Season 5

|

Episode 2

What’s wrong with software design today

Andy Allen

Founder of Not Boring Software

Mar 7, 2024

Mar 7, 2024

|

48 min

48 min

music by Dennis

About this Episode

As soon as I read No More Boring Apps I was hooked. Andy Allen immediately became one of my design heroes and now I use his Not Boring apps daily. So this conversation is a behind-the-scenes of his journey, an analysis of the state of software design, and a glimpse of where we’re headed next as an industry. Some highlights:

  • The design tools Andy is most excited about

  • Andy’s advice for people wanting to learn 3D

  • The differences between good and great design

  • The 4 things needed for design to have cultural impact

  • How AI will empower us to deliver tailored software at scale

  • Why the future of design tooling might mirror the game industry

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Show Notes

Deep Dives

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Insights + resources from top designers 👇

Lauren LoPrete

Director of Design Systems @ Cash App

David Hoang

VP of Marketing and Design @ Replit

Adrien Griveau

Founding Designer @ Linear

James McDonald

Designer @ Clerk

Femke

Design Lead @ Gusto

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Deep Dives

Get our weekly breakdowns

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Lauren LoPrete

Lead designer @ Netflix

David Hoang

VP of Marketing and Design @ Replit

Adrien Griveau

Founding Designer @ Linear

Femke

Design Lead @ Gusto

Join 10K+ designers

HC

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Deep Dives

Get our weekly breakdowns

Insights + resources from top designers 👇

Lauren LoPrete

Director of Design Systems @ Cash App

David Hoang

VP of Marketing and Design @ Replit

Adrien Griveau

Founding Designer @ Linear

James McDonald

Designer @ Clerk

Femke

Design Lead @ Gusto

Join 10K+ designers

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Transcript chapters

[00:00:00] Why Andy decided to create !Boring

Andy: So I had just come off of a startup and an acquisition and then was working a kind of a mid tier tech company as a product owner and really had kind of become somewhat distant, I would say, from the practice of software design. I was deep in the product world, right, where you're largely managing people and efforts through issues and timesheets and like quarterly reports I had just started to feel Like I needed, to get back more in touch with the craft of software.

I think I've just always had, felt more at home there. And I think, you know, like the truth is a lot of us just organically are kind of, pushed into managerial roles and leadership roles, because, that's tends to be how you sort of move up the ranks within companies, right? But, you know, I'm not the best manager by any means, and I think some of it is just looking at what, all of us have to sort of ask ourselves, well, what are we really uniquely great at and what, what do we think we can uniquely like bring into this world?

So I spent some time thinking about that, stepped away from this. tech company, not really knowing what I would do next, and honestly, just was sort of like done with software for a while and got into woodworking, and started building furniture this was like, right during the height of the pandemic, the start of the pandemic, and just started building things for, myself, like for our house, you know, just like, hey, it would be great to have a built in.

Bookcase right there. a bench right here. Okay, let's build a bench, it just was this great kind of reconnection to craft, I would say, and it was like the exact kind of antidote that I needed to the last, you know, how many years in tech and startup land.

And I think once I got into that, it became really clear what it felt like software and software design as a field was missing. It was missing this like this high degree of craft and it becomes quite obvious when like, you know, a lot of these Things that I made were, you know, it was for an audience of, of like three people.

It's for my family, right? I just really started to love that, you know, like making something that really tightly fits, and satisfies on a very deep level, like a very small audience. everything, it seems, in software is designed for scale. that's really the business of software.

and zero marginal costs, right? It costs nothing to license out another seat on your SaaS service, or to deliver another copy of your app to someone. and so everything I think falls from that. It's, it's suddenly like built for scale, and which means suddenly like all the design, you make all these compromises to design for scale, and yeah, maybe you have a target audience at first, but inevitably you start talking about how do we expand that, and expand it, and make it bigger and bigger.

Uh, and so I was just fascinated by that idea of like getting back to craft and designing something for myself, honestly, and it wasn't even thinking about designing a business or creating some product for the world. It was just like, well, what if you can apply some of those principles that seem to be in most every other design field?

to software design then, yeah, that was really kind of where the, the germ of not boring came from.

[00:00:00] Why Andy decided to create !Boring

Andy: So I had just come off of a startup and an acquisition and then was working a kind of a mid tier tech company as a product owner and really had kind of become somewhat distant, I would say, from the practice of software design. I was deep in the product world, right, where you're largely managing people and efforts through issues and timesheets and like quarterly reports I had just started to feel Like I needed, to get back more in touch with the craft of software.

I think I've just always had, felt more at home there. And I think, you know, like the truth is a lot of us just organically are kind of, pushed into managerial roles and leadership roles, because, that's tends to be how you sort of move up the ranks within companies, right? But, you know, I'm not the best manager by any means, and I think some of it is just looking at what, all of us have to sort of ask ourselves, well, what are we really uniquely great at and what, what do we think we can uniquely like bring into this world?

So I spent some time thinking about that, stepped away from this. tech company, not really knowing what I would do next, and honestly, just was sort of like done with software for a while and got into woodworking, and started building furniture this was like, right during the height of the pandemic, the start of the pandemic, and just started building things for, myself, like for our house, you know, just like, hey, it would be great to have a built in.

Bookcase right there. a bench right here. Okay, let's build a bench, it just was this great kind of reconnection to craft, I would say, and it was like the exact kind of antidote that I needed to the last, you know, how many years in tech and startup land.

And I think once I got into that, it became really clear what it felt like software and software design as a field was missing. It was missing this like this high degree of craft and it becomes quite obvious when like, you know, a lot of these Things that I made were, you know, it was for an audience of, of like three people.

It's for my family, right? I just really started to love that, you know, like making something that really tightly fits, and satisfies on a very deep level, like a very small audience. everything, it seems, in software is designed for scale. that's really the business of software.

and zero marginal costs, right? It costs nothing to license out another seat on your SaaS service, or to deliver another copy of your app to someone. and so everything I think falls from that. It's, it's suddenly like built for scale, and which means suddenly like all the design, you make all these compromises to design for scale, and yeah, maybe you have a target audience at first, but inevitably you start talking about how do we expand that, and expand it, and make it bigger and bigger.

Uh, and so I was just fascinated by that idea of like getting back to craft and designing something for myself, honestly, and it wasn't even thinking about designing a business or creating some product for the world. It was just like, well, what if you can apply some of those principles that seem to be in most every other design field?

to software design then, yeah, that was really kind of where the, the germ of not boring came from.

[00:03:11] Figuring out what !Boring was

Ridd: Can you talk a little bit more about the ideation process? Like, how do you take this high level idea and even belief and then figure out what to translate it to? Like, how did you go from that moment to. You know, app store day one.

Andy: so one of the things I built,

One of the pieces of furniture I built was like a clock, I built it for my kids. I have young kids. clocks are like notoriously difficult, analog clocks, especially notoriously difficult to understand. it seems obvious to us once you learn it, of course, but it's actually like a mental cognitive test, because it's, it's tricky.

You have to do some math and there's two hands and all this. So I looked everywhere for a great clock and couldn't find quite what I was looking for. So I designed one, that, that has like 24 hours rather than 12. So the hand goes around once, there's one hand rather than two, things like that.

of all the things I'd made, you know, I'd made so much software that, you know, it's been downloaded by tens, hundreds of millions of people around the world of all the things I made, like I was using that clock the most. I was like looking at it 30 times a day, and so it just, it started to get me thinking about, well, what are these everyday experiences? You know, these are the moments where perhaps design could really shine. I started to develop some ideas around where design has a unique advantage. I think it's particularly around these, these more mature product categories.

So things that are already well established. I mean, design can do all sorts of things, so I don't want to pigeonhole it. But I think the type of design that, that I was interested in, design as a differentiator, really shines when it's in this very mature category. you see this today with like, you know, linear.

Right. It's like, uh, you know, a task manager, right? That's a very defined category, but they found an interesting way to reinvent it, you know, the browser company. It's like reinventing a browser, right? So I think if you choose a mature category like that, it gives you a chance to have, a clear perspective and almost becomes kind of a canvas on which you can paint an idea.

So I very quickly was like, okay, what are some very basic, like everyday app experiences that we all Yeah.

weather, right? We all have to check the weather in the morning. it's funny because I also teach, uh, at the university, one of my assignments for the students was like designing a basic weather app. and so I was like, well, what if I designed a weather app? You know, what would that look like?

It's like the chair. You know, it's like an industrial designer or furniture designer designing a chair. Right? We all understand what a chair is, what its purpose it is. And so it becomes this perfect, canvas on which to kind of paint your own ideas as a designer. So I thought, well, maybe the weather app can be something like that.

that's really how we started landing on, on these ideas of like choosing these very basic apps, and then started to meld that with like, okay, what is that idea? What's that perspective? I've always had a strong interest in gaming. It's something that has always like just sort of been adjacent to what I'm doing, but, never really like entered into any conversations.

it's kind of strange. I mean, gaming, they're largely running on the same devices that we're building our software on, right? And our apps and using a lot of the same tools. It's digital experiences. You know, they have to think about onboarding and usability, a lot of the same questions that we have to face in the product world.

And yet they're like completely separate fields. Like we don't hear anything from gaming and gaming knows like very little from product. I just started to like question that and like, well, maybe there's something here. So the more I started digging into the gaming world, it was just that became this like endless like fountain of great ideas, and just rich inspiration.

