Season 2

|

Episode 1

How to design brands and visuals that stand out

Fons Mans

Founder @ 10x Designers

Jul 20, 2023

Jul 20, 2023

|

48 min

48 min

music by Dennis

About this Episode

Fons was the one who originally designed the Dive brand 🀿 so this episode is a branding masterclass. We walk through a mock project and Fons goes deep into each phase of his branding process. We also discuss spatial computing, how to make you designs stand out, and strategies for leveling up your visuals 😎

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Lauren LoPrete

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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

Free lessons from πŸ‘‡

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

HC

HC

Deep Dives

Get our weekly breakdowns

Insights + resources from top designers πŸ‘‡

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

HC

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Transcript chapters

Introduction

[00:00:00] Ridd: So Fons, you did all of the branding for DIVE and absolutely crushed it. And just so listeners have a little bit more context, I came to you with nothing more than the nugget of an idea.

[00:00:11] I had no name, I had no visual aspirations, no color ideas, nothing. And you guided me through what I thought was a really excellent branding process where I learned a lot. And now I have this brand that I love, I'm proud of and I enjoy working in every day. So I'd like to do something a little bit different than normal here.

[00:00:33] I'd like to role play, so I'm gonna pretend that I am a new entrepreneur with an idea for a mobile app that helps people who play pickleball connect with each other and improve their game. And kind of like the Strava or Any Distance for pickleball is what I have in my head.

[00:00:53] And so what I'd like you to do is guide us through a mock branding [00:01:00] project so that listeners can get a better idea of what your process is and the different checkpoints and milestones and how you structure the back and forth.

[00:01:09] So let's pretend that we've just signed a contract and the deliverables are basically the same as DIVE, and I have almost nothing other than an idea for a product.

[00:01:22] Where do we go from here?

Introduction

[00:00:00] Ridd: So Fons, you did all of the branding for DIVE and absolutely crushed it. And just so listeners have a little bit more context, I came to you with nothing more than the nugget of an idea.

[00:00:11] I had no name, I had no visual aspirations, no color ideas, nothing. And you guided me through what I thought was a really excellent branding process where I learned a lot. And now I have this brand that I love, I'm proud of and I enjoy working in every day. So I'd like to do something a little bit different than normal here.

[00:00:33] I'd like to role play, so I'm gonna pretend that I am a new entrepreneur with an idea for a mobile app that helps people who play pickleball connect with each other and improve their game. And kind of like the Strava or Any Distance for pickleball is what I have in my head.

[00:00:53] And so what I'd like you to do is guide us through a mock branding [00:01:00] project so that listeners can get a better idea of what your process is and the different checkpoints and milestones and how you structure the back and forth.

[00:01:09] So let's pretend that we've just signed a contract and the deliverables are basically the same as DIVE, and I have almost nothing other than an idea for a product.

[00:01:22] Where do we go from here?

The nuances of brand design

[00:01:25] Fons: Yeah, that's a great one. And maybe I can set the stage a little bit because as a designer, especially a product designer, brand design can be quite intimidating. It's less factual, right? it's not really data driven. It's more like, okay, does this feel right with the thing that I'm creating? Which is such a big contrast with everything that we learn about product design.

[00:01:44] So that's the first.

[00:01:44] Also, what can be quite difficult for a designer is when you're taking on brand projects you have clients coming to you with half baked ideas .They're like, oh I kind of have a name, and we have already have a kind of a logo, but you just need to polish it.

[00:01:58] You have people that are like, [00:02:00] we have a product, but we have no idea what to call it yet. So there's a huge spectrum as well of where do we start from? The first step for me is always let's go back to the beginning, and discuss a little bit about why did you start this project

[00:02:12] Just going in and trying to make something beautiful for a brand or trying to replicate something that you saw somewhere, that is, in my opinion, the fastest way to rebrand. You are creating something that is cool now, but it doesn't have a strong foundation

[00:02:26] And there's always a foundation for every startup. There's something in there that sparked the initial idea to grow this thing together because it takes a lot of time to, to set it up.

[00:02:35] So I think that time should also be invested in the brand

[00:02:39] so how I solve that is by diving in first with the founder most often order founding team and have a conversation with them.

[00:02:47] Why did you start a project? Where do we want to go towards? What's the vision, right? How does the world look like in 10 years when your company is not a startup anymore? but got, a bunch of employees and a lot of impact on the scene that you build [00:03:00] this startup for. So that's a first, right?

[00:03:02] A great way to do that is by start writing a manifest. And a manifest is nothing else than just a one pager.

[00:03:07] A one pager, including things like, the vision as I just said, but also some of the core beliefs that you have. So for example, design education should be accessible to all. Things like that are critical to include in that manifest because you can use that manifest to base your decisions on later on in the process.

[00:03:26] No matter if it's writing copy for your website or, creating icons or coming up with an illustration style. When you've got a certain rule set, you can refer back to that and base your decisions on it.

[00:03:37] Ridd: And that manifest was so valuable for me too because I had done a lot of talking about the idea for DIVE, but it's easy to find yourself rambling and not really knowing how to explain what is in your head when you're just having these back and forth, these casual conversations.

[00:03:55] But like forcing me to sit down and answer very [00:04:00] specific questions and write them down in a way that is concise and understandable was quite challenging. And we actually went back and forth on that manifest what at least three times, right? And so I totally appreciated that as that starting point within the project.

[00:04:16] Fons: Yeah, for sure. And I think an important part of that is also the exercise, that it's something that you create together, but it's not necessarily for you to put on your website. I t's more for yourself and for your team, for example, getting new people in the company.

[00:04:30] If you have one source of truth of why you are here, what your vision is, right? And everyone is on the same page, literally, instead of everyone hearing kind of the same story, but a little bit different. That's not what you want, especially in the beginning phase of building your company, of building your brand.

[00:04:44] So I think that's a huge one when you've got that manifest and everyone's like, yes, this is who we are, right? This is where we believe in this, is this is our story. Then you're ready to move on to your brand name because now you have set those initial constraints.

[00:04:57] I think when you starting out as a designer and [00:05:00] someone tells you, okay, you have complete creative freedom, right? You're like, wow, this is my dream project. But to be honest, those are the hardest

[00:05:07] Ridd: Yeah.

[00:05:07] Fons: Because you, where do you start, right?

[00:05:10] In my opinion, the more constraints you set for yourself, right, or the better constraints. The better the stuff that you are able to create

[00:05:17] for example, me creating these visual things in Figma, Figma is a lot of constraints, right? It's not like Illustrator, where I have probably thousands of tools to create the craziest stuff. But by setting those constraints, you also start to think more creatively.

[00:05:32] What can I do within those boundaries? And going back to that brand name that initial manifest that you created, those are the first boundaries of that brand name, right?

[00:05:41] Coming with up with a brand name is quite difficult because you're working with a founding team and oftentimes they already have something in their, in their mind for a brand name, but they're not quite sure yet.

[00:05:53] When you're seeing work of someone else. It looks great. It sounds great, but if you're creating something yourself, it's [00:06:00] much harder to reach that point of, oh, that's it. You almost always need that second opinion of people coming in and saying that sound good.

[00:06:07] I think also with Dive before even presenting it to you, I just presented it to a couple of other people who didn't even know about the project.

[00:06:15] Just to get that initial reaction of, okay, does this, does this make sense? Because it can be quite hard to judge that work for yourself.

[00:06:22] Coming up with the brand name is really about letting that manifest soak in and every time when something pops up, writing that down. And ultimately you're building a list for yourself and then boiling that down to two or three proposals that you can ultimately then present to your client.

[00:06:40] Ridd: think the idea of having someone else create it versus yourself is so true. Because if I would've come up with the name DIVE on my own, I think I actually would've dismissed it pretty quickly just because it is this more generic word. And something I like to do is pay attention to like how things are trending internally.

[00:06:58] And when [00:07:00] I first read DIVE, I was like, oh, that's interesting, but like, is it too generic?

[00:07:05] And then every day I would wake up and it was like a little bit more compelling and a little bit more compelling. And oftentimes the direction that an idea is heading means a lot more than actually where it is on the spectrum of yes, no.

[00:07:16] So I guess that is a long winded way of saying thank you for coming up with that name and convincing me.

[00:07:21] Fons: Yeah, and I think the most difficult part of coming up with a good brand name for a company or for a founder is that it's important to make it feel their brand name because you are building the, the company, so I could come up with a brand name, but you've got the feeling that it's not, it's not really yours then it's not going to work, right? It has to be something that you build together and you feel like, okay, we set it up together in order for it to last, in my opinion.

[00:07:51] Ridd: So continuing the example, let's say that we've arrived at that brand name for the pickleball app and the general [00:08:00] positioning and some of the keywords in the manifest relate to this idea of appealing to the serious players. But we want to have something that is mass market that can really capture the growth in all these millions of new people, where we want my grandma to look at it and be like, that's for me.

[00:08:15] And we also want someone that's like maybe our age to consider playing for the first time and say like, that's the app for me. And I'm wondering, where do we go from here? What's the next step now that we've kind of aligned on that original vision and manifest? We have a name. What's next?

[00:08:34] Fons: Yeah, and this is kind of more the softer part where you then get into, right? Because now you've set the foundation, which is just that one page already we talked about, we've got a strong brand name, and now it's like, okay, when people hear about us, what should they feel? Or what they should they see when they actually see our product or our website or any other deliverable.

[00:08:55] And I think what you're trying to do here it sounds easy, but it is very hard, [00:09:00] is you want to create the thing that you see when you close your eyes and you think about the brand, right? The thing that is most natural, that people expect when you are talking about the brand. You want that to be in line. That can be very hard, right? That's all about, coming up with first mood boards, for example, setting from directions of what's the initial style that this brand should be?

[00:09:24] So that would be a natural second step, right? We've got the brand name, we've got the logo. Now it's time for, okay, overarching, what should the feeling be? Not just diving directly into a deliverable, because that can be so hard, right? Because then you have to come up on the spot with illustrations, different kind of deliverables for that project.

[00:09:43] It's better to think of it as a mood board, which can consist of stuff that you found online, but also quick doodles from yourself, gut feeling spinning that out, and then going back again to the team and discussing what resonates with you. Of course, you started this [00:10:00] company, what resonates with you, right?

[00:10:02] What comes closest to the feeling that you want this project to have?

The nuances of brand design

[00:01:25] Fons: Yeah, that's a great one. And maybe I can set the stage a little bit because as a designer, especially a product designer, brand design can be quite intimidating. It's less factual, right? it's not really data driven. It's more like, okay, does this feel right with the thing that I'm creating? Which is such a big contrast with everything that we learn about product design.

[00:01:44] So that's the first.

