Season 4

|

Episode 1

Training your creative muscles

Soren Iverson

Satirical meme lord

Dec 21, 2023

Dec 21, 2023

|

37 min

37 min

music by Dennis

About this Episode

If you’ve opened Twitter in the last year then you’re definitely familiar with Soren Iverson’s satirical designs like Uber Hotbox and the iMessage typing indicator. So in this episode we get an inside look at his process and lessons he’s learned throughout his career:

  • How he overcomes creative blocks

  • Strategies for being consistent

  • What it was like collaborating with Duolingo

  • How to jumpstart your network online

  • Tactics for growing your product sense

  • Why Soren is learning to code

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Lauren LoPrete

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Femke

Design Lead @ Gusto

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Deep Dives

Get our weekly breakdowns

Insights + resources from top designers 👇

Lauren LoPrete

Director of Design Systems @ Cash App

David Hoang

VP of Marketing and Design @ Replit

Adrien Griveau

Founding Designer @ Linear

James McDonald

Designer @ Clerk

Femke

Design Lead @ Gusto

Join 10K+ designers

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Transcript chapters

Introduction

[00:00:00] so I had been posting stuff pretty regularly for, I want to say four or five months and I had a lot of startups that had reached out about doing collab posts or sponsored posts. And the interesting thing about my content is the level of reaction and the funniness is contingent on your understanding with the underlying platform.

So if you have a niche crypto startup that you're making satirical designs of, it's going to be a head scratcher for most people on the timeline. But Duolingo reached out first. I thought like, there's no way this is legit. Like this, this can't be people that work at Duolingo. And then they did. So that was really exciting.

I spoke with them a little bit. It's an interesting project because at the end of the day, it's really just a sponsored post, but. You're also trying to figure out how to price ideation as a service. And so we ended up landing on basically creating more ideas [00:01:00] than would end up being publicly posted. I will never forget this.

It was the only client that I've ever shown work to, and they liked the work, but they asked in the second round, could this be more unhinged? Not a normal thing that you ask for, but I think duolingo, it's interesting. You look at their, their Tik Tok presence, their Instagram presence, they are pretty out there.

They've got the bird twerking in public, stuff like that. So, we ended up landing on a few different concepts, one of which was the duolingo option to serve and translate divorce papers. And we had scheduled that to be posted on a different date. And then what ended up happening was Trudeau and his partner announced their separation.

And so Duolingo capitalized on that I think I had sent them that image like a couple days before and it just blew up. So that was really, it was really fun seeing the payoff there, both in terms of [00:02:00] engagement for them. And then I was really nervous when I posted it because I'm very careful about doing sponsored content in general and I posted that and disclosed that it was and people were Overall very positive about the collaboration.

So it was a really fun engagement and There are many other Concepts that are in the graveyard from that project that may never see the light of day, which is a bit sad but part of the process

Introduction

[00:00:00] so I had been posting stuff pretty regularly for, I want to say four or five months and I had a lot of startups that had reached out about doing collab posts or sponsored posts. And the interesting thing about my content is the level of reaction and the funniness is contingent on your understanding with the underlying platform.

So if you have a niche crypto startup that you're making satirical designs of, it's going to be a head scratcher for most people on the timeline. But Duolingo reached out first. I thought like, there's no way this is legit. Like this, this can't be people that work at Duolingo. And then they did. So that was really exciting.

I spoke with them a little bit. It's an interesting project because at the end of the day, it's really just a sponsored post, but. You're also trying to figure out how to price ideation as a service. And so we ended up landing on basically creating more ideas [00:01:00] than would end up being publicly posted. I will never forget this.

It was the only client that I've ever shown work to, and they liked the work, but they asked in the second round, could this be more unhinged? Not a normal thing that you ask for, but I think duolingo, it's interesting. You look at their, their Tik Tok presence, their Instagram presence, they are pretty out there.

They've got the bird twerking in public, stuff like that. So, we ended up landing on a few different concepts, one of which was the duolingo option to serve and translate divorce papers. And we had scheduled that to be posted on a different date. And then what ended up happening was Trudeau and his partner announced their separation.

And so Duolingo capitalized on that I think I had sent them that image like a couple days before and it just blew up. So that was really, it was really fun seeing the payoff there, both in terms of [00:02:00] engagement for them. And then I was really nervous when I posted it because I'm very careful about doing sponsored content in general and I posted that and disclosed that it was and people were Overall very positive about the collaboration.

So it was a really fun engagement and There are many other Concepts that are in the graveyard from that project that may never see the light of day, which is a bit sad but part of the process

Soren's creative process

Can you go a little bit deeper on what that process looks like? Like specifically the ideation. Part, because I would imagine you probably

Yeah

bit more pressure than normal because you're not just doing it for yourself. It's all of a sudden part of this agreement where you're expected to perform and you want to perform well.

So like, how did you tackle that ideation process for Duolingo?

Yeah, I think because I do this every day and I give myself a little bit more leeway, the litmus test is usually does it at least make me kind of breathe through my nose, laugh when I look at it. I think with the [00:03:00] Duolingo stuff, I actually at first had a little freak out where I'm like, Oh man, this really has to be funny.

