Product designer, digital nomad, and vanlifer working all across the USA.
Since 2010 I’ve helped companies all over grow their businesses using every flavor of design. Being an RIT alum, I’ve worked out of Rochester, NY and then Austin, Texas for almost 10 years. Hard to believe I’ve been witness to so many seismic changes in our business.
Looking back, things really exploded in the 2010s and the after shock of rapid growth and the absolute gold rush in tech has left us all wondering… what do we do? What is design really?
- The shift from the “genius visual designer” to the “design practitioner”.
- Going from Photoshop era to Sketch to Figma and every prototype tool in between.
- The great “Should designer’s code” debate (They should btw).
- The identity crisis of product design vs UX design vs UI design.
Now, a lot of designers just struggle to be agile, and navigate organizations.
The bootcamps don’t tell designers what it’s really like sorry to say.
I’ve been there. I really have.
So many things have changed the design practice, and so many new advances are going to keep changing it.
Where do we find firm ground?
Design as a method
I believe design is so much more than a catch-all term for pixel-pushing, strict process, running workshops, or an individual role. In practice, what it boils down to is the power of intention.
When someone dedicates themselves and others to reveal a solution to a problem, it’s like a superpower… why is that?
Because when you can bring people together around a common cause, it’s a truism that’s as old as time itself.
Good things happen when people collaborate, get along, and just have fun trying to make something new or make something better. Greatness is built on top of those bonds, and a high-trust environment.
To do so today requires a certain level of force of will. There are so many things standing in the way between the destination and where we are now. So much uncertainty and temptation to go after quick fixes.
So effective design is often also effective leadership. Hard to have one without the other.
Who’s going to help stay the course?
Who’s going to reach into the future, and deliver the data to the present?
Usually, it’s designers.
Now, in the “design process”, you don’t have to be a designer to necessarily practice design. Everyone involved is an active participant, they have skin in the game. That means there’s intention. We all… give a shit about this “thing” we’re making.
“Giving a shit” or intention is one of those necessary magical ingredients, and when you channel the will of many people into the design process, you get validation and consensus. Firm ground. Confidence.
Designers just happen to be the voice, the painters, and the storytellers in articulating the pain-points of human experience, and the vision of how it could be so much better.
You need us, and we need you… to give a shit.
To “engage” if you want the family-friendly version.
So the hard work is in understanding people, creating that trust, and then that’s where design really shines. We’re the adhesive, the glue that bonds the business to the people you’re trying to reach.
It’s why it’s become so important over the years to adopt a more inclusive approach to working on problems, but also developing real relationships with the people we’re trying to help.
That’s trust. Another magical ingredient.
So maybe at the start of my career I was an army of 1, but now, I bring everyone in because often is the case that we simply do not know the answer. We need to figure it out, together.
After all, don’t we all just want to make things better?
In 2020 though, I turned my philosophy of creating a “stronger connection” more inward. Taking my digital approach to problems into the analog.
The pandemic was in full-swing, I was stuck in my house all the time. I needed a big change.
So I traded my car in for a sprinter van and spent the next 2 years planning and building and testing. So much of this experience validated a lot of what I’ve already known about design.
1) Plans fail
You can go in with a plan sure, but the real work is adapting as you learn more and pivot. I can’t tell you the number of crazy ideas I came up with, and then ultimately landed on the most simple of solutions. It’s easy to forget you have no idea what you’re doing or talking about.
2) You really can’t do everything
Although I did, it took forever! I know it would’ve been just so much easier to bring people in to help on different sections. I took so many unnecessary risks when all I needed was a second pair of hands.
3) Nature is the best teacher
We tend to over-complicate and perfect things completely out of our control. Building my van helped me let go, and let the answers more fully come to me.
Now it’s 2023, I’ve traveled from New York to Texas to California and back. At time of writing, my plan is that “I have no plan” other than maybe continuing to push myself, my friends, and anyone who wants to join me.
I want to prove that you don’t have to wait for the right time, and you don’t have to compromise on your goal so long as you’re willing to adapt.
You don’t have to have a perfect van or a perfect plan. Everything you need is already there.
You just go. You just do.
Frequently asked questions
How much does it cost to work with you?
It really depends on your project and what kind of value you’re trying to get out of design. Ballpark cost is usually minimum $10k/month, but if you have an interesting project I might be excited about, you should reach out anyway.
I love to help companies bootstrap their businesses. Everything from a quick logo, strategy session, user testing, and full-blown production design I can help you with.
Do you really work and travel?
I do! Since going full-time nomad in Fall of 2022 I’ve worked with Australia-based Finder.com, a 500 person fintech company who’s spread out all across the world. I’ve run workshops, interviewed users, and delivered user-tested design. All from a van!
How do you maintain a consistent internet connection while traveling?
Since 2021, Starlink has really supercharged digital nomad-based work by giving us speeds up to 200mbps. So I use that and a Verizon hotspot when I’m not able to get dishy on the roof.
Do you have a TikTok or Instagram I can follow you?
Yes! Check out my Instagram to get a glimpse into my journey. Hopefully we can be friends!
Why did you go full-time vanlife?
I wanted to see our beautiful country and share my journey. I also thought it would be a unique opportunity to connect with businesses and meet them in-person. There’s also a lot of financial freedom in not having rent or a mortgage so I’m saving to eventually start my own homestead with my fiancée.
Whether you’re looking to start a new project, or just to get in touch feel free to say hi by email.
- Workshop facilitation
- Creative direction
- Brand strategy
- Design leadership
- Project management
- North star strategy
- UX discovery & auditing
- Product design
- SaaS dashboard design
- Agile user testing and research
- Marketplace design
- Mobile application design
- Design systems
- User committee recruiting and PMF
- WordPress & Divi
- Visual design
- On-site photography
- Motion design
- Brand and style guides
He’s able to frame problems in a structured way, and dive deep into identifying the most important customer pain points to solve for.