Hanging Out With SF Designers

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James Donovan and #squad doing a design review during lunch.

I spent the majority of this afternoon hanging out with some other designers in SF. The caliber of talent here is amazing. I had a great time doing a design review and talking about trends, philosophy, and our current challenges as designers.

It was refreshing and these guys lifted my spirit. They were passionate about design… and they really cared about the details. They’re also specialized at what they do–like a surgeons knife–illustrators, systems design, visual design, interaction, etc. It’s fascinating to see how deep their expertise goes in each discipline.

It’s been a while since I’ve had a chance to do a design review with other creatives. A lot of times I’ll get feedback from people, but you really have to un-package what they’re trying to say. I enjoy the challenge, but working with folks in the creative field gives you a chance to talk in the same language. Sometimes it’s nice to talk about pixels. It was a breath of fresh air and it makes me want to step up my game when I hang around these guys.

So let’s recap some of the trends we talked about in our design review…

Trend #1: Circular Font

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Circular is the new Helvetica.

As far a design trends go, we felt like certain fonts like Circular have been pretty much adopted by everyone. AirBnb was one of the first to really make this font mainstream, but it’s pretty much everywhere now. Even Atlassian is using it–check out their graphic standards manual. Eeeeeeveryone is on the circular train. But my god, it looks so good.

Trend #2: Flat Illustrations

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A flat illustration from Slack’s website.

Again, it seems that this trend has been going strong for a while, and we’re starting to see everyone adopt it. Not to pick on Atlassian again, but they are also using this exact style in their illustrations. Even Uber uses a variation of it if you scroll down parts of their site. Same goes with Evernote, and our friends at Shift.org. It’s hot right now.

Google Hotels, by German Kopytov for Google.

One of the more popular styles that’s starting to catch on is isometric illustrations and renderings. And the folks that can add subtle animation to it are the champions.

Trend #3: Studio photography with solid backgrounds.

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Photograph from Squarespace.

I’m really digging this style of photography, and I love how the background color matches the color of the model’s sweater. I think the other important thing to notice is that the model has a tattoo and a little swagger. He feels human–a person that you could approach and talk to. The last thing to note is the lighting seems like it’s coming from a single source, most likely a large lightbox/strobe. The entire photo is sharp, so they’re probably shooting with an 85mm at f8. The edges are crispy, and the exposure is perfect. I’m going to see if I can replicate this on my own… heh.

Aaaaaaaand, the people that add some subtle movement to it are going to be the champions.

Ps. if you want a little more inspiration, you should check out these other two sites:

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Makemepulse.com, Hat tip: James

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Zinus.com

Pss. After hanging out with these guys, I’m wondering if I should do a video series of designers talking about their tools, process, and potentially doing design reviews of new products. I wonder if other designers would geek out watching them pixel push their sketch files. Selfishly, I want to pick their brains and learn all their trade secrets! Hah!

~1 Year Since My Bike Accident

Photos of my bike with an updated Surly touring frame.

I can’t believe it’s been about a year since my bike accident last year. For those of you who don’t know, around this time last year, I got in a nasty bike accident last year which left me with stitches, a concussion, two chipped teeth, and a damaged bike. It was pretty rough because it overlapped the time when I was shutting down Flare and transitioning to a new project. Thankfully, I had insurance and a strong support network here to help me out.

I made a fast recovery… and when I was able to ride again, I made a video that documented my crash as well as an issue I had with my bike. This all happened last year, but I’m finally getting around to sharing this video one year later.

One of my first vlogs on youtube I created last year.

Anyway, everything is okay now. Since then, I get my bike serviced once a month to make sure all the parts are in working order. I also got a full face helmet along with a GoPro to document my daily commute.

By the way, since last year, New Wheel (the company that sold me my e-bike), replaced my damaged frame free of charge. I had to twist their arm, but they stood by their product and rebuilt my bike after the rear wheel dislodging. So, if you’re in the market to get an electric bike in San Francisco, I’d recommend them.

So, I ride super conservatively now and I avoid questionable conditions.

HOWEVER, Google Maps managed to navigate me through a really sketchy path. I would say this felt as sketchy as walking around in the Tenderloin at night. I really wish there was a checkbox on Google Maps that says, “Avoid Sketch AF Routes”. Since I’m sharing some crazy videos, here’s another one…

Sketch AF bike route by Google Maps.

#neveragain

While I love San Francisco, there are times that I’d like to get away from the craziness. I live in Bernal Heights now, and it’s pretty safe/clean… but all you have to do is walk a couple streets down the hill, and it gets seedy.

Okay to lighten things up, here’s one more video of another bike ride. This is a time lapse of a bike ride I did with Patrick from Sausalito back to Bernal Heights.

Timelapse video of a 56 mile bike ride from Sausalito to Bernal Heights.

