How do I steal Ryan Singer's job?

8 years ago from , UX Designer at Gather Technologies

Ok so I know Mr. Singer's job isn't up for grabs, but I'm interested in what it takes to become a designer who executes in code at a product company. I do agency work now, but I'm good at implementing client projects in HTML/CSS and getting better at JS. What I don't know is what I need to jump to a web product. Is it a lot of open source code? Some side projects whose repos I can share? I'm looking for companies that work this way and the designers who are excellent at it. Who's (other than Singer's) portfolio do I need to be learning from?


  • Kyle NeathKyle Neath, 8 years ago

    My 2¢:

    Throw yourself in uncomfortable situations. As long as you imagine there's something you don't know stopping you, you'll always be stuck. Take on a project that you know you can't do (you'll have to learn). Invent frivolous side projects that force you to work in a different way. Try to implement a dribbble shot into a working prototype. Use something like your personal site to execute on the skills you wish you had.

    Code is all about turning an idea into reality, and there's no correct way to do it. Every company will work with a different set of frameworks, a different set of technologies. Don't try to master anything specific, just try to master enough so that you can turn any idea into reality. Master that skill, and you'll find out that you'll naturally create the position you're looking for.

    4 points
    • Jeff Heaton, 8 years ago (edited 8 years ago )

      Thanks Kyle! I appreciate the insight into the mindset. I'm definitely looking to stretch myself using personal projects. It sounds like you might be doing the same, just more in the woods (I'm jealous). I've been subscribed to Warpspire (via Feedly) for a while. Always a good read.

      0 points
    • ポール ウェッブポール ウェッブ, 8 years ago

      Your answer is the reason why I started coding in the first place.

      0 points
  • Stefan RösslerStefan Rössler, 8 years ago (edited 8 years ago )

    That's a great question!

    Since Ryan's way of working involves someone to connect your design to a database, I suggest you team up with a colleague who's really good at web development.

    When I switched from Photoshop to HTML and CSS, I worked together with Mathias, one of our co-founders at Simplease. He did all the heavy lifting and all I had to do was providing him with HTML and CSS. We were able to deliver working prototypes in days and would then spend the remaining weeks on getting the usability and aesthetics right (our clients liked this as well).

    I'm not sure about how your work environment or team looks like, but I suggest you talk to the person who would usually code your mockups. Ask him or her to watch one of Ryan's talks (that's what I did with Mathias) and then just start working.

    I think there are 3 areas you may want to focus on:

    1) Front end development Learning the building blocks was essential for me. I suggest using (and studying) frameworks like Bootstrap and Pure. Even if you want to write every single line of code yourself, it's more than just interesting to see how some of the smartest people on this planet organise and structure their files.

    2) Typography You can't work like Ryan without understanding typography. I've read quite a few books on this topic and the one I find most useful is Lesetypografie by Hans Peter Willberg and Friedrich Forssman. Unfortunately it's only available in German, but it's too good not to be mentioned. For English readers I suggest Thinking with Type by Ellen Lupton to begin with.

    3) User interface design In one of his talks Ryan mentions how valuable Edward Tufte's books on the visual display of information had been to him. You may want to read them too – multiple times. They are very special books and it's a pleasure just to hold them in your hands while gazing at the beautiful examples.

    I hope that's somehow useful and wish you all the best with this :)

    2 points
    • Jeff Heaton, 8 years ago

      Thanks for your reply! Quite thorough. I've got Tufte's books, I think it's time to go through them more thoroughly!

      0 points
  • Temi ATemi A, 8 years ago

    I made the move from agency to product nearly 2 years ago. Like you, I was already able to contribute code (HTML/CSS/basic JS) to client projects. Tl;dr - find a product company you really want to work for and just take a shot at joining.

    • Look for companies you like and see if they value designers being able to code. Sometimes this is obvious. If it's not, find out who their current designers are - if they are multidisciplinary that's a good sign (from my experience) that you'll be able to design and code at that company.

    • Explore creating your own products. I worked on 1 small side-projects before I moved into product. I tried to mimic what I thought a typical project lifecycle was: concept, research, wireframe, prototyping, developing, real user testing, iterating etc. It was good practice into wearing the UX, UI and dev hat all at once - which is the role many product designers have.

    • If you're good at what you do and you are open to learning, stepping into product needn't be a complex thing that requires a lot of prior work before you make the leap. Embrace that some things will be different and you may not fully know how (or why) until you join a product company. But also have confidence that there are things you'll be able to contribute based on your own existing experience and skillset.

    1 point
  • Jens LukowskiJens Lukowski, 8 years ago

    Great! I am approaching a similar goal from the other side being a developer and getting stronger in design and ux. I think one of the problems for designers doing development is how to get a environment working and understanding what is happening. When you say 'web product' do you mean back end as well? I think Kyle is spot on: create something as a prototype. Start with the part you feel comfortable with (HTML/CSS) so you get visual feedback then try to fill parts of the UI with data from the database. Expand from there: more pages, logic, routing, etc. If you need some help (especially with the concepts and the thinking) feel free to ask

    0 points
  • Adam T.Adam T., 8 years ago (edited 8 years ago )

    I'll swap any day - itching to try that agency life.

    0 points
    • Jeff Heaton, 8 years ago

      Haha, I'm down as long as I don't have to live in San Francisco. You guys with your crazy cost of living!

      0 points