[00:01:44] Also, what can be quite difficult for a designer is when you're taking on brand projects you have clients coming to you with half baked ideas .They're like, oh I kind of have a name, and we have already have a kind of a logo, but you just need to polish it.

[00:01:58] You have people that are like, [00:02:00] we have a product, but we have no idea what to call it yet. So there's a huge spectrum as well of where do we start from? The first step for me is always let's go back to the beginning, and discuss a little bit about why did you start this project

[00:02:12] Just going in and trying to make something beautiful for a brand or trying to replicate something that you saw somewhere, that is, in my opinion, the fastest way to rebrand. You are creating something that is cool now, but it doesn't have a strong foundation

[00:02:26] And there's always a foundation for every startup. There's something in there that sparked the initial idea to grow this thing together because it takes a lot of time to, to set it up.

[00:02:35] So I think that time should also be invested in the brand

[00:02:39] so how I solve that is by diving in first with the founder most often order founding team and have a conversation with them.

[00:02:47] Why did you start a project? Where do we want to go towards? What's the vision, right? How does the world look like in 10 years when your company is not a startup anymore? but got, a bunch of employees and a lot of impact on the scene that you build [00:03:00] this startup for. So that's a first, right?

[00:03:02] A great way to do that is by start writing a manifest. And a manifest is nothing else than just a one pager.

[00:03:07] A one pager, including things like, the vision as I just said, but also some of the core beliefs that you have. So for example, design education should be accessible to all. Things like that are critical to include in that manifest because you can use that manifest to base your decisions on later on in the process.

[00:03:26] No matter if it's writing copy for your website or, creating icons or coming up with an illustration style. When you've got a certain rule set, you can refer back to that and base your decisions on it.

[00:03:37] Ridd: And that manifest was so valuable for me too because I had done a lot of talking about the idea for DIVE, but it's easy to find yourself rambling and not really knowing how to explain what is in your head when you're just having these back and forth, these casual conversations.

[00:03:55] But like forcing me to sit down and answer very [00:04:00] specific questions and write them down in a way that is concise and understandable was quite challenging. And we actually went back and forth on that manifest what at least three times, right? And so I totally appreciated that as that starting point within the project.

[00:04:16] Fons: Yeah, for sure. And I think an important part of that is also the exercise, that it's something that you create together, but it's not necessarily for you to put on your website. I t's more for yourself and for your team, for example, getting new people in the company.

[00:04:30] If you have one source of truth of why you are here, what your vision is, right? And everyone is on the same page, literally, instead of everyone hearing kind of the same story, but a little bit different. That's not what you want, especially in the beginning phase of building your company, of building your brand.

[00:04:44] So I think that's a huge one when you've got that manifest and everyone's like, yes, this is who we are, right? This is where we believe in this, is this is our story. Then you're ready to move on to your brand name because now you have set those initial constraints.

[00:04:57] I think when you starting out as a designer and [00:05:00] someone tells you, okay, you have complete creative freedom, right? You're like, wow, this is my dream project. But to be honest, those are the hardest

[00:05:07] Ridd: Yeah.

[00:05:07] Fons: Because you, where do you start, right?

[00:05:10] In my opinion, the more constraints you set for yourself, right, or the better constraints. The better the stuff that you are able to create

[00:05:17] for example, me creating these visual things in Figma, Figma is a lot of constraints, right? It's not like Illustrator, where I have probably thousands of tools to create the craziest stuff. But by setting those constraints, you also start to think more creatively.

[00:05:32] What can I do within those boundaries? And going back to that brand name that initial manifest that you created, those are the first boundaries of that brand name, right?

[00:05:41] Coming with up with a brand name is quite difficult because you're working with a founding team and oftentimes they already have something in their, in their mind for a brand name, but they're not quite sure yet.

[00:05:53] When you're seeing work of someone else. It looks great. It sounds great, but if you're creating something yourself, it's [00:06:00] much harder to reach that point of, oh, that's it. You almost always need that second opinion of people coming in and saying that sound good.

[00:06:07] I think also with Dive before even presenting it to you, I just presented it to a couple of other people who didn't even know about the project.

[00:06:15] Just to get that initial reaction of, okay, does this, does this make sense? Because it can be quite hard to judge that work for yourself.

[00:06:22] Coming up with the brand name is really about letting that manifest soak in and every time when something pops up, writing that down. And ultimately you're building a list for yourself and then boiling that down to two or three proposals that you can ultimately then present to your client.

[00:06:40] Ridd: think the idea of having someone else create it versus yourself is so true. Because if I would've come up with the name DIVE on my own, I think I actually would've dismissed it pretty quickly just because it is this more generic word. And something I like to do is pay attention to like how things are trending internally.

[00:06:58] And when [00:07:00] I first read DIVE, I was like, oh, that's interesting, but like, is it too generic?

[00:07:05] And then every day I would wake up and it was like a little bit more compelling and a little bit more compelling. And oftentimes the direction that an idea is heading means a lot more than actually where it is on the spectrum of yes, no.

[00:07:16] So I guess that is a long winded way of saying thank you for coming up with that name and convincing me.

[00:07:21] Fons: Yeah, and I think the most difficult part of coming up with a good brand name for a company or for a founder is that it's important to make it feel their brand name because you are building the, the company, so I could come up with a brand name, but you've got the feeling that it's not, it's not really yours then it's not going to work, right? It has to be something that you build together and you feel like, okay, we set it up together in order for it to last, in my opinion.

[00:07:51] Ridd: So continuing the example, let's say that we've arrived at that brand name for the pickleball app and the general [00:08:00] positioning and some of the keywords in the manifest relate to this idea of appealing to the serious players. But we want to have something that is mass market that can really capture the growth in all these millions of new people, where we want my grandma to look at it and be like, that's for me.

[00:08:15] And we also want someone that's like maybe our age to consider playing for the first time and say like, that's the app for me. And I'm wondering, where do we go from here? What's the next step now that we've kind of aligned on that original vision and manifest? We have a name. What's next?

[00:08:34] Fons: Yeah, and this is kind of more the softer part where you then get into, right? Because now you've set the foundation, which is just that one page already we talked about, we've got a strong brand name, and now it's like, okay, when people hear about us, what should they feel? Or what they should they see when they actually see our product or our website or any other deliverable.

[00:08:55] And I think what you're trying to do here it sounds easy, but it is very hard, [00:09:00] is you want to create the thing that you see when you close your eyes and you think about the brand, right? The thing that is most natural, that people expect when you are talking about the brand. You want that to be in line. That can be very hard, right? That's all about, coming up with first mood boards, for example, setting from directions of what's the initial style that this brand should be?

[00:09:24] So that would be a natural second step, right? We've got the brand name, we've got the logo. Now it's time for, okay, overarching, what should the feeling be? Not just diving directly into a deliverable, because that can be so hard, right? Because then you have to come up on the spot with illustrations, different kind of deliverables for that project.

[00:09:43] It's better to think of it as a mood board, which can consist of stuff that you found online, but also quick doodles from yourself, gut feeling spinning that out, and then going back again to the team and discussing what resonates with you. Of course, you started this [00:10:00] company, what resonates with you, right?

[00:10:02] What comes closest to the feeling that you want this project to have?

How to create impressive mood-boards

[00:10:06] Ridd: I am always intimidated by creating mood boards. I know that it's like a part of the process that we need, but they take a lot of time and I remember being really impressed with the mood boards that you put together for DIVE. Where do you start looking when you're putting those together?

[00:10:21] Fons: Yeah, that's a great question and I think that also ties in with the concept of inspiration, right? It's, it's pretty hard if you start looking for inspiration only when you need it. I succeed more as a backlog. So I try to look around and to collect inspiration along the way constantly.

[00:10:39] So I have a folder on my desktop with all of the inspiration that I come across, so that when I need it, I don't have to start from scratch and start looking, okay, let me go to Pinterest. Lemme go here, here, here. No, I can actually refer back to stuff that I already noticed that can align with this project.

[00:10:57] That also makes sure that I have [00:11:00] a curated list of inspiration that speaks to me as a designer and that fits my style.

[00:11:05] So I would say that's a big tip. Instead of only looking for inspiration when you need it, because that can be quite draining, try to collect and build that backlog for yourself so that when you need to create a mood board, you are already taking a look at your own inspiration and pulling from that instead of all of these different sources.

[00:11:22] That also keeps you in that creative flow. When you are thinking of a certain, mood board that you want to create and you have to browse, go to different sites, it's also easy to get distracted, with going on all these side paths. So instead

[00:11:36] Ridd: check Twitter really quickly to see if there's any inspiration on there.

[00:11:39] Fons: Yeah, yeah. And there you go. There you go. So I would say instead of seeing that of a separate exercise, doing that beforehand and collecting that, that can save you a lot of time.

[00:11:49] And um, yeah, also it's just a lot of fun, right? Just to collect that inspiration for yourself. Have that database so you can pull from it later on.

[00:11:59] Ridd: It reminds me of [00:12:00] this idea from a writer and creator that I really like named David Perel, and he talks about this concept of writing from abundance. Anytime you're sitting down to write, you should be pulling from all of these snippets that you've been adding to your notes over the last weeks and years.

[00:12:15] And it feels very similar, right? Like I agree. If I'm gonna just crack open dribble and just start entering search queries, that is gonna take me forever and I probably won't be very happy with the output.

All right, so let's get back on track. Let's say you've given me these two or three mood boards and I'm really excited about one, so we have aligned on the general visual feel and direction. What's the next step that we're taking?

How to create impressive mood-boards

[00:10:06] Ridd: I am always intimidated by creating mood boards. I know that it's like a part of the process that we need, but they take a lot of time and I remember being really impressed with the mood boards that you put together for DIVE. Where do you start looking when you're putting those together?

[00:10:21] Fons: Yeah, that's a great question and I think that also ties in with the concept of inspiration, right? It's, it's pretty hard if you start looking for inspiration only when you need it. I succeed more as a backlog. So I try to look around and to collect inspiration along the way constantly.

[00:10:39] So I have a folder on my desktop with all of the inspiration that I come across, so that when I need it, I don't have to start from scratch and start looking, okay, let me go to Pinterest. Lemme go here, here, here. No, I can actually refer back to stuff that I already noticed that can align with this project.

[00:10:57] That also makes sure that I have [00:11:00] a curated list of inspiration that speaks to me as a designer and that fits my style.

[00:11:05] So I would say that's a big tip. Instead of only looking for inspiration when you need it, because that can be quite draining, try to collect and build that backlog for yourself so that when you need to create a mood board, you are already taking a look at your own inspiration and pulling from that instead of all of these different sources.