And so, I started to think, okay, what if we combine some of the technology and the tools behind gaming? think a lot of design and digital design had kind of started to plateau a bit. Uh, we'd sort of played out flat design and we were getting deep into design systems, and I mean, some of that is still playing out now.

But it was just kind of like itching for something richer, and I think I found that in games. But I found so much more. There's like so many great principles. like game feel, use of sound design and haptics and all these things that, that we never really touched in the product world and found that, okay, what if you take that and start now applying it to these very basic everyday apps and hence you get something like, like not boring weather and not boring timer, not boring calculator,

Ridd: I mean, they are like not only beautiful, but truly unlike any app that I have on my phone, like the weather is the only widget on my homepage. I work to vibes at night. I use the habits every morning. Can you talk a little bit more about what it actually takes to design and create something like that?

Cause I know it's not like you're just whipping up Figma mockups.

Andy: a little more complicated than the typical process. Um, funny because paper was also a 3D interface. So paper was, an app, by a company that I was a co founder at called 53. and, was sort of born out of, a previous project at Microsoft I had, I had worked at Microsoft on a two screen tablet, kind of pre iPad called courier, which was trying to re envision, mobile for like creatively minded people and paper, was, basically a digital journal that brought, sketching and drawing to, to millions around the world.

uh, we weren't really the first to do it, but I think we were the first ones to really, approach it with the mindset of, you know, what it means to be a creative person and to, prioritize an interface and a model around creative thinking. so we also had like a pencil that we came out with, at 53 as well, which was like a smart stylist pre Apple pencil.

they didn't get too creative with their naming. They just kind of took ours, but, uh, that was 53. We, we basically were creating these creative tools, for mobile.

one of the initial motivations was like, you know, we always see all these great, like really rich designs on dribble and, and be hands and everywhere. They're all just mock ups. So one of the goals was like, well, what if those are actually real?

Like, what if you could have one of those, like really rich, crazy. 3D shaded and all that sort of mock up, but make it real. If you've made and shipped any kind of software, you know how insanely hard that is, right? so it really required, myself and my partner, who's, an amazing graphics engineer.

To really rethink how you build basic software. we took a lot from the gaming world. So we're actually using a game engine, Apple's game engine scene kit. We create a lot of assets in Blender. We create animations in Blender. and then a lot of it's just done in code with, with Apple's toolkits.

it's a very different pipeline than, you know, the typical, let's draw the picture in Figma and then the engineers try and build it to spec. I sort of think that this is maybe the future of tools in a way. And we're seeing it now with some of the no code tools like play and Rive, even spline, right? Where you can like create interactive 3d and then publish it to applications, right? And it doesn't take much, right?

It you have states and events that can drive animations. game engines have kind of had this for a long time. It's really weird. Like tweeted out the other day that, 2023, I pushed the most, commits to ever in my career, I'm not really a developer by, by training and my code understanding is very minimal.

I found that with game engines, if you go to a game studio, the game developer and the game artist and game designer, they're all working in the same application, Somebody is writing the code in that application, and then they're actually like creating the assets. Even the sound designer is working in the same application.

They're all working in the same engine. And there's something about that like direct kind of working from both sides in the same piece of software that I really felt I was missing. I think with the with the kind of standard like design tool and redlining and then it gets built over here. and so it's, it's been like a super gratifying process.

Where it's like it's both very different and and kind of complicated and there's certainly like a ton of issues and challenges with it, but at the same time it Feels very rewarding in a way that like the sort of standard process never has

[00:03:11] Figuring out what !Boring was

Ridd: Can you talk a little bit more about the ideation process? Like, how do you take this high level idea and even belief and then figure out what to translate it to? Like, how did you go from that moment to. You know, app store day one.

Andy: so one of the things I built,

One of the pieces of furniture I built was like a clock, I built it for my kids. I have young kids. clocks are like notoriously difficult, analog clocks, especially notoriously difficult to understand. it seems obvious to us once you learn it, of course, but it's actually like a mental cognitive test, because it's, it's tricky.

You have to do some math and there's two hands and all this. So I looked everywhere for a great clock and couldn't find quite what I was looking for. So I designed one, that, that has like 24 hours rather than 12. So the hand goes around once, there's one hand rather than two, things like that.

of all the things I'd made, you know, I'd made so much software that, you know, it's been downloaded by tens, hundreds of millions of people around the world of all the things I made, like I was using that clock the most. I was like looking at it 30 times a day, and so it just, it started to get me thinking about, well, what are these everyday experiences? You know, these are the moments where perhaps design could really shine. I started to develop some ideas around where design has a unique advantage. I think it's particularly around these, these more mature product categories.

So things that are already well established. I mean, design can do all sorts of things, so I don't want to pigeonhole it. But I think the type of design that, that I was interested in, design as a differentiator, really shines when it's in this very mature category. you see this today with like, you know, linear.

Right. It's like, uh, you know, a task manager, right? That's a very defined category, but they found an interesting way to reinvent it, you know, the browser company. It's like reinventing a browser, right? So I think if you choose a mature category like that, it gives you a chance to have, a clear perspective and almost becomes kind of a canvas on which you can paint an idea.

So I very quickly was like, okay, what are some very basic, like everyday app experiences that we all Yeah.

weather, right? We all have to check the weather in the morning. it's funny because I also teach, uh, at the university, one of my assignments for the students was like designing a basic weather app. and so I was like, well, what if I designed a weather app? You know, what would that look like?

It's like the chair. You know, it's like an industrial designer or furniture designer designing a chair. Right? We all understand what a chair is, what its purpose it is. And so it becomes this perfect, canvas on which to kind of paint your own ideas as a designer. So I thought, well, maybe the weather app can be something like that.

that's really how we started landing on, on these ideas of like choosing these very basic apps, and then started to meld that with like, okay, what is that idea? What's that perspective? I've always had a strong interest in gaming. It's something that has always like just sort of been adjacent to what I'm doing, but, never really like entered into any conversations.

it's kind of strange. I mean, gaming, they're largely running on the same devices that we're building our software on, right? And our apps and using a lot of the same tools. It's digital experiences. You know, they have to think about onboarding and usability, a lot of the same questions that we have to face in the product world.

And yet they're like completely separate fields. Like we don't hear anything from gaming and gaming knows like very little from product. I just started to like question that and like, well, maybe there's something here. So the more I started digging into the gaming world, it was just that became this like endless like fountain of great ideas, and just rich inspiration.

And so, I started to think, okay, what if we combine some of the technology and the tools behind gaming? think a lot of design and digital design had kind of started to plateau a bit. Uh, we'd sort of played out flat design and we were getting deep into design systems, and I mean, some of that is still playing out now.

But it was just kind of like itching for something richer, and I think I found that in games. But I found so much more. There's like so many great principles. like game feel, use of sound design and haptics and all these things that, that we never really touched in the product world and found that, okay, what if you take that and start now applying it to these very basic everyday apps and hence you get something like, like not boring weather and not boring timer, not boring calculator,

Ridd: I mean, they are like not only beautiful, but truly unlike any app that I have on my phone, like the weather is the only widget on my homepage. I work to vibes at night. I use the habits every morning. Can you talk a little bit more about what it actually takes to design and create something like that?

Cause I know it's not like you're just whipping up Figma mockups.

Andy: a little more complicated than the typical process. Um, funny because paper was also a 3D interface. So paper was, an app, by a company that I was a co founder at called 53. and, was sort of born out of, a previous project at Microsoft I had, I had worked at Microsoft on a two screen tablet, kind of pre iPad called courier, which was trying to re envision, mobile for like creatively minded people and paper, was, basically a digital journal that brought, sketching and drawing to, to millions around the world.

uh, we weren't really the first to do it, but I think we were the first ones to really, approach it with the mindset of, you know, what it means to be a creative person and to, prioritize an interface and a model around creative thinking. so we also had like a pencil that we came out with, at 53 as well, which was like a smart stylist pre Apple pencil.

they didn't get too creative with their naming. They just kind of took ours, but, uh, that was 53. We, we basically were creating these creative tools, for mobile.

one of the initial motivations was like, you know, we always see all these great, like really rich designs on dribble and, and be hands and everywhere. They're all just mock ups. So one of the goals was like, well, what if those are actually real?

Like, what if you could have one of those, like really rich, crazy. 3D shaded and all that sort of mock up, but make it real. If you've made and shipped any kind of software, you know how insanely hard that is, right? so it really required, myself and my partner, who's, an amazing graphics engineer.

To really rethink how you build basic software. we took a lot from the gaming world. So we're actually using a game engine, Apple's game engine scene kit. We create a lot of assets in Blender. We create animations in Blender. and then a lot of it's just done in code with, with Apple's toolkits.

it's a very different pipeline than, you know, the typical, let's draw the picture in Figma and then the engineers try and build it to spec. I sort of think that this is maybe the future of tools in a way. And we're seeing it now with some of the no code tools like play and Rive, even spline, right? Where you can like create interactive 3d and then publish it to applications, right? And it doesn't take much, right?

It you have states and events that can drive animations. game engines have kind of had this for a long time. It's really weird. Like tweeted out the other day that, 2023, I pushed the most, commits to ever in my career, I'm not really a developer by, by training and my code understanding is very minimal.

I found that with game engines, if you go to a game studio, the game developer and the game artist and game designer, they're all working in the same application, Somebody is writing the code in that application, and then they're actually like creating the assets. Even the sound designer is working in the same application.

They're all working in the same engine. And there's something about that like direct kind of working from both sides in the same piece of software that I really felt I was missing. I think with the with the kind of standard like design tool and redlining and then it gets built over here. and so it's, it's been like a super gratifying process.

