Charlie Waite

Sr. UI/UX Designer @GoPro, formerly Interactive Director at @FocusLab.


My name is Charlie Waite and I am Sr. UI/UX Designer @GoPro, formerly Interactive Director at @FocusLab. When Im not behind a computer I’m a Professional Dad & Husband, Sports Fan, Surfer and High Five Giver.

When your friends or parents ask you what job you do, how do you answer?

Normally I just dumb it down and say I “Design Stuff”. Telling people you try to solve complicated user experience problems sounds a little to “Look at me — Im super important man”.

What is your background, and how did you train?

I started designing about 11 years ago. Up until GoPro I was doing agency work for Focus Lab as well as a few others, and prior to that I had my own company for a few years. As far as training goes Im pretty much self taught. I went to school and studied fine art but didn’t get into graphic or web design until my final year. Most of my technical knowledge like Photoshop, Illustrator, CSS, how to package designs for print and so on I learned on my first job. I’ve also been blessed to work with some amazing people in my career, and I’ve been able to apply some of their approaches into my work flow.

What can the web do to make this world a better place? How has the web improved your life (if it has)?

The web by itself can’t do much. If we as humans and designers can use the web to help build things that improve an individuals quality of life, then we have done something special.

Can you show us three examples of interfaces that in your opinion have improved human life?

Not sure about all humans but for me I don’t think I could get through most days with out Google Maps, Dropbox or Twitter. Google Maps for obvious reasons — I have a decent sense of direction but it’s made the world so much more accessible. Dropbox for work documents allows you to to be mobile and flexible, and never feel constrained to a desk. I hate TV news — you couldn’t pay me to watch it so Twitter keeps me in the loop with whats going on in the world. It allows me to filter the fluff and favorite articles that I want to read later.

On quora.com some time ago, there was a long discussion in answer to the question “what is the most intuitive interface ever created?”; according to Felipe Rocha it is the nipple. In your opinion, what is it**?

I’d have to say the iPad (or Tablets in general). I watched my kids when they were 2 years old pick it up, turn it on and navigate it like they’ve been using it for years. My grandmother at 84 was able to pick it up and within a few weeks was sending emails and browsing the web like a pro. Can’t think of too many interfaces that cater to an age range like.

What is your typical workday like?

I try to keep a consistency to my work day which helps me stay on track. Once I get in to the office I try and respond to emails or hipchats that I haven’t gotten to you yet. From there I like to jump into designing — I try to go pretty heads down for the most part only responding to really urgent things. Right now Im working with quite a few teams across a variety of platforms on different projects so meetings definitely eat up a good portion of my day. I try to schedule them back to back so that it doesn’t interrupt a good design groove. I like to end my day back designing — that little break is always nice to come back to your work with fresh eyes. There might be a few surf or coffee breaks sprinkled in as well =)

What is the most stimulating and challenging project you have accomplished?

I think it would be what Im working on today at GoPro. I guess it’s not quite “accomplished” yet but it’s definitely the most stimulating and challenging for a variety of reasons. It’s really the first time in my career that I’ve worked on something at this scale that touches so many users. We have a lot of moving parts interacting with both hardware and software interfaces, research and user testing all while maintaining integrity of a strong brand identity.

Among existing digital services, what is the one you wanted to do?

I think Facebook is doing some really interesting things right now. I actually am not a huge fan of the Facebook app, but I love the ecosystem they are creating with apps like Messenger, Moments and Instant Articles.

Many designers make the mistake of starting a project directly from Photoshop: is there a perfect design method? What is your approach to the creative process?

Im not sure there is a perfect global design process, I think it depends on the individual. For me white boarding, sketching and research is where I begin any project. I like to have a full grasp of what Im trying to accomplish before I even think of moving a pixel. When you sketch or white board you can really start pairing down the “fluff” and gain a clearer point of view for what you’re looking to solve. Jumping into Sketch or Photoshop to early can lead you to being attached to something because it is visually appealing but may not add any value to the product. I use Sketch and Photoshop purely as finishing tools to fine tune the visual design.

“Design” is an important part of our analogic life. What is the role of the designer in our digital life?

To craft enjoyable experiences where they are not generally expected.

Do you believe it is important for a designer to have a deep knowledge of matters such as User Experience, Interaction Design, Product Design, and Front-end Development?

I do. It’s especially true for User Experience and Interaction Design. I don’t think you can be a great designer without thinking through those two things constantly. They are so crucial in storytelling and framing the conversation you’d be foolish not to make it part of your process. Knowing constraints and limitations are always crucial. You don’t want to be designing things that will never be possible — so having some understanding of those limitations from a Front End standpoint is always good but I don’t think you need to be a rockstar developer to be a good designer. I do think there is something refreshing of being a bit green when it comes to product design — it can allow a unique point of view and approach to solving problems.

How do you make a difference between User Interface and user experience?

To me UI design is more about the visual side and UX design is about designing flows and crafting an enjoyable experience.

What is your relationship with developers? There are people that have a relationship of continuous confrontation and others of deep friendship: where do you fall with respect to this question?

I come from a sports background so a little confrontation every once in a while can be a good thing and can keep people from getting to comfortable. But at the end of the day it’s all about forming relationships in our industry. If you can have honest and tough conversations with the people you work with — without them or you pouting about it then you are succeeding. If you can go have beers with them after work then thats icing on the cake.

How do you think that your career and job will evolve over the next 5 years?

Let me check my crystal ball. I just hope I keep learning and growing in all aspects of being a designer.

What do you think about Dribbble? Is it a good way to get a job? What’s the best way to find a job as a designer?

I think Dribbble is great. I know there are tons of articles arguing both sides, but Dribbble has helped a ton of people succeed in this industry including myself. I think what people take issue with is the importance that it puts on the visual aspect and not the UX, IA or reasons you came to those descions. But that’s not dribbles fault — that our fault for not helping younger designers realize that there is more to being a designer then making pretty things.

What book would you recommend to a Junior Designer?

Design as a Job by MIKE MONTEIRO is really good.

Sticking with the advice: how about tools for design? What about tools for project management?

Tools for Design: Sketch, Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, After Effects, Paper App, Sublime (or some HTML Editor).

Tools for Project Management: Slack, Wunderlist and if you’re desperate Basecamp.

A famous quotation of David Carson (noted American graphic designer) says: “Graphic design will save the world right after rock and roll does”. Will User Interface Design save the world, before, at the same time, or after graphic design?

Saving the world may be a bit lofty but I think it sure can improve it. Im not sure you really can have one without the other — so I’d say the same time.