[00:11:22] That also keeps you in that creative flow. When you are thinking of a certain, mood board that you want to create and you have to browse, go to different sites, it's also easy to get distracted, with going on all these side paths. So instead

[00:11:36] Ridd: check Twitter really quickly to see if there's any inspiration on there.

[00:11:39] Fons: Yeah, yeah. And there you go. There you go. So I would say instead of seeing that of a separate exercise, doing that beforehand and collecting that, that can save you a lot of time.

[00:11:49] And um, yeah, also it's just a lot of fun, right? Just to collect that inspiration for yourself. Have that database so you can pull from it later on.

[00:11:59] Ridd: It reminds me of [00:12:00] this idea from a writer and creator that I really like named David Perel, and he talks about this concept of writing from abundance. Anytime you're sitting down to write, you should be pulling from all of these snippets that you've been adding to your notes over the last weeks and years.

[00:12:15] And it feels very similar, right? Like I agree. If I'm gonna just crack open dribble and just start entering search queries, that is gonna take me forever and I probably won't be very happy with the output.

All right, so let's get back on track. Let's say you've given me these two or three mood boards and I'm really excited about one, so we have aligned on the general visual feel and direction. What's the next step that we're taking?

First impressions in creating a brand

[00:12:43] Fons: So what we need next is a first impression, When you're going to talk with someone about the brand that you're building or the company, you want to show them a first impression, right? And this, this is for me one of the most fun exercises, and I had a creative director that I, that I worked for when I was an intern [00:13:00] a few years back.

[00:13:01] And um, What I always did, and I think a lot of product designers do this, is they think inside out, right? They work on the product, on the design system, and then they're like, oh, I need an illustration and I make it into the product. And then when they need a billboard, let's say, right? Or maybe a post or something else, uh, marketing materials, they just blow up that literally they blow up that, that illustration from their app or maybe a screen, right?

[00:13:27] But what you're then doing is you are basically zooming in on that tunnel vision of you as a product designer who already knows the product, who already knows what's going on. Um, whereas the, the, what the creative director said to me was, you should think about it as a journey, right?

[00:13:46] Let's say I'm driving on the highway, I see a big billboard of the stuff that we are creating. So I only have two seconds to take a look at it.

[00:13:52] What does it say? People have no idea what they're looking at. How can we communicate what we are doing and how can we get them excited? And then secondly, how can [00:14:00] we make sure that from that billboard, people are going to the website, that's the second step.

[00:14:05] Then they're going to download the app, then they're maybe purchasing something, and for me, a good brand experience is that journey between those steps but that starts at that first impression.

[00:14:15] And that's a combination of a couple of things so we know that it has to include the logo. We know that it needs to have some copy, so this is already the second exercise. Copywriting, big part of branding, right? What's the first sentence we are going to communicate?

[00:14:28] Of course we've got a whole story in our head, but how can we drill that down to one sentence? Incredibly hard to do, incredibly hard. And then based on that one sentence, how can we visualize that? Then it's more about setting that scene and something that resonates with that one liner probably that we want to communicate. Getting that first billboard right , and also here going with different routes, d ifferent value propositions, and again, testing a lot. ,

[00:14:50] We talk a lot about testing in product design, but we don't often talk as much about testing a brand and that's a shame, that first impression. It can make or break something, especially [00:15:00] when you're creating something, let's say for designers, , Ridd probably you had the same right where you saw something. You heard about an app and then you looked it up, you downloaded it, and you were like, ah, that first impression that app icon, doesn't really work for me. And then already you're going in not as excited. So testing that first impression, very, very, very important.

[00:15:20] But as I said, we start off with, you know, a couple of different variations of that first impression. We've got that billboard, and then everyone on the team's like, yes, this is it, right?

[00:15:29] We are happy with this. This is the direction we want to go for. Then, when that first impression is there, then it's time to dissect that right into the different parts because now we know what to do with typography because we probably use some typography in that first impression, right? We also know the illustration style or maybe photography style that we are using in that.

[00:15:48] We also know how to position the logo so we can start dissecting that, ? How to treat these different elements and start building out that system.

[00:15:57] Ridd: Every time that you sent me a [00:16:00] deliverable, First off, it felt a little bit like Christmas, just based off of the time zones because you had finished working at the end of the day. And then I would wake up to some kind of a Slack message the next morning, and I was always so excited to open up the Figma files, not just because it was a fun process, but also your presentation and the way that you even showcased the ideas that you were working on was really, really well done.

First impressions in creating a brand

[00:12:43] Fons: So what we need next is a first impression, When you're going to talk with someone about the brand that you're building or the company, you want to show them a first impression, right? And this, this is for me one of the most fun exercises, and I had a creative director that I, that I worked for when I was an intern [00:13:00] a few years back.

[00:13:01] And um, What I always did, and I think a lot of product designers do this, is they think inside out, right? They work on the product, on the design system, and then they're like, oh, I need an illustration and I make it into the product. And then when they need a billboard, let's say, right? Or maybe a post or something else, uh, marketing materials, they just blow up that literally they blow up that, that illustration from their app or maybe a screen, right?

[00:13:27] But what you're then doing is you are basically zooming in on that tunnel vision of you as a product designer who already knows the product, who already knows what's going on. Um, whereas the, the, what the creative director said to me was, you should think about it as a journey, right?

[00:13:46] Let's say I'm driving on the highway, I see a big billboard of the stuff that we are creating. So I only have two seconds to take a look at it.

[00:13:52] What does it say? People have no idea what they're looking at. How can we communicate what we are doing and how can we get them excited? And then secondly, how can [00:14:00] we make sure that from that billboard, people are going to the website, that's the second step.

[00:14:05] Then they're going to download the app, then they're maybe purchasing something, and for me, a good brand experience is that journey between those steps but that starts at that first impression.

[00:14:15] And that's a combination of a couple of things so we know that it has to include the logo. We know that it needs to have some copy, so this is already the second exercise. Copywriting, big part of branding, right? What's the first sentence we are going to communicate?

[00:14:28] Of course we've got a whole story in our head, but how can we drill that down to one sentence? Incredibly hard to do, incredibly hard. And then based on that one sentence, how can we visualize that? Then it's more about setting that scene and something that resonates with that one liner probably that we want to communicate. Getting that first billboard right , and also here going with different routes, d ifferent value propositions, and again, testing a lot. ,

[00:14:50] We talk a lot about testing in product design, but we don't often talk as much about testing a brand and that's a shame, that first impression. It can make or break something, especially [00:15:00] when you're creating something, let's say for designers, , Ridd probably you had the same right where you saw something. You heard about an app and then you looked it up, you downloaded it, and you were like, ah, that first impression that app icon, doesn't really work for me. And then already you're going in not as excited. So testing that first impression, very, very, very important.

[00:15:20] But as I said, we start off with, you know, a couple of different variations of that first impression. We've got that billboard, and then everyone on the team's like, yes, this is it, right?

[00:15:29] We are happy with this. This is the direction we want to go for. Then, when that first impression is there, then it's time to dissect that right into the different parts because now we know what to do with typography because we probably use some typography in that first impression, right? We also know the illustration style or maybe photography style that we are using in that.

[00:15:48] We also know how to position the logo so we can start dissecting that, ? How to treat these different elements and start building out that system.

[00:15:57] Ridd: Every time that you sent me a [00:16:00] deliverable, First off, it felt a little bit like Christmas, just based off of the time zones because you had finished working at the end of the day. And then I would wake up to some kind of a Slack message the next morning, and I was always so excited to open up the Figma files, not just because it was a fun process, but also your presentation and the way that you even showcased the ideas that you were working on was really, really well done.

Tactics to structuring a Figma file

[00:16:22] Ridd: So before we go any further, can you kind of give listeners a better idea of how you even think about structuring a Figma file throughout this process and the different tactics that you use to make sure that when you are sharing these concepts, the environment that I, as the stakeholder am viewing them in feels high quality.

[00:16:43] Fons: What I see a lot is designers being very good at executing that first 90%, right? So getting to that initial idea. But then just throwing that fake ma file over the fence and, and having a bunch of iterations scattered on the artboard. And I think that's a shame. Even when you're [00:17:00] presenting, I think it's important to think about that direction that you want to give the brand and that first impression that you want to give. So just taking, you know, 15 minutes at the end of, iterating and making sure you have an archive page with all of your previous iterations, because it doesn't mean that you have to throw everything away. I would say save as much as you can because probably somewhere down the line you are going to refer back to that, be like, oh, that was actually a great idea, but cleaning up that file, and I'm not talking about naming your layers, but just cleaning up that file a little bit, giving a little bit of context, right?

[00:17:32] Also with your iterations, for me, that's just one, two sentences max.

[00:17:36] What is this concept and why did I choose to include it?

[00:17:40] I think it's very important and also shows the client that you're working for that you care about the craft, right? You care about the concept that you created. It's not going to be somewhere, on, on a random board.

[00:17:52] Now it's actually polished, presented, okay, this is, you know, well thought out.

[00:17:56] This is the way I think we should give this, uh, brand a [00:18:00] go.

[00:18:00] Ridd: You mentioned the phrase caring a lot, and I just wanna double click on that because that is the impression that I got whenever you would deliver work to me. Just the way that you even thought about the art boards made me feel like, Hey, Fonz is invested in this brand and so I'm, I'm glad you brought that up cuz it does feel very important. Taking a step back and kind of revisiting the process, what else is missing? Is there anything else that you would make sure that you would guide me through during a branding process?

[00:18:29] Fons: I think it's very important to see a brand as a living thing. There's no such thing as creating a brand and being done with it. Then moving back again to product, right? And being like, oh, brand is done. Brand is a living thing. Same as a design system, same as a product. You keep iterating on it, right? And you keep evolving it.

[00:18:48] So I think a big part also of starting a successful brand or a visual language is, not just throwing it over the fence, but actually educating the team Also how to use that [00:19:00] brand, right? And being there for support in that first, or deliverables. But cuz those can be quite hard. You only have the first initial billboard, right?

[00:19:09] And probably a small group of elements. , but now it's really about, okay, how well are these able to translate to a website, to a product to maybe merchandise for the team. Being involved in those initial first few months, I think either makes or breaks a brand. It's not about delivering one PDF and that being it, it's about, okay, and now what?

[00:19:32] Right? How can we make sure that the vision that we have is consistent and high quality throughout , the entire experience.

[00:19:39] Ridd: So I'm gonna go ahead and take my pickleball branding hat off and ask you a little bit more broadly, what are some of the brands out there right now that are inspiring you the most?

[00:19:53] Fons: I think the brands that I am really inspired by are the brands that [00:20:00] have this unified visual language. And I keep saying visual language because for me, brand and visual language are different because visual language is for me, just the thing that you see and it's not the whole storytelling around, it's just that impression that goes through all of your marketing materials, but it also drips through into your product.

