autonomous, focusing on either my own design practice or on my own product or idea. So I've been on the other side of the coin many times and can relate to the sentiment.
In recent months I've been explaining the personal benefits of the move to folks, and one of these benefits I find super intriguing and thought I'd highlight here. This shouldn't be too mind blowing but...
as an employee (vs. being independent) I can focus less on myself and more on the team.
Duh. But my point is that when you are an independent designer, in a way, it's all about you and your personal brand. You're in a constant sell mode reiterating, throughout multiple channels, how fun and quirky you are to work with but at the same time a serious designer with a lot of experience and bla bla bla me me me.
Why should a potential client work with me? Well, you see, if you read my blog you can get a sense of me and some me and me. Why should they pay me large amounts of cash? Well if you check out my portfolio I did a lot of me in the past, which has yielded great me results and me me me.
And this isn't just a one time thing. You have to me me me every single time with a new client or a potential one. It's a repetitive thing you need to do constantly, and it's tiring. Even for a self loving person such as myself.
Not to say that as an employee you don't have to sell yourself, but that's the same with any relationship. It's more trust building than anything, and it's not as frequent as when doing client work.
Also not to say that marketing yourself is inherently a bad thing. It's not, it's a good thing. It's a must as an independent designer, developer, or entrepreneur. Some people love it too, and I very much respect that. I was just personally done with it.
The time not spent on me'ing has freed up mental space for me to do other things. You know, crazy shit like spending time with my family and friends. Wow, progressive thinking. The less I blog or market myself, the more time I can spend on my hobbies that wont interest anyone but myself, like infusing oils. Mind-blowing.
So I guess in short, one of the personal benefits of being employed (vs. being independent) is that I can focus less on myself and my own personal brand, and focus more on my team and its common goals. Again, this may be obvious to most folks, but I think it's worth reiterating for people like me that may have forgotten or had a blind spot to that fact.
How My Ad-Tech Company Braved the Storm
It all started when my ad tech company raise a series A through a social crowdfunding campaign. We were perhaps a bit naive but honestly, who knew that Moore’s Law applied to online privacy and the fall of the designer? Mobile payments were the talk of the town, so we decided to leverage the cloud where we could and build a notification app for the watch. It was all going according to plan, but when our API lost its websockets all hell broke loose. That’s when we realized our opt-out on-demand investment firm was an Uber for direct messaging that signaled failure.
It was a good thing that our hands-on mobile payment discovery channel was a success though, it kept us afloat. Before we knew it we had spent all our cash on mobile video ads so that we could continue serving flat design to our investors. They were essentially agencies, but we knew that they were dead at arrival, so we continued to display private messages to your friends even though our product managers were convinced otherwise.
We tried to appeal to a more broader enterprise consumer base by creating recommendation lists for Material Design apps. We then quickly realized that monetization was the key metric for our investors. Our outreach was impressive but our traction was stagnating so when we got the call to build a community around photo editing, it was obvious that the app’s disruption level was not industry standard. Bummer.
Building out a platform for coffee shop payments proved to be harder than we planned. As much as we tried, we were only able to create a product design marketplace with an emphasis on retail. But the entrepreneur in me knew that a bunch of Valley insiders would always prefer restricted stock instead of combining a swipe-to-like mechanism a-la Tinder.
Things started getting really weird when the head of our ed-tech incubator decided to generate bluetooth wearables for low cost pitch decks. What a mess. We weren’t sure what to do so we aqua-hired your mom.
Thank god that our streaming service helped pay the bills. Without it we’d have to actually use a notification center from within our app. Gross. Responding to quick bursts of social interaction would justify a larger round to further advance artificial intelligent car interfaces. In fact, the more we took mobile payments seriously, the faster it was to build encryption software. That night I got a cold call email from our marketing team indicating that our virtual reality accelerator diversified its core offering by gobbling up everything it could learn about our users and try to monetize it.
So I guess what I’m trying to say is that at the end of the day to secure a growing millennial-focused entrepreneurial ecosystem, you have to facilitate a distraction-free valuation market for unicorns.
Thanks to this wonderful post by Cameron Moll (yes, I'm still positively mulling over it), and the fact that I’m raising a child, I’ve been thinking a lot about what I do for a living and how it affects younger audiences. Here's the thing: out of all the industries and activities I can think of, the only ones with suggested or legal age restrictions are alcohol, drugs, sex, entertainment, driving, and now the Internet (or technology, or screen-time). I'm sure there are more, but you get the point.
What does this mean about my (our) profession?
(Inspired by Pete Wells)
Have you visited our site recently? Better yet, have you tried visiting it as a new user and signing up to our service? Was the experience a good one?
Were you able to finish the sign up flow? Did you get stuck decoding those stupid password requirements? Yes? Did the scary error message appear? How many times did it appear? Once? Twice? Did you forget to add a number or something? Too many characters? Was it the 2 eagle feathers that you clearly left out?
Did the whole process frustrate you?
When trying to decipher how many drops of unicorn blood are required, did waves of confusion flow through your mind? Were you hallucinating? At what point did you think it was a good idea to add those special characters? Did you even read the password instructions?
Did you double check, just to make sure, that you had enough capital letters? The system requires three, right? Did it bother you when you found out you only had two and the terribly long error message suddenly appeared? Did that stress you out? How many more times did you try coming up with a password? Was it more than once? Twice? Did you take a break, or get distracted? Did you even complete the signup process?
Does it help your stress levels when important instructions are set in Arial, 11px, Red?
Did the error message show all possible options instead of only telling you what you did wrong? Did it force you to guess? Did you enjoy that part of the process?
Perhaps the signup form’s title declaring that it only takes “3 seconds to sign up”, is actually not that accurate?
If a tree falls in the woods and no one is there to hear it, does it forget to use numerics?
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