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AMA: SimpleScott

over 7 years ago from

Hi! I'm SimpleScott.

I was the Design Director of Obama's 08 campaign, founded The Noun Project, have been doing Simple.Honest.Work. in Chicago, and are in the last hours of a new Kickstarter project called, The Brand Deck.

Back it then, ask me anything! I'll try my best to answer what I can.

23 comments

  • Kelly SuttonKelly Sutton, over 7 years ago

    Hi Scott,

    Thanks for being here today for an AMA. I’ve got two questions for you.

    • You have a knack for creating systems to solve creative problems (the Noun Project, the Brand Deck). What other parts of the creative process do you feel could benefit from a lightweight system?
    • What’s been the most creative application for icons from the Noun Project?
    4 points
    • Simple Scott, over 7 years ago

      •The creative process is a system that is needs to be designed. At SHW, while we work on projects we try to imagine designing not only amazing work but also designing the process it takes to create that work. The reality is most of the creative process doesn't happen in a vacuum. It involves others, collaborating, and sharing is at the very core of the creative process. How you design that interaction is key to successful creative projects.

      • There have been so many creative applications built with the Noun Project, Adobe has used the Noun Project in Adobe Voice, SquareSpace used it to help users create a simple logo on-the-fly, but I think the most creative applications have come from users. I love how Luis Prado uses the platform to tell stories you wouldn't imagine an icon alone could tell.

      2 points
  • Jonathan ShariatJonathan Shariat, over 7 years ago (edited over 7 years ago )

    What do you think the role of design should be in government?

    People's interaction with their government is often a very badly designed and confusing one. From struggling to access services to spending hours attempting to pay for a parking ticket, design makes a big impact both for good or bad in government.

    3 points
    • Simple Scott, over 7 years ago

      Great question.

      Unfortunately design (and technology) in government is a means to an end. The focus is getting some initiative accomplished and rarely consists of systematic design thinking.

      In the U.S. this is in part due to our local, state and federal form of organization. If you think about it corporations have far more control over their franchises than the Federal government has over states, or local municipalities.

      But on the other side of it in a government for the people by the people can also be powered by the people. Designers as citizen should play an important role in being civically involved and helping by using creativity and ingenuity to improve these systems. In Chicago there is an amazing group called Open City that I think are an amazing example of that idea.

      3 points
      • Jonathan ShariatJonathan Shariat, over 7 years ago

        Open City looks great! I have also seen some great design happening in the UK government.

        How would you suggest a designer help their local government?

        0 points
  • Ruby ChenRuby Chen, over 7 years ago (edited over 7 years ago )

    I just want to say hi!!! Hi Scott!

    I backed the Brand Deck without realizing that you are also the founder of the Noun Project!! As an interaction designer without any knowledge about branding, I had a hard time while working with friends for a side project, which I have to do all the design from information architecture to visual... (not good at picking a "brand color" lol)

    Do you have any tip for people like me? Is branding also a tool that I can use on my own portfolio? Thanks for all those tools!

    1 point
    • Simple Scott, over 7 years ago

      Hi Rudy,

      Interaction designers, product designers, brand designers, all have much more in common than you might think. I believe it's not good to silo oneself. You're a designer, period.

      Everything today is brand. Your Twitter account can be a brand. The more complicated task in Brand Design is getting all of the members of a company or organization behind that identity and then it's your job to help steward the brand in every touchpoint the company creates. That's creating design systems more than individual components or pieces of a brand.

      1 point
  • Owen McFadzenOwen McFadzen, over 7 years ago

    Hi Scott!

    I might be a bit late to the party, but I was wondering how you made the personal transition from architecture over to "design". I know that architecture can be an all consuming passion and making the choice to pursue something else can often be conflicting and difficult. Or is that just me?

    0 points
  • Sean GeraghtySean Geraghty, over 7 years ago

    Hi Scott,

    I recently backed your Kickstarter for Brand Deck, and I just wanted to ask you two simple questions. The first is actually about your Obama campaign. How were you approached about the project initially, were you approached individually or did you commission for the project as part of a firm?

    The second is actually about Kickstarter: Obviously you have a reasonably large social following, this has obviously been built up from your work for Obama, the book you created and the subsequent work you do at SimpleHonestWork. Do you think this helped with your incredibly successful launch of The Brand Deck? If you didn't have this following would you have maybe approached it differently? Or maybe you think that the product spoke for itself? (PS I'm looking forward to receiving mine)

    0 points
  • Simple Scott, over 7 years ago

    Thanks for all the questions today. I'm signing off! Keep kickin'

    0 points
  • Mike KaczmarekMike Kaczmarek, over 7 years ago (edited over 7 years ago )

    Hey Scott!

    Four questions:

    1) Did you ever make that modular metal piping work station we worked on ~about 1-2 years back?

    2) I missed the Kickstarter, will there be a place I can buy the decks post launch?

    3) I'm at Imgur now and currently we are at 2 designers but with the engineering team growing we are in need of expanding. What is your ideal ratio of engineers:designers and how did you identify when and what rolls you needed as you grew.

    4) What are some tactics and arguments you have used to help promote the importance of design in business or engineering centric companies?

    0 points
    • Simple Scott, over 7 years ago

      Hi Mike.

      Good to hear from you again. •We didn't end up producing the table. Though I wish we would have, the design was great. • Yeah we'll be launching a deck site shortly after the Kickstarter campaign at branding.cards. Stay tuned. • It's hard to say it depends on what you are building. I don't think there is a one size fits all ratio. I do think have engineers and designers working closely together is crucial as you grow. • You don't sell your product to robots. Engineers have an amazing ability to interpret, communicate, and write software for computers. But ultimately its a human that uses it. Design embraces the human factor.

