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A Look Inside Design at Emma

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We’re tracking down InVision users inside the world’s most amazing companies to discover their favorite tools, books, methods, and the philosophy behind what makes them so awesome. This week we interviewed Geoff Alday, Product Design Lead at Emma, in Nashville, Tennessee.

What are the top 3 essentials in your workspace?

  1. A Huge Monitor: Having enough room to work digitally, so that I don’t feel constrained, is very important.
  2. Empty Walls: I like to have walls to draw and stick things on. We do a lot of collaboration and working analogue helps people to think faster.
  3. Awesome People: We do a lot of collaboration: Designing alongside other people helps you come up with fresh ideas.

Do you ever work outside?

I do – Usually it’s either at a coffee shop or my back porch if it’s nice outside at home. Even though we have a sweet workspace, I do like to get out from time to time: It can be helpful, especially when designing for a different context of use. The desktop is becoming less and less where people read email – so now we’re exploring other things people want to do in a mobile context. So getting outside of the office and viewing my work and trying things in small screens in a different physical location forces me to be more empathetic towards the people I’m designing for.

What do you do when you hit a creative roadblock?

Just walk away. When you hit a creative roadblock, clear your head and then ask for help. It’s tough, because I want to keep moving my mouse until a great idea magically appears, but it doesn’t work that way. That actually makes it worse, usually.

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What do you during your free time?

When I have free time it’s devoted to my kids! I also do fun work with processing – playing with visualizations and various interactive prototypes. I play the mandolin, that’s where my love of bluegrass comes from.

We’re huge proponents of seeing how something works rather than talking about how something works. Without InVision, we couldn’t get to that point as fast as we do.

Where does your inspiration come from?

I’m often inspired after seeing other people’s work. I’ll see things on Twitter and Dribbble that inspire me. But really, most of my inspiration comes from the people I work with. We have designers scattered among my team, engineering, and marketing and so we get together in Campfire everyday and also in person every week: we’re constantly sharing what we’re working on and getting feedback and ideas. This sharing of work also happens across the company – It’s a great way to stay connected with where we’re headed on a product.

Who do you look up to as a designer?

There are a lot of people I respect as designers. I’ve learned a lot from folks like Ryan Singer, Dan Saffer, and Luke Wroblewski. Also, the process Adaptive Path uses and the Lean UX movement have been very influential on how I approach design.

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How do you know when you’ve achieved an understanding of what the client really wants?

Really the only way to know that I’ve achieved understanding is to share my work early and often. There’s really a rhythm to this and I can feel when things are really clicking along and when we’re getting off track.

How do you present your work to your clients?

It really depends on where I am with a project. In the early phases, I use OmniGraffle to collaborate on mock-ups and wireframes. I try to move past this phase quickly and into some sort of prototype. Most of the time it means moving those early mock-ups into InVision. I sometimes create code-based prototypes for iOS and web apps. But really, the key is to get whatever I’m designing into prototypes to see how those interactions feel and see if the overall project is moving in the right direction.

What are some of your favorite tools for the creative process?

I really love seeing something I’ve designed help someone in a tangible way.

Tell us about the equipment you’re using.

I use either a Moleskine or a Leuchtturm notebook, MacBook Pro, Thunderbolt Display and an assortment of iOS devices – 3 different iPads and a couple of iPhones – we’re doing a lot of stuff in mobile!

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Tell us about some of your favorite books

What music do you listen to when you’re designing?

Sailing the Sea of Cheese
–Primus

It’s definitely a mix:

What is your ritual to get in the zone when you’re working on a project?

When I’m designing by myself, it’s about shutting down all the distractions, like email and Twitter – putting on my headphones and turning on some good tunes. Whenever I’m working in a team, it’s being in the right workspace – making sure there’s enough clean whiteboard, there’s enough post-it notes, markers – just everything we need to sketch out ideas.

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Forget visuals: the products you design need to first help people accomplish what they want to do.

How does InVision help you in your design process?

It’s really a huge help. I used to do a lot of code-based prototype but InVision really helps you get to a prototype a lot faster. We’re huge proponents of seeing how something works rather than talking about how something works. Without InVision we couldn’t get to that point as fast as we do. We also use it to present ideas to stakeholders – this could be anyone from a developer, who might end up building what we’ve designed, to the CEO, who needs to understand the product vision. We’ve just found that showing our design concept interactively is so much more powerful than paging through static mock-ups. It just makes them feel more real.

What is your favorite part of the design process?

I really love seeing something I’ve designed help someone in a tangible way. I also enjoy creating early concepts. When you’ve done the research and start putting all the pieces together – sort of like whenever you dump out a huge bucket of Lego. There’s something satisfying about sorting through all of those Lego bricks, finding something that works and making it easy to understand.

What is the most frustrating aspect of design?

It’s really finding the right level of fidelity. Most of the work that I focus on is interaction design. A lot of people really get caught up on how something looks visually and for the most part, that’s not my primary concern. Forget visuals: the products you design need to first help people accomplish what they want to do. This is why prototyping with InVision is great; I can take mock-ups with any fidelity and quickly wire them up and see how people experience interactions. It really puts the focus of the conversation in the right place.

EMMA Photos

About Geoff

Geoff is Product Design Lead at Emma. Follow him on Twitter or connect with him on LinkedIn.

About Emma

Emma is a web-based email marketing service helping more than 40,000 customers manage their online communication efforts. With sophisticated design, easy-to-use features and stellar customer support, it’s the easiest way to create, send and track stylish email newsletters.

Author

Andy Orsow
Designer and product marketer at InVision, resident GIF-ologist and video maker.

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