Featured AI2er: Nick Botner

Dec 13, 2019 · 4 min read
Nick Botner is a Senior Product Designer at AI2.

What put you on the path to your current role?

I grew up learning fine arts and always wanted to be an artist. However, when I got to high school, my mother pointed out a class called “Graphic Design.” She pushed me toward it, explaining it was like combining art and computers. She also stressed that I wouldn’t grow up to be a starving artist if I could also do something with computers. Good on ya mom.

Aside from that, I’ve always been drawn to emerging technologies. I started my professional career in graphic design, but as technology evolved, so did I. From print design to web design to mobile design to app design, and now here I am leading the design for AI2. I believe AI is the future, and I want to be a part of it.

What’s the most surprising or interesting thing that has happened with your work at AI2 recently?

Without a doubt, the most interesting thing for me was the redesign of the AI2 logo. While I have designed quite a few logos in the past, this was the first time I was involved with a larger community of researchers and engineers to gather feedback. Typically when you design a logo, you deal with a few stakeholders and go from there. However, our approach exposed a deeper connection that our team members had to the original AI2 logo. A large majority of people felt strongly about AI2’s roots in academia and research and wanted a logo that conveyed the right tone. Wanting to be sensitive to those roots, we pivoted from a dramatic redesign of the logo to an evolution of the original logo into something more modern. This enabled us to create something that was not only fresh and exciting, but also something familiar to those who have been here from the start.

The new AI2 logo Nick designed.

What are you looking forward to with your work in the new year?

We have some very interesting data visualization problems coming up that I am excited to work on. It’s going to be new ground for us, but it will also tie into the work we have been doing to create a comprehensive internal AI2 UI library/design system. Extending this system is crucial to us because of all the research demos we create here. The more powerful our UI system, the quicker and easier it is for our researchers to not only get things done but also look good (*cough* on brand) doing it.

One piece of advice you’d give an aspiring product designer?

AI2 is very much like a startup in the sense that we move very quickly and wear a lot of hats. If you want to work in an environment like this, you’ll have to be comfortable pivoting from one thing to another, identifying the right places to invest your time and energy, and doing the best you can with what you have.

Most underrated activity in Seattle?

Birding! We are so lucky to live in a city that is flooded with a wide variety of birds. An average count of birds for me in my backyard, on any given day, is around 16 species. And since the AI2 main office is down on the water, I get to see all kinds of water birds. Hooded Mergansers, Goldeneyes, Northern Pintails, and the best of all is the comforting rattle of our local Belted Kingfisher.

What’s your favorite Seattle bird?

I’m so happy you asked! It’s without a doubt the Red-Breasted Nuthatch. It has a bill that looks like an upturned boat hull and it constantly mumbles to itself as it hops around… much like me at work. However, if we are talking my all-time favorite, I am going to have to go with my home state of Florida and choose the Swallow-Tailed Kite. There’s nothing finer than floating down a river in the Everglades sipping on a frosty beverage while watching the kites float effortlessly above you.

By Cephas — Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

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Our mission is to contribute to humanity through high-impact AI research and engineering. We are a Seattle-based non-profit founded in 2014 by Paul G. Allen.

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AI for the common good.

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