Where it's like it's both very different and and kind of complicated and there's certainly like a ton of issues and challenges with it, but at the same time it Feels very rewarding in a way that like the sort of standard process never has

[00:11:18] The future of design tooling

Ridd: You started talking about tools. So we're just going to go for it here. Cause something that I really want to ask you is. Where you think design tooling is kind of headed, because I think a lot of people are quick to talk about this idea of like, well, it's inevitable that you're not going to be designing and then redlining, lobbing it over the wall, and then developers will take it from there, , and I even asked David Hong this on a couple episodes ago about how he thinks that designers will be regularly contributing to production codebases by 2025. Do you have any thoughts on how the design or even authoring software landscape will evolve over the next year to couple of years?

Andy: Just as like a practitioner, , to me, it seems like the future are these types of tools that have, have been built that way from the get go. And we're seeing it in the web, right?

With Framer and Webflow, where you can, you know, you can be a designer and you can get something from zero to finished all by yourself, right? You don't have to code. And I think that's, you know, that hasn't really It hasn't quite yet like trickled all the way down to, to app development and like other richer software, but there's no reason that it can't spline is really interesting.

Like they just, announced, some tools to be able to publish 3d apps, like actually like a binary that you can submit to apple.

Ridd: Can you talk a little bit more about that? Because I saw it on Twitter a bunch and I think a lot of people see that and they're like, okay, I, I, that feels like a big deal, but I'm not even a hundred percent sure why.

So like, what has you excited right now about spline and even like 3d more broadly?

Andy: I mean,

It's exciting because there has always been a lot of just busy work around creating an app, you know, like getting an app package together and putting all those pieces together and to have a framework That is truly like no code where you can do that yourself is exciting, especially something that you can customize because you know, there's Swift UI, and some tools that Apple has to create, be somewhat like hands off with the code, but you always still have to jump in and hook up some code pieces.

It's the sort of thing where we've had that promise for decades now, like if you can, you know, you can think back to how many tools in the past that have made this promise, right? but I think we're, we're reaching that point where you can actually like get from zero to, to one fully without ever touching a line of code.

And then the other thing I think to layer on top of this, and maybe David mentioned, is the whole AI piece, right? And that helping to kind of perhaps fill some gaps. Uh, where you need it on the code side or the customization side. So I, I definitely believe that that will have a lot more people, like, not even necessarily touching code,

[00:11:18] The future of design tooling

Ridd: You started talking about tools. So we're just going to go for it here. Cause something that I really want to ask you is. Where you think design tooling is kind of headed, because I think a lot of people are quick to talk about this idea of like, well, it's inevitable that you're not going to be designing and then redlining, lobbing it over the wall, and then developers will take it from there, , and I even asked David Hong this on a couple episodes ago about how he thinks that designers will be regularly contributing to production codebases by 2025. Do you have any thoughts on how the design or even authoring software landscape will evolve over the next year to couple of years?

Andy: Just as like a practitioner, , to me, it seems like the future are these types of tools that have, have been built that way from the get go. And we're seeing it in the web, right?

With Framer and Webflow, where you can, you know, you can be a designer and you can get something from zero to finished all by yourself, right? You don't have to code. And I think that's, you know, that hasn't really It hasn't quite yet like trickled all the way down to, to app development and like other richer software, but there's no reason that it can't spline is really interesting.

Like they just, announced, some tools to be able to publish 3d apps, like actually like a binary that you can submit to apple.

Ridd: Can you talk a little bit more about that? Because I saw it on Twitter a bunch and I think a lot of people see that and they're like, okay, I, I, that feels like a big deal, but I'm not even a hundred percent sure why.

So like, what has you excited right now about spline and even like 3d more broadly?

Andy: I mean,

It's exciting because there has always been a lot of just busy work around creating an app, you know, like getting an app package together and putting all those pieces together and to have a framework That is truly like no code where you can do that yourself is exciting, especially something that you can customize because you know, there's Swift UI, and some tools that Apple has to create, be somewhat like hands off with the code, but you always still have to jump in and hook up some code pieces.

It's the sort of thing where we've had that promise for decades now, like if you can, you know, you can think back to how many tools in the past that have made this promise, right? but I think we're, we're reaching that point where you can actually like get from zero to, to one fully without ever touching a line of code.

And then the other thing I think to layer on top of this, and maybe David mentioned, is the whole AI piece, right? And that helping to kind of perhaps fill some gaps. Uh, where you need it on the code side or the customization side. So I, I definitely believe that that will have a lot more people, like, not even necessarily touching code,

[00:13:56] The impact of AI on the broader software landscape

Ridd: you talk a lot about this idea of like inherent scalability in the way that we design products and you even make the comparison to. Like domestic light beer where it has to appeal to everyone. How do you see something like AI impacting that trend, especially as the cost of software seems to be approaching zero?

things

Andy: fascinating and to some extent, I'm not sure we've really seen that play out yet. Like we've seen AI do some great things for sure. but really we're just scratching the surface and the whole idea of like a more kind of personalized software experience. it has maybe yet to play out a little bit more for us.

you think about it. A. I. Unlocks the potential to have these like really personal crafted one on one experience. Like, imagine like a tailored suit, right? Like tailored clothes or like built in furniture built specifically for your need. It's potentially the first time that will have that level.

Of like tailored product at scale, you know, you've always had to trade off scale versus customization or personalization or like, and that always comes with trade offs, right? Whenever you have to make something generic or make it work for X number of people, or make your clothes fit X number of people, right?

It can never be like truly well fitted. and so, you know, I think that's really exciting about AI. that I haven't, I haven't seen a ton of people explore yet, but, for sure that's what we want, right? We all want the tailored suit. We want like the built in furniture, the thing that fits exactly what we need at any given time.

Ridd: Just based off of technological advancements and, AR potentially having its moment here soon, we have vision pro shipping, AI, I agree, it's like super first inning, but it all is starting to feel a little bit more tangible and inevitable. When you kind of look into the rest of this year and beyond, like, are there other things that have you particularly excited or that you're keeping your eye on?

Andy: Yeah, I mean, AR and, uh, spatial. Computing mixed reality. I think that's exciting. and it, it, it is behind, you know, or it's, it's tangential to some of the things that we're doing for sure. where we're like designing 3D interfaces and, , I came from a graphic design background.

And so I think in 2D. But, um, I've kind of had to come, come to grips with the idea that That, like, we're not naturally necessarily born to, like, understand things in 2D. I think 3D is actually a very, like, natural way of understanding the world. I mean, this becomes immediately clear when you have young kids and they, you know, have a couple of blocks and they know how to stack them up and make things happen, but yet they can't.

You know, understand like a 2D visual. And so I think when you really strip it back, we'll, we'll start to realize just how much of like our world has been kind of flattened due to 2D and, and sort of flattened for the sake of, of like reproducibility, uh, and efficiency. But once you open that up and now you have 3D spaces, I feel like there's A lot of opportunity for us to, to kind of find even more intuitive and, more natural feeling ways of interacting with the world and gathering information and all that in a way that we just really haven't had much like experience with, I mean, in a very simple, a very simple example of that is like.

You know, we use 3D number forms in our apps, like in the calculator and the weather app, right? it's really hard to find other examples of 3D number forms out there. Like, I'm looking for like, okay, because we release skins where we redesign the numbers in different ways. just not many people have done it, you know?

Like, yeah, you can take some text and extrude it, but it's not really 3D in my mind, uh, it's very basic. And so, there's just, like, you're looking at sculpture. You know, you're looking at, like, models that people have made. Uh, and, like, these wacky experiments people have done.

I think it's going to have us having to, like, rethink a lot of basic things in our world. And how we take in information and how we interact with the world.

Ridd: One of the questions that I like to ask people is what skillset do they want to grow in? probably the most common answer that I get is 3d. Like, I think there is this awareness now for designers where it's like that, I don't know if you'd call it the next frontier or whatever, but it's, it's very clear that there's an opportunity and yet the pathway of learning is much less clear.

maybe you could even talk a little bit about how you've grown that muscle as someone who creates and ships 3d experiences.

Andy: Yeah, 3D's a pain in the ass to learn, you know? Like, 3D animation software, like Maya, even Blender, I maintain that it may be the most complicated software out there. Like, like maybe up there with like, whatever NASA is using to like determine flight paths and things, right?

Like the amount of things you can do in it. It's insane. I've never met anyone who knows, like, even the like, The most experienced experts will tell you that they know like maybe 5 percent of Blender. so it's, it's like these insane big applications. So the way I learned it and the way that I try and teach other people to learn 3D is not to start with the software.

And to start with something that's a lot easier, I literally, bought a bunch of Lego. And started building things out of Lego. Or I bought, uh, some modeling clay. Some Sculpey modeling clay. And you can model stuff out of clay. Like, don't let the tool get in your way. Because really what you have to do is start developing an eye and a sensitivity for three dimensional forms.

And as any, like, industrial designer can tell you, like, it's different. It's very different from 2D. And something that can look great in 2D can suddenly, like, not look so great. in 3D or look entirely different and so that I try and get people to do that first to just like develop their kind of aesthetic sensibility for 3D outside the tools and then you'll start to like, you know, you can take some courses and start to learn little bits of the tools here and there, to start to develop a little bit of competency, but don't feel like you have to learn it all at once, like just learn enough to do the thing that you need to do.

