Thankful Thursdays #1

The past holiday season, I traveled back to spend time in Savannah, GA. Savannah is where I spent my first 3 years in this country, and that was intrumental in a lot of ways. I learned a lot about myself there, and felt enabled and encouraged to forge my own path, which was a very powerful and liberating experience. As I traveled back this past winter, I actually took the time off and allowed myself to look back at the past couple of years, do an audit of sorts. And it led me to feel a deep appreciation for a lot of different people, things, and experiences. And as I became more aware of this, I decided to put together what will hopefully turn into a little series of posts expressing gratitude (See note).

Some amazing people

Ever since I started working as a UX designer, I have been looking more consciously at other people that I saw as great inspirations. Especially because I am still fairly close to the outset of my career in this field, there are a lot of great people I can look up to. Not because of certain styles in particular, but for a variety of reasons. So let me explain.

Axel Herrmann

I frequently take a look at dribbble. There has been a lot of discussion about dribbble as a place where superficiality gets celebrated, and how it encourages designers to follow certain trends, etc. However, this has not been my experience. I follow a group of people who I consider to be very talented, and inspiring. And one of them is Axel.

Axel posts excellent work. But he also shares about his process, and is never afraid to give insights into some of the background behind his work. On several occasions, I commented on his work, only to receive a detailed response about certain decisions he made, and the inspiration behind it. Having conversations on Twitter and in the dribbble comments about some of his underlying thoughts behind his work, he recommended I take a look at Kenya Hara’s great book “White”. And responded to Twitter conversations quite often. While his style couldn’t be more different from what I usually try to do in my own work — in part also because he is way ahead of me — , it is his humility, helpfulness, and how approachable he is in and about his work that inspire me. And watching him revisit older work for that one more tweak, because some detail bothered him. Pushing a little further. Or even trying to reinvent his own style. And I have nothing but respect for his craftsmanship and for him as a person, for I deeply appreciate his thoughtful approach.

Tobias van Schneider

Tobias has something about him that I often times find intimidating and inspiring at the same time. I first came across his work when he put the idea about .dotmail out into the web — a great concept for turning the productivity of email to 11 — , and I was very impressed by the thorough approach in his case study-esque presentation. This was in June 2012, I was in the midst of an internship as a Creative Technologist and immediately knew that this should be the level to aspire to.

Since then, I kept coming across his work a lot more times. As an avid Spotify user, I am confronted with his work all the time. Authentic weather often times gives me a good chuckle when I see it pop up in one of my feeds / streams online, because its description as “the most honest weather app” seems tellingly appropriate. Semplice looks like a brilliant tool to build amazing portfolios, and I read a lot of very positive things about it. Of course his work has led to him developing quite a following. But take a look at his website and you find something like

“He had the privilege of working with companies such as…”

and similar down-to-Earth statements all across his Twitter feed.

Despite causing me some serious beard-envy, I cannot help but admire Tobias for the high quality of his output. And how he appears to be cranking out things, in a variety of ways. He also put together a decent list of mixtape, that I enjoy listening to at work. And when he publishes some writing — for example like this gem that I found very relatable — I usually see him follow up on the ensuing conversation.

Nick Jones

I had the great privilege to work alongside this great guy during the summer of 2012. I was familiar with the brilliant Spent — an online game simulating the effects of poverty and homelessness — that he worked on beforehand, but working on a team with him was a great experience. Despite me being “just an intern”, he was always open to hear about ideas I had, and always had words of encouragement or advice about where to start, what to learn, what to consider. My love for the kind of work I do today is in great part owed to conversations with him, because he showed me that being a designer and knowing how to code and produce the things I envision was an incredibly powerful combination.

In addition to how approachable he was for me during my summer internship, I have a great deal of admiration for his ethos as a designer. He wrote a great piece about design and fatherhood. I recall him telling me that he loves to work on projects like Spent, or other alike, because they are more meaningful in the grand scheme of things. Like Future Father. After I was in doubt for a long time about what my contribution as a designer to this world could be — before the design thinking mindset became a more prevalent thought model for my own work — it was refreshing and incredibly encouraging to see and hear his approach.

There are definitely a lot more people out there who played important roles at different stages of my life. I will hopefully find the time and appropriate format to express this to them as well.

The common thread for this post was that all three of these guys are people whose work I can appreciate for a high degree of quality, their will to push forward and explore new things, and their approachability, and willingness to share — ideas, thoughts, successes, and failures. And especially the latter part has become something of ever increasing importance to me. Over the years, I have benefitted countless times from other people’s willingness to share knowledge, insights, ideas, advice, … And I am hopefully getting “better” through it. And I also hope that me sharing this can help somebody — by promoting the value of sharing, and by pointing in the directions of folks who inspire me, and who will hopefully inspire others as well.

If you found this to be interesting, hopefully maybe even thought-provoking, please feel free to share people who played similar roles for you. You can do this here, or ping me on Twitter. And of course, take a look at these guys and there work. Duh.

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