And then I saw someone asked about like how do you overcome creative block and this might not be a very popular answer, but I usually just brute force it. And time constraints and really not allowing yourself to spiral on stuff is the most effective way for me. And then just making something, even though the first version is probably going to be bad.

So with the Duolingo stuff, I had had a couple like very loose ideas of what to do, but they were pretty tame. And so I made those and then I started using the app more regularly. And then as I used the app more, it became more clear like patterns that could be subverted. Like, for example, the, the loader screen, right?

Like the bird pops up and you have his eyes. And I was like, what if he was. Hi. And so like you take the eyes and make them kind of red. [00:04:00] Um, and then also a big unlock was early on a lot of what I did was combining kind of just two apps and like mashing them together. really what you're doing is two ecosystems are colliding, two product ecosystems.

And I had the idea of Duolingo Bird or Duo. Being a sentient entity that like escapes the app and then once like iOS as a whole became duos playground, I think there are a lot more opportunities for it to do really interesting things. but I think back to the original, like, what did that process look like?

It was really forcing myself to just get into the work, being okay with the first couple of rounds to myself internally, not being great. The phrase, like, gotta crack a couple of eggs to make an omelette is very real. So, it's easy to spend time thinking about and worrying about the work, and I've found that instead of letting myself get stuck there, just doing it and getting the bad stuff out of my [00:05:00] system on paper is often very helpful in overcoming that initial block and getting to the point where the work is good.

Soren's creative process

Can you go a little bit deeper on what that process looks like? Like specifically the ideation. Part, because I would imagine you probably

Yeah

bit more pressure than normal because you're not just doing it for yourself. It's all of a sudden part of this agreement where you're expected to perform and you want to perform well.

So like, how did you tackle that ideation process for Duolingo?

Yeah, I think because I do this every day and I give myself a little bit more leeway, the litmus test is usually does it at least make me kind of breathe through my nose, laugh when I look at it. I think with the [00:03:00] Duolingo stuff, I actually at first had a little freak out where I'm like, Oh man, this really has to be funny.

And then I saw someone asked about like how do you overcome creative block and this might not be a very popular answer, but I usually just brute force it. And time constraints and really not allowing yourself to spiral on stuff is the most effective way for me. And then just making something, even though the first version is probably going to be bad.

So with the Duolingo stuff, I had had a couple like very loose ideas of what to do, but they were pretty tame. And so I made those and then I started using the app more regularly. And then as I used the app more, it became more clear like patterns that could be subverted. Like, for example, the, the loader screen, right?

Like the bird pops up and you have his eyes. And I was like, what if he was. Hi. And so like you take the eyes and make them kind of red. [00:04:00] Um, and then also a big unlock was early on a lot of what I did was combining kind of just two apps and like mashing them together. really what you're doing is two ecosystems are colliding, two product ecosystems.

And I had the idea of Duolingo Bird or Duo. Being a sentient entity that like escapes the app and then once like iOS as a whole became duos playground, I think there are a lot more opportunities for it to do really interesting things. but I think back to the original, like, what did that process look like?

It was really forcing myself to just get into the work, being okay with the first couple of rounds to myself internally, not being great. The phrase, like, gotta crack a couple of eggs to make an omelette is very real. So, it's easy to spend time thinking about and worrying about the work, and I've found that instead of letting myself get stuck there, just doing it and getting the bad stuff out of my [00:05:00] system on paper is often very helpful in overcoming that initial block and getting to the point where the work is good.

Uber Hot Box story

So one of my favorite posts that you've done is the. Uber hotbox and I went back to look at it and I noticed that you had to clarify that it was in fact satire Almost two weeks after posting which is pretty unlike you. So is there a story there?

if I post something and it goes viral within my own network, it will get a lot of engagement. But there are moments where I post something and it gets picked up.

a presence on the internet with a really large footprint with an audience that doesn't understand me at all. it was either wall street bets or grape juice boys found that post and then they just cropped all of the tweet details out of it and just made it, it looked like it was the UI for Uber, right?

So they posted that and then it got posted on Reddit and then it got posted all over Twitter So My friend sent me an article and it was a fact check notice from [00:06:00] Reuters. So it said, if you Google Uber hot box option, it says, no, Uber is not offering a hot box option, which I try to be overly unhinged with the subcopy. So I think it says riders that are down with the devil's lettuce or something like that, which like no one would ever say that. But I had a moment of panic. I was like, am I going to get a cease and desist from Uber? Like what's going to happen? And I talked, I talked with a friend of mine who's a lawyer and he was like.

It's satire. It's a protected thing under this version. So, I was less worried then, but it also wasn't super clear that it was satire. So I was like, if I denote that it's satire, so then I did. and then people were like, of course this is satire. I'm like, I know, you know, a lot of people don't know. And still to this day, when I post on X, Twitter, whatever.

When I post there, people know that it's satire. When I post on threads, most people don't know that it's satire. So the [00:07:00] Tinder bald prediction, people thought that was real and people got

really mad. So,

it's interesting when you're deep in a discipline, you make a lot of assumptions about what people know and don't know.

I think the same is true of design, right? It's very easy to. Not put yourself in the shoes of the customer when you're building something and jump to a lot of conclusions that wouldn't necessarily be true.