Okay. Uh, to like model that one thing, that one number, that one form, and then figure out how to animate it later if you need to animate things. So just sort of like learn it in pieces, but by all means, like, I think the big mistake that people make is they feel like they have to download Blender and take like a six week course in how to learn Blender.

And it's like, ehhhh, you know, even to this day, I don't sketch my ideas out in Blender. Like I sketch them on paper and I still use modeling clay to get ideas down because it's just these, you know, the software is not Conducive to that level of like thinking, I would say. It's great at executing stuff when you need to execute it, but it's not really like a great ideation tool.

[00:13:56] The impact of AI on the broader software landscape

Ridd: you talk a lot about this idea of like inherent scalability in the way that we design products and you even make the comparison to. Like domestic light beer where it has to appeal to everyone. How do you see something like AI impacting that trend, especially as the cost of software seems to be approaching zero?

things

Andy: fascinating and to some extent, I'm not sure we've really seen that play out yet. Like we've seen AI do some great things for sure. but really we're just scratching the surface and the whole idea of like a more kind of personalized software experience. it has maybe yet to play out a little bit more for us.

you think about it. A. I. Unlocks the potential to have these like really personal crafted one on one experience. Like, imagine like a tailored suit, right? Like tailored clothes or like built in furniture built specifically for your need. It's potentially the first time that will have that level.

Of like tailored product at scale, you know, you've always had to trade off scale versus customization or personalization or like, and that always comes with trade offs, right? Whenever you have to make something generic or make it work for X number of people, or make your clothes fit X number of people, right?

It can never be like truly well fitted. and so, you know, I think that's really exciting about AI. that I haven't, I haven't seen a ton of people explore yet, but, for sure that's what we want, right? We all want the tailored suit. We want like the built in furniture, the thing that fits exactly what we need at any given time.

Ridd: Just based off of technological advancements and, AR potentially having its moment here soon, we have vision pro shipping, AI, I agree, it's like super first inning, but it all is starting to feel a little bit more tangible and inevitable. When you kind of look into the rest of this year and beyond, like, are there other things that have you particularly excited or that you're keeping your eye on?

Andy: Yeah, I mean, AR and, uh, spatial. Computing mixed reality. I think that's exciting. and it, it, it is behind, you know, or it's, it's tangential to some of the things that we're doing for sure. where we're like designing 3D interfaces and, , I came from a graphic design background.

And so I think in 2D. But, um, I've kind of had to come, come to grips with the idea that That, like, we're not naturally necessarily born to, like, understand things in 2D. I think 3D is actually a very, like, natural way of understanding the world. I mean, this becomes immediately clear when you have young kids and they, you know, have a couple of blocks and they know how to stack them up and make things happen, but yet they can't.

You know, understand like a 2D visual. And so I think when you really strip it back, we'll, we'll start to realize just how much of like our world has been kind of flattened due to 2D and, and sort of flattened for the sake of, of like reproducibility, uh, and efficiency. But once you open that up and now you have 3D spaces, I feel like there's A lot of opportunity for us to, to kind of find even more intuitive and, more natural feeling ways of interacting with the world and gathering information and all that in a way that we just really haven't had much like experience with, I mean, in a very simple, a very simple example of that is like.

You know, we use 3D number forms in our apps, like in the calculator and the weather app, right? it's really hard to find other examples of 3D number forms out there. Like, I'm looking for like, okay, because we release skins where we redesign the numbers in different ways. just not many people have done it, you know?

Like, yeah, you can take some text and extrude it, but it's not really 3D in my mind, uh, it's very basic. And so, there's just, like, you're looking at sculpture. You know, you're looking at, like, models that people have made. Uh, and, like, these wacky experiments people have done.

I think it's going to have us having to, like, rethink a lot of basic things in our world. And how we take in information and how we interact with the world.

Ridd: One of the questions that I like to ask people is what skillset do they want to grow in? probably the most common answer that I get is 3d. Like, I think there is this awareness now for designers where it's like that, I don't know if you'd call it the next frontier or whatever, but it's, it's very clear that there's an opportunity and yet the pathway of learning is much less clear.

maybe you could even talk a little bit about how you've grown that muscle as someone who creates and ships 3d experiences.

Andy: Yeah, 3D's a pain in the ass to learn, you know? Like, 3D animation software, like Maya, even Blender, I maintain that it may be the most complicated software out there. Like, like maybe up there with like, whatever NASA is using to like determine flight paths and things, right?

Like the amount of things you can do in it. It's insane. I've never met anyone who knows, like, even the like, The most experienced experts will tell you that they know like maybe 5 percent of Blender. so it's, it's like these insane big applications. So the way I learned it and the way that I try and teach other people to learn 3D is not to start with the software.

And to start with something that's a lot easier, I literally, bought a bunch of Lego. And started building things out of Lego. Or I bought, uh, some modeling clay. Some Sculpey modeling clay. And you can model stuff out of clay. Like, don't let the tool get in your way. Because really what you have to do is start developing an eye and a sensitivity for three dimensional forms.

And as any, like, industrial designer can tell you, like, it's different. It's very different from 2D. And something that can look great in 2D can suddenly, like, not look so great. in 3D or look entirely different and so that I try and get people to do that first to just like develop their kind of aesthetic sensibility for 3D outside the tools and then you'll start to like, you know, you can take some courses and start to learn little bits of the tools here and there, to start to develop a little bit of competency, but don't feel like you have to learn it all at once, like just learn enough to do the thing that you need to do.

Okay. Uh, to like model that one thing, that one number, that one form, and then figure out how to animate it later if you need to animate things. So just sort of like learn it in pieces, but by all means, like, I think the big mistake that people make is they feel like they have to download Blender and take like a six week course in how to learn Blender.

And it's like, ehhhh, you know, even to this day, I don't sketch my ideas out in Blender. Like I sketch them on paper and I still use modeling clay to get ideas down because it's just these, you know, the software is not Conducive to that level of like thinking, I would say. It's great at executing stuff when you need to execute it, but it's not really like a great ideation tool.

[00:20:55] Andy's creative process

Ridd: Can you talk a little bit more about your ideation process? Because you have so many different feels that you're creating through these different experiences. Like you mentioned the skins and I've kind of been flipping through the different skins and it's like, they're fundamentally different art directions and visual languages that do meaningfully impact the experience.

I'm curious how you even. up with those. Like, what is your creative process look like for these apps?

Andy: It's not just me, for one, you know. I have to throw a lot of props to my co founder and partner, Mark Dawson. Who is admittedly more of a developer, more of a graphics engineer. but, I would say like contributes probably just as many ideas to what we build as I do. And, we sort of decided early on that we were going to really just follow our own interests.

just to take a step back, like I, before I was a designer, I was, I was really more of a filmmaker. You know, that's how we got into, design and one of the bits of advice that, you know, when you, when you hear most like great film directors like Fincher, Tarantino give advice to younger filmmakers on what to make, they say, you know, make the movie that you want to watch.

I've always sort of taken that to heart when it comes to software and it sounds selfish, but I think it's oftentimes, a great thing that, that you could do because you're finding like something that is inherently kind of truthful, you know, you don't have to put on a mask or, uh, adopt another persona.

And so largely we're just driven by, things that interest us. the new set of skins, you know, is, uh, it's depth, normals, and, uh, wireframe. That's, those are just ripped right out of Blender, you know. Those are like different view modes, in 3D software. we thought, well, wouldn't that be exciting To kind of reveal what you don't see typically in software, you know, so to like reveal the underlying structure.

So we have one called wireframe where you put that on and then suddenly like you see all the edges and the vertices and everything kind of it's like taking the skin off the building, and you see the, the underlying structure of it all. I don't know. I just thought that was.

It's interesting, you know, and so we're, we're largely just following whims like that. I wouldn't say we have any, sort of like defined process other than finding something that interests us and pursuing it. you know, one of, one of the skins is a monster skin.

and it's, it's kind of silly, you know, it's like not something I would have designed to be honest. I'm much more like, I love stark, kind of black and white, very basic, kind of like classic design, international Swiss design type of stuff. I just started goofing around with my kids in Blender one day and they're like, Oh yeah, put some eyes on it, you know?

So I like threw some eyes on it. And I'm like, well, what about like a tongue coming out here, a mouth, you know? Now, yeah, I do that. And it's like, you know, I had like a black and white version of it, and then I started to do color. I'm like, which one do you like, this one or the color one? Well, guess which one kids like, right?

It's the like super colorful one. So, some of it is like trying to, just kind of be open, you know, and recognize that maybe I have some of my own biases. and like, you know, there's maybe there's something like a little bit more truthful about, what kids are drawn to and the sorts of things that delight them that maybe, maybe gets beaten out of us as a weary adults over time.

Ridd: It's cool. I mean, you're definitely going to get a different type of iteration cycle when you're presenting to your kids rather than a traditional PM and room

Andy: They can be brutal, man.

Ridd: I bet.

Andy: They can, they can just, uh, tear you apart, you know? You can spend a long time on something, and they like the one with the rainbow on it, you know? So it's like, okay.

[00:20:55] Andy's creative process

Ridd: Can you talk a little bit more about your ideation process? Because you have so many different feels that you're creating through these different experiences. Like you mentioned the skins and I've kind of been flipping through the different skins and it's like, they're fundamentally different art directions and visual languages that do meaningfully impact the experience.

I'm curious how you even. up with those. Like, what is your creative process look like for these apps?