[00:20:17] A great solid example I always call out is Headspace. You think of Headspace, when you close your eyes, you know, the, the environment that they created for themselves, which is so powerful even you, you know me, when someone would say, okay, now create a landing page for Headspace, we could do it probably right in that same style, because it's easy to create, easy to remember, limited pallet and a such a good balance between product design and content design. For me, those are the brands that really shine, right?

[00:20:48] The connection between those two, having that synergy between it has to be useful, but also it should be on brand. And when you open your Headspace app, you are into Headspace, right? And you [00:21:00] feel like you're okay. I'm, I'm part of this environment. That's something that I really love. Some other brands that I recently really was surprised by is Fig Jam,

[00:21:08] fig Jam just came out with a rebrand, and that rebrand is just fantastic, ? The way they embraced the imperfection of the products, throughout our whole brand system. The Dynamicness is something that I really like. You can see that it's not just something created based on trends, but something that comes from the core beliefs

[00:21:28] Fig jam should be accessible. It should be about putting things and ideas together. So for me, yeah, to see something like that flourish and expand is, is really cool to see. Maybe one more that's just my personal play favorite, um, is Nike. Different industry, but the way Nike handles their campaigns, it's just fantastic in my opinion. They've got this thin layer of a brand which is most of the time, just black and white, very clean. But every month when I visit the Nike website, they've got this completely new look and [00:22:00] feel, but it's still Nike. That's something that I really like, see, so those are three of the, the brands that I reasonably really enjoyed.

[00:22:06] What are some of your favorites, Ridd?

[00:22:08] Ridd: I actually was going to say Spotify and for a similar reason as Nike, where they've been able to create this mark that is so iconic and yet their brand specializes in being able to adapt to the content that it is surrounding. And so I think it makes the Spotify brand really dynamic in a similar way as Nike, where you know, this is Spotify, but now it feels like this hip hop style, or it feels like this country folk style and the way that they're able to wrap it and have the brand adjust while still maintaining the core identity of Spotify has always impressed me, and it's something that I've tried to emulate before, actually in past projects and even for my own startup years ago.

[00:22:57] And I think I mostly failed. It's not an, it's not an easy thing [00:23:00] to do. Um, another example that comes to mind that is a little bit out there, but GoDaddy actually, and I think part of that is because GoDaddy used to be archaic and I didn't want to spend time next to the GoDaddy brand or on their website or in their product or anything like that.

[00:23:22] And for them to be able to make the jump to something that I actually really enjoy is so impressive to me because it's very, very, very difficult for an old world brand to take that jump effectively. But the way that they have used this, like modern serif and the very bright, vibrant colors, makes it feel re-energized in a way that I've found quite impressive.

[00:23:48] Fons: Yeah. Yeah, I completely agree. And, and to go back to the Spotify example, Spotify is also one of my favorites as well, and I think Spotify almost fits that line of Nike and for example, Headspace as [00:24:00] well, in which, you could just, you talked about the Nike logo, right? And being so recognizable. But I think the, the, the best part with brands like Spotify, Nike, and Headspace, is you can take that logo out and still being recognizable, right? I don't need to see that Headspace logo to recognize Headspace. I don't need to see that Nike logo to recognize a Nike ad or a website.

[00:24:24] And I think that's where you've got a strong brand, right? You don't even need the logo. You've created a visual language that people recognize instantly.

[00:24:32] Ridd: That's a good point. It reminds me of like Apple TV commercials where you're 10 seconds in and you already kind of know that this is an Apple commercial, even though they've said nothing about the product and nothing about the brand name.

[00:24:42] Fons: Yeah. That's where you know that you killed it, right? But that takes time, takes time to establish that. And that's also why I said consistency and making sure you've got the right brand. In those first years, it's critical because you are building that up for yourself, right? And if you have to rebrand after one [00:25:00] year, you're losing that progress of people recognizing that style of yours.

Tactics to structuring a Figma file

[00:16:22] Ridd: So before we go any further, can you kind of give listeners a better idea of how you even think about structuring a Figma file throughout this process and the different tactics that you use to make sure that when you are sharing these concepts, the environment that I, as the stakeholder am viewing them in feels high quality.

[00:16:43] Fons: What I see a lot is designers being very good at executing that first 90%, right? So getting to that initial idea. But then just throwing that fake ma file over the fence and, and having a bunch of iterations scattered on the artboard. And I think that's a shame. Even when you're [00:17:00] presenting, I think it's important to think about that direction that you want to give the brand and that first impression that you want to give. So just taking, you know, 15 minutes at the end of, iterating and making sure you have an archive page with all of your previous iterations, because it doesn't mean that you have to throw everything away. I would say save as much as you can because probably somewhere down the line you are going to refer back to that, be like, oh, that was actually a great idea, but cleaning up that file, and I'm not talking about naming your layers, but just cleaning up that file a little bit, giving a little bit of context, right?

[00:17:32] Also with your iterations, for me, that's just one, two sentences max.

[00:17:36] What is this concept and why did I choose to include it?

[00:17:40] I think it's very important and also shows the client that you're working for that you care about the craft, right? You care about the concept that you created. It's not going to be somewhere, on, on a random board.

[00:17:52] Now it's actually polished, presented, okay, this is, you know, well thought out.

[00:17:56] This is the way I think we should give this, uh, brand a [00:18:00] go.

[00:18:00] Ridd: You mentioned the phrase caring a lot, and I just wanna double click on that because that is the impression that I got whenever you would deliver work to me. Just the way that you even thought about the art boards made me feel like, Hey, Fonz is invested in this brand and so I'm, I'm glad you brought that up cuz it does feel very important. Taking a step back and kind of revisiting the process, what else is missing? Is there anything else that you would make sure that you would guide me through during a branding process?

[00:18:29] Fons: I think it's very important to see a brand as a living thing. There's no such thing as creating a brand and being done with it. Then moving back again to product, right? And being like, oh, brand is done. Brand is a living thing. Same as a design system, same as a product. You keep iterating on it, right? And you keep evolving it.

[00:18:48] So I think a big part also of starting a successful brand or a visual language is, not just throwing it over the fence, but actually educating the team Also how to use that [00:19:00] brand, right? And being there for support in that first, or deliverables. But cuz those can be quite hard. You only have the first initial billboard, right?

[00:19:09] And probably a small group of elements. , but now it's really about, okay, how well are these able to translate to a website, to a product to maybe merchandise for the team. Being involved in those initial first few months, I think either makes or breaks a brand. It's not about delivering one PDF and that being it, it's about, okay, and now what?

[00:19:32] Right? How can we make sure that the vision that we have is consistent and high quality throughout , the entire experience.

[00:19:39] Ridd: So I'm gonna go ahead and take my pickleball branding hat off and ask you a little bit more broadly, what are some of the brands out there right now that are inspiring you the most?

[00:19:53] Fons: I think the brands that I am really inspired by are the brands that [00:20:00] have this unified visual language. And I keep saying visual language because for me, brand and visual language are different because visual language is for me, just the thing that you see and it's not the whole storytelling around, it's just that impression that goes through all of your marketing materials, but it also drips through into your product.

[00:20:17] A great solid example I always call out is Headspace. You think of Headspace, when you close your eyes, you know, the, the environment that they created for themselves, which is so powerful even you, you know me, when someone would say, okay, now create a landing page for Headspace, we could do it probably right in that same style, because it's easy to create, easy to remember, limited pallet and a such a good balance between product design and content design. For me, those are the brands that really shine, right?

[00:20:48] The connection between those two, having that synergy between it has to be useful, but also it should be on brand. And when you open your Headspace app, you are into Headspace, right? And you [00:21:00] feel like you're okay. I'm, I'm part of this environment. That's something that I really love. Some other brands that I recently really was surprised by is Fig Jam,

[00:21:08] fig Jam just came out with a rebrand, and that rebrand is just fantastic, ? The way they embraced the imperfection of the products, throughout our whole brand system. The Dynamicness is something that I really like. You can see that it's not just something created based on trends, but something that comes from the core beliefs

[00:21:28] Fig jam should be accessible. It should be about putting things and ideas together. So for me, yeah, to see something like that flourish and expand is, is really cool to see. Maybe one more that's just my personal play favorite, um, is Nike. Different industry, but the way Nike handles their campaigns, it's just fantastic in my opinion. They've got this thin layer of a brand which is most of the time, just black and white, very clean. But every month when I visit the Nike website, they've got this completely new look and [00:22:00] feel, but it's still Nike. That's something that I really like, see, so those are three of the, the brands that I reasonably really enjoyed.

[00:22:06] What are some of your favorites, Ridd?

[00:22:08] Ridd: I actually was going to say Spotify and for a similar reason as Nike, where they've been able to create this mark that is so iconic and yet their brand specializes in being able to adapt to the content that it is surrounding. And so I think it makes the Spotify brand really dynamic in a similar way as Nike, where you know, this is Spotify, but now it feels like this hip hop style, or it feels like this country folk style and the way that they're able to wrap it and have the brand adjust while still maintaining the core identity of Spotify has always impressed me, and it's something that I've tried to emulate before, actually in past projects and even for my own startup years ago.

[00:22:57] And I think I mostly failed. It's not an, it's not an easy thing [00:23:00] to do. Um, another example that comes to mind that is a little bit out there, but GoDaddy actually, and I think part of that is because GoDaddy used to be archaic and I didn't want to spend time next to the GoDaddy brand or on their website or in their product or anything like that.

[00:23:22] And for them to be able to make the jump to something that I actually really enjoy is so impressive to me because it's very, very, very difficult for an old world brand to take that jump effectively. But the way that they have used this, like modern serif and the very bright, vibrant colors, makes it feel re-energized in a way that I've found quite impressive.

[00:23:48] Fons: Yeah. Yeah, I completely agree. And, and to go back to the Spotify example, Spotify is also one of my favorites as well, and I think Spotify almost fits that line of Nike and for example, Headspace as [00:24:00] well, in which, you could just, you talked about the Nike logo, right? And being so recognizable. But I think the, the, the best part with brands like Spotify, Nike, and Headspace, is you can take that logo out and still being recognizable, right? I don't need to see that Headspace logo to recognize Headspace. I don't need to see that Nike logo to recognize a Nike ad or a website.

[00:24:24] And I think that's where you've got a strong brand, right? You don't even need the logo. You've created a visual language that people recognize instantly.

[00:24:32] Ridd: That's a good point. It reminds me of like Apple TV commercials where you're 10 seconds in and you already kind of know that this is an Apple commercial, even though they've said nothing about the product and nothing about the brand name.

