Designer Spotlight

Meet Ian Eck, UX Designer

What do you like most about being a UX designer?

Design is one of those disciplines that’s pulled between the arts and sciences. Like journalism or architecture, it’s a place where left and right brains fight to make it work. And that balance is fun — to feel like you’re solving a puzzle while simultaneously creating something expressive. Systematic but original.

Tell us about a digital product you wish you had designed yourself?!

I love the Google/WaPo Sideways Dictionary. It takes tech jargon and demystifies it with metaphors sourced from users. For instance, “A ‘cookie’ is like a barista with a good memory. So every morning when you come in for your decaf soy latte and extra shot, they nod wearily and say, ‘The usual?’” I like that. Not only is the site full of clever explanations, it’s also beautifully minimal and a joy to flip through.

Finish this sentence: “Great design is…”

under-appreciated and overblown.

What books do you have on your nightstand right now?

I love reading, but I’m bad at finishing books, so I’ve learned to buy collections of short stuff to jump around in. “Creative non-fiction” collections from people like Annie Dillard, John Jeremiah Sullivan, and George Orwell. I like these authors for their ability to look at anything in the world and find some hidden, compelling truth. Then there’s “flash fiction” like Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities and David Eagleman’s Sum (shoutout to Scott for those recommendations). These books tickle the crazy, surreal “What if?” part of your brain. But when I’m in the literary mood I like novels from late-20th century guys like Don DeLillo, Milan Kundera, and Philip Roth. Too many neurotic white male protagonists probably — I need to branch out.

David Fleck’s illustration for Calvino’s “Invisible Cities.”

I have a deep hope that you can read great writing to enable great thinking. As it is, we spend too much time with our own thoughts and the thoughts of people in our immediate vicinity. But books invite us into conversation with the most brilliant thinkers and imaginations of all time. How could you not want to explore that? I guess because Netflix is easier.

What’s your secret superpower?

I’m supernaturally great at recognizing small, no-name actors across films and TV. I mean, I won’t actually know who they are or anything. I just shout things like, “Oh that’s the drunk clown in Air Bud,” and everyone’s really impressed.

Guilty pleasure app?

Uber Eats. Given that restaurant websites are atrocious, and I hate talking to strangers or leaving my house — this app hits all the right notes without any fuss. Something about the Uber brand also seems ruthlessly efficient, which is what I want when I’m feeling hungry and lazy.