Freelance Product Designer


AntonSten (Freelance Product Designer)

Anton Sten is a product design consultant working with some of the largest and smallest successful companies in the world.

Hammenhög, Sweden • April 18, 2024

What led you into design?

When I was a fresh-faced teen, I started in design by creating fanzines and demo sleeves for bands. I was thrilled when I learned that this was an actual job AND I could make money doing it! So I pursued an internship at an ad agency while still in high school to grow my skills and learn anything they teach me. This was way back in 1997!

While at this internship, I learned that a client of theirs had been hearing others talk about the benefits of the internet and wanted a website of their own. No one at the agency had a clue about where to get started, but since I knew Photoshop pretty well I was able to mockup a design they liked and used some very basic HTML coding skills to get them launched. It was a simple beginning for me into internet-focused design, but it was a start.

Through following conversations and research (a lot of IRC chats!), I found that almost everyone was talking about people studying at a single school in Sweden - Hyper Island. After graduating high school, I excitedly applied, was accepted, and made the move from Finland to Sweden to shape my mind around all things design.

For the next ten years, I gained a lot of experience working at agencies in Sweden, Denmark, and the UK, but you need to understand that I come from an entrepreneurial family and I needed to branch out. I built my practice where I could work with a ton of different agencies and clients and leverage those hard-earned skills to build products (mostly digital) that would serve them well.

I now live in the south of Sweden in a town smaller than a typical city block in the US (only about 900 people!) and divide my time between my dog Taylor, my girlfriend Anna, a garden and, well, the work I want to do.

I typically lead teams in design and collaborate with companies on product design and design systems.

What does a typical day look like?

Being 6 hours ahead of the East Coast and 9 hours ahead of the West Coast, my mornings are usually very chill. I typically get out of bed at around 8, have a relaxing breakfast and then take Taylor, my dog, out for a walk. I try to hit the gym at least 3 times a week before the time work starts rolling in.

For me, work starts at around 11, which gives me about 3-4 hours of uninterrupted and focused work. A goal of my lately has been to have days totally free of meetings and days dedicated to them in order to manage my focused work better. Meeting days are usually typically more packed.

Around 5 or 6 pm, I take a break for dinner and another stroll with Taylor. I'll squeeze in a bit more work in the evening if the need is pressing. I’ll even work Saturdays on occasion, but I try to avoid it if possible. It does help that my partner shares a similar schedule working as a chef making our routines sync seamlessly.

During summer, I try to spend more time working outdoors in our garden, while winter allows for cozy productivity in our spacious home. It's all about finding the right balance throughout the year.

What's your workstation setup?

Where do you go to get inspired?

Outside! I think the reason a lot of people say they have their best ideas in the shower is because they are relaxed and not forcing ideas or inspiration to appear. Honestly, I find it hard to be inspired looking at a website. I certainly appreciate the craft and the thinking needed to create that website, but it’s not motivating me to make great digital design choices. Also, this is why having a dog is great, walking in nature or on the beach is a great place to get inspired.

What product have you recently seen that made you think this is great design?

I think Apple is generally not getting enough praise for their product websites. Each new product comes with an amazing page that works just as well on desktop as on mobile. Anyone who’s designed product websites knows how difficult this can be; not to have one or the other feel like “the second option”. Both desktop and mobile versions really feel like they were designed for that specific device which is increasingly difficult when you’re also adding interactivity.

As for products, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find great designed products and I think part of the reason is that a product today can’t just do one thing. While something like Amie is a wonderful design, it’s a calendar, a to-do list, and an email app. I’m not sure everyone wants those three to be fully integrated. Dropbox had its prime 10-15 years ago when it revolutionized file syncing and just stayed out of the way and the same goes for 1Password. Then both of those products got additional features and are much worse products today than a decade ago. Sometimes more is less.

What pieces of work are you most proud of?

What makes you proud of a piece of work usually entails a challenge you overcame while working on it. Those stories tend to be long and drawn out, so I’ll keep it simple and share two projects that I’m really proud of, but for very different reasons.

Between 2020 and 2021 I was fortunate enough to get to partner with Ueno right before they were acquired by Twitter. For them, I was the lead product designer on a mobile app project for Zabka, a Polish grocery delivery service. Unfortunately, the app never launched, but the work we produced as a team was, in my mind, pretty extraordinary. The app had a ton of small pieces of delight that made browsing groceries a joyful experience - not quite what you experience going to the supermarket. Ueno had a great atmosphere that really let people do their best work, self-motivate, and flourish. I’m proud to have played even the smallest part in that.

Secondly, I’ll mention the work I’m doing now together with Summer Health. Summer Health connects parents with newborns and young children with paediatricians in less than 15 minutes utilizing texting - something almost everyone has. While this might not seem like something special, it’s a product that’s taken parents by storm - they no longer need to google to get questions answered (which, as we all know, just leads to even more anxiety), and they don’t have to rush to the ER with their child in the middle of the night because of a high fever (well, unless they really have to but then our paediatricians will instruct them to). While I don’t have kids myself, I can only imagine the stress and anxiety I would feel about having a child who’s ill and not being able to get answers in a timely manner. Being part of reducing that stress and anxiety through Summer Health is something I am proud of.

What design challenges do you face at your company?

I think the design challenge at a lot of startups is similar - how do we make sure we’re designing something that’s needed, intuitive, and beautiful, all while not taking months to ship? Finding the right balance between speed and craft is the biggest challenge.

What music do you listen to while designing?

Any advice for ambitious designers?

I think if they’re ambitious, like the question suggest, they’ll do just fine. Just keep working and moving forward. The challenge with today’s society is the expectation for everything to happen instantly. Social media has taught us that is what we should expect. I have been designing websites for more than 10 years before I got my first big break as the lead designer for It took time.

Also, and this is a drum I keep banging, is that designers should write more. Writing forces you to think about things in a different way than, well, designing something does. Writing forces you to think about what you know, and more importantly, what you don’t know. To design successful products, discovering critical information is vital and too often disregarded by a lot of designers, both junior AND senior. Writing can help take out the guesswork.

It’s OK not to know.

Anything you want to promote or plug?

I've been running a newsletter that seems to be appreciated by many designers (and others too!) for the past 9 years. It's not one of those 300,000+ subscribers things, which I enjoy because it allows me to be more personal. Also, I have a new book coming out in May, sign up for my newsletter to find out when it's out!