Andy: It's not just me, for one, you know. I have to throw a lot of props to my co founder and partner, Mark Dawson. Who is admittedly more of a developer, more of a graphics engineer. but, I would say like contributes probably just as many ideas to what we build as I do. And, we sort of decided early on that we were going to really just follow our own interests.

just to take a step back, like I, before I was a designer, I was, I was really more of a filmmaker. You know, that's how we got into, design and one of the bits of advice that, you know, when you, when you hear most like great film directors like Fincher, Tarantino give advice to younger filmmakers on what to make, they say, you know, make the movie that you want to watch.

I've always sort of taken that to heart when it comes to software and it sounds selfish, but I think it's oftentimes, a great thing that, that you could do because you're finding like something that is inherently kind of truthful, you know, you don't have to put on a mask or, uh, adopt another persona.

And so largely we're just driven by, things that interest us. the new set of skins, you know, is, uh, it's depth, normals, and, uh, wireframe. That's, those are just ripped right out of Blender, you know. Those are like different view modes, in 3D software. we thought, well, wouldn't that be exciting To kind of reveal what you don't see typically in software, you know, so to like reveal the underlying structure.

So we have one called wireframe where you put that on and then suddenly like you see all the edges and the vertices and everything kind of it's like taking the skin off the building, and you see the, the underlying structure of it all. I don't know. I just thought that was.

It's interesting, you know, and so we're, we're largely just following whims like that. I wouldn't say we have any, sort of like defined process other than finding something that interests us and pursuing it. you know, one of, one of the skins is a monster skin.

and it's, it's kind of silly, you know, it's like not something I would have designed to be honest. I'm much more like, I love stark, kind of black and white, very basic, kind of like classic design, international Swiss design type of stuff. I just started goofing around with my kids in Blender one day and they're like, Oh yeah, put some eyes on it, you know?

So I like threw some eyes on it. And I'm like, well, what about like a tongue coming out here, a mouth, you know? Now, yeah, I do that. And it's like, you know, I had like a black and white version of it, and then I started to do color. I'm like, which one do you like, this one or the color one? Well, guess which one kids like, right?

It's the like super colorful one. So, some of it is like trying to, just kind of be open, you know, and recognize that maybe I have some of my own biases. and like, you know, there's maybe there's something like a little bit more truthful about, what kids are drawn to and the sorts of things that delight them that maybe, maybe gets beaten out of us as a weary adults over time.

Ridd: It's cool. I mean, you're definitely going to get a different type of iteration cycle when you're presenting to your kids rather than a traditional PM and room

Andy: They can be brutal, man.

Ridd: I bet.

Andy: They can, they can just, uh, tear you apart, you know? You can spend a long time on something, and they like the one with the rainbow on it, you know? So it's like, okay.

[00:24:35] What's surprised Andy while building Not Boring

Ridd: You know, you've been doing this for three and a half years now, I do want to talk about, you know, broader landscape stuff and skillsets and things like that, but maybe even just at a personal level through this journey, are there ways that you have grown or, elements of this experience that maybe you just like, didn't see coming when you first started this journey?

Andy: I mean, the very premise, , look, it was really a thought experiment, , we had this idea that I thought was interesting, But it was, can you truly build design differentiated software, when you really think about it, almost all software.

, is still like feature differentiated, right? , it can do this, it can do that, right? That's how you make your software different. It's Calculator Plus, right? It can do these extra things. And we said, well, what if it did exactly the same stuff as what you get on your phone, for free, by the way. , and we just did it differently.

You know, so it's not about , what you do, it's how you do it that wasn't really proven out and I had no idea what was going to happen. I thought, hey, maybe it's interesting to me and maybe a few like design friends. What's been really surprising is just how many people have resonated with that, even outside the world of design and outside of the world of tech.

Even, you know, I'll get emails from people and, you know, middle of nowhere, um, who. You know, have no, like, connection with tech and, and don't even really seem to be that connected to the design, , community in the way that we, we might see it on, on places like Twitter, but, they'll like reach out with just the most gushing email about like, wow, this is amazing.

I can't believe, you know, I'm like, Really? Like, why are you drawn to this, right? But, I think that's everywhere, you know? I think we just don't see it in software, right? Like, we see it in, in the fashion world. We see in other places.

Like, people have this desire to, to interact with, with something at an aesthetic level, on a deeper level. that's there. It just wasn't there in software. that's probably been the most surprising thing is just how many people and how far outside the scope of who I thought it would resonate with have actually like felt some connection to what we're doing.

Ridd: Let's zoom out from here because , there's something I want to ask you, which is recently you had a tweet.

[00:24:35] What's surprised Andy while building Not Boring

Ridd: You know, you've been doing this for three and a half years now, I do want to talk about, you know, broader landscape stuff and skillsets and things like that, but maybe even just at a personal level through this journey, are there ways that you have grown or, elements of this experience that maybe you just like, didn't see coming when you first started this journey?

Andy: I mean, the very premise, , look, it was really a thought experiment, , we had this idea that I thought was interesting, But it was, can you truly build design differentiated software, when you really think about it, almost all software.

, is still like feature differentiated, right? , it can do this, it can do that, right? That's how you make your software different. It's Calculator Plus, right? It can do these extra things. And we said, well, what if it did exactly the same stuff as what you get on your phone, for free, by the way. , and we just did it differently.

You know, so it's not about , what you do, it's how you do it that wasn't really proven out and I had no idea what was going to happen. I thought, hey, maybe it's interesting to me and maybe a few like design friends. What's been really surprising is just how many people have resonated with that, even outside the world of design and outside of the world of tech.

Even, you know, I'll get emails from people and, you know, middle of nowhere, um, who. You know, have no, like, connection with tech and, and don't even really seem to be that connected to the design, , community in the way that we, we might see it on, on places like Twitter, but, they'll like reach out with just the most gushing email about like, wow, this is amazing.

I can't believe, you know, I'm like, Really? Like, why are you drawn to this, right? But, I think that's everywhere, you know? I think we just don't see it in software, right? Like, we see it in, in the fashion world. We see in other places.

Like, people have this desire to, to interact with, with something at an aesthetic level, on a deeper level. that's there. It just wasn't there in software. that's probably been the most surprising thing is just how many people and how far outside the scope of who I thought it would resonate with have actually like felt some connection to what we're doing.

Ridd: Let's zoom out from here because , there's something I want to ask you, which is recently you had a tweet.

[00:26:44] What is broken with software design today

Ridd: And you asked what's broken with software design and it kind of blew up. There were over 350, 000 impressions. So I want to know what led you to ask that question. And then maybe even just reading some of the replies, like what themes or ideas stand out to you as an answer to that question? ,

Andy: I just have this deep feeling we don't have a good balance right now.

Like it's not living up to what it should be. And what I mean by that is like, it has been so kind of contorted into being this tool for business, which it is and it's great and you can use it that way. But software design , is the most prolific and prevalent medium that a designer can work in today.

It's everywhere. , you can make a piece of software entirely by yourself and put it out there into the world and have like hundreds of people using it overnight. Like what other medium as a designer can you work in where you can do that, right? Like it's insane. What we have at our fingertips, right?

it's just sad to me that There are very few people using software as a true like medium for, interesting ideas in the way that you see in industrial design or architecture or fashion, even graphic design, right?

Like, I want to see software design sit up there on the cultural landscape at the same level as those things, we all, as designers, I think, have to ask ourselves, why did we get into design?

are we getting in it just to like serve some business? OKR , that's fine. And , if some people want to do that, that's great. But, you know, I think a lot of us got into design to contribute something back to culture, you know, in the way that all these other fields are.

And yeah. And I, I think some of that came out in some of the themes. but honestly, like, there are, there are other things that, that, like, I have my own list, I guess, of things that feel like they're broken,

Ridd: that was my next question. So now you have to share a little bit about

Andy: Okay. What are those things? I sort of think it's four things, okay. One is like, , we don't do such a great job of preserving. Great software design, right? Like it's ephemeral. It's gone. You know, we release it. it goes out into the world and then, you know, eventually it, it kind of breaks down and it dies.

paper had its 10th anniversary a couple years ago I was like, all right, I'm going to install like the very first version of paper on my old iPad to, you know, Um, and run it and just, and just kind of like, let's see if I can, you know, get that original version up and running to experience it.

you know, you got to install a certain version of iTunes on a certain version of Mac OS just to like get that certain version of iOS install. Like I had that binary, but I couldn't install it. Right. so it's, it just like hits home the fact that like, Oh yeah, this thing that I worked on 10 years ago.

Like, I have it, it's right here, you know, like I have the file, I have the code, right? But I can't actually run it, I can't, I can't make this thing real, right? It's like, it's there, but it's like falling through my fingers at the same time, it's gone. but not only that, like, there's, even if, even if we take that away, there's also no history books.

where's the history of software design? I know this very well, because I teach an introduction to user interface design at the University of Washington here in Seattle. And I've been looking for years for something that touches on, the history of great software design. And it just doesn't exist, and there's so many great stories I feel like that have, I've picked up through various, , channels, but most of it is just unwritten.

You know, like how did certain things come about? It's just unknown. You know, it hasn't been documented. Hasn't been captured. That's the first one. we don't preserve it. The second one is we don't celebrate it. there's not really, I mean, yes, we, we give a lot of likes and congrats on Twitter when something comes out.

Great. but we don't really have big moments where we celebrate great software design. Like we don't have, there's no Oscars. you know, there are some like smaller, uh, awards, uh, here and there, or they're very like industry or platform specific awards, you know, Apple design awards, uh, is a great awards, program, but, you know, it's of course limited to the Apple ecosystem, and, you know, sort of at the whims of what, what, uh, they deem, interesting there's not really any sort of independent, way of acknowledging great software.

