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Al

Interview with product designer Alasdair Monk

Ask the Experts

06 April 2017

Posted by Ana Maria Nica

Hi Al, tell us about yourself in a few sentences - who are you?

Hey! I’m a product designer at Heroku, where I work with a bunch of teams to make simple and smart interfaces for our customers.

Talk us through your creative process and a tool you can't live without?

When designing, I probably spend about 2 minutes roughly sketching things out and then the entirety of the rest of my day in Sketch which I really don’t know what I’d do without. Working in product design, I normally try and find the least creative solution to a problem. People don’t like to learn new things; they like experiences which feel familiar and predictable. I find the creativeness happens in the problem solving. In distilling disparate concepts, objects and notions and formulating an interface that just “makes sense”.

What design trends can we expect for 2017 and beyond?

All of the hype at the moment is about AI and the design trend at the moment is making everything a chat bot. Unfortunately, for 99% of use cases, chat bots are just as bad as using an automated phone line. Natural language processing hasn’t become democratised enough to the point that it’s easy for anyone to do it well and so your chat bot is likely a much more frustrating experience than simply using a web site. AI will be huge, but most companies will never have to worry about it. Big names will do the heavy lifting and supply insights to smaller businesses. The revolution will be behind the scenes; making hotel prices more sensitive to weather conditions, warehouses always optimally organised and your energy bill more accurate.

Describe the project you’re most proud of.

I’m very proud of all of my current work at Heroku – I’m an amateur developer and Heroku strives to solve all of the yawningly boring configurational aspects of engineering and just let you write code. I’m also very proud of all my side projects, which are hard to pick between. I guess that Bind might have been the most challenging. I set out to build an experimental design tool which put constraints at the forefront of the experience. At the time, the only system using constraints based design was Apple’s iOS operating system; but the potential that the system showed purely for laying out objects really excited me.

What role does photography play in your work?

Photography has bigger impact in my day-to-day, outside of work. I feel like I spend pretty much every second on my phone looking at photos and videos. It’s amazing how all messaging apps, rooted in the world of text, are vehemently clamouring to unify around ‘stories’ – videos and photos which Snapchat perfected and everyone else is copying. They sell ads well, but they also provide such a real glimpse into people’s lives.

Your #1 Tip for storytelling:

Like a lot of things, view your story through the eyes of your audience and keep it simple. Don’t let anything detract from the message you want your audience to leave with.

What are three images you love on Picfair?

"I love this photo. The contrast of the man, suited up in typical city attire indulging for a moment in unadulterated childish glee."

"I love this photo. The contrast of the man, suited up in typical city attire indulging for a moment in unadulterated childish glee." Read less

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Irene

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"I grew up around Brighton, and went to school in the city so pretty much any picture from any angle of the pier fills my heart with pride and my nostrils with the smell of fish... Read more

"I grew up around Brighton, and went to school in the city so pretty much any picture from any angle of the pier fills my heart with pride and my nostrils with the smell of fish and chips." Read less

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Sam Moore

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"I just got back from New York – every photo I snapped was filled with the humanity of the place. The streets filled with cars, and people and more cars and more people. I love ... Read more

"I just got back from New York – every photo I snapped was filled with the humanity of the place. The streets filled with cars, and people and more cars and more people. I love how this image captures a lonely island. The city that never sleeps, sleeping." Read less

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Alex Baxter

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