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Between Screens: 5 Conversations on Design


I describe Between Screens as a Micro-podcast: regular, short audio conversations with distinguished designers, developers and forward-thinkers. In this roundup I’ve brought five of my favourite design-based conversations together, featuring guests such as Aaron Draplin, Trent Walton, Randy J. Hunt, Scott Savarie and Coby Chapple.

1. Aaron Draplin

In which we talk about:

  • Logo shapes
  • Symmetry
  • Design process
  • Feedback
  • Obama logo
  • Retirement

Aaron Draplin is a designer and founder of the Draplin Design Co. in Portland, Oregon. He is famous for his logo work, being very outspoken and for producing notebooks for designers.

“There is a magnitude to it that was really fun and really scary. And you know when you work on that, you’re working for America, which is still pretty impressive to me. I still think about it all the time.

Aaron Draplin reflects a bit on his life and future, talks about logical and practical shapes for designing logos and how he was invited to design a logo for the Obama administration. Shapes that have symmetry make sense to him and masters like Paul Rand and Saul Bass also utilized the versatility of simple forms that need to work on all kinds of “surfaces”.

Aaron talks about his plan of attack when he starts working on a new project and also describes how proud he was being able to work for “America” when he was invited to design a logo for the President with the team who worked on the original Obama logo.

The episode closes with thoughts about what he might do once he retires from the logo business and how he would like to avoid getting bitter with age.

2. Trent Walton

In which we talk about:

  • Responsive typography
  • Fluid grids
  • Adaptive Layouts
  • Fluid type
  • Sizing type

Trent Walton is 1/3 of Paravel, a well known web design and branding shop in Austin, Texas. He writes excellent blog posts, designs stuff for Microsoft, Twitter etc. and is an overall nice guy.

“But those are all guidelines. You know that’s the one thing I was always really scared of, setting type and having anyone talk about it. There are guidelines you sort of have to learn how to feel out.

A little while ago Trent Walton wrote a blog post about fluid type which became very popular very quickly. In this interview, Trent talks the concepts of responsive typography and fluid grids, explains how adaptive layouts work and shares his experience about fluid type and sizing it.

Responsive typography is nothing magic, it’s just setting type in an responsive environment. Trent explains how the grid and layout affect your type and how you can prepare your text for an ever changing viewport landscape on different devices with varying resolutions and reading distances.

3. Randy J. Hunt

In which we talk about:

  • Product design
  • Many hats
  • Unicorns
  • Researchers
  • Frontend
  • Etsy

Randy J. Hunt is the creative director at Etsy in NYC, author of the book Product Design for the Web, receiver of the National Design Award and groomer of impressive beards.

“It’s not about somehow having one person doing two people’s work, but it’s rather really important that the designer is able to understand the medium in which they are working as much as possible – with the most detail and the most depth they possibly can.

Randy J. Hunt wrote an excellent book about product design which portrays in great detail what a product designer needs to be capable of and what day-to-day decisions are being tackled working on big-ish web products.

In this interview we talk about the role of a product designer, the unattainable myth of unicorns and people who are experts in multiple fields without just skating the surface. Randy also explains what they expect from designers and front-end people at Etsy, what he thinks about splitting up various design skills into separate positions and why research is valuable being a bit more discrete.

4. Scott Savarie

In which we talk about:

  • Prototyping (@Facebook)
  • Origami
  • Quartz Composer
  • Framer

Scott Savarie is a product designer at Facebook in California, worked previously at edenspiekermann_, recently built a prototyping tool called Napkin and is in love with Berlin.

“Basically they are tools to very quickly try out interactions. So, you know, if you are an interaction designer and you want to try out different gestures and different behaviour, you can’t communicate this with something like Photoshop.

Scott Savarie talks in this interview about various prototyping tools that he likes and uses for his work on mobile apps at Facebook. He gives a high-level pitch about Quartz Composer, Framer and Origami, a prototyping tool that Facebook recently released. Scott explains the pros and cons of working with tools like Photoshop, Sketch and discusses the downsides of implementing designs right away in code. The main advantages of prototyping tools are described to make it easy to quickly try out various interactions, gestures and behaviours which graphical editors can’t replicate.

5. Coby Chapple

In which we talk about:

  • Prototyping (@Github)
  • Feature flags
  • Sass
  • Bootstrap
  • Internal tools
  • Remote work

Coby Chapple is a product designer at Github and works remotely from Northern Ireland. He has built the site and designed the logo for Jekyll, gives fantastic talks and competed as a breakdancer in the past.

“There are definitely a lot of people who use tools like Sketch or Photoshop, but I’d say the vast majority of work that’s actually shared and collaborated on is all in code. It’s the common language I guess.

Coby Chapple shares his insights about prototyping and working remotely in this episode. Github has a visual style that is well established which makes it easier to prototype new designs directly in code without relying too much on other prototyping tools like Framer, Quartz Composer or wireframes.

Coby explains how Github uses feature flags to incrementally try out new features and how convenient it is to get feedback from other co-workers who work remotely in different timezones. You will also get an insight how Github organizes teams, what tools they use internally, why they are not using Bootstrap much and why their designs don’t use a lot of Sass’ more advanced features.

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