Erin Nolan — Independent Contractor
Brooklyn-based digital product designer partnering with startups and large companies to understand user needs, test …
In retrospect, I'd say I got mostly into design through my love for music. I played bass guitar in a small pop-punk band and there was high demand for artworks and other stuff to be made. That's where I started with creating merch, flyers, and other collateral. First for us, then for other local bands as well.
On the other hand, computers and technology have always been my passion since I was a kid. Everything new and innovative instinctively sparked my interest. My first Touchpoint on "Web Design" was back in the glorious days of MySpace. You could create a fancy user and band profiles with some basic HTML.
I spent my nights with a cracked version of Photoshop (am I allowed to say this?), slicing away header images and trying to figure out by trial and error what needs to be changed in the source code to make things work. That was like 14 years ago, so, fortunately, a lot has changed in the meantime.
After finishing my Diploma in Graphic and Communication Design, I started to work professionally as a graphic designer in the fields of Editorial Design and Branding. Both in external agencies and in-house design teams. However, for nearly five years, I have been working more or less entirely in the digital domain of User Interface and Experience Design.
05:00 am — Alarm goes off
I've always been an early bird due to my long commute to the office. Even though I'm working more or less fully remote now, I still maintain the same time to get up, which gives me quite a lot of benefits such as:
06:00 am — Deep focused Work
It's still dark and quiet. While the first birds start to chirp outside I can start with catching up with emails and my first set of uninterrupted focused work. After having breakfast with my family and bringing the little one into day-care, I spent another 1-2 hours with deep focused work. This is my most productive time of the day—the time to get things done. Slack notifications, emails and meetings take away my attention latest around 9.
11:30 am — Lunch-break
12:30 pm — Afternoon hustle
As Head of Design, I'm the primary driver of Design Excellence in the company and responsible for developing and managing all aspects of the design department's creative output. In addition, I'm also responsible for furthering the people and skill development, cross-team collaboration, and professional direction of the design department. This is what I'm mostly focusing on till our US-based client meetings hit in the late afternoon due to the 6+ hours time difference.
04:00 pm — EOD, Family Time
Perks of starting early? I can call it a day most of the time around 4 pm which gives me more time to spend with my family, run errands and fix things around the house.
10:30 pm — Bedtime
Yep. I can barely finish a primetime movie. But hey, I need around 7 hours of sleep to function properly. Everything below that and I can feel my problem-solving skills diminishing the next day.
I love to get inspired by nature itself.
"The powers of ten" is a nine-minute film from 1977 I somehow stumbled upon as a kid. It's about an adventure in magnitudes. The film starts at a picnic by the lakeside in Chicago and brings the viewer to the outer edges of the universe. Every ten seconds, we view the starting point from ten times farther out until our galaxy is visible only as a speck of light, among many others.
I was blown away by it. Since then, I'm hooked on science, space and nature in general and how to translate nature to design. Sometimes people call this "Biomimicry" which is the method of creating solutions to human challenges by imitating designs and ideas found in nature.
The Japanese Shinkansen high-speed train, for example, has the beak of three bird species as a model for its striking aerodynamic nose tip. Inspired by nature, many technical and aerodynamic difficulties could be overcome.
Problems like these have already been solved by nature. Often, you only have to adapt them to the respective medium.
The NASA Graphics Standards Manual
Designed by Richard Danne and Bruce Blackburn in 1975, is a classic on its own. The rendition from standardsmanuel is so well crafted and just a great office prop sitting on my shelf in its fancy static shielding pouch.
Our work at Parkside is based on collaborative relationships that work towards a shared vision. If you take a look at our selected projects from various industries including EdTech, FinTech, Consumer Goods, etc. you can feel that. I worked in various capacities on all of these. For some just in a supporting role, for others deep in the trenches. For me personally, the most rewarding projects are long-term ones with a lot of ambiguity at the beginning, or things I haven't done before.
The switch of not only designing products as an individual contributor but also managing teams, organizations, and the processes that support all of it. Things like: structure of the design team, resource allocation, planning and hiring come into play. One of my main goals is to amplify designs value at scale, which we try to achieve through 3 main areas of Design Operations:
Where it's all about how designers want to collaborate within their teams and with other departments of the company. Recruiting matters and personal development planning is also a part of the cultural aspect of Design Ops.
This area focuses specifically on workflows, principles and systems. What principles does a team use to prioritize its work? Which tools must be used and which may be used? What logic does the team use to organize files, design elements and entire projects?
This area deals with the framework and success conditions of design. Which metrics are important for the team and the project? How do you define success and how is it made visible, both to the team and to the client? How can the designers on the team expand their own skills and knowledge, and how can the whole team develop further?
Fuck your Ego!
Don't design for your portfolio. Design for the brief and move past your personal biases. You can be proud of the outcome. That's a tough one I had to learn and still have to remind myself about from time to time.
Accept the creative process to be destructive!
Iterate, reevaluate and don't be too fixed or emotionally attached to your ideas. Start quieting your inner critic and give your creative impulses space to flourish. Weird and impractical ideas often give way to truly inspired ones.
I like to share design stuff on Twitter: @clemensposch and occasionally post everyday photos on Instagram: @clemensposch if you want to follow along.
Currently, my team is also hiring for new design roles! ✌️