Uber Hot Box story

So one of my favorite posts that you've done is the. Uber hotbox and I went back to look at it and I noticed that you had to clarify that it was in fact satire Almost two weeks after posting which is pretty unlike you. So is there a story there?

if I post something and it goes viral within my own network, it will get a lot of engagement. But there are moments where I post something and it gets picked up.

a presence on the internet with a really large footprint with an audience that doesn't understand me at all. it was either wall street bets or grape juice boys found that post and then they just cropped all of the tweet details out of it and just made it, it looked like it was the UI for Uber, right?

So they posted that and then it got posted on Reddit and then it got posted all over Twitter So My friend sent me an article and it was a fact check notice from [00:06:00] Reuters. So it said, if you Google Uber hot box option, it says, no, Uber is not offering a hot box option, which I try to be overly unhinged with the subcopy. So I think it says riders that are down with the devil's lettuce or something like that, which like no one would ever say that. But I had a moment of panic. I was like, am I going to get a cease and desist from Uber? Like what's going to happen? And I talked, I talked with a friend of mine who's a lawyer and he was like.

It's satire. It's a protected thing under this version. So, I was less worried then, but it also wasn't super clear that it was satire. So I was like, if I denote that it's satire, so then I did. and then people were like, of course this is satire. I'm like, I know, you know, a lot of people don't know. And still to this day, when I post on X, Twitter, whatever.

When I post there, people know that it's satire. When I post on threads, most people don't know that it's satire. So the [00:07:00] Tinder bald prediction, people thought that was real and people got

really mad. So,

it's interesting when you're deep in a discipline, you make a lot of assumptions about what people know and don't know.

I think the same is true of design, right? It's very easy to. Not put yourself in the shoes of the customer when you're building something and jump to a lot of conclusions that wouldn't necessarily be true.

Strategies for audience building for designers

I think it's obvious that like not everyone listening to this episode is going to go viral and build this massive audience, but there definitely is an uptick. designers that I've noticed around, just like this desire to start building distribution for their ideas and getting noticed on social.

So we reverse engineer your success a little bit do you think you're doing at a higher level that other designers can look at and try to emulate

I think there are a few things. I think one is[00:08:00] I combined two distinct genres of content in a novel way, a semi novel way. I think you, a long time ago, you would see very like lo fi UI memes, but I, as far as I know, was the first person to really do that in a humorous context on a consistent basis.

Doing that, where you kind of identify either a topic and a sub niche or two genres, i. e. design comedy, and then you mix those in a novel way, you're kind of refusing to play the game that everyone is playing, whether that's being a thought leader or like posting visual work. And there's nothing wrong with either of those things.

But I think that was a large part of my success. I believe if I had to break it down into kind of trying to distill advice to someone, I think. Being consistent is very difficult, and I see a lot of people that will decide that they want [00:09:00] to build something or increase their distribution, and they'll do it for a couple weeks maybe, but it really takes consistent effort for months to see kind of outsized returns, and it's, it's hard to have that self discipline.

Especially with designers perfectionism, right? Having everything need to be absolutely perfect. I've posted stuff with typos I've posted stuff with incorrect captions I've sent out emails to 5, 000 people that had the wrong content and it's like you're gonna make mistakes and I think In my case actually when there are typos, I've realized people will just correct them and like I think this is just free engagement, right?

and then Also some people aren't even at the point where they feel like they would be able to grow their own audience, right? Because I have no audience. And I think the way to start from there is to build a community of people that will support you. The lowest possible version of this is the, the people that are just going to tell you to like reply to people's stuff.

And it's like, people are not robots. Like you're [00:10:00] going to meet these people in person, maybe one day at a conference. So I think. Strategically building relationships and providing value to those people. I look at like Alex, uh, who I think he's a designer at gather now, but he, he did that framer tool.

I can't remember what

it's called off the top of my head, overrides, right? He started, I don't think he had more than a hundred followers at the beginning of the year, but he's been really consistent. He, Has provided a ton of value, and I think he's done a really good job of building relationships with designers that are, have a larger distribution set than him.

And I think also the idea of having a large following does not necessarily correlate to higher value. So if you're building distribution. If I can turn back time, thinking about who you want to distribute to should directly influence the type of content that you want to create, right? [00:11:00] So if you're wanting to distribute to other designers, the content would look very different than if you want to gain distribution to businesses that need design help.

And that would look very different than building an audience of people that just like comedy, right? So, I think. Being thoughtful about your audience, being consistent, and ideally trying to find a way to change the game that is being played, right? I think there are only so many thought leaders that can thought lead.

and I think some people differentiate themselves through visual design skills. And then, I don't know, I think life's too short to try to like do someone else's thing. I think just like being you and bringing whatever unique. Um, skill sets and life experiences you have to the table is, is a really good way to do it.

Strategies for audience building for designers

I think it's obvious that like not everyone listening to this episode is going to go viral and build this massive audience, but there definitely is an uptick. designers that I've noticed around, just like this desire to start building distribution for their ideas and getting noticed on social.

