Part One

Stories about the experiences that shaped me as a designer

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Chapter 1

Learning how to design

What is design? That’s a good question. It’s the kind of question that can cause a designer to spiral into an existential crisis. It took me a long time — from elementary school to grad school — before I had my own definition. In a way, that’s what it takes to develop a personal practice. For me, that meant trying out a whole slew of things — music, film, writing, computer science, theater — that would eventually inform a single creative discipline called “design.” In this chapter, I’ll share stories from this early period in my life — growing up alongside the Internet and video games, bearing unpaid theater internships, finding my footing as a freelancer, and choosing to go to design school.

Chapter 2

Learning how to design using code

What does a degree in computer science get you? In my case, a single technical interview that you’ll absolutely and utterly fail. For a long time, code didn’t seem like it was my thing. But once I began studying design, I realized that code was extremely useful even if I wasn’t an expert in it. I could use code to make interactive and generative experiences — things that felt uniquely performative, sort of like theatrical performances on a computer screen. In this chapter, I’ll share stories of how I finally learned to use code after struggling for years and make it a fundamental part of my creative practice.

Chapter 3

Learning how to teach design and code

There are great teachers, and there are absolutely terrible ones. Both types inspired me to teach — I think the impact of a good teacher is just as resonant as that of a bad teacher. I felt I owed it to the good teachers to pass on the lessons they taught me, and also to the bad teachers to make right where they went wrong. What I discovered was that teaching was much harder than I expected, but also the clearest way to make a real impact as a designer. In this chapter, I’ll share stories from my experiences as a teacher, as well as from my time spent making tools for teachers and students alike.

Chapter 4

Learning how to run a studio

An all-too-common tragedy: you devote yourself to developing a creative practice only to discover that no job exists for what you do. This is especially frustrating if you’ve freelanced and know that there’s a market for your skill set but not a matching job to apply for. Creative coding is a bit like this — agencies typically split design and code into two distinct jobs even though a single designer-developer can do a ton on their own. So, as a designer-developer facing this reality, I decided to start a studio. In this chapter, I’ll share stories of how I found the confidence to make that jump and how it played out.