I was born in San Francisco, but I grew up in Chicago. I started painting in high school and followed that passion to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. It's at art school that I discovered the internet just as it was becoming widely accessible. I began using the computer as a design tool. This lead to several years in the first "internet boom" and then over a decade in the music business as a web and print designer.
One of the most fulfilling periods in my career came during the 9 years I worked for the musician Prince starting with the Love4OneAnother.com project at the end of 1998. I led several web projects with him as we explored how an independent artist could use the Internet to reach their audience directly and establish a community without a record label. This led to the launch of the NPG Music Club in 2001. You should really read my article in the Washington Post about this groundbreaking online distribution hub Prince and I created. We provided new music, radio shows, and concert tickets directly to fans at a time when very few artists were taking full advantage of the Internet, and certainly not independently without any strings to the industry. Over 5 years we experimented with several formats and configurations, and we were rewarded with not only a strong and vibrant member community, but also a Webby Award in 2006 for Best Celebrity Site and Lifetime Achievement Webby for Prince.
During this time I also began to do all the creative work for Prince, including photo retouching, CD packages, tourbooks, merchandise, and all the promo and signage for his Las Vegas residency. Prince is always working, always planning his next project. It was demanding and exhilarating to be a part of that, even if we often worked on ideas just to see what would happen, without a specific end result in mind. There were times when we redid the same CD project 6 times over a year, and other times where we did something in a week and out it went to the world. It was a highly creative environment and a rare glimpse in to the working process of an exceptional artist.
Like the rest of the world, I was shocked when I found out Prince had passed away. Now more than ever, I am very grateful for the time I did have working with and getting to know this extraordinary figure. There will never be another like him, and I hope I can keep his memory alive by showcasing the accomplishments we made together.
In 2008 I took an opportunity to join Pearl Jam's organization in Seattle to work on updating pearljam.com and establishing a stronger social media presence, leading up the release of their Backspacer CD in 2009. I also got to work on two issues of their Deep fan magazine, doing all the layout and some fun creative designs, especially in the Ten Anniversary issue. Pearl Jam has a fantastic and dedicated staff in Seattle, and it's a great model for how a lot of band's should have their infrastructure.
I switched gears a bit and joined MIcrosoft in 2011 as a UX Designer focused on front-end prototyping in the Office 365 group. While this experience differs greatly from my years of experience in the entertainment industry, it has been a valuable learning experience that has expanded my range of skills, as well as familiarized me to the world of large corporate infrastructure. Microsoft is a unique and dynamic company to work for, and I have grown professionally in a very positive way as a result.
I've been painting for over 20 years and I've always been fascinated with concepts of identity. I visualize this through paintings of faces, often with bright, bold colors and markings. These characters represent a sort of virtual identity that might connect with societal or cultural facial patterns that link their identity to a larger movement. While not any specific culture, I like the idea of boldly displaying one's connection to either their community or their own personal definition of who they are. I paint in oils and I often wonder what place oil paintings have in our 21st century digital world.
This site is a taste of my work. I'm also a proud parent and a movie trivia expert. Please send me a message, I'd love to hear from you.
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What I'm listening to lately:
Spark Dating App
Come up with a compelling mobile app for dating that goes beyond superficial swiping, but retains the tactile fun of interaction.
For a project like this, I start with a lot of research. The main questions I want to answer are:
- What apps already exist in this space?
- What's working and what isn't working?
- Who is the market leader?
- Where is there a need that is not being met?
For dating apps, clearly Tinder has changed the paradigm. I found almost every dating app had moved in to the swiping interaction pattern, copying Tinder. But while this was exciting to users, it wasn't promoting real connection. Users were swiping without any real intention or results, and there was a lot of room for improvement for people who actually wanted a real connection.