So we reverse engineer your success a little bit do you think you're doing at a higher level that other designers can look at and try to emulate

I think there are a few things. I think one is[00:08:00] I combined two distinct genres of content in a novel way, a semi novel way. I think you, a long time ago, you would see very like lo fi UI memes, but I, as far as I know, was the first person to really do that in a humorous context on a consistent basis.

Doing that, where you kind of identify either a topic and a sub niche or two genres, i. e. design comedy, and then you mix those in a novel way, you're kind of refusing to play the game that everyone is playing, whether that's being a thought leader or like posting visual work. And there's nothing wrong with either of those things.

But I think that was a large part of my success. I believe if I had to break it down into kind of trying to distill advice to someone, I think. Being consistent is very difficult, and I see a lot of people that will decide that they want [00:09:00] to build something or increase their distribution, and they'll do it for a couple weeks maybe, but it really takes consistent effort for months to see kind of outsized returns, and it's, it's hard to have that self discipline.

Especially with designers perfectionism, right? Having everything need to be absolutely perfect. I've posted stuff with typos I've posted stuff with incorrect captions I've sent out emails to 5, 000 people that had the wrong content and it's like you're gonna make mistakes and I think In my case actually when there are typos, I've realized people will just correct them and like I think this is just free engagement, right?

and then Also some people aren't even at the point where they feel like they would be able to grow their own audience, right? Because I have no audience. And I think the way to start from there is to build a community of people that will support you. The lowest possible version of this is the, the people that are just going to tell you to like reply to people's stuff.

And it's like, people are not robots. Like you're [00:10:00] going to meet these people in person, maybe one day at a conference. So I think. Strategically building relationships and providing value to those people. I look at like Alex, uh, who I think he's a designer at gather now, but he, he did that framer tool.

I can't remember what

it's called off the top of my head, overrides, right? He started, I don't think he had more than a hundred followers at the beginning of the year, but he's been really consistent. He, Has provided a ton of value, and I think he's done a really good job of building relationships with designers that are, have a larger distribution set than him.

And I think also the idea of having a large following does not necessarily correlate to higher value. So if you're building distribution. If I can turn back time, thinking about who you want to distribute to should directly influence the type of content that you want to create, right? [00:11:00] So if you're wanting to distribute to other designers, the content would look very different than if you want to gain distribution to businesses that need design help.

And that would look very different than building an audience of people that just like comedy, right? So, I think. Being thoughtful about your audience, being consistent, and ideally trying to find a way to change the game that is being played, right? I think there are only so many thought leaders that can thought lead.

and I think some people differentiate themselves through visual design skills. And then, I don't know, I think life's too short to try to like do someone else's thing. I think just like being you and bringing whatever unique. Um, skill sets and life experiences you have to the table is, is a really good way to do it.

How to jumpstart your network online

I like this idea of. Kind of evaluating what you think your unique intersection of skills and interests are and trying to be the best at that intersection point rather than like the best visual designer [00:12:00] in a sea of really, really talented visual designers. also think you do hear this build relationships phrase pretty frequently.

And sometimes it's like, okay, yeah, I need to go out and build relationships. And then you wake up on Monday morning and it's like, oh, okay. Now what does this actually look like? You know, so can we drill into that a little bit more? Like As someone that is listening and maybe has like a hundred followers on Twitter that just really wants to get more plugged in and connect with people.

What are some strategies that you would consider using to kind of jumpstart that initial network?

Yeah. So I think one thing that I see a lot of people that are starting their career out doing is they don't have a ton to quote unquote give. But what ends up happening is it becomes a lot of kind of transactional relationships. It's like, Hey, can you review my portfolio? Hey, can you, can you mentor me?

There's nothing, there's nothing wrong with that. And I understand, especially for people entering the market, it's a tough market right now, but I think looking at someone [00:13:00] like Alex, cause I think I started interacting with him when he only had like a couple thousand or like a thousand followers. And it was largely because he was doing really interesting work and Was engaging publicly with people.

And then I think at some point we started DMing. I don't know if he didn't DM me or I DM him, but I look at the, people that do DM me that I'm like, Oh, this is worth responding to. The bar is actually really low. I think people that go out of their way to find or curate interesting things, or if they.

have really thoughtful questions. I think there are a lot of people who are very smart and articulate and have good ideas, but I think a lot of people like that tend to overthink things and that can often result in an aversion to for lack of a better word, like vomiting your thoughts [00:14:00] onto the timeline.

Cause like, I, I think I, I used to be like this too. It's like, I was so just like scared of like posting anything. I think once I stopped overthinking it, it was a really helpful way for me to kind of put myself out there. Cause, that was a large part of the unlock for me is realizing like the person that's thinking most about the thing that you're doing is definitely you.

so back to the original question, tactical strategies, I would say are if there's someone that you look up to and admire and you have something that you can bring to the conversation, like you don't need to necessarily help them, but like maybe if you've found something that you think would be thought provoking, share that with them.

If you have a really thoughtful question, send that to them. I think those are the types of things that can begin relationships.

