After reminiscing about the building of our LEGO® table, we’ve taken a closer look inside our culture here at Fuzzy Math. What motivates us? What are we passionate about?
Our responses to questions like these reminded us of the variety of backgrounds and areas of interest we house in our office. Because of this, we bring unique perspectives and ideas to our projects and challenge each other to think about solutions to design problems in new ways. We’re also lucky to learn new things and share resources with each other every day, especially via our favorite productivity tool — Slack.
What got you into design?
Our experiences in the working world and with influential people in our lives, such as mentors and teachers, have led us towards pursuing design as a career. During our previous work experience, we developed a variety of technical skills, and realized the value of early concepting, product definition, and requirements gathering stages of a project.
Our high school teachers and college professors inspired us in various ways that led us to design. A really great high school teacher stood out because he saw something in our designer, challenged her, and ultimately guided her to a design profession. Other high school activities, like yearbook club, provided an environment that ultimately was analogous to a design culture – a place where collaboration, creativity, and execution all took place.
We also found inspiration to pursue design via other areas of study. Some of our previous areas of interest include film-making, biology, history, undergraduate research, skateboard design and art, computer science, music, and psychology. All of these past and current interests are what allow us to bring such a unique perspective to the work we do.
Finally, something we all have in common is that we love solving problems. Design requires a delicate balance between understanding the natural chaos of human psychology and applying logic and pragmatism to solve problems. As folks who love variety and learning new things, we’re always trying to perfect this balance between the “fuzzy” and the “math”. A user-centered design process helps us calibrate this, and it provides us with a robust, repeatable method to solve interesting and difficult problems.
In high school I joined yearbook, because I didn’t do sports, and it seemed like a fun, creative, collaborative environment. The whole process (interviewing, writing, photography, layout design) interested me, you pretty much had full creative control with the added quality control of editors and art directors.
I’ve always been interested in history and “old stuff” in general. I love that design is a way of visually communicating and in turn reflecting much of the general aesthetic of a certain time and place.
When I was working at a startup long ago – 1997/1998 – we all had to do a little bit of everything: design, database work, code, answering the phones, etc. Solving the problems of getting people around the site to buy stuff was especially interesting – I liked how it was in the grey area instead of being a black and white issue.
I was drawn to the way that design unifies many competing forces for a purpose; most worthwhile things do. In design, there’s a practical down-to-earth durability working alongside evanescent imagination. This can be really powerful when it works well.
Design topic you’re passionate about and why
Our pragmatic side leads our passion for useful design, and it drives us to focus on the most valuable components while minimizing everything else. This is what allows us to be efficient, practical, and apply a lean process, while still making room for creativity in the most valuable components of an application.
We’re also passionate and curious about ways design can help make peoples’ lives better, especially when it comes to healthcare, education, and accessibility.
Unfortunately but understandably, healthcare UX design is decades behind other areas and subsequently, ripe for innovation. There’s a huge opportunity in the field not only to improve doctors’ workflows, but ease the burden for patients who often endure the results of disjointed systems, outdated processes, and a mess of different tools, formats, and portals.
I’m passionate about design and education, specifically pulling back the curtain on the idea that design is purely an innate gift that people either understand, or never will. There will always be people who possess more innate design sensibilities at the get go, but as Isaac once said to me when I first started at Fuzzy Math, “Design is a craft.” With all crafts you have to consciously work at it to become better. This applies to both designing, and understanding design.
I’m passionate about identifying the ways products and services can be made more accessible to underserved populations (low-income populations, people with disabilities, elderly populations). As new products continue to disrupt existing markets and ecosystems (i.e. Uber, Airbnb, self-driving cars), we as designers must be cognizant of the ways these technologies potentially exclude certain segments of our population and the implications of this exclusion.
Design areas you are interested in learning about next
Our interests in practical design and helping people don’t stop at the technology that’s currently available to us. We’re anxious to learn how emerging technologies like augmented reality and 3D printing can benefit users in various fields including healthcare and transportation, and how we can adapt our design process and outputs to solve problems within these new mediums.
In addition to new technologies, we have a continued desire to learn and then teach about how best to structure organizations around design. Because design encompasses so many other skillsets and areas including marketing, research, sales, and product, we think it makes sense for businesses to invest in and build on user-centered design, and find as many areas as possible where user goals and business goals intersect.
Augmented reality is the future and we’re going to be leaders in it.
I’m really interested in understanding how design is being used to guide large-scale initiatives like Smart Cities and the evolving UX of self-driving cars.
What are your favorite design tools?
Our favorite design tools come in many flavors, depending on what we’re working on and how final the deliverable is. For early concepting and generating many ideas quickly, we like using hand-drawn sketches with pen and paper, sticky notes, whiteboards, and erasable colored pencils for early illustrations.
Slack has truly transformed the way we work, and we use it as our primary method of daily internal communication. Our most active channels are the ones dedicated to the client projects we’re working on and internal initiatives we have. We’re always asking questions, gathering feedback, managing to-dos, and sharing resources with one another. Of course, there’s also the occasional stream of creative emoji usage and hilarious gifs.
For digital design, we choose tools that help us create deliverables in the format that works best for our clients. For wireframing and early prototyping, we use Omnigraffle, Axure, InVision, Sketch (including the Craft plugin!), and HTML / CSS. For visual design, we’re mainly using the Adobe Creative suite and supplementary tools like InVision boards and IconJar that help us manage our assets and concepts. When we’re adding micro-interactions or other robust animations to our designs, we’ve used Principle to prototype our motion design ideas.
Favorite resources for keeping up with the design & tech industry
Last but not least, we compiled a list of a few of our favorite resources that we use to stay current in the design industry (or to just keep our brains fresh with new and interesting information!) We think it’s important to be familiar with and develop our opinions of emerging design trends. We like to try to predict what’s here to stay and what’s temporary, and be aware of any implications innovation may have on usability.
- Designer News
- A List Apart
- Smashing Magazine
- Tech Crunch
- Fast Company
- The physical and digital world
- Podcasts – Dollars to Donuts, NPR’s Hidden Brain, TED Radio Hour
- The Verge
Stay tuned for another culture post next week! We’ll tell you first-hand what it’s like to work here, makes Fuzzy Math unique, what our office environment is like, and (last but not least) reveal our favorite Slack emojis.