And it, you know, it sounds kind of trite, and like, awards can be kind of annoying at times. But I am a believer that they serve a purpose in like, getting us together to recognize like, where we are in a moment. And what's influencing software design right now. Were you

going

Ridd: moment, too. You're creating, you're creating the record book. Makes total sense.

Andy: Exactly, So number three is like, we don't really talk that much about details of software. And what I mean by that is, the sort of larger, like, media culture talks very little about software. Like, new iPhone comes out. there's like hundreds of tech YouTubers covering the new device, right?

Not only that, I mean, I think that's great, never mind the fact that the phone is like barely changed, right? It's like little bits here and there changed, right? But never, you know, they may still manage to like put out 20 minute video going into all the details around it. new big app comes out or something like there's almost nothing.

And it seems like it's worse to me. I feel like it was easier to get tech coverage 10 years ago when I was promoting paper and other other software experiences. Now, if you're like an indie app developer, it's really hard to get any attention from media. The only moments of getting attention really are like raising money or like an acquisition or a sale of some kind, right?

It's so it tends to have to be like connected to some tech business outlet, right? and not only that, you know, like just the language with which we, we have to like talk about software is not there yet, And we have, I think we've developed that late. Like you started to see. People develop that language around, uh, hardware products, tech reviewers can spend like five minutes talking about the exact like finish or the color or the feel the latest like titanium iPhones, let's say, right?

Like when was the last time you heard anyone talk about the feel of software, Meanwhile, like we all just cover our phones with cases. So we're not feeling it Anyways, and we're spending, you know, nine hours a day in the software, ? And so it feels like there's there's a gap there that we have yet to really to really fill It's both on the media side, but also even on like the kind of criticism And the more sort of like academic criticism that you see in plenty of other fields, like architecture and fashion and that sort of thing, it's just not really there yet, and then, you know, I think the last one is the fourth point is, I think, one that that you're probably familiar with, which is like we don't do nearly enough, I think, to pass it on, you know, to pass on.

How do we teach great software design to the next generation? I'm super grateful to all those who like share their process and share their work, online. That's, that's great. but it's like, it's, there's still so much that we have like yet to uncover about how great things came about. You know, there was just the other day.

I'm forgetting his name, Daniel, forgetting his last name. But he came out, he just tweeted that, oh yeah, here's, you know, the whole like iOS gesture where you start a drag on the space bar and you can move the

cursor around. Freeform? Right. He had, he was like, Oh, here's, you know, if you guys want to know where that came from, here's like the demo video that, I made you know, seven years ago before Apple hired me to build it there.

Ridd: amazing.

Andy: And it's like, yeah, it's like this peak behind the curtain of like how this stuff gets made. Right. And we need more of that. Right? We need to know where this stuff comes from, who's behind it, what decisions they're making, what tools they're using, I think there's just so much interesting knowledge there that we need to find a better way of passing on that we just haven't done yet, and probably all sorts of like reasons for it with like NDAs and, and, uh, and tech companies wanting to keep things private, but we've got to find a way to, to break through that and I think find ways of contributing, back to the, the field,

[00:26:44] What is broken with software design today

Ridd: And you asked what's broken with software design and it kind of blew up. There were over 350, 000 impressions. So I want to know what led you to ask that question. And then maybe even just reading some of the replies, like what themes or ideas stand out to you as an answer to that question? ,

Andy: I just have this deep feeling we don't have a good balance right now.

Like it's not living up to what it should be. And what I mean by that is like, it has been so kind of contorted into being this tool for business, which it is and it's great and you can use it that way. But software design , is the most prolific and prevalent medium that a designer can work in today.

It's everywhere. , you can make a piece of software entirely by yourself and put it out there into the world and have like hundreds of people using it overnight. Like what other medium as a designer can you work in where you can do that, right? Like it's insane. What we have at our fingertips, right?

it's just sad to me that There are very few people using software as a true like medium for, interesting ideas in the way that you see in industrial design or architecture or fashion, even graphic design, right?

Like, I want to see software design sit up there on the cultural landscape at the same level as those things, we all, as designers, I think, have to ask ourselves, why did we get into design?

are we getting in it just to like serve some business? OKR , that's fine. And , if some people want to do that, that's great. But, you know, I think a lot of us got into design to contribute something back to culture, you know, in the way that all these other fields are.

And yeah. And I, I think some of that came out in some of the themes. but honestly, like, there are, there are other things that, that, like, I have my own list, I guess, of things that feel like they're broken,

Ridd: that was my next question. So now you have to share a little bit about

Andy: Okay. What are those things? I sort of think it's four things, okay. One is like, , we don't do such a great job of preserving. Great software design, right? Like it's ephemeral. It's gone. You know, we release it. it goes out into the world and then, you know, eventually it, it kind of breaks down and it dies.

paper had its 10th anniversary a couple years ago I was like, all right, I'm going to install like the very first version of paper on my old iPad to, you know, Um, and run it and just, and just kind of like, let's see if I can, you know, get that original version up and running to experience it.

you know, you got to install a certain version of iTunes on a certain version of Mac OS just to like get that certain version of iOS install. Like I had that binary, but I couldn't install it. Right. so it's, it just like hits home the fact that like, Oh yeah, this thing that I worked on 10 years ago.

Like, I have it, it's right here, you know, like I have the file, I have the code, right? But I can't actually run it, I can't, I can't make this thing real, right? It's like, it's there, but it's like falling through my fingers at the same time, it's gone. but not only that, like, there's, even if, even if we take that away, there's also no history books.

where's the history of software design? I know this very well, because I teach an introduction to user interface design at the University of Washington here in Seattle. And I've been looking for years for something that touches on, the history of great software design. And it just doesn't exist, and there's so many great stories I feel like that have, I've picked up through various, , channels, but most of it is just unwritten.

You know, like how did certain things come about? It's just unknown. You know, it hasn't been documented. Hasn't been captured. That's the first one. we don't preserve it. The second one is we don't celebrate it. there's not really, I mean, yes, we, we give a lot of likes and congrats on Twitter when something comes out.

Great. but we don't really have big moments where we celebrate great software design. Like we don't have, there's no Oscars. you know, there are some like smaller, uh, awards, uh, here and there, or they're very like industry or platform specific awards, you know, Apple design awards, uh, is a great awards, program, but, you know, it's of course limited to the Apple ecosystem, and, you know, sort of at the whims of what, what, uh, they deem, interesting there's not really any sort of independent, way of acknowledging great software.

And it, you know, it sounds kind of trite, and like, awards can be kind of annoying at times. But I am a believer that they serve a purpose in like, getting us together to recognize like, where we are in a moment. And what's influencing software design right now. Were you

going

Ridd: moment, too. You're creating, you're creating the record book. Makes total sense.

Andy: Exactly, So number three is like, we don't really talk that much about details of software. And what I mean by that is, the sort of larger, like, media culture talks very little about software. Like, new iPhone comes out. there's like hundreds of tech YouTubers covering the new device, right?

Not only that, I mean, I think that's great, never mind the fact that the phone is like barely changed, right? It's like little bits here and there changed, right? But never, you know, they may still manage to like put out 20 minute video going into all the details around it. new big app comes out or something like there's almost nothing.

And it seems like it's worse to me. I feel like it was easier to get tech coverage 10 years ago when I was promoting paper and other other software experiences. Now, if you're like an indie app developer, it's really hard to get any attention from media. The only moments of getting attention really are like raising money or like an acquisition or a sale of some kind, right?

It's so it tends to have to be like connected to some tech business outlet, right? and not only that, you know, like just the language with which we, we have to like talk about software is not there yet, And we have, I think we've developed that late. Like you started to see. People develop that language around, uh, hardware products, tech reviewers can spend like five minutes talking about the exact like finish or the color or the feel the latest like titanium iPhones, let's say, right?

Like when was the last time you heard anyone talk about the feel of software, Meanwhile, like we all just cover our phones with cases. So we're not feeling it Anyways, and we're spending, you know, nine hours a day in the software, ? And so it feels like there's there's a gap there that we have yet to really to really fill It's both on the media side, but also even on like the kind of criticism And the more sort of like academic criticism that you see in plenty of other fields, like architecture and fashion and that sort of thing, it's just not really there yet, and then, you know, I think the last one is the fourth point is, I think, one that that you're probably familiar with, which is like we don't do nearly enough, I think, to pass it on, you know, to pass on.

How do we teach great software design to the next generation? I'm super grateful to all those who like share their process and share their work, online. That's, that's great. but it's like, it's, there's still so much that we have like yet to uncover about how great things came about. You know, there was just the other day.

I'm forgetting his name, Daniel, forgetting his last name. But he came out, he just tweeted that, oh yeah, here's, you know, the whole like iOS gesture where you start a drag on the space bar and you can move the

cursor around. Freeform? Right. He had, he was like, Oh, here's, you know, if you guys want to know where that came from, here's like the demo video that, I made you know, seven years ago before Apple hired me to build it there.

Ridd: amazing.

Andy: And it's like, yeah, it's like this peak behind the curtain of like how this stuff gets made. Right. And we need more of that. Right? We need to know where this stuff comes from, who's behind it, what decisions they're making, what tools they're using, I think there's just so much interesting knowledge there that we need to find a better way of passing on that we just haven't done yet, and probably all sorts of like reasons for it with like NDAs and, and, uh, and tech companies wanting to keep things private, but we've got to find a way to, to break through that and I think find ways of contributing, back to the, the field,

[00:34:51] Why great design ISN'T invisible

Ridd: you have a article that I really, really enjoy. And it's basically talking about this difference between good design and great design. And there are these epic one liners in there, but I know that there is more behind it. And so I'm wondering if we can do like a really quick lightning round because I pulled out some of them and I'd like to just create space for you to talk about like the intent and just go one level deeper on this one liner.