Is there a point in your journey where you made the shift from like, wouldn't this be funny and kind of throwing it out there to, [00:15:00] okay, there's something here do see the potential to invest in. And how has that switch evolved your process and how you think about the way you put your work out there and the way that you invest in this, , growth and network,

Initially the early, early concepts were me making fun of Spotify Wrapped and seeing like what would happen if you subverted that or extracted that pattern and put it into other products. And those are really quick one offs and they were fun and it was a nice kind of change of pace from serious work.

And then, in pretty quick succession, ChatGPT came out and so I started kind of thinking about what would happen if you extracted ChatGPT and put it into different product surfaces. And at that moment I realized, Oh, you can really take. seemingly unrelated products and you can smash them [00:16:00] together. Right? So I started doing that more and more and I just committed to myself to do it daily if I could.

And then after a couple of weeks I just thought I'm going to see how long I could run this thing. And I think now it's at a point where as a challenge to myself, I want to see if I can do it for 365 days. , it's been. Also, just a good way to train my creative and ideation muscles. Because if you force yourself to have to come up with something every day, it keeps you pretty sharp.

How to jumpstart your network online

I like this idea of. Kind of evaluating what you think your unique intersection of skills and interests are and trying to be the best at that intersection point rather than like the best visual designer [00:12:00] in a sea of really, really talented visual designers. also think you do hear this build relationships phrase pretty frequently.

And sometimes it's like, okay, yeah, I need to go out and build relationships. And then you wake up on Monday morning and it's like, oh, okay. Now what does this actually look like? You know, so can we drill into that a little bit more? Like As someone that is listening and maybe has like a hundred followers on Twitter that just really wants to get more plugged in and connect with people.

What are some strategies that you would consider using to kind of jumpstart that initial network?

Yeah. So I think one thing that I see a lot of people that are starting their career out doing is they don't have a ton to quote unquote give. But what ends up happening is it becomes a lot of kind of transactional relationships. It's like, Hey, can you review my portfolio? Hey, can you, can you mentor me?

There's nothing, there's nothing wrong with that. And I understand, especially for people entering the market, it's a tough market right now, but I think looking at someone [00:13:00] like Alex, cause I think I started interacting with him when he only had like a couple thousand or like a thousand followers. And it was largely because he was doing really interesting work and Was engaging publicly with people.

And then I think at some point we started DMing. I don't know if he didn't DM me or I DM him, but I look at the, people that do DM me that I'm like, Oh, this is worth responding to. The bar is actually really low. I think people that go out of their way to find or curate interesting things, or if they.

have really thoughtful questions. I think there are a lot of people who are very smart and articulate and have good ideas, but I think a lot of people like that tend to overthink things and that can often result in an aversion to for lack of a better word, like vomiting your thoughts [00:14:00] onto the timeline.

Cause like, I, I think I, I used to be like this too. It's like, I was so just like scared of like posting anything. I think once I stopped overthinking it, it was a really helpful way for me to kind of put myself out there. Cause, that was a large part of the unlock for me is realizing like the person that's thinking most about the thing that you're doing is definitely you.

so back to the original question, tactical strategies, I would say are if there's someone that you look up to and admire and you have something that you can bring to the conversation, like you don't need to necessarily help them, but like maybe if you've found something that you think would be thought provoking, share that with them.

If you have a really thoughtful question, send that to them. I think those are the types of things that can begin relationships.

Is there a point in your journey where you made the shift from like, wouldn't this be funny and kind of throwing it out there to, [00:15:00] okay, there's something here do see the potential to invest in. And how has that switch evolved your process and how you think about the way you put your work out there and the way that you invest in this, , growth and network,

Initially the early, early concepts were me making fun of Spotify Wrapped and seeing like what would happen if you subverted that or extracted that pattern and put it into other products. And those are really quick one offs and they were fun and it was a nice kind of change of pace from serious work.

And then, in pretty quick succession, ChatGPT came out and so I started kind of thinking about what would happen if you extracted ChatGPT and put it into different product surfaces. And at that moment I realized, Oh, you can really take. seemingly unrelated products and you can smash them [00:16:00] together. Right? So I started doing that more and more and I just committed to myself to do it daily if I could.

And then after a couple of weeks I just thought I'm going to see how long I could run this thing. And I think now it's at a point where as a challenge to myself, I want to see if I can do it for 365 days. , it's been. Also, just a good way to train my creative and ideation muscles. Because if you force yourself to have to come up with something every day, it keeps you pretty sharp.

How Soren has stayed consistent

You mentioned 365 days, you're like approaching that number, I think you're right around like three 50 now,

  1. 30 ish.

  2. Okay. We'll call it 330. When you look at this journey, these last 330 plus days, like what are some of the mechanisms that you've put in place to help yourself be consistent?

Because I think a lot of designers hear about the value of consistency, [00:17:00] but it is really hard to do. So what do you think people can learn from your journey and how you've been able to stay consistent?

If you tell yourself you're going to do something, hold yourself accountable to do it. I've had some pretty gnarly weeks with this. Like I'm in a band and we were on tour and I was designing concepts from the car at three in the morning to make sure that I like hit the 7 a. m.

deadline. Also, if you're doing a lot of things, the consistency actually becomes easier over time. So, when I started this process. I had no backlog of content, right? I had nothing to pull off of. I was kind of trying to cobble together concepts every day and about two or three months in, I realized that I had really crude visual systems that I could basically use to build new concepts, right?

