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Hello, frog design

Hello, Frog

 

This July, I'll be making the leap to the Seattle office of frog design—as a senior interaction designer.

I'm very excited to be joining a firm whose work and legacy I've followed through my career. Their recent establishment of the publication Design Mind—as well as their devotion to engaging high-impact pro bono work alongside their always-stunning client projects—are borne out of a sustained commitment to design's pivotal role in industry and culture.

It's been quite a journey to arrive at this destination.

*

September, 1993. University of Virginia. I was sitting in the back of my "Introduction to Systems Engineering" class, and our teacher Thomas Hutchinson was handing out our first group assignment. I eagerly fished my notebook out of my backpack, brushing aside The Design of Everyday Things, the obligatory issue of Ray Gun, and Mark Strand's Selected Poems. Most students were already in awe of Thomas; the previous year he and his graduate class had invented an eye-gaze control for computers. His classes were innovative, formative, and pragmatic.

"For this project, I would like you to build an MRI...for horses."

As Professor Hutchinson began to frame the problem, the excitement level in the room rose palpably. We would work together to create a business case for the product, then research, visually render, and formally present a design solution. And while this product was most useful for racehorses, for whom a hairline fracture was an expensive and often deadly proposition, there was the potential to extend the application to many other potential human needs.

As I began to turn the problem over in my head, I realized that what I thought of as "design" did not even begin to encompass this problem. I had only designed the high school literary magazine—and it was clear here that I had to abandon considerations of surface and interface. I had to go more deeply into observing human need. Graphic design was a flat point of contact between a product and a viewer. This kind of design? This was a completely different beast that would draw on every ounce of expertise that I had at my disposal.

Which wasn't a whole lot. Did I mention that I was a freshman? My knowledge store was empty. Four years later I graduated with an English degree.

*

After two years in the Systems Engineering program, I had discovered that, while I was deeply interested in researching and crafting the experience of things, I was not so interested in building the nuts and bolts that made it technically possible. I returned to my first love, writing, and took design and art classes to round out my education.

Three weeks before I matriculated, a dozen of us were honored with the opportunity to share our work at a department-wide reading. My advisor stepped to the podium, over a hundred of my fellow peers and writing professors seated before her. Her generous introduction that night was prophetic: "I could easily see David having a successful career in writing, editing, or advertising."

I had already interned at Houghton Mifflin. I'd been applying to editorial assistant jobs in New York and had been sniffing at opportunities to string or edit local magazines. (This is back when people were actually paid a decent wage for publication.) So, I did fulfill my advisor's predictions in full.

The first three years of my career were spent working in publishing, with a magazine that supported professional writers. It was enough to scare me off writing for almost four years, and to immerse myself in the world of graphic design, which pushed me to advertising and direct marketing.

In my engineering school in 1993, they hadn't yet discovered the vocabulary of interaction design—a high-level awareness of how "design" informs "engineering" and vice versa. I had no words for it either, even after a decade of playing in the visual design space and crafting a good number of Web sites. Without a framework, I would internalize lessons and principles with each new project, but I simply had no way to look at them holistically.

*

Then, along came Worktank. This Seattle-based agency is where I have been privileged to work with some insanely talented designers whose experience firmly straddled the worlds of visual design and interaction design. These past two years of my life led to tackling some really rewarding projects. Colleagues like Carrie Byrne, Ric Ewing, and Kalie Kimball-Malone had an amazing depth of expertise in user experience design and information architecture that they were quite generous to share with me. (And if you're looking for a great job as a user experience lead in Seattle, feel free to apply for my former position.)

My Worktank team also led me to start this blog and begin writing again on a regular basis. I'm extraordinarily grateful and could never have anticipated the rewards it has brought me. My work here taught me that one could truly integrate art and engineering—Worktank gave me the framework.

*

Last fall, I realized that I wanted to see what I could build on this framework. How I could approach the same kinds of challenges that I'd faced when I was in engineering school—only this time as an interaction designer.

After a number of discussions with frog, it became clear that it was a place to test my interaction design experience and push the boundaries of technology to their limit. Well, except for the limit on horse MRIs—they were introduced to the U.S. market in 2004.

While my employer will be changing, the focus and tenor of ChangeOrder won't be changing one bit. I'm devoted to making this blog a practical resource for working designers—no matter what adjective you place before your job title.

Comments

j.verhine

way to go, brother. frog is a great company.

Kelly

Congratulations, David! I wish you tremendous success in your move.

Regards,

Kelly

Tim Leberecht

Welcome David!

- frog

Web Design Seattle

Interesting to read your story and good luck at Frog Design.

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