You down?

Andy: Yeah, it probably is worth articulating what I mean by good versus great here just for a second. , the idea is that there's, there's a lot of good design out there, right? There's bad design too. We often talk between like, good and bad design, right? I think we all know what bad looks like.

But good is like, it satisfies , what it's intended to do. It serves a purpose. It solves a problem. What I mean by great is like, it actually advances our understanding of the field of what software design can be

Ridd: Cool. So the first one you say, Good design is invisible. Great design is in your face.

Andy: what I mean by that, when I say good is invisible, it's like, you know, we all want a good, experience at the DMV or something.

Right. Where it's like, it's invisible. It just works. Right. , and that's fine. But great tends to, tends to kind of call some attention to doing something different. You know, I think we, we see this a lot in architecture, there are plenty of good buildings being built, that satisfy a need and, and serve it well.

And that's, there's nothing wrong with that, but occasionally there are people doing great architecture. that pushes our understanding of how a material can be used or how a space can be shaped forward. And I think that does call attention to itself in some way. and I say it mostly because, I think we often use that phrase or it's often used where like good design isn't visible.

I think that's true, it is invisible, but if you want to do something that's really great and maybe pushes the boundaries, typically it, it, it actually jumps out at you a bit,

Ridd: good. Design is familiar and great design is uncomfortable. I do want you to talk a little bit about that uncomfortable word, but maybe even bundling these two phrases, I think attention that. Many, many designers feel is when do you capitalize on familiarity versus when do you try to create something novel and push the boundaries?

Because deep down, we all want to create something novel. One, it's hard. And two, the success rate is just not that high. And so it's so much easier to just reach for something that is familiar. how do you think about that tension?

Andy: Yeah, I think it's a great question, and I'm not even sure I always have the right answer for it, It's actually a question that comes up with my students a lot. Because It's a mistake that a lot of students fall into. Like, if you ever see something referred to as, Oh, that feels like student work. It's often because there's, like, too many new ideas crammed into one thing. and you're sort of, you're sort of like trying to take too many steps beyond where people are at.

And so I think, you know, you always have to be thinking about where are people at today? You know, they're right here, and then how can I take them like one step further? So for example, in Not Boring, there are plenty of boring aspects to the apps. We didn't reinvent the share sheet. We're still using the standard share sheet.

We're still using like standard menus. we're not reinventing every single thing, So I think the key thing is to find like, okay, what's that one thing that's going to make what I'm doing stand out? What's that one thing where if I just put a little bit of like design pressure on it to make people, see it and acknowledge it and maybe feel a little bit uncomfortable even perhaps, where can that really be stressed?

And if you can find that, then you can kind of push things a little bit further than they typically have been.

Ridd: Something that is in the back of my mind that I'm trying to like make practical because I think somebody out there is listening to this conversation right now and they're like, well, I work in enterprise sass, is any of this relevant

to me? Basically, do you have a thought for that listener?

Andy: probably some of these things are relevant, but I don't want to, like, set the expectation that everything has to be, crazy out there exploratory, you know what I mean? Like back to the DMV example, I think we all just want that to be like as painless as possible.

signing up for a health care plan, like you just want that to be as straightforward as possible. it's, it's sort of why, I was thinking about this the other day, it's like we sort of have two different names for a lot of things in the design field, like, there's buildings and then there's architecture, there's a lot of buildings out there, right?

And there's like, but only like maybe, I don't know, 1 percent of it is like architecture in the sense that we would, we would describe it as people actually trying to push the boundaries and same with, uh, clothes, man, there's so many clothes out there, right. there are a lot of clothes in the world, but there's only a little bit of fashion, I think that is a sort of natural balance.

Like we don't need, we don't need the whole world to be, to look like a fashion. runway show. And we don't need the whole world to be like crazy, insane architecture. I mean, it might be interesting if it was, but I think we just naturally have like a certain budget maybe for new things as people. And so I think by nature, there's going to be a balance and that whatever that that slice of not boring is in that field, it's going to be, it's going to be a small slice, My point is not that, uh, you know, you suddenly need to, uh, push the design field with your SaaS product. In fact, it might be exactly the wrong thing to do, right? and it may not be supported by your business, good design doesn't just happen. It happens because it needs to happen for the business to succeed.

That's how great design happens. Now there's plenty of things I can talk about, like how do you sound design better or how to use haptics, you know, or maybe how to integrate 3d that I think at that level, like you can find interesting ways of, of integrating that into almost any product really, or any experience that you make.

but this idea that like it needs to be truly. design driven and challenging. I think that's probably actually like a small slice and really very business dependent. Like it, it relies on the business requiring something to be design differentiated, which let's be honest, most businesses don't need that.

Ridd: yeah, that makes sense. I love the idea of,, budget for novelty , that totally resonates.

[00:34:51] Why great design ISN'T invisible

Ridd: you have a article that I really, really enjoy. And it's basically talking about this difference between good design and great design. And there are these epic one liners in there, but I know that there is more behind it. And so I'm wondering if we can do like a really quick lightning round because I pulled out some of them and I'd like to just create space for you to talk about like the intent and just go one level deeper on this one liner.

You down?

Andy: Yeah, it probably is worth articulating what I mean by good versus great here just for a second. , the idea is that there's, there's a lot of good design out there, right? There's bad design too. We often talk between like, good and bad design, right? I think we all know what bad looks like.

But good is like, it satisfies , what it's intended to do. It serves a purpose. It solves a problem. What I mean by great is like, it actually advances our understanding of the field of what software design can be

Ridd: Cool. So the first one you say, Good design is invisible. Great design is in your face.

Andy: what I mean by that, when I say good is invisible, it's like, you know, we all want a good, experience at the DMV or something.

Right. Where it's like, it's invisible. It just works. Right. , and that's fine. But great tends to, tends to kind of call some attention to doing something different. You know, I think we, we see this a lot in architecture, there are plenty of good buildings being built, that satisfy a need and, and serve it well.

And that's, there's nothing wrong with that, but occasionally there are people doing great architecture. that pushes our understanding of how a material can be used or how a space can be shaped forward. And I think that does call attention to itself in some way. and I say it mostly because, I think we often use that phrase or it's often used where like good design isn't visible.

I think that's true, it is invisible, but if you want to do something that's really great and maybe pushes the boundaries, typically it, it, it actually jumps out at you a bit,

Ridd: good. Design is familiar and great design is uncomfortable. I do want you to talk a little bit about that uncomfortable word, but maybe even bundling these two phrases, I think attention that. Many, many designers feel is when do you capitalize on familiarity versus when do you try to create something novel and push the boundaries?

Because deep down, we all want to create something novel. One, it's hard. And two, the success rate is just not that high. And so it's so much easier to just reach for something that is familiar. how do you think about that tension?

Andy: Yeah, I think it's a great question, and I'm not even sure I always have the right answer for it, It's actually a question that comes up with my students a lot. Because It's a mistake that a lot of students fall into. Like, if you ever see something referred to as, Oh, that feels like student work. It's often because there's, like, too many new ideas crammed into one thing. and you're sort of, you're sort of like trying to take too many steps beyond where people are at.

And so I think, you know, you always have to be thinking about where are people at today? You know, they're right here, and then how can I take them like one step further? So for example, in Not Boring, there are plenty of boring aspects to the apps. We didn't reinvent the share sheet. We're still using the standard share sheet.

We're still using like standard menus. we're not reinventing every single thing, So I think the key thing is to find like, okay, what's that one thing that's going to make what I'm doing stand out? What's that one thing where if I just put a little bit of like design pressure on it to make people, see it and acknowledge it and maybe feel a little bit uncomfortable even perhaps, where can that really be stressed?

And if you can find that, then you can kind of push things a little bit further than they typically have been.

Ridd: Something that is in the back of my mind that I'm trying to like make practical because I think somebody out there is listening to this conversation right now and they're like, well, I work in enterprise sass, is any of this relevant

to me? Basically, do you have a thought for that listener?

Andy: probably some of these things are relevant, but I don't want to, like, set the expectation that everything has to be, crazy out there exploratory, you know what I mean? Like back to the DMV example, I think we all just want that to be like as painless as possible.

signing up for a health care plan, like you just want that to be as straightforward as possible. it's, it's sort of why, I was thinking about this the other day, it's like we sort of have two different names for a lot of things in the design field, like, there's buildings and then there's architecture, there's a lot of buildings out there, right?

And there's like, but only like maybe, I don't know, 1 percent of it is like architecture in the sense that we would, we would describe it as people actually trying to push the boundaries and same with, uh, clothes, man, there's so many clothes out there, right. there are a lot of clothes in the world, but there's only a little bit of fashion, I think that is a sort of natural balance.

Like we don't need, we don't need the whole world to be, to look like a fashion. runway show. And we don't need the whole world to be like crazy, insane architecture. I mean, it might be interesting if it was, but I think we just naturally have like a certain budget maybe for new things as people. And so I think by nature, there's going to be a balance and that whatever that that slice of not boring is in that field, it's going to be, it's going to be a small slice, My point is not that, uh, you know, you suddenly need to, uh, push the design field with your SaaS product. In fact, it might be exactly the wrong thing to do, right? and it may not be supported by your business, good design doesn't just happen. It happens because it needs to happen for the business to succeed.