So then it went from. Oh, I need to rebuild LinkedIn's entire feed to, Oh, I need to go find that concept in that [00:18:00] concept and like take these things and swap out these images and then add an illustration here. As you train the muscle, it becomes, you become more efficient and you'll learn where you find snags in the process.

And so I think for me, at least. The first month was really fun and energizing. And then month two and three was still a lot of work, so it started to feel like a slog. And then now I've gotten to the point where I kind of have the rhythm. I know what I'm doing. And it's become something that's just become a part of my, my daily routine.

Right. I think. It takes like 30 some days or some, I don't know if this is true. It takes 30 something days to build a habit, I think. Anyone that wants to be consistent, whether it's making sure you do spend time learning a new skill within design every day, whether it's making sure that you post on social every day.

Whether it's like working out every day, like it's just getting out and doing it.

How Soren has stayed consistent

You mentioned 365 days, you're like approaching that number, I think you're right around like three 50 now,

  1. 30 ish.

  2. Okay. We'll call it 330. When you look at this journey, these last 330 plus days, like what are some of the mechanisms that you've put in place to help yourself be consistent?

Because I think a lot of designers hear about the value of consistency, [00:17:00] but it is really hard to do. So what do you think people can learn from your journey and how you've been able to stay consistent?

If you tell yourself you're going to do something, hold yourself accountable to do it. I've had some pretty gnarly weeks with this. Like I'm in a band and we were on tour and I was designing concepts from the car at three in the morning to make sure that I like hit the 7 a. m.

deadline. Also, if you're doing a lot of things, the consistency actually becomes easier over time. So, when I started this process. I had no backlog of content, right? I had nothing to pull off of. I was kind of trying to cobble together concepts every day and about two or three months in, I realized that I had really crude visual systems that I could basically use to build new concepts, right?

So then it went from. Oh, I need to rebuild LinkedIn's entire feed to, Oh, I need to go find that concept in that [00:18:00] concept and like take these things and swap out these images and then add an illustration here. As you train the muscle, it becomes, you become more efficient and you'll learn where you find snags in the process.

And so I think for me, at least. The first month was really fun and energizing. And then month two and three was still a lot of work, so it started to feel like a slog. And then now I've gotten to the point where I kind of have the rhythm. I know what I'm doing. And it's become something that's just become a part of my, my daily routine.

Right. I think. It takes like 30 some days or some, I don't know if this is true. It takes 30 something days to build a habit, I think. Anyone that wants to be consistent, whether it's making sure you do spend time learning a new skill within design every day, whether it's making sure that you post on social every day.

Whether it's like working out every day, like it's just getting out and doing it.

The importance of writing

Something that I think [00:19:00] most people might not realize is that you're not just making these mock ups and then dumping them on Twitter with a little one liner, but you're actually sending them out in a newsletter where you have like a couple paragraphs where you're writing about the concept and what inspired it and how you approached it.

And that's a big part of what this consistency looks like as well. And then I was reading something that you wrote. A couple of years ago where you talked about the advice that you would give your younger self is to start writing. Can you talk about why and what that's unlocked in your own career?

IN university, typically, there's a lot of writing assignments, and it can feel like just writing for writing's sake, I look at the amount of people that I interact with on the internet, and the ability to thoughtfully articulate yourself while having a unique tone of voice is an art form, and it really benefits those people, and then on the other side, When you're working with people, particularly in a [00:20:00] remote context, you really need to be able to write well.

Similar to anything creative, the more you do it, the easier it becomes. And the more it helps you develop.

Your own tone of voice, your own style, I think also it becomes a permanent artifact of your thinking, right? And you can always revise your thinking later, but I think they're interesting milestones and things to look back on. It's like, Oh, I really said that like two years ago. I think documenting those things, even if you never shared them publicly, it's just a good way to process what's happening in your head.

It is.

The importance of writing

Something that I think [00:19:00] most people might not realize is that you're not just making these mock ups and then dumping them on Twitter with a little one liner, but you're actually sending them out in a newsletter where you have like a couple paragraphs where you're writing about the concept and what inspired it and how you approached it.

And that's a big part of what this consistency looks like as well. And then I was reading something that you wrote. A couple of years ago where you talked about the advice that you would give your younger self is to start writing. Can you talk about why and what that's unlocked in your own career?

IN university, typically, there's a lot of writing assignments, and it can feel like just writing for writing's sake, I look at the amount of people that I interact with on the internet, and the ability to thoughtfully articulate yourself while having a unique tone of voice is an art form, and it really benefits those people, and then on the other side, When you're working with people, particularly in a [00:20:00] remote context, you really need to be able to write well.

Similar to anything creative, the more you do it, the easier it becomes. And the more it helps you develop.

Your own tone of voice, your own style, I think also it becomes a permanent artifact of your thinking, right? And you can always revise your thinking later, but I think they're interesting milestones and things to look back on. It's like, Oh, I really said that like two years ago. I think documenting those things, even if you never shared them publicly, it's just a good way to process what's happening in your head.

It is.

