Kerning from the best — 5 minutes with Nicola Rushton

Luis Ouriach
Jan 20 · 4 min read

Welcome to a new series for 8px — Kerning From the Best. What I’d like to achieve through this collection of articles is to understand what makes remote workers tick.

For the first article, I caught up with a friend I made when living in Sydney, Nicola Rushton. Nicola has spent a significant amount of time working from all over the globe as part of her freelance design business.


What does a typical morning look like for you?

Wake up from dreams at 7, then 7:15, then 7:30, then 7:45… shower, make myself a coffee, then go to or jump in to whatever meeting I booked myself into at 10am.

When I’m freelancing I have to book a meeting or a call every morning otherwise it’s too easy to spend hours pottering around and get started way too late in the day.

I’m really not a morning person, so my life is so much better when I don’t have to rush to get in to an office at 9am.

What are your design passions?

I’m a freelance product designer, nomadding around the world with a fairly regular base in Sydney.

The thing I’m passionate about right now is how environments shape cultures. Physical environments, digital environments, and psychological environments all encourourage different human behaviours.

I’m super fascinated by experiencing different workplaces, cities, homes, teams, groups and more and starting to build an understanding of what basic patterns create what kinds of human behaviours.

The amazing thing is that while culture can’t (really) be designed, environments certainly can.

How did you arrive here?

I always knew I wanted to be a designer, since I was 14 and obsessed with making collaged page layouts in my art diaries at school (and neglecting the actual “art”).

I studied graphic design, realised that digital was where all the interesting learning was, did a bit of front end dev, learned UX, learned a bit about product, learned a bit about business and strategy, and eventually found myself a year ago deciding to start my own business!

What do you find yourself having to repeatedly convince others of?

That our product design decisions are often based on assumptions, and that we really should do the due diligence by doing some damn user research!

Do you have a mantra?

It’s okay to live a life other people don’t understand.

What would you like to achieve with your business?

I want to learn how to create not just good user experiences, but genuinely positive human experiences.

Maybe that means one day I try my hand at designing homes, or communities, or cities? I have this belief that every person is directed to a great extent in their behaviour by what’s around them, and that we can use design to create a way better human experience for our “users”.

I’m thinking about some of the big human problems plaguing individuals in Western culture — depression, anxiety, chronic stress, disconnection, isolation. What if we learned what environmental patterns allow those issues to thrive, and what patterns did the opposite? Could we potentially design a better life?

As designers, we are the right people to tackle that learning challenge, look at the big picture and imagine how might we design a better future 👌🏻

Who do you look up to?

Rolf Potts, the author of Vagabonding.

Tim Ferriss, who wrote the Four Hour Work Week and has a great podcast.

Cheryl Strayed, who wrote Wild and Dear Sugar.

Louis theroux, for his beautiful accepting attitude towards all humans (and his A+ questions).

Yuval Noah harari, who wrote Sapiens.

Plus everyone who took their own weird creative passion project thing and turned it into a real life business — all the niche Youtubers and indie card game designers and Kickstarters of the world.

What’s your remote setup?

I carry my whole setup with me in my bag every day. my old MacBook 15" was too heavy for that to work. I have the 12" MacBook, a Roost stand, a Bluetooth keyboard, a magic mouse and that’s all!

If you’re interested in learning more about Nicola’s design process, her writing, and to drool over her travel photography, you can find her on Twitter as @NicolaRushton.

Thank you for reading the first article in this new series. As always, I’m curious to hear your feedback.

As well as this, if you’re a remote worker, get in touch; it’d be great to feature as many varied designers as possible.

8px Magazine

Life, by designers.

Luis Ouriach

Written by

Design honcho @UpgradePack. Newsletter writer, co-host @thenoisepod, creator of @8pxmag, @juniordesignjob, @LondonIsYours. Sarcastic.

8px Magazine

Life, by designers.