[00:24:42] Fons: Yeah. That's where you know that you killed it, right? But that takes time, takes time to establish that. And that's also why I said consistency and making sure you've got the right brand. In those first years, it's critical because you are building that up for yourself, right? And if you have to rebrand after one [00:25:00] year, you're losing that progress of people recognizing that style of yours.

How to make your brand stand-out

[00:25:06] Ridd: You talk a lot about this phrase standing out as it relates to branding, and something that I've noticed recently over the last year or so is what I'll refer to as the linear-fication of websites because it feels like once a week now we're getting a new website that has that dark mode, purple primary color, the gradient borders, the different lighting, and I don't wanna knock those designs because they're very, very high quality and some of the most polished websites on the internet, they're very impressive.

[00:25:38] I'm curious, what is your reaction to this kind of trend?

[00:25:43] Fons: It's a good question and it's something that people ask me a lot actually, and I think it comes down to quality. Right. And I think we can break quality up into two parts because there's the quality and execution, right? As you said, as well. We see [00:26:00] a lot of linear like websites who are ex, you know, executed fantastic, right?

[00:26:04] With great animation, great hover states. But we, or I also talk about, quality in a creative sense, right? So what's the quality here on the idea, if we would rate this concept or this, this visual style in creativity on a scale from one to 10, where would it be? And so standing out for me is being both great in executing right quality, but also having that idea, um, being more original.

[00:26:32] And that's, that's for me the point where you stand out. And a great way to do that is to actually. Look at businesses or companies outside of your industry. So instead of when you're building a SaaS company, looking at websites like Linear, go take a look at Nike. Go take a look at maybe, go take a look at some other scenes or industries from inspiration and bring that to your industry. I think that will help you to, to stand [00:27:00] out- combining those concepts.

[00:27:01] Ridd: Can we take that one level further and add a little bit more? Tangibility to the conversation. Let's say that you're working on a new project and it is a SaaS website, and you are tasked with not creating another linear clone and creating a website design that really does stand out beyond looking outside of the industry, what are some of the other tactics or strategies that you would use to execute on that second part of quality as it relates to the creativity and ingenuity of the idea itself?

[00:27:35] Fons: Yeah, definitely. So first of all, big part of that would be the entire story that we already talked about, right? So starting from within. If you start from within, chances are really slim, you're going to end up at linear. And trying to not maneuver, because you can always say, oh, you know, we also want to do that.

[00:27:53] Um, so trying to stay in your lane in that sense. Also as a designer, going back through that inspiration, right, that you [00:28:00] gathered before and taking a look at some of the elements that you like of different projects. we talk a lot about imposter syndrome, for example, right? And I think that's the thing that arises when you take a look at Linear and you start recreating almost one on one, right?

[00:28:15] But for me, I truly believe, you know, in, in everything is a remix. So I think there's nothing wrong with recreating something, but try to take different elements from different projects, recreate those, and bring them together to create something new. That's for me where the magic lies. So for example, taking that linear gradient, right?

[00:28:36] And combining that with Let's say something from Nike, some good photography that you saw from Nike. Combining those two that can bring you both high quality, but also creativity because you're now combining different visual styles to create something new for yourself. So I think that's really important, right?

[00:28:54] You, there's nothing wrong with using a website like linear as inspiration, [00:29:00] but use it as a starting point and try to add to that. Right? Make sense on different concepts?

[00:29:07] Ridd: So let's say this is your project, it's coming from within you. Do you think that the website that you would design would be light mode or dark mode?

[00:29:19] Fons: Oh, that's a good one. Um, currently in the light mode phase. Yeah. How about you, your background? You're a split man. You've got, you've got both.

[00:29:33] Ridd: I, that's such an interesting question and just a little bit of context for our relationship is that you were convincing me to do the dive brand in light mode and I kind of got swept away with the dark mode and this idea of going deep. And I think about that a lot because I think right now the strategic move might be going light mode.

[00:29:56] That might be the easiest way to stand out, but I also think that it's [00:30:00] a lot more difficult to achieve that execution quality bar in light mode. I'm curious if you feel the same way.

[00:30:10] Fons: Yeah, I think, I think it depends. I think when you've got a certain direction in, in your head, right, a visual direction that you want to take it into. For example, what we see now is, especially with the rise of ar and vr, we see a lot of. Translucent effects, right? Things like that. And to be honest, those things work a lot better in darker environments, right?

[00:30:33] So I think that's a big reason why a lot of brands and companies are now going into the dark mode because those translucent effects a little bit more advanced, little bit more depth. It's just something that's very trending right now.

[00:30:46] So, yeah, I'm kind of in the middle there because for me, light mode doesn't per se mean, um, just having everything full, full wide right can also mean for me, going with a light mode setting [00:31:00] for me means creating a project that feels a little bit more accessible almost.

[00:31:07] Having a, a, a wide landing page and vibrant, um, yeah, I don't know, feels a little bit more welcoming almost. Uh, but that's, that's just a gut feel from, from my end, right. Whereas I, for example, when I see a dark website with glowing things and stuff like that, for me, that feels a lot more for pros but yeah, I kind of see why you want to take Dive into that dark mode direction as well. Because when I think about dark mode, I think about pro stuff

[00:31:33] Ridd: an interesting example of this accessible idea, I think is the new family website. Have you seen that by chance?

[00:31:42] Fons: Yeah. Yeah.

[00:31:42] Ridd: So it's at family.co. If you're listening and you haven't been on there before, uh, really, really skilled product team and they're entering this crypto space. Thank goodness we can stop saying web three now.

[00:31:56] But they've taken this light mode [00:32:00] approach that doesn't really just feel like you're dumping everything on a white canvas, but it's very friendly and welcoming and I appreciated that strategic angle when almost all of the competitors are going for more of this pro and predominantly dark mode, very glowy and gradient vibe.

[00:32:20] Fons: Yeah I really appreciate that because I think a lot of companies in Web three and in crypto go for that dark mode, and it can feel quite intimidating from you, you know, when you're just stepping into that industry. It's, Quite something to get into, um, there are finances at play, right?

[00:32:35] Your personal finances going into crypto. So making that as transparent as possible. And also that links back to the name as well, family, right? Making that as welcoming as possible, I think is a great move. By the way, I love the design team from family. Um, also the designer from Honk . I don't know if you know that, you know, you can, you can see it directly, you know, that friendliness, that attention to detail.

[00:32:59] Yeah, I [00:33:00] think that's, that's, yeah. Brilliantly executed.

[00:33:02] Ridd: Before honk shut down, I took a screen recording of the entire app and just saved it in my notion because I wanted to be able to refer back to it years from now, because I really do think it's one of the best mobile designs that I've ever seen.

[00:33:16] Fons: Yeah. I read something about someone saying Honk comeback, but then chatGPT

[00:33:22] Ridd: Yeah, I saw that

[00:33:24] Fons: haven't got at the same time. And that actually makes a lot of sense. So yeah, let's hope for a comeback someday.

[00:33:29] Ridd: actually. Let's talk about that. If you were given the task of designing the chat G P T mobile app, how do you think it would've differed from what we ultimately got, if at all?

[00:33:44] Fons: it's a great question and a very difficult one because what even is the target audience, right? It's everyone. Um yeah, it's everyone. So I. Always like to niche down when you're [00:34:00] creating a brand. I always say it's okay if some people don't like the brand. I would even say it's better because if everyone would say it's okay, then probably you didn't really do an outstanding job. You're just created something bland that everyone's okay with, but nothing no one's really excited about. And I think that's the way chat PT or OpenAI went for, right? It's pretty much middle off the road, right?

[00:34:22] They've got some nice micro interactions. I really like the level of polishing in that sense, but from a brand perspective, it doesn't really have personality which I think is a, is a strategic move. If it were up to me, I think a lot of people see AI also maybe even as a threat or something a little bit scary even. So I would lean more towards the family approach, making it a little bit more friendly. Even though it's the same product, giving it a face and, and not literally, but trying to to give it some character I think [00:35:00] would go a long way for me personally.

[00:35:02] Ridd: I agree with the family idea. I also thought another potential way to think about it was leaning into this idea of personalization, because that's one of the things that's so exciting to me about AI and LLMs and what they make possible is I think it's going to empower a much more personalized and tailored web.

[00:35:20] And I thought even just a very small detail that they could have done to tap into that idea was allow me to choose from a set of personalized app icons and just make it feel like this is my space and not the same exact experience that everyone is having. And I wonder if they had those kind of discussions.

[00:35:42] Fons: Yeah, I like that a lot actually because to be honest, it, it's impossible to, for a product like that, to create a face or a character or something like that, that resonates with everyone, right? Um, but people are also using it for completely different use cases. So customizing that and almost seeing it as some sort of, uh, [00:36:00] you, you remember the Pokemon ditto, right?

[00:36:03] That, that transforms right? Um, in different, different things where, where it's needed for maybe something like that would be really interesting for, for jetty PT as well.

How to make your brand stand-out

[00:25:06] Ridd: You talk a lot about this phrase standing out as it relates to branding, and something that I've noticed recently over the last year or so is what I'll refer to as the linear-fication of websites because it feels like once a week now we're getting a new website that has that dark mode, purple primary color, the gradient borders, the different lighting, and I don't wanna knock those designs because they're very, very high quality and some of the most polished websites on the internet, they're very impressive.

[00:25:38] I'm curious, what is your reaction to this kind of trend?

[00:25:43] Fons: It's a good question and it's something that people ask me a lot actually, and I think it comes down to quality. Right. And I think we can break quality up into two parts because there's the quality and execution, right? As you said, as well. We see [00:26:00] a lot of linear like websites who are ex, you know, executed fantastic, right?

[00:26:04] With great animation, great hover states. But we, or I also talk about, quality in a creative sense, right? So what's the quality here on the idea, if we would rate this concept or this, this visual style in creativity on a scale from one to 10, where would it be? And so standing out for me is being both great in executing right quality, but also having that idea, um, being more original.

[00:26:32] And that's, that's for me the point where you stand out. And a great way to do that is to actually. Look at businesses or companies outside of your industry. So instead of when you're building a SaaS company, looking at websites like Linear, go take a look at Nike. Go take a look at maybe, go take a look at some other scenes or industries from inspiration and bring that to your industry. I think that will help you to, to stand [00:27:00] out- combining those concepts.

[00:27:01] Ridd: Can we take that one level further and add a little bit more? Tangibility to the conversation. Let's say that you're working on a new project and it is a SaaS website, and you are tasked with not creating another linear clone and creating a website design that really does stand out beyond looking outside of the industry, what are some of the other tactics or strategies that you would use to execute on that second part of quality as it relates to the creativity and ingenuity of the idea itself?

[00:27:35] Fons: Yeah, definitely. So first of all, big part of that would be the entire story that we already talked about, right? So starting from within. If you start from within, chances are really slim, you're going to end up at linear. And trying to not maneuver, because you can always say, oh, you know, we also want to do that.