Looking into the future

I was researching this episode, just trying to learn a little bit more about you. And it's interesting to know, like you were co founder of a payments products, and then you have a minor in business. And back in 2021, your favorite podcast was the Bloomberg masters in business podcast. So you obviously have like a little bit of business interest there.

And now you have this large platform, you've done the [00:21:00] book, you already have the plans for the second book when you kind of look into the future a bit further, like what are some of the other ways that experimenting or thinking about how to create new opportunities for yourself?

think in the short term, I'll be working on I think looking farther than that, I want to make sure that if I do create something that I charge money for, it has a really high level of utility and also has my kind of unique spin on it. I, I don't want to fall into a world where I'm, you know, making some sort of.

like course or framework that's super practical and doesn't have like my thumbprint on it. And I'm still trying to figure out what exactly that means in practice. Uh, I've been experimenting a little bit with actually just building applications. So I had like a walking battle royale app where there was a leaderboard and the leaderboard would reset every day.

I think that was a really good way to learn in public. Ultimately, I realized that.[00:22:00] To get that thing to a level where I'd be proud of it and would want to ship it I'm gonna need to work with an actual dev partner unless I want to scrap everything and just work on that all the time Which is not what I want to do But yeah, I think There are some like digital products that I'm looking at.

There are mobile applications that I'm looking at and then I also think it would be really fun if I had time and bandwidth, which we'll see. I want to make unhinged physical products, so I had the idea for like, a calendar where you literally have to touch grass every day, or, like the hamster water bottle feeders, but it's, like, for your desk, and it mounts, like, right up here, and then there's, like, the metal rod there, so you could just, like, use that to get water.

I, I, I like, I like the idea of What I've done digitally, like spilling over into the physical world. , there's a lot more logistics that go into that with manufacturers, but even as one offs, I think that could be really fun.

Looking into the future

I was researching this episode, just trying to learn a little bit more about you. And it's interesting to know, like you were co founder of a payments products, and then you have a minor in business. And back in 2021, your favorite podcast was the Bloomberg masters in business podcast. So you obviously have like a little bit of business interest there.

And now you have this large platform, you've done the [00:21:00] book, you already have the plans for the second book when you kind of look into the future a bit further, like what are some of the other ways that experimenting or thinking about how to create new opportunities for yourself?

think in the short term, I'll be working on I think looking farther than that, I want to make sure that if I do create something that I charge money for, it has a really high level of utility and also has my kind of unique spin on it. I, I don't want to fall into a world where I'm, you know, making some sort of.

like course or framework that's super practical and doesn't have like my thumbprint on it. And I'm still trying to figure out what exactly that means in practice. Uh, I've been experimenting a little bit with actually just building applications. So I had like a walking battle royale app where there was a leaderboard and the leaderboard would reset every day.

I think that was a really good way to learn in public. Ultimately, I realized that.[00:22:00] To get that thing to a level where I'd be proud of it and would want to ship it I'm gonna need to work with an actual dev partner unless I want to scrap everything and just work on that all the time Which is not what I want to do But yeah, I think There are some like digital products that I'm looking at.

There are mobile applications that I'm looking at and then I also think it would be really fun if I had time and bandwidth, which we'll see. I want to make unhinged physical products, so I had the idea for like, a calendar where you literally have to touch grass every day, or, like the hamster water bottle feeders, but it's, like, for your desk, and it mounts, like, right up here, and then there's, like, the metal rod there, so you could just, like, use that to get water.

I, I, I like, I like the idea of What I've done digitally, like spilling over into the physical world. , there's a lot more logistics that go into that with manufacturers, but even as one offs, I think that could be really fun.

Getting to know Soren

You mentioned the. I think a lot [00:23:00] of people know you as like the satirical design guy. And like, maybe that you also work at cash app or something like that. But, , what else do you want people to know about Soren Iverson and who you are?

yOu think about it in spheres, right? So anyone it's like, Oh, he's the guy that makes weird UI. And then I think you go a layer deeper and it's people are like, Oh, that's soaring it. He works at cash app. He's in this band. He does this stuff. And then I think there's a layer deeper, where people know me more personally.

It's just, layers of like intimacy, right? And so, I obviously can control what I do, and I've decided that I'm okay with the general public knowing me for one thing. But I think people that know me on a deeper level will See what it's like to work with me as an actual designer.

And I think the way that I've decided to show my work to the world demonstrates that I have one, a sense of humor, but I think there's also a, a signal that there's a pretty deep understanding of product thinking. [00:24:00] And that often leads to people reaching out about serious stuff. Right? I don't think they're mutually exclusive, and I think something that I had a hard time with for a long time is that the internet rewards myopic behavior.

So the more consistent in the type of content that you create, the more likely that you will gain distribution. The thing that I did not realize until this year is that even if you have If you have significant distribution for a certain thing, there will be a small subset of that distribution set that is more interested in you as a person.

And I think those relationships are the ones that are more interesting to, obviously for me to invest in. and I think people make the mistake of. Kind of staking their entire self worth on their internet [00:25:00] reputation, I think I've been in that headspace before and I know how bad it is for you, and so I just kind of hold it loosely.

I think, you know, the people who are close to me know who I am, and the people that have worked with me know what it's like to work with me, and then there's the world that knows me for funny stuff, and I think it's okay to have those be separate things.

