June 7, 2016
I don't know how many bearded men spoke at Webvisions in Portland this year but I went specifically to see Aaron Draplin and Mike Monteiro. Both were epic and inspiring and qualify for the "watch again" category.
Aaron Draplin is the pride of the Portland design scene because he is a prolific, well-known designer of logos, posters, and the creator of much-beloved Field Notes. I admit I thought maybe Portland overhyped him because he's a hometown hero - but no, he's explicatively fantastic. He gave a standard here's-how-I-became-a-designer talk but it was awesome because it came with so much happiness, authentic gratitude, and love for the world. This guy loves the doing the design he does and he told a touching story about how he was able to help a guy out a tough spot with a good logo. I think he's such a happy guy because he is doing what he loves doing and doesn't take it for granted.
I feel lucky that I feel the same way. I'm going to be able to look back on my career and how it impacted my life in the same way. I feel like a rockstar because I get to do UX design as a job. I've felt that way since I got my first job, barely knew nothing, barely paid much, but totally in love with UX.
Mike Monteiro is a master at giving talks. His talks aren't just good talks, they're next level. He hits you in the gut with meaning and spins a bunch of tops that wobble around in your brain for days. His talk this year addressed a problem I didn't even know existed. There's a huge demand for designers and there aren't enough good designers prepared for it. Sounds like a good problem to have. Except that our lives are spent interacting with designed products and services and we suffer when they aren't designed well.
Mike covered how schools and industry aren't doing enough to educate new designers. I paid a lot of attention here because, as a UX manager, I wondered a lot about whether the lack of satisfactory design candidates was a problem we should be solving by better educating new hires. The solution, Mike encouraged, was to give back by taking on this education, either formally with hires or informally through mentoring. I especially liked that he modeled a community attitude by explaining that when his teammates are ready to move on that he helps them find their next job. Even though it's a loss to have someone outgrow your team, you've made a contribution. I'm very thankful that I had a couple good mentors and managers in particular that helped me learn in leaps and bounds.