That's how great design happens. Now there's plenty of things I can talk about, like how do you sound design better or how to use haptics, you know, or maybe how to integrate 3d that I think at that level, like you can find interesting ways of, of integrating that into almost any product really, or any experience that you make.

but this idea that like it needs to be truly. design driven and challenging. I think that's probably actually like a small slice and really very business dependent. Like it, it relies on the business requiring something to be design differentiated, which let's be honest, most businesses don't need that.

Ridd: yeah, that makes sense. I love the idea of,, budget for novelty , that totally resonates.

[00:41:06] How Andy invests in his personal taste

Ridd: Some quick questions. A little bit more, just like personal, your story. the first one is when I look at this suite of apps that you've created, they really are visually unlike anything else that I have on my phone. And so my question is, what are some of the ways that you've invested in your own personal taste as a designer in your career?

Andy: I, I've always found it, it's helpful to look outside of design and to look at other fields. So when I'm looking for inspiration or ways to grow, I'll look at Other industries. I've admittedly like pulled a lot from gaming. and found that to be just a wealth of inspiration it's just this whole new world that I feel complete novice in.

Look, some people love, the sort of comforts of feeling like an expert. But I enjoy kind of like these things that make you feel uncomfortable and and like a novice and things and I find the more that I can jump into that that helps to kind of sharpen my understanding of, of who I am as, as like a designer and I can bring those things back into software and bring something fresh, hopefully that people haven't seen, if you're an amazing chef or a great cook, like imagine now bringing that perspective into the software design.

Or if you're an amazing, fashion designer, imagine bringing that. I just feel like there's some really exciting things that can happen when you start to step outside of, uh, software design and then start to meld it with what we're doing.

[00:41:06] How Andy invests in his personal taste

Ridd: Some quick questions. A little bit more, just like personal, your story. the first one is when I look at this suite of apps that you've created, they really are visually unlike anything else that I have on my phone. And so my question is, what are some of the ways that you've invested in your own personal taste as a designer in your career?

Andy: I, I've always found it, it's helpful to look outside of design and to look at other fields. So when I'm looking for inspiration or ways to grow, I'll look at Other industries. I've admittedly like pulled a lot from gaming. and found that to be just a wealth of inspiration it's just this whole new world that I feel complete novice in.

Look, some people love, the sort of comforts of feeling like an expert. But I enjoy kind of like these things that make you feel uncomfortable and and like a novice and things and I find the more that I can jump into that that helps to kind of sharpen my understanding of, of who I am as, as like a designer and I can bring those things back into software and bring something fresh, hopefully that people haven't seen, if you're an amazing chef or a great cook, like imagine now bringing that perspective into the software design.

Or if you're an amazing, fashion designer, imagine bringing that. I just feel like there's some really exciting things that can happen when you start to step outside of, uh, software design and then start to meld it with what we're doing.

[00:42:28] The tension between business and art

Ridd: Another question I like asking people is, what is a skill that you could have benefited from learning earlier in your career?

Andy: when I graduated, from school had like a certain idealistic view of what design can be.

I feel like I kind of lost it a little bit. spend enough time in the tech industry, you can kind of lose sight of that. you go to enough board meetings. , and like have enough discussions around scale and some of these things that, are legit things, but maybe not the reason why you got into what you're doing.

it would have been nice to try and hold on to that a little bit more. I don't know, it's hard to say it because like I learned a ton just about how design and business interface and how they need to work together I always tell designers that like, you know, designers should learn business not to become business leaders, but really to become better artists.

Learn how to use business to become, a better designer,

Ridd: The word artist is so interesting because I hear people come on the show, even when they talk about the importance of understanding business as a way to become a better designer and advance your career,

the word artist, though, a lot of times is separated out from more capitalistic motives. So it's an interesting way to phrase it.

Andy: It's funny because design, you go back to the Bauhaus era, right? Like design was described as like the commercial arts or the practical arts, And I think that that is truly still the clearest kind of definition of what I mean, if you look across what design is across so many fields, right, it's about combining like a business with art in a way.

I mean, you know, Apple has always like famously with Steve Jobs said that Apple is about this intersection between the liberal arts and the sciences and technology, right? And for some reason, we just, like, it's, we've just gone way out of whack. You know, it's like, almost like 99 percent business now.

and we see what we do through that lens. And I'm just trying to, like, pull it back a little bit. You know, just like, pull it back into balance to be the design field is similar to industrial design, fashion design, architecture, game design, right? it's still a business, and you have to make something , that is viable as a business.

But you can still differentiate with design, right? You can use design as your tool to build a great business.

Ridd: Speaking of building a great business. Can you. Give us a little bit of glimpse in terms of like, what's next for you? Not boring. Where do you think this can go moving forward?

Andy: You know, it's funny. I get this question a lot, of course, maybe it's some insecurity, but like, I feel like there's a sense of you're not there yet. And it's like, well, I'm kind of, I kind of like where I'm at, you know? in terms of where we go, it's kind of doing what we're doing, because honestly, I love what we're doing.

We're like making, great apps. We just made, uh, an app called Vibes

came out last, June, which I think is the best app we've ever made. we're still like releasing skins. We're making like physical products. That's kind of the idea is to like just keep making the stuff that we're excited about and pushing the boundaries, in terms of like making new apps, making new skins.

there isn't really like a grand plan to suddenly blow this up into something big, you know, there's no like final slide in the slide deck. That's like, okay, now this

Ridd: Here's the TAM.

Andy: Here, yeah, here's, here's how we reach unicorn status. Uh, and so that's not the goal, you know, it's like we just want to be happy and, and like hopefully like change a few minds about what software can be and make great work.

Ridd: Well, you were definitely making great work. And for anyone that's listening that like hasn't played with it, man, just ahead of the app store type in, not boring. Take your pick. It really is awesome. Thank you, Andy. Thank you for taking the time. It's been really cool to hear your fresh take on a lot of the things that we talk about, a lot of the things that we read as designers and people looking to grow in our careers.

And I think your perspective is unique. It's exciting. And I really appreciate you taking the time today.

Andy: Well, thanks for having me, Red. I really appreciate it.

[00:42:28] The tension between business and art

Ridd: Another question I like asking people is, what is a skill that you could have benefited from learning earlier in your career?

Andy: when I graduated, from school had like a certain idealistic view of what design can be.

I feel like I kind of lost it a little bit. spend enough time in the tech industry, you can kind of lose sight of that. you go to enough board meetings. , and like have enough discussions around scale and some of these things that, are legit things, but maybe not the reason why you got into what you're doing.

it would have been nice to try and hold on to that a little bit more. I don't know, it's hard to say it because like I learned a ton just about how design and business interface and how they need to work together I always tell designers that like, you know, designers should learn business not to become business leaders, but really to become better artists.

Learn how to use business to become, a better designer,

Ridd: The word artist is so interesting because I hear people come on the show, even when they talk about the importance of understanding business as a way to become a better designer and advance your career,

the word artist, though, a lot of times is separated out from more capitalistic motives. So it's an interesting way to phrase it.

Andy: It's funny because design, you go back to the Bauhaus era, right? Like design was described as like the commercial arts or the practical arts, And I think that that is truly still the clearest kind of definition of what I mean, if you look across what design is across so many fields, right, it's about combining like a business with art in a way.

I mean, you know, Apple has always like famously with Steve Jobs said that Apple is about this intersection between the liberal arts and the sciences and technology, right? And for some reason, we just, like, it's, we've just gone way out of whack. You know, it's like, almost like 99 percent business now.

and we see what we do through that lens. And I'm just trying to, like, pull it back a little bit. You know, just like, pull it back into balance to be the design field is similar to industrial design, fashion design, architecture, game design, right? it's still a business, and you have to make something , that is viable as a business.

But you can still differentiate with design, right? You can use design as your tool to build a great business.

Ridd: Speaking of building a great business. Can you. Give us a little bit of glimpse in terms of like, what's next for you? Not boring. Where do you think this can go moving forward?

Andy: You know, it's funny. I get this question a lot, of course, maybe it's some insecurity, but like, I feel like there's a sense of you're not there yet. And it's like, well, I'm kind of, I kind of like where I'm at, you know? in terms of where we go, it's kind of doing what we're doing, because honestly, I love what we're doing.

We're like making, great apps. We just made, uh, an app called Vibes

came out last, June, which I think is the best app we've ever made. we're still like releasing skins. We're making like physical products. That's kind of the idea is to like just keep making the stuff that we're excited about and pushing the boundaries, in terms of like making new apps, making new skins.

there isn't really like a grand plan to suddenly blow this up into something big, you know, there's no like final slide in the slide deck. That's like, okay, now this

Ridd: Here's the TAM.

Andy: Here, yeah, here's, here's how we reach unicorn status. Uh, and so that's not the goal, you know, it's like we just want to be happy and, and like hopefully like change a few minds about what software can be and make great work.

Ridd: Well, you were definitely making great work. And for anyone that's listening that like hasn't played with it, man, just ahead of the app store type in, not boring. Take your pick. It really is awesome. Thank you, Andy. Thank you for taking the time. It's been really cool to hear your fresh take on a lot of the things that we talk about, a lot of the things that we read as designers and people looking to grow in our careers.

And I think your perspective is unique. It's exciting. And I really appreciate you taking the time today.

Andy: Well, thanks for having me, Red. I really appreciate it.

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