Getting to know Soren

You mentioned the. I think a lot [00:23:00] of people know you as like the satirical design guy. And like, maybe that you also work at cash app or something like that. But, , what else do you want people to know about Soren Iverson and who you are?

yOu think about it in spheres, right? So anyone it's like, Oh, he's the guy that makes weird UI. And then I think you go a layer deeper and it's people are like, Oh, that's soaring it. He works at cash app. He's in this band. He does this stuff. And then I think there's a layer deeper, where people know me more personally.

It's just, layers of like intimacy, right? And so, I obviously can control what I do, and I've decided that I'm okay with the general public knowing me for one thing. But I think people that know me on a deeper level will See what it's like to work with me as an actual designer.

And I think the way that I've decided to show my work to the world demonstrates that I have one, a sense of humor, but I think there's also a, a signal that there's a pretty deep understanding of product thinking. [00:24:00] And that often leads to people reaching out about serious stuff. Right? I don't think they're mutually exclusive, and I think something that I had a hard time with for a long time is that the internet rewards myopic behavior.

So the more consistent in the type of content that you create, the more likely that you will gain distribution. The thing that I did not realize until this year is that even if you have If you have significant distribution for a certain thing, there will be a small subset of that distribution set that is more interested in you as a person.

And I think those relationships are the ones that are more interesting to, obviously for me to invest in. and I think people make the mistake of. Kind of staking their entire self worth on their internet [00:25:00] reputation, I think I've been in that headspace before and I know how bad it is for you, and so I just kind of hold it loosely.

I think, you know, the people who are close to me know who I am, and the people that have worked with me know what it's like to work with me, and then there's the world that knows me for funny stuff, and I think it's okay to have those be separate things.

Growing your product sense

You mentioned the product thinking part, which it definitely does stand out in your designs and also, You know, I've seen many, many comments of people being like, wow, you know, like this should totally be a real thing. And you talked about how you've kind of grown a little bit just by exposure to all of these apps on a consistent basis over the last year, but maybe even before 2023, what are some of the ways that you think you've been able to grow as a product thinker and kind of grow the muscle of what people would refer to as like product sense?

I think with products, there are a few tactical things, which is one, like Lenny's newsletter has infinite resources. I think two, [00:26:00] there is inspired by Marty Kagan, which is a really great book. I read that before I started at Square. I think there are kind of two things that I have learned from my time working with product at Cash and , at Square, I learned a lot about.

Using design as a way to paint a picture of the future and help align people towards that. So while you're still doing work on whatever your quarterly objectives are or the sprint that you're currently working on, you need to do that work and you need to do it well. But then I think also really Using PM as a thought partner and then showing them, here's what our product could look like in a year or two years or half a year.

I think showing people that you're thinking strategically about what the product can look like in the future and mapping that back to how it will help the business and how it will help the customer, I think will go a long way in being able to. Kind of insert your [00:27:00] influence with a product partner. And then I think also I've never had a PM be upset by trying to take work off their plate. Right? So you can insert yourself into the process of Product requirements, document creation, product strategy, and like really as a product designer, that is part of what you should be doing. And I think, those are muscles that I'm still training, right?

But I think all of those things have been, have played a role. And then also having my own things, you just have to learn because you're. Everything's kind of on fire all the time and you just need to, you need to make sure it works and you're, you have something that customers are using and you need to keep it alive in the short term and you need to figure out kind of like what you're building towards.

Growing your product sense

You mentioned the product thinking part, which it definitely does stand out in your designs and also, You know, I've seen many, many comments of people being like, wow, you know, like this should totally be a real thing. And you talked about how you've kind of grown a little bit just by exposure to all of these apps on a consistent basis over the last year, but maybe even before 2023, what are some of the ways that you think you've been able to grow as a product thinker and kind of grow the muscle of what people would refer to as like product sense?

I think with products, there are a few tactical things, which is one, like Lenny's newsletter has infinite resources. I think two, [00:26:00] there is inspired by Marty Kagan, which is a really great book. I read that before I started at Square. I think there are kind of two things that I have learned from my time working with product at Cash and , at Square, I learned a lot about.

Using design as a way to paint a picture of the future and help align people towards that. So while you're still doing work on whatever your quarterly objectives are or the sprint that you're currently working on, you need to do that work and you need to do it well. But then I think also really Using PM as a thought partner and then showing them, here's what our product could look like in a year or two years or half a year.

I think showing people that you're thinking strategically about what the product can look like in the future and mapping that back to how it will help the business and how it will help the customer, I think will go a long way in being able to. Kind of insert your [00:27:00] influence with a product partner. And then I think also I've never had a PM be upset by trying to take work off their plate. Right? So you can insert yourself into the process of Product requirements, document creation, product strategy, and like really as a product designer, that is part of what you should be doing. And I think, those are muscles that I'm still training, right?

But I think all of those things have been, have played a role. And then also having my own things, you just have to learn because you're. Everything's kind of on fire all the time and you just need to, you need to make sure it works and you're, you have something that customers are using and you need to keep it alive in the short term and you need to figure out kind of like what you're building towards.

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