I always start sketching ideas out on paper first. This gives me a quick way get out my initial thoughts and get a sense of what is going to work or not. Through several brainstorming sessions with our team, I was able to get a sense of what we wanted in the app and how the experience should be for the user. In this case, I tried a few layout ideas moving the user around the screen, keeping them at the center of the activity and focused around a radial navigation menu. The radial navigation is an easy-to-use menu that I think is fun to spin and allows an unlimited amount of menu options. I don't see many radial navigations out there in this space, and I thought it would be a great way to stand out.
For the dating app specifically, I wanted to have the user's picture and their potential matches on the same screen, to promote the idea of a couple. These two people pictured together visually reinforces connection. I landed on a layout with the user's profile pic and menu options along the bottom, and the potential match along the top with a menu of information. The middle would surface the information about the match.
Once I had a sketch I thought worked, I took it in to the program Balsamiq to sketch out more detail and the user flow. I was able to quickly sketch out what menu information would be at the bottom and top of the main screen. Plus I created a quick click-through to show the user flow to stakeholders. Through meetings around this rough clickthrough, I could get sign off from the team to move forward.
After Balsamiq, I took the design in to Adobe Illustrator to develop the structure of the app some more and how it was going to look in the final screens. I also wanted to show the gesture motion for each interaction model to get a sense of how it would animate on a device.
Taking the designs to the next level of itteration, I developed the designs using a combination of Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. I wanted the app to have a very curved and smooth design with some depth. This design separated it from what has become the standard square box and flat design that is found in almost every dating app out there. The warm, citrus colors also helped it stand out, and it made the app more inviting. Dating is an intimate experience and needs to be warm and welcoming. The user needs to feel safe and comfortable, and this design brings it home.
Final screens & Prototype:
After several refinements, I settled on this design. The user swipes the potential matches across the top. Their information is presented in 3 tabs that can also be expanded to fill the entire screen. The user can choose "Yes, Maybe, No" from their menu to potentially get a match or not. "Maybe" puts them on an editable list to come back to later. Hitting the icons along the bottom moves the Settings screen over from the left, and the Matches screen over from the right.
To really drive this home, I created all the assets for the app and put them in to a prototype using InVision. This prototype illustrated the animation used throughout the app as well as the interaction gestures needed to make it come alive. The prototype was acessessed through the phone and used to demostrate the app to stakeholders as well as for potential investors.
Another key part of the overall process is the User Study. We took the prototype in to small user study groups to research the reactions and get feedback. In our research, we found that for dating apps, it is the women's perspective that carries the most weight. The app needs to appeal to women or it won't be successful. The feedback we got was that the users loved the interaction and inviting nature of the app. The "Maybe" function took a little getting used to, but they could see the value.
At this point, the app is ready for beta!
Download a PDF of this case study.
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Pearl Jam iPhone App
Pearl Jam had a new album coming out. How can we connect with fans around the new album and give them a mobile fan experience?
Pearl Jam's new album was called Backspacer and featured artwork on the cover by Tom Tomorrow. The grid of nine images immediately jumped out at me as great potential screens for the app. Each grid piece would work as an individual screen for each section of the app.
Pearl Jam had what you might describe as a very "analog" vibe about them. Despite being an app on an iPhone, I wanted to bring in analog elements. I had a Flash audio player on the web site that mimiced an analog cassette tape player. I wanted to do something similar in the app, but this time the music player could be a vinyl record player. I'd never seen anything like that before and I thought it would be fun.
We broke down the Pearl Jam website and decided what needed to be in the app. It would function as a site on the go for the members of Pearl Jam's Ten Club. This was 2009, before the mobile web had really taken off. So giving the members access to the club on their phone was something that appealed to them. We also came up with a list of potential app-specific features to present to the band. Included in this list were the music player I mentioned earlier using a record player interface, digital lighters to wave at concerts, friend finders in the concert venues, a Pearl Jam karaoke feature, and more.
Pearl Jam approved what they liked and we went about mapping the app. We did not do a lot of sketching on this project because we had all agreed that the Backspacer artwork was perfect for the menu screens. It was really just a matter of how I would apply the UX to it in the app, which I would flesh out in Photoshop once we settled on everything.
