The Clarity 2023 event site was just launched and folks visiting may notice that I’ve been chosen to speak at the event. In the following thoughts I’ll attempt to describe why I believe this to be one of my most important achievements in my lifetime and express my deepest thanks for the upcoming opportunity.
I’ve been a part of a large, worldwide, internet-based communities in the past. The Dance Dance Revolution (DDR) community found at DDRFreak was said to be one of the top ten largest phpbb forums at its peak. During my time there I was one of the most frequent users with over 14,000 responses across the forums. Eventually the moderators took notice of my helpfulness in the DDR Simulators forum; which aligned with my interest in custom charts at the time and made me a moderator of that forum; and later the New York forum. I introduced a “contributor” status which helped users add content to the site after moderator review. I was also heavily involved in planning DDR tournaments in the New York area; including the DigitalLife event held at the Jacob Javits Center in New York City for 4 years.
I mention this because I become obsessed with the community that I’m included within, and it shows. I love sharing ideas which improve our collective interests. I love helping people find the answers they need in areas where we’ve struggled previously. Talking to people without having to ramp them up with additional context get to the root of the concept more quickly, and answers are more considerate when topical.
With the decline of arcades, the DDR community has since transformed into something different that my old body simply cannot keep up with. I still play for fun and exercise and high recommend it if you’ve never tried. I thank the moderators and DDR community at large for the opportunity to play such a significant role in leading discussions and events over those years giving me the experience to lead future communities.
I returned to college in 2012, after dropping out ten years earlier. One of the courses I was taking was meant to emulate a production studio. One of the facets of the course was to spread the word about the shows we were producing. I had experience building websites, so I took it upon myself to design and code the first version. One of the adjunct professors who was brought in was the founder of a media company and suggested that more people are watching on their smartphones. This meant that the site would need to be redesigned with this in mind.
This was my lightbulb and set me on my career path. The challenge that came with figuring out how to make content accessible to as many people as possible was engaging for me. I’ve always loved complex problems and attempting to create a solution which was as aethetically pleasing as it was usable kept me deeply occupied in the practice.
I thank George Weiner who introduced me to responsive design.
Thinking in systems
I’ve written about my time as a UX Engineer before but, this is where I found the practice of designing systematically. In previous roles, I was in complete control of the look of the website. This was the first time where the experience of the product is separated by its features and in order to maintain a consistent appearance for users; a system of reusable design would emerge. I went on to learn more about the practice of the design systems here; soaking in all the information I could and learning from the folks who came before.
It was at this time that I attended my first Clarity conference in 2018. It was an incredible event with all of these folks facing the same challenges that I was. I knew these were my people. There’s truly too many people to thank here, and I continue to learn from this community everyday.
Since being involved in the community I’ve been exploring solutions for systematic design strategies; how might designers communicate intention in ways past semantic tokens. This has taken me to write works such as Gridless Design and Complementary Space which aim to understand the reason why we make design decisions and how to break traditions for the sake of scalable, inclusive needs.
In 2022, UXDX asked me to speak on design systems at their annual UXDX conference in New York. This was the first time I was recognized outside my community as an expert in design systems. I thank their team for the opportunity and I highly recommend their conference.
Since then I’ve been on a few podcasts: the Design System Social Club, UX Untamed, the Design Systems Podcast, the Design Systems Field Guide, and Fuego UX. All of these have been engaging discussions about design systems in real time and I thank all of these folks for inviting me on their shows.
I’m looking forward to my first synchronous presentation about design systems at DSW Day online. I thank Maria Eguiluz for inviting me, for hosting DSW events for the past few years online and for an absolutely stunning post highlighting some of my achievements.
As mentioned at the top of this entry, I’m more than excited to be on stage at Clarity this year and want to thank Jina for the opportunity. It is at this point I feel like a true expert in this field that I devote so much effort to, able to sit at the table with folks I’ve looked to years ago.
I most certainly need to thank my family for giving me the runway to have an art-adjacent career. Dropping out of college can be a concerning decision for parents but ultimately a path that put me where I needed to be. They still don’t understand what I do but that’s ok. They see the passion and that I’m living well on the results.
Finally, I thank my wife Jen for her support; the first to hear my convoluted design theories before they are fully-baked. While some folks don’t want to take their work home with them; I’m so incredibly luckily to be living in a design systems house.