[00:27:53] Um, so trying to stay in your lane in that sense. Also as a designer, going back through that inspiration, right, that you [00:28:00] gathered before and taking a look at some of the elements that you like of different projects. we talk a lot about imposter syndrome, for example, right? And I think that's the thing that arises when you take a look at Linear and you start recreating almost one on one, right?

[00:28:15] But for me, I truly believe, you know, in, in everything is a remix. So I think there's nothing wrong with recreating something, but try to take different elements from different projects, recreate those, and bring them together to create something new. That's for me where the magic lies. So for example, taking that linear gradient, right?

[00:28:36] And combining that with Let's say something from Nike, some good photography that you saw from Nike. Combining those two that can bring you both high quality, but also creativity because you're now combining different visual styles to create something new for yourself. So I think that's really important, right?

[00:28:54] You, there's nothing wrong with using a website like linear as inspiration, [00:29:00] but use it as a starting point and try to add to that. Right? Make sense on different concepts?

[00:29:07] Ridd: So let's say this is your project, it's coming from within you. Do you think that the website that you would design would be light mode or dark mode?

[00:29:19] Fons: Oh, that's a good one. Um, currently in the light mode phase. Yeah. How about you, your background? You're a split man. You've got, you've got both.

[00:29:33] Ridd: I, that's such an interesting question and just a little bit of context for our relationship is that you were convincing me to do the dive brand in light mode and I kind of got swept away with the dark mode and this idea of going deep. And I think about that a lot because I think right now the strategic move might be going light mode.

[00:29:56] That might be the easiest way to stand out, but I also think that it's [00:30:00] a lot more difficult to achieve that execution quality bar in light mode. I'm curious if you feel the same way.

[00:30:10] Fons: Yeah, I think, I think it depends. I think when you've got a certain direction in, in your head, right, a visual direction that you want to take it into. For example, what we see now is, especially with the rise of ar and vr, we see a lot of. Translucent effects, right? Things like that. And to be honest, those things work a lot better in darker environments, right?

[00:30:33] So I think that's a big reason why a lot of brands and companies are now going into the dark mode because those translucent effects a little bit more advanced, little bit more depth. It's just something that's very trending right now.

[00:30:46] So, yeah, I'm kind of in the middle there because for me, light mode doesn't per se mean, um, just having everything full, full wide right can also mean for me, going with a light mode setting [00:31:00] for me means creating a project that feels a little bit more accessible almost.

[00:31:07] Having a, a, a wide landing page and vibrant, um, yeah, I don't know, feels a little bit more welcoming almost. Uh, but that's, that's just a gut feel from, from my end, right. Whereas I, for example, when I see a dark website with glowing things and stuff like that, for me, that feels a lot more for pros but yeah, I kind of see why you want to take Dive into that dark mode direction as well. Because when I think about dark mode, I think about pro stuff

[00:31:33] Ridd: an interesting example of this accessible idea, I think is the new family website. Have you seen that by chance?

[00:31:42] Fons: Yeah. Yeah.

[00:31:42] Ridd: So it's at family.co. If you're listening and you haven't been on there before, uh, really, really skilled product team and they're entering this crypto space. Thank goodness we can stop saying web three now.

[00:31:56] But they've taken this light mode [00:32:00] approach that doesn't really just feel like you're dumping everything on a white canvas, but it's very friendly and welcoming and I appreciated that strategic angle when almost all of the competitors are going for more of this pro and predominantly dark mode, very glowy and gradient vibe.

[00:32:20] Fons: Yeah I really appreciate that because I think a lot of companies in Web three and in crypto go for that dark mode, and it can feel quite intimidating from you, you know, when you're just stepping into that industry. It's, Quite something to get into, um, there are finances at play, right?

[00:32:35] Your personal finances going into crypto. So making that as transparent as possible. And also that links back to the name as well, family, right? Making that as welcoming as possible, I think is a great move. By the way, I love the design team from family. Um, also the designer from Honk . I don't know if you know that, you know, you can, you can see it directly, you know, that friendliness, that attention to detail.

[00:32:59] Yeah, I [00:33:00] think that's, that's, yeah. Brilliantly executed.

[00:33:02] Ridd: Before honk shut down, I took a screen recording of the entire app and just saved it in my notion because I wanted to be able to refer back to it years from now, because I really do think it's one of the best mobile designs that I've ever seen.

[00:33:16] Fons: Yeah. I read something about someone saying Honk comeback, but then chatGPT

[00:33:22] Ridd: Yeah, I saw that

[00:33:24] Fons: haven't got at the same time. And that actually makes a lot of sense. So yeah, let's hope for a comeback someday.

[00:33:29] Ridd: actually. Let's talk about that. If you were given the task of designing the chat G P T mobile app, how do you think it would've differed from what we ultimately got, if at all?

[00:33:44] Fons: it's a great question and a very difficult one because what even is the target audience, right? It's everyone. Um yeah, it's everyone. So I. Always like to niche down when you're [00:34:00] creating a brand. I always say it's okay if some people don't like the brand. I would even say it's better because if everyone would say it's okay, then probably you didn't really do an outstanding job. You're just created something bland that everyone's okay with, but nothing no one's really excited about. And I think that's the way chat PT or OpenAI went for, right? It's pretty much middle off the road, right?

[00:34:22] They've got some nice micro interactions. I really like the level of polishing in that sense, but from a brand perspective, it doesn't really have personality which I think is a, is a strategic move. If it were up to me, I think a lot of people see AI also maybe even as a threat or something a little bit scary even. So I would lean more towards the family approach, making it a little bit more friendly. Even though it's the same product, giving it a face and, and not literally, but trying to to give it some character I think [00:35:00] would go a long way for me personally.

[00:35:02] Ridd: I agree with the family idea. I also thought another potential way to think about it was leaning into this idea of personalization, because that's one of the things that's so exciting to me about AI and LLMs and what they make possible is I think it's going to empower a much more personalized and tailored web.

[00:35:20] And I thought even just a very small detail that they could have done to tap into that idea was allow me to choose from a set of personalized app icons and just make it feel like this is my space and not the same exact experience that everyone is having. And I wonder if they had those kind of discussions.

[00:35:42] Fons: Yeah, I like that a lot actually because to be honest, it, it's impossible to, for a product like that, to create a face or a character or something like that, that resonates with everyone, right? Um, but people are also using it for completely different use cases. So customizing that and almost seeing it as some sort of, uh, [00:36:00] you, you remember the Pokemon ditto, right?

[00:36:03] That, that transforms right? Um, in different, different things where, where it's needed for maybe something like that would be really interesting for, for jetty PT as well.

Impact of Apple's computing on design

[00:36:13] Ridd: So I'd like to take a step back from branding because we're recording this only a few days after Apple unveiled their vision for spatial computing and out of anyone, you're one of the people that I really am interested in hearing more about what your reactions were, and maybe you could even touch a bit on how you see this new platform impacting design more broadly.

[00:36:38] Fons: Yeah. So for me, seeing something like this come out is very exciting, right? Um, it's basically having a new playground for us as designers, right? We first, we did the web, then, you know, we started playing around with this small canvas on, on, on the phone, uh, screen size, and now we've got this whole new world that we can explore.

[00:36:55] And first impressions from me were, when I saw for example, reality os is that it's [00:37:00] very similar to our mobile ui but in my opinion that's, that's just the beginning because we want to make it familiar to the thing that we know. But I'm wondering is, okay, what does it look like in five or 10 years when we maybe dropped the whole phone ui, uh, thing and we embraced the spatial, um, the spatial element more. Because now what I saw a lot and that stood out to me is, okay, we are still using all of those carts, cart designs are still here, right? They're here to stay while we've got all of this space to work with, right? Do we really need carts or do we need something else to contain it?

[00:37:36] So I think that's very interesting to take a look at, but also how are we going to translate some of the elements that now make a lot of sense like buttons into that space. For example, I heard some first reviews where you now only have to look at something to activate it, so what's the need for a button, right? When do I need to take a look at the button to continue? Or can I just [00:38:00] look at directly at the thing that I want to go towards? So I think that's going to be interesting. What are some of those new patterns that are going to yeah, to, to come out of this? And I'm looking forward to that.

[00:38:10] How about you?

[00:38:11] Ridd: I love the idea of the button, and that's kind of the layer that I'm most interested in too, is thinking about how does this new platform fundamentally change the way that we interact with computers and broadening what we think of as our role as a designer because it's not about, yeah, like what is this button and where does it go and should I use 48 or 56 pixels and house key morphic?

[00:38:37] Should I make it? It's thinking about how should someone use their hands while interacting with my product and what, and really and increase the importance of having that level of empathy where you can really put yourself in that person's position because the, the [00:39:00] spectrum of possibilities is so much wider than I'm sitting on my computer with a specific job to be done.

[00:39:06] You know, this kind of software, it's. becoming more a part of our life in a way that is maybe a little bit scary, but for designers, you, you said it right. It's a, it's this exciting playground that I think kind of just breaks open the box of what we imagine when we think of product design.

[00:39:25] Fons: Yeah, for sure. And I think you are also going to design a bit differently, whereas we, for example, we're having a discussion about light or dark mode. On the phone screen, you are setting your own stage, right? That's your, that's your composition. But when you're creating something for vr, ar, it's all about how can I design something that blends in naturally with the space that I'm looking at, right?

[00:39:52] So then the, the canvas completely changes, right? So probably we are not going to talk about light or dark mode anymore. We are going to be [00:40:00] like, okay, how can we make sure that we create something that seamlessly blends with the thing that people are already looking at? And that's something completely different.

[00:40:07] And that excites me actually a lot to start thinking about that.

[00:40:10] Ridd: Yeah. It gets back to this idea of personalization and taking that even one step further. The combination of this new s spatial computing with what AI is unlocking is particularly exciting because you can imagine this world where a lot of the interfaces that we are interacting with in a spatial environment are dynamically generated by the AI to solve that specific problem that I'm facing as a user.

[00:40:41] And what the heck does it look like for designers to set out designing something that is generated on the fly, tailored to like a, an almost infinite combination of layouts and use cases and. That is also exists in a [00:41:00] 3D environment to an extent. It's really difficult to wrap my head around what the heck it's going to look like for product designers a few years from now, and what are the types of output and deliverables that we are responsible for even

[00:41:15] Fons: Yeah, I think that's a great point as well. Also not having that static content anymore. That's something that we have to deal with now. Still a lot of designs, but indeed, when we take a look at content generation, and the personalization. We start to having to think about not only the UI that we create blending seamlessly, but also making sure that it works in all of those different contexts.