We decided on 4 main sections - Music, Tour, Community and Goods. I mapped out what would be in each section and presented it to the band and management. We went back and forth on what the content would finally be. As I mentioned, there was a lot we were pulling from the member website to give the fans a way to connect to the site while out of their house.
Once I had the screens developed and the roadmap established, I walked through the app with the band to make it clear what was going to happen. I did not build out a prototype at this time, but normally that would be a big step in the process.
For the final screens, I chose to cut out the main cartoon element from each square image and overlay a solid color on the background. This helped reduce the visual noise and allow the menus to pop more. It also gave me and opportunity to have the cartoon elements animated and move across the screen in a subtle way. This gave it a little more pop and fun.
I gave my screens to the app developers and worked closely with their team to make sure the final app came out as we had specified. I was able to get beta versions on to phones to get final approval before pushing to the app store.
The vinyl music player made it in to the app and provided a unique way for fans to listen to songs. The record needle moved as the song played, and you could hold your finger down on the record and start and stop the music. As big advocates for buying vinyl records, this interface was definitely on brand for Pearl Jam.
The app was released in conjunction with the Backspacer CD in September 2009. Fans response was overwhelmingly positive as it really carried the brand and energy of Pearl Jam in to the mobile space.
Concept: Prince Streaming Service
When Prince released his last album exclusively on Tidal, I proposed an idea I've had for some time now.
Way back in 2000, digital music downloads were the new kid on the block taking down physical formats for global dominance of music revenue streams. As an independent artist who was not beholden to a record label, Prince decided to take advantage of this new format and create a vibrant online business centered on digital distribution of his latest music, going directly from the artist to the consumer through an independent download operation we ran together called the NPG Music Club. Through it's 5 year history, we experimented in many different ways and business models to strike the right balance between what the fans and the artist wanted from this service. Ultimately it came down to creating a solid community around the music and celebrating the freedom that comes from when the artist controls the distribution channel.
Now in 2015, streaming is the fast-growing revenue stream that is quickly about to surpass digital downloads as the dominant way people listen to their music. Spotify, Pandora, Deezer, Tidal and Apple Music are all in the game of attracting ears to their services offering up this concept of the "celestial jukebox," where every song you want is at your fingertips to listen to immediately on any device you have available. So if I was tasked with bringing back the concept of the NPG Music Club in 2015, how would I take advantage of this new paradigm?
I propose companies like Tidal offer a select group of musicians a "white label" service that they can offer directly to their fans (I'll use Tidal as the example but it applies to Apple and Spotify too). This artist-controlled "white label" service would work as an add-on under the umbrella of the larger Tidal service, taking advantage of it's existing subscriber base and infrastructure. The add-on service would cost subscribers an additional $.99/month on top of their regular subscription and this fee would go 100% to the artist on top of their existing payments for streams. For that extra $.99/month, the fan gets a unique branded experience with all that artist's own content, including regular exclusives like singles, albums, videos, concert performances, and curated playlists taking advantage of the music available throughout the Tidal service. With all that in addition to the full artist catalog, it provides a true 360 experience for the fan.
I see adding community sections as well where fans can communicate directly through the app, share photos, share their own playlists and discuss the music being distributed. Tidal can facilitate members-only events and concert experiences, where your smartphone is your ticket, allowing even greater incentive to join. There are plenty of merch opportunities as well where purchases are all done through your device.
A big complaint that artists have regarding streaming services is that they are not getting a fair share of the profits. Putting a premium service like this in the hands of the artist and allowing them to reap the rewards directly creates a sustainable relationship where everyone can financially benefit, and the app is specifically designed to fully integrate in to the artist's complete experience. Prolific artists like Prince have the potential to reap the most rewards from this concept, just like we did 10 years ago with the NPG Music Club.
Got a comment on this app idea? Post it over at LinkedIn