Hopefully you won’t get too dizzy watching it. It kind of starts smoothing out once we go over the Golden Gate bridge. Next time I’ll see if I can run these kinds of videos through a hyper lapse filter to remove all the jittering. Enjoy!

Hearthstone Design Inspiration

For those of you who don’t know, Blizzard (the company that created Hearthstone, World of Warcraft, Heroes of the Storm, StarCraft, Diablo, Overwatch…) is like the Apple of game design. Their attention to detail is insanely meticulous. When someone says their product was built with love, Blizzard is the bar.

Hearthstone is filled with all sorts of Easter eggs, micro interactions and tiny little details. While most apps and games try to minimize long load times, Hearthstone celebrates it.

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Hearthstone’s match making load screen.

They could have slapped in a boring screen with a load bar, but they had some fun with it. I think there’s a lesson to be learned in these little details.

Recently, I saw a cool animation on Dribbble by Kyle Decker that was inspired by Hearthstone. To bring in these kinds of details to a product, a culture has to be built around going the extra mile. It’s pretty crazy that he was able to do this all with code.

Dat motion blurrrrrr tho.

As I work on Input, I’m trying to balance between building the essentials versus adding the special touches that add a wow factor. Here’s an example of a small animation tied to a micro-interaction when a user posts. Notice the tiny little animation in the button that resembles our logo. The animation prevents the user from double clicking and communicates that a post is being sent.

Button animation during posting.

I know these kinds of things won’t help us find product market fit… but there’s just something about exercising your love for details and the small things. I’m tickled by cool hover states, minimal transitions and micro-interactions. The best designs are often unnoticed… but on the other hand, I think there are times where users will welcome personality and a little extra somethin’ somethin’.

By the way, I made a Hearthstone video with my buddy Justin Ho. It’s a quick pilot to see if: a) it’s something that he’s interested in doing long term, and b) it’s something that I have time to edit. If you didn’t know, Justin (aka Lyrondak) was ranked #11 in the world last season. I actually believe he could be #1 in the world if he really tried.

The Greedy McGreeds original Hearthstone Deck.

This was our first attempt, so the audio and lighting is a little janky. Creating these videos is just a good excuse to fly drones and play crazy troll decks in Hearthstone.

Anyway, I’m not sure if this is something that we’re going to commit to yet… but I’m pretty determined to work on a video project at some point. I’m just waiting for the right opportunity. You’ll see some more experimental YouTube content soon.

Input Team Retreat

Glorious view of LA from our AirBnb.

So… it’s been a long time since I’ve blogged. Actually, that’s not entirely true–I’ve created content–I haven’t posted it yet. There’s a ton to share, so we have some catching up to do friends.

Our team had an offsite two weeks ago and we all met up in LA. It was great to collaborate with folks in person–we’re a distributed team, so getting real face time is rare. Maybe it’s just me, but I prefer working in person. Remote jobs definitely have their perks, but nothing can replace being around creative people in the same room. It was a great offsite, and I’m looking forward to more jam sessions like this in the future.

Timelapse of theview from ourAirBnb.

The house was a total surprise, and it was super comfortable. There was actually a pool and hot tub overlooking the city skyline with a beautiful unobstructed view of the stars above. I honestly could have just brought a tent and sleeping bag and could have been in heaven.

Huge kudos to Belinda for coordinating everything. The house, the meals, travel, team activities, etc were all on point. Speaking of which, let’s look at some of the photos.

Vincent and Dan talking tech with the LA skyline as a backdrop.

Ben, Roberto and Naveen moving stickies around using the KJ Method

Brainstorming session outside.

Korean BBQ, LA style with the team.

Cooking class at Sur La Table.

Ben pouring a perfect pint.

Ben, Belinda and Naveen taking pictures of the Venice Beach sign.

Dinner with the team and celebrating Naveen’s birthday.

Naveen rocking the Halal Guys wayfarer sunglasses.

Cheers!

The steak here was aaaaamazing.

Everyone checking their phones after our escape room adventure.

Vincent getting his portrait taken in the corner of a bar.

Anyway, those were some fun times. Now it’s time to get some work done. We’ve got a pretty ambitious vision, and it’s going to take a hungry team to build it over the next few months.

Photos from My Bike Ride

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Photo of a blocked off road beside Ocean Beach in San Francisco.

After the storm cleared up this morning, I decided to go for a bike ride. I ended up doing a 25 mile loop around the city. Here are some photos from my ride.

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Crossing the road.

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Shadows and pruned trees in the city.

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Stairs near the Painted Ladies.

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A small beach between Lands End and Presidio.

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Museum at the top of Lands End, featuring a collection of work by Monet.

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Photo riding down Ocean Drive.

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Close up photo of flowers in Golden Gate Park.

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Ocean beach.

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The court yard between the California Academy of Sciences and de Young Museum.