[00:41:39] Um, yeah, so that's, that's, that's gonna be an interesting one for sure.

[00:41:44] Ridd: gonna be fun to figure out as, as an industry, I think we, we'd see all of. As an industry, we see all of like the advancements in AI and we think about it like shrinking the the market and the array of possibilities for design. [00:42:00] And I'm just super excited for the roof to be blown off of the market for design and even just the demand for design in general as all of these new platforms emerge.

[00:42:10] I'd like to transition a little bit though, and talk a bit more about you specifically, and I'd like to do another what if scenario and have you imagined that you have just taken on your 25 year old self as a mentee? What's the main thing that you would teach your younger self to help you take that next step in your career?

[00:42:38] Fons: Great. One, great question for me, I think it's a pretty harsh one, but I would reject all of the first ideas. I think there's something very powerful in rejecting that initial thought that comes up. That could most of the time be that linear thought, I have to create a website. Let's go for linear.

[00:42:56] No, disregard it directly. Going back to my internship that I had [00:43:00] a few years back, no matter how good the first idea was that I brought up, it would always get rejected. Maybe the first two ideas just to get into the practice of dive a little bit deeper into it, what comes out of it then.

[00:43:12] And most of the times, something much better comes out of it when you disregard that initial, that initial thought. But because, let's be honest, your brain also wants to make it easier for yourself so that first thought that you have when you want to create something, want to design something, chances are that thousands of others, also had that initial idea

[00:43:32] so you want to disregard that and you want to move on because not a lot of people do that. Actually. Not a lot of people disregard that first idea because it can feel very compelling but you have to let that go.

[00:43:43] Second thing that I would teach my own self is don't fall in love with your ideas. And especially that, those early ideas, right? Don't keep them for yourself. I made the big mistake in the beginning of my career of coming up with a concept completely creating [00:44:00] everything for it, worrying about the pixels and the exact color failure, stuff like that before presenting it for a then to hear , this was not what we were looking for, right?

[00:44:08] This is not going to work. Um, then it can be very hard for you to, to move on and to, uh, start iterating on it, right? So, Not falling in love with ideas, I think is a hard one, but a really good one to keep in mind while you're creating something. Um, yeah, I think those are the, the first two steps I would, I would say, uh, are, are pretty important.

[00:44:30] Um, third one for me is don't obsess over the tool. Tools are changing, especially now. We see new tools pop up every few months and I feel like it's going faster and faster. I for example, started with Photoshop and Illustrator, right? Designing in there. And then we had Sketch, but I've been, I've been designing for, for Photoshop, but five to seven years.

[00:44:53] And then Sketch came and I used that for two years and then I switched to Figma, right?

[00:44:58] And then [00:45:00] we've got Framer and all of these new tools coming in, and I feel like that's a trend that just keeps on going right where we are, just. Shifting between the tools.

[00:45:08] So instead of becoming the true expert in that tool, for me personally it will be more worth time to invest your time in becoming stronger creatively.

[00:45:20] Because when you're strong in a creative sense you can be very good in executing something on a technical level. But I think in the end, especially with the rise of ai, true creativity will prevail because AI will probably take a lot of those mundane technical tasks away from us. Whereas the thing that keeps, valuable in my opinion is that creativity and the power that we have as humans combining those different concepts,

[00:45:48] Ridd: What about now? If you look at your current skillset, what's the main area that you think you can improve in the most?

[00:45:59] Fons: Oh, that's a [00:46:00] good question.

[00:46:12] Let me have a thing.

[00:46:13] Ridd: No, you're good. Says a lot about how you view your current skillset.

[00:46:20] Fons: Yeah. Oh man. I think, something for me it's a little bit difficult to get a little bit carried away by the creative process. Right? You've got these big ideas on how to achieve a certain feeling or a concept, but then also being able to execute on that right, on a, on a high quality can be quite difficult.

[00:46:46] So for me, finding that balance because sometimes I don't have the technical background in how to actually execute it. So I always need that counterweight when I'm working, I always work together with a developer or someone that is very skilled in, [00:47:00] let's say, building framer sites or knows the nitty gritty of Figma to actually pull me back and be like, Hey, you know, great idea, but that would take months or that's not even possible, right?

[00:47:09] So I think having that balance is important as well.

[00:47:14] Ridd: What's something that you believe about design that you think a lot of other designers might disagree with?

[00:47:24] Fons: That's a great question. For me, design is definitely how something looks. I love to work with designers who get that as well, where visual design or how something looks and feels is not an afterthought. It is actually a constant throughout the entire process, even when presenting or showing a Figma file.

[00:47:44] I think that's where you make the difference as a designer

[00:47:47] how do I present and communicate my ideas but I think we are also as humans drawn to stuff that feels polished, that feels like someone put care into them,

[00:47:58] let's say you've got a product and it [00:48:00] kind of works, but it's the branding is on point, right? And it feels polished, then you can get away with it. I feel like it can make up for those remaining percentages. So I think, yeah, not a lot of designs I think would agree with me, but for me it's definitely about how it, how it looks and feels.

[00:48:16] Ridd: What's something that you're working on right now that has you particularly excited?

[00:48:20] Fons: I'm starting off grid, which is a new inspiration platform because the question about inspiration is something that I hear a lot. So what I set out to do is to create a new platform that's focused on sharing inspiration that is not shared a thousand times already. So to share those gems with designers in product design.

[00:48:40] Also showing them that there's a whole space of design outside of product design. And I feel like that's something that's being forgotten a lot of the time when we talk about design, people assume that it's about product design, but we've got industrial design, graphic design type design. There's a lot of different skill sets outside of product design as well. And I think [00:49:00] merging those right, and having that cross pollination between them is the best thing for, for design. So that's, yeah, that's something that I set out to do and I'm really excited to get that going.

[00:49:09] Ridd: Where could people find that? Cuz I'm subscribed and I can't wait to plug into more of Fons' inputs.

[00:49:17] Fons: Yeah, definitely. So, uh, definitely follow us on Twitter right after a design. The first newsletter will go out, um, this month as well. We will be talking with the creators behind those projects Right. And talking with them on Okay, what was your journey to get here? And, um, how do you go about, you know, creating the stuff that you're creating?

[00:49:39] So, yeah, I'm really excited about that.

[00:49:42] Ridd: What's the project that you've worked on over the last year or so that has challenged you the most?

[00:49:47] Fons: Yeah, the projects that changed me the most were the projects that I took on too quickly without considering if it was a nice fit for me as a designer. Right. I had a quick rise on [00:50:00] Twitter and with the Creek Rice also came a lot of projects, um, and. I've gotta be honest, in the beginning I said yes to almost everything that I initially thought of, oh, that, that sounds cool, right?

[00:50:15] Um, but it also meant that I took on a lot of projects that needed a skillset set that was not my strongest point. So, for example, building rather complex landing pages with a lot of interactions and small stuff, you know, the kind of things that I talked about earlier that are not my strong point, right?

[00:50:32] That really needed someone to get into the tool and, um, flush it out, um, in a, in a very high quality manner. Um, so I've been more selective lately on the projects that I take on, right? Um, and working with together with others who can actually execute on some of those more technical aspects.

Impact of Apple's computing on design

[00:36:13] Ridd: So I'd like to take a step back from branding because we're recording this only a few days after Apple unveiled their vision for spatial computing and out of anyone, you're one of the people that I really am interested in hearing more about what your reactions were, and maybe you could even touch a bit on how you see this new platform impacting design more broadly.

[00:36:38] Fons: Yeah. So for me, seeing something like this come out is very exciting, right? Um, it's basically having a new playground for us as designers, right? We first, we did the web, then, you know, we started playing around with this small canvas on, on, on the phone, uh, screen size, and now we've got this whole new world that we can explore.

[00:36:55] And first impressions from me were, when I saw for example, reality os is that it's [00:37:00] very similar to our mobile ui but in my opinion that's, that's just the beginning because we want to make it familiar to the thing that we know. But I'm wondering is, okay, what does it look like in five or 10 years when we maybe dropped the whole phone ui, uh, thing and we embraced the spatial, um, the spatial element more. Because now what I saw a lot and that stood out to me is, okay, we are still using all of those carts, cart designs are still here, right? They're here to stay while we've got all of this space to work with, right? Do we really need carts or do we need something else to contain it?

[00:37:36] So I think that's very interesting to take a look at, but also how are we going to translate some of the elements that now make a lot of sense like buttons into that space. For example, I heard some first reviews where you now only have to look at something to activate it, so what's the need for a button, right? When do I need to take a look at the button to continue? Or can I just [00:38:00] look at directly at the thing that I want to go towards? So I think that's going to be interesting. What are some of those new patterns that are going to yeah, to, to come out of this? And I'm looking forward to that.

[00:38:10] How about you?

[00:38:11] Ridd: I love the idea of the button, and that's kind of the layer that I'm most interested in too, is thinking about how does this new platform fundamentally change the way that we interact with computers and broadening what we think of as our role as a designer because it's not about, yeah, like what is this button and where does it go and should I use 48 or 56 pixels and house key morphic?

[00:38:37] Should I make it? It's thinking about how should someone use their hands while interacting with my product and what, and really and increase the importance of having that level of empathy where you can really put yourself in that person's position because the, the [00:39:00] spectrum of possibilities is so much wider than I'm sitting on my computer with a specific job to be done.

[00:39:06] You know, this kind of software, it's. becoming more a part of our life in a way that is maybe a little bit scary, but for designers, you, you said it right. It's a, it's this exciting playground that I think kind of just breaks open the box of what we imagine when we think of product design.

[00:39:25] Fons: Yeah, for sure. And I think you are also going to design a bit differently, whereas we, for example, we're having a discussion about light or dark mode. On the phone screen, you are setting your own stage, right? That's your, that's your composition. But when you're creating something for vr, ar, it's all about how can I design something that blends in naturally with the space that I'm looking at, right?

[00:39:52] So then the, the canvas completely changes, right? So probably we are not going to talk about light or dark mode anymore. We are going to be [00:40:00] like, okay, how can we make sure that we create something that seamlessly blends with the thing that people are already looking at? And that's something completely different.

[00:40:07] And that excites me actually a lot to start thinking about that.

[00:40:10] Ridd: Yeah. It gets back to this idea of personalization and taking that even one step further. The combination of this new s spatial computing with what AI is unlocking is particularly exciting because you can imagine this world where a lot of the interfaces that we are interacting with in a spatial environment are dynamically generated by the AI to solve that specific problem that I'm facing as a user.