      0 points
  • Bridget HapnerBridget Hapner, over 7 years ago

    Hi Scott,

    I read your post on Simple.Honest.Work's website about seeking originality. When you have moments where you discover that your idea has been done and you feel unmotivated or find yourself lacking in confidence, how do you, in that moment, push yourself out of that rut and get back to pushing forward?

    Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by all I have to learn and what I want to do that I go from 100 to 0 because I don't know how to turn down to a reasonable 50. Would be interested to hear how you handle a similar feeling as a creative, if you've experienced it.

    Link to original post: http://simplehonestwork.com/ponderings/a-search-for-originality/

    Thanks! Bridget

    0 points
    • Simple Scott, over 7 years ago

      That's an article I wrote for OffScreen Magazine and one of my favorite ponderings.

      I think we all have that feeling. I often get overwhelmed or lack confidence in whatever I'm pursuing. It's usually my passion for an idea or the strength in a vision which I use to propel myself forward.

      Ideas are never truly original. They can't be. They are simply the connection of other ideas, that's all that creativity has been and ever will be. Our vision is limited by our experiences. So I'd suggest experiencing as much as you can and keep creating.

      0 points
  • Michael AleoMichael Aleo, over 7 years ago

    How much of a pain in the ass was creating the Designing Obama book? I was one of your early backers and found it to be pretty amazing, but knew you hit snags. Surprised to see you went back to the platform for Brand Deck (which I backed last week). I'd be interested to hear now that you're a few years out if you'd do it all over again?

    Thought you also might get a kick out of this: I was AD at the White House and brought Designing Obama with me when I started. I used it for inspiration and to see where the brand had been. Obviously a very different brand once he was in office, but it was immensely helpful to get creative. Thanks for that book.

    0 points
    • Simple Scott, over 7 years ago

      Thanks Michael.

      Glad you enjoyed the book. It was one of those projects that was incredibly painful while it was happening but looking back I'm immensely proud of. In the end, thankful that Kickstarter help me create the book I wanted, rather than going the traditional publishing route.

      A few things I've noted are much different this time around with Kickstarter: 1) I don't have to educate people what Kickstarter is. Which is crazy to think about. But the proliferation of the platform is ubiquitous and requires little explaining. It's safe to say alot of my headaches in the book project was people not understanding how Kickstarter worked. That the book wasn't finished yet. Etc. 2) Shipping is now included when you pledge. This may seem like a small thing for backers but it's a giant step for project creators. Because previously you had to "include" shipping prices but if you've ever shipped anything to Australia you know not all shipping prices are created equal. 3) Supportive community. The way the Kickstarter community spreads the word is awesome. I really love what they've done on the platform and love how supportive the community is. 4) I'm much better prepared this time around. ;)

      1 point
  • Randall MorrisRandall Morris, over 7 years ago

    Hi Scott,

    Curious about Simple Honest Work's balance between client-work and authoring its own products. Do you see a future where you're strictly figuring out ways to package your IP and sell that as product (not unlike the Brand Deck).

    In this increased age of appreciation for design - what can designers do to further their entrepreneurial aspirations when there are gaps of knowledge (programming, supply chain, etc.)?

    0 points
    • Simple Scott, over 7 years ago

      Hi Randall ; )

      We have always been trying to balance client work with our own products. Obviously the nature of the work is very different. I've been saying our process is our product. So as we build our products in the future we'll use our process as the keystone.

      Not all designers have entrepreneurial aspirations but I do think a more well rounded business lessons would go along way for the next generation of designers. Just because one is a designer shouldn't mean one limits oneself from learning new things like programming or supply chain or even how to run a payroll.

      2 points
  • Toby ShorinToby Shorin, over 7 years ago (edited over 7 years ago )

    Hi Scott, thanks for doing this.

    I'd like to know what historical examples of iconography (or iconographic endeavors) you find inspiring. What works, especially in signage or other applied design, do you think advanced the iconography field in some way, or represent a historically unique perspective?

    0 points
    • Simple Scott, over 7 years ago

      Hi Toby,

      I think there are many to point to. I like to think as far back as cave paintings or tribal art where icons where used as a means of communication between two that may have spoke completely different tongues.

      In recent history the same need occurred at the height of air travel. The US Department of Transportation commissioned designers to design the set of icons we see in airports, bus terminals, and help those that may not speak English navigate a new and foreign land.

      In more contemporary history we are seeing the influence of our mobile communications changing the nature of iconography, emoji, stickers, tiny navigational elements are all apart of the new iconographic landscape.

      Thanks for your question.

      2 points
  • Phil Pickering, over 7 years ago

    Hi Scott,

    Where did the idea of The Noun Project originate, and did you ever expect it to be so successful?

    Thanks.

    0 points
    • Simple Scott, over 7 years ago (edited over 7 years ago )

      Thanks for the question Phil. The idea originated from conversations with my co-founder Edward Boatman. He and I met in London, and for many years after meeting we were talking about how there is a drawn language, and how much more effective it can be in communicating. But there wasn't a growing platform that captured the ever evolving language. The fact that we have used this way of communicating for over 20,000 years but had no single point of reference made me think we could build it.

      As for whether I expected it to be successful. I'd have to say I wouldn't have designed and redesigned 4 times over 4 years if I didn't believe it could be successful. I think at the beginning I had no idea what it would turn into and in fact I don't think any of us know how important it will be in the future.

      4 points