Kyle Ruane he/him — Duolingo
Multidisciplinary designer from the Steel City who has done a little of everything, currently focused on language …
As a kid and young adult, I thought I would be an engineer. I attended maths competitions and a programming club and was obsessed with computers. But I also equally enjoyed reading, drawing, music, and crafting elaborate designs out of paper. I remember being enchanted with 3D graphics I came across in PC Magazine. I would cut them out and stick them on my wall next to the music posters.
I studied architecture, which bridges the two worlds of aesthetics and engineering, when I suddenly recognized that my passion is in graphic and interaction design. Just like that, I changed my major and never looked back!
From there on, I worked in advertising, branding, and web design, while discovering UX and passionately following what’s happening in tech. Finally, I got into product design, which I've been doing for the past eight years.
I get up around 08:00 and have coffee. That is my favourite part of the day, and I like to take it easy. I do some yoga or read the news, have breakfast, and start work around 9:30. Automattic is a fully distributed company, and I always work from home. I catch up on messages, create a task list for the day, and on most days, I take a walk to one of the nearby cafés and work from there until lunchtime.
My teammates are based all over the world. We overlap for a few hours in the afternoon, so we get to catch up on projects and share some memes. Sometimes I'm travelling, and my schedule gets to be a little different, which I don't mind at all.
The design tasks I tackle daily vary depending on the project scope and stage. A big part of our work is writing posts to present and share design iterations. This is the primary channel to gather feedback and ideas, so I do much more writing than having virtual meetings.
Besides my MacBook, screen, and AirPods, to do my best work, I need:
⟢ A stylish notebook and a good quality pen
⟢ A plant or flowers in a vase
⟢ Fairy lights
I get inspired daily by the fantastic work my teammates do. Besides that, I find inspiration in museums and galleries and online resources such as Visuelle or Instagram.
Not a product, but a public space, The High Line in NYC comes to mind. I was so impressed by the concept. I think it's a celebration of architecture, design, and nature that offers a unique way of experiencing a city.
Images: The High Line and art by Raúl de Nieves.
I'm very proud of the work we do at Jetpack. It's a complex space; it takes a lot of dedication and great teamwork to continue offering an excellent experience.
Looking back, I'm proud of many big and small projects, as they all made me who I am today as a designer and person. Before Automattic, I had the opportunity to be part of the team and make an impact on global products at Issuu and Blacklane. And before that, for several exciting years, I was the founder of my studio, Styleguide. We served many startups in the healthcare space, shaping their brands and products.
The complexity we face is huge, and the onboarding process for new designers is quite long. We need to be careful about the consistency and the experience on multiple platforms for millions of users, not to mention the relationships and dependencies with other products and the open source.
But we love this challenge! This is where collaboration and team spirit save the day. Without the kindness of my co-workers, my first year would have been a way more difficult journey. Instead, it was fun, with an occasional existential crisis.
Be kind. Have fun. Always do your best work. Be open to, and appreciate, the feedback.
If you're interested in what it's like to be a designer at Automattic, I recently wrote a post about our team meetup in Barcelona.
If you're a young designer looking for mentorship, look me up on ADPList!