[00:40:41] And what the heck does it look like for designers to set out designing something that is generated on the fly, tailored to like a, an almost infinite combination of layouts and use cases and. That is also exists in a [00:41:00] 3D environment to an extent. It's really difficult to wrap my head around what the heck it's going to look like for product designers a few years from now, and what are the types of output and deliverables that we are responsible for even

[00:41:15] Fons: Yeah, I think that's a great point as well. Also not having that static content anymore. That's something that we have to deal with now. Still a lot of designs, but indeed, when we take a look at content generation, and the personalization. We start to having to think about not only the UI that we create blending seamlessly, but also making sure that it works in all of those different contexts.

[00:41:39] Um, yeah, so that's, that's, that's gonna be an interesting one for sure.

[00:41:44] Ridd: gonna be fun to figure out as, as an industry, I think we, we'd see all of. As an industry, we see all of like the advancements in AI and we think about it like shrinking the the market and the array of possibilities for design. [00:42:00] And I'm just super excited for the roof to be blown off of the market for design and even just the demand for design in general as all of these new platforms emerge.

[00:42:10] I'd like to transition a little bit though, and talk a bit more about you specifically, and I'd like to do another what if scenario and have you imagined that you have just taken on your 25 year old self as a mentee? What's the main thing that you would teach your younger self to help you take that next step in your career?

[00:42:38] Fons: Great. One, great question for me, I think it's a pretty harsh one, but I would reject all of the first ideas. I think there's something very powerful in rejecting that initial thought that comes up. That could most of the time be that linear thought, I have to create a website. Let's go for linear.

[00:42:56] No, disregard it directly. Going back to my internship that I had [00:43:00] a few years back, no matter how good the first idea was that I brought up, it would always get rejected. Maybe the first two ideas just to get into the practice of dive a little bit deeper into it, what comes out of it then.

[00:43:12] And most of the times, something much better comes out of it when you disregard that initial, that initial thought. But because, let's be honest, your brain also wants to make it easier for yourself so that first thought that you have when you want to create something, want to design something, chances are that thousands of others, also had that initial idea

[00:43:32] so you want to disregard that and you want to move on because not a lot of people do that. Actually. Not a lot of people disregard that first idea because it can feel very compelling but you have to let that go.

[00:43:43] Second thing that I would teach my own self is don't fall in love with your ideas. And especially that, those early ideas, right? Don't keep them for yourself. I made the big mistake in the beginning of my career of coming up with a concept completely creating [00:44:00] everything for it, worrying about the pixels and the exact color failure, stuff like that before presenting it for a then to hear , this was not what we were looking for, right?

[00:44:08] This is not going to work. Um, then it can be very hard for you to, to move on and to, uh, start iterating on it, right? So, Not falling in love with ideas, I think is a hard one, but a really good one to keep in mind while you're creating something. Um, yeah, I think those are the, the first two steps I would, I would say, uh, are, are pretty important.

[00:44:30] Um, third one for me is don't obsess over the tool. Tools are changing, especially now. We see new tools pop up every few months and I feel like it's going faster and faster. I for example, started with Photoshop and Illustrator, right? Designing in there. And then we had Sketch, but I've been, I've been designing for, for Photoshop, but five to seven years.

[00:44:53] And then Sketch came and I used that for two years and then I switched to Figma, right?

[00:44:58] And then [00:45:00] we've got Framer and all of these new tools coming in, and I feel like that's a trend that just keeps on going right where we are, just. Shifting between the tools.

[00:45:08] So instead of becoming the true expert in that tool, for me personally it will be more worth time to invest your time in becoming stronger creatively.

[00:45:20] Because when you're strong in a creative sense you can be very good in executing something on a technical level. But I think in the end, especially with the rise of ai, true creativity will prevail because AI will probably take a lot of those mundane technical tasks away from us. Whereas the thing that keeps, valuable in my opinion is that creativity and the power that we have as humans combining those different concepts,

[00:45:48] Ridd: What about now? If you look at your current skillset, what's the main area that you think you can improve in the most?

[00:45:59] Fons: Oh, that's a [00:46:00] good question.

[00:46:12] Let me have a thing.

[00:46:13] Ridd: No, you're good. Says a lot about how you view your current skillset.

[00:46:20] Fons: Yeah. Oh man. I think, something for me it's a little bit difficult to get a little bit carried away by the creative process. Right? You've got these big ideas on how to achieve a certain feeling or a concept, but then also being able to execute on that right, on a, on a high quality can be quite difficult.

[00:46:46] So for me, finding that balance because sometimes I don't have the technical background in how to actually execute it. So I always need that counterweight when I'm working, I always work together with a developer or someone that is very skilled in, [00:47:00] let's say, building framer sites or knows the nitty gritty of Figma to actually pull me back and be like, Hey, you know, great idea, but that would take months or that's not even possible, right?

[00:47:09] So I think having that balance is important as well.

[00:47:14] Ridd: What's something that you believe about design that you think a lot of other designers might disagree with?

[00:47:24] Fons: That's a great question. For me, design is definitely how something looks. I love to work with designers who get that as well, where visual design or how something looks and feels is not an afterthought. It is actually a constant throughout the entire process, even when presenting or showing a Figma file.

[00:47:44] I think that's where you make the difference as a designer

[00:47:47] how do I present and communicate my ideas but I think we are also as humans drawn to stuff that feels polished, that feels like someone put care into them,

[00:47:58] let's say you've got a product and it [00:48:00] kind of works, but it's the branding is on point, right? And it feels polished, then you can get away with it. I feel like it can make up for those remaining percentages. So I think, yeah, not a lot of designs I think would agree with me, but for me it's definitely about how it, how it looks and feels.

[00:48:16] Ridd: What's something that you're working on right now that has you particularly excited?

[00:48:20] Fons: I'm starting off grid, which is a new inspiration platform because the question about inspiration is something that I hear a lot. So what I set out to do is to create a new platform that's focused on sharing inspiration that is not shared a thousand times already. So to share those gems with designers in product design.

[00:48:40] Also showing them that there's a whole space of design outside of product design. And I feel like that's something that's being forgotten a lot of the time when we talk about design, people assume that it's about product design, but we've got industrial design, graphic design type design. There's a lot of different skill sets outside of product design as well. And I think [00:49:00] merging those right, and having that cross pollination between them is the best thing for, for design. So that's, yeah, that's something that I set out to do and I'm really excited to get that going.

[00:49:09] Ridd: Where could people find that? Cuz I'm subscribed and I can't wait to plug into more of Fons' inputs.

[00:49:17] Fons: Yeah, definitely. So, uh, definitely follow us on Twitter right after a design. The first newsletter will go out, um, this month as well. We will be talking with the creators behind those projects Right. And talking with them on Okay, what was your journey to get here? And, um, how do you go about, you know, creating the stuff that you're creating?

[00:49:39] So, yeah, I'm really excited about that.

[00:49:42] Ridd: What's the project that you've worked on over the last year or so that has challenged you the most?

[00:49:47] Fons: Yeah, the projects that changed me the most were the projects that I took on too quickly without considering if it was a nice fit for me as a designer. Right. I had a quick rise on [00:50:00] Twitter and with the Creek Rice also came a lot of projects, um, and. I've gotta be honest, in the beginning I said yes to almost everything that I initially thought of, oh, that, that sounds cool, right?

[00:50:15] Um, but it also meant that I took on a lot of projects that needed a skillset set that was not my strongest point. So, for example, building rather complex landing pages with a lot of interactions and small stuff, you know, the kind of things that I talked about earlier that are not my strong point, right?

[00:50:32] That really needed someone to get into the tool and, um, flush it out, um, in a, in a very high quality manner. Um, so I've been more selective lately on the projects that I take on, right? Um, and working with together with others who can actually execute on some of those more technical aspects.

How to expand your range as a designer

[00:50:55] Ridd: One final question. I wanna start making deep dives more practical so [00:51:00] that listeners can come away with at least one next step. So what is a challenge that you would give to ambitious designers who want to take the next step to improve their visual skills and maybe their creativity even?

[00:51:15] Fons: Yeah, A great first step would be, I think there's kind of a negative aura around recreating work from others, right or copying work from others. But I would say that's the best thing you can do. If you like linear, take a screen grab and recreate it. You don't have to recreate the entire thing, but recreate the elements that you like. Because by recreating, you learn to understand how something was created and you add it to your skillset and the more you recreate the broader your range becomes. And I call it this your, your creative range when you start it as a designer, your creative range is very limited, the stuff that you can actually create is pretty simple, but if you recreate a [00:52:00] lot, you expand that. And the more different things you can create, that also means that you can combine those different ideas to come up with your own style. So I would say try to recreate as much as possible, not for the sake of publishing that, but to train that creative muscle and to expand your range as a designer.

[00:52:19] Ridd: I love that. Well, Fonz, this has been awesome. I hope that people have learned a lot. I know that I have. Before we go, can you just tell listeners where they can find you online and anything else that you want to share about this is your time.

[00:52:32] Fons: Yeah. Awesome. So luckily I've quite a distinctive name, so you can find me at Forms Mans right on Twitter, on LinkedIn. Um, follow me there. Um, I've got quite a bunch of interesting projects coming up, so, um, yeah, happy to see you there.

[00:52:45] Ridd: Awesome. Thanks Fons.

[00:52:47] Fons: Thanks, Ridd.

How to expand your range as a designer

[00:50:55] Ridd: One final question. I wanna start making deep dives more practical so [00:51:00] that listeners can come away with at least one next step. So what is a challenge that you would give to ambitious designers who want to take the next step to improve their visual skills and maybe their creativity even?

[00:51:15] Fons: Yeah, A great first step would be, I think there's kind of a negative aura around recreating work from others, right or copying work from others. But I would say that's the best thing you can do. If you like linear, take a screen grab and recreate it. You don't have to recreate the entire thing, but recreate the elements that you like. Because by recreating, you learn to understand how something was created and you add it to your skillset and the more you recreate the broader your range becomes. And I call it this your, your creative range when you start it as a designer, your creative range is very limited, the stuff that you can actually create is pretty simple, but if you recreate a [00:52:00] lot, you expand that. And the more different things you can create, that also means that you can combine those different ideas to come up with your own style. So I would say try to recreate as much as possible, not for the sake of publishing that, but to train that creative muscle and to expand your range as a designer.

[00:52:19] Ridd: I love that. Well, Fonz, this has been awesome. I hope that people have learned a lot. I know that I have. Before we go, can you just tell listeners where they can find you online and anything else that you want to share about this is your time.

[00:52:32] Fons: Yeah. Awesome. So luckily I've quite a distinctive name, so you can find me at Forms Mans right on Twitter, on LinkedIn. Um, follow me there. Um, I've got quite a bunch of interesting projects coming up, so, um, yeah, happy to see you there.

[00:52:45] Ridd: Awesome. Thanks Fons.

[00:52:47] Fons: Thanks, Ridd.

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