A little over two years ago, I moved from a lead IC role on a design team of three to the director of a team of now six. That transition was largely out of necessity — the team needed a design leader with extensive experience at the company — but also personally driven in search of new learning opportunity.
Before making that change, I’d known that I enjoyed mentoring younger designers. I started learning design processes myself when a young teenager, learning to draw icons from others’ PSDs, PSDTuts (Tuts+ or whatever they’ve become?), and MacThemes. As an IC, I’d share source files and process notes but rarely outside private chats, or as evidence of work done. Sharing work was a conscious act, and so was irregular.
Now, I try (and struggle) to work with the garage door up. There’s no implicit threshold preventing me from sharing if I’m always sharing. This means that at work, I work in shared documents. Local files quickly enter version control in common repos. Status updates are shared regularly, despite risking performative updates. I’ve found that this creates a kind of obligation that pushes me towards a greater focus.
And in that interest, I’m now working on this portfolio publicly. I don’t know that I’ve ever had a good portfolio. The last time I had a public portfolio at all was in 2015. I’ve put together pitch decks with narrative case studies, but nothing holistic.
I’ve comfortably worked at Zello for nearly nine years. It made sense not to maintain a public portfolio, but the more time I’ve taken, the harder it gets. I’ve had what feels like a dozen false starts. My private GitHub repos include
wilnichols.com-14, with the first commit in the oldest repo going back nine years ago.
As a product designer, I need a portfolio, I start writing case studies and then I grow bored, or more urgent work arises. Aa a photographer I’ve needed a portfolio and prioritize expediency, so my photography site didn’t scale to case studies. As a frontend engineer and prototyper, I want to show fun/cool/whatever minutiae. As a designer with fifteen years of experience, I want to show a lot. Every start and stop costs time I could spend on content, but without the aesthetics as distraction from writing — and dredging up decade-old work — I grow listless. This isn’t a unique problem, and certainly isn’t insurmountable, but it’s a me problem that if further left unaddressed, will grow past ten plus years’ avoidance. This was easier back when I only drew icons. Despite the sunk cost, I’m restarting publicly and updating regularly. Instead of waiting for all case studies, I can publish one at a time. Instead of having the perfect design for the first essay, then ten essays, and then the whole site, I’ll publish as I go and regularly iterate.
So, I’m raising the garage door. This public repo is the start of this site. Photography is still available, for now, here. I’ve stripped the version number as a personal kindness.