I'm Chuck Mallott. A web, mobile, UX and product designer living in Fort Collins, Colorado. When I’m not making things with pixels, I enjoy being a husband, dad, friend, sports nut, hobbyist landscaper, Jesus follower and the reader of many books. Sometimes I write about design and user experience.
My family, good books, good food, sports of all kinds, sports jerseys, Dallas Cowboys football, Apple products, historical fiction, counter-culture ideas, hiking, trees, landscaping and anything well-designed or of solid craftsmanship — from software and hardware to furniture and architecture.
Know-it-alls, loud-talkers, micro-managers, me monsters, sudden expert-ism, fax machines, not giving max effort, fingerprints on my screen, thyme, sage, asparagus and anything cherry-flavored.
I’m convinced that people who use quality tools and a sound methodology find success. A strong corollary is this: your tools and how you work say a lot about the quality and craftsmanship of what you create.
TOOLS OF THE TRADE
Every craftsman relies on his tools to create quality products. I’m very particular about how I work and what I work with. For ideas, I like to use a fine point black ink marker. The finer the tip the better. Dot grid sketchbooks are my preference. For making pixels, there’s not a finer tool on the planet than Sketch. After years of being a die-hard Fireworks guy, I made the switch in October 2013 and have never looked back. If I could only have one app on my computer, it would be Sketch. I love using InVision for stitching my screens together into workable prototypes. Coda is my text editor and of course, my Apple Macbook Pro makes it all go.
I find that using a consistent process helps me quite a bit. In interviews, I will ask a prospective designer candidate to describe to me their design process. This seems like a simple question, right? Its basically asking, “How do you design stuff?” I rarely get an answer that sounds like a cohesive, complete thought. So, I answer that question like this:
- Start with the user: No matter what project I'm tackling, I always start with the User. Who's going to be using this? What are they like? What do they want to do?
- Requirements: Even just a rough estimate can be enough. If I’m getting requirements from someone else, I still spend time to understand and validate the assumptions and acceptance criteria before moving on.
- Discovery: This phase is of undetermined length and includes everything from competitive analysis to inspiration hunting.
- Information Architecture: This is where I start organizing all the content pieces. Basically determining what goes with what and how will someone find any of it?
- Design: This is the only part that most people see. Also the part that good designers will work hard to not jump right into to start solving problems. This is where I determine layout, color, typography, style, etc.
- Code: When project complexity and scale are high, this is where I normally hand the wireframes, mockups and prototypes I’ve designed to a team of developers. For small, simple project (like this website) I code it myself. I don’t mind writing markup and style code, but anything more complex than that and I am out of my depth.
STANDING ON THE SHOULDERS OF GIANTS
Even though I consider myself a “self-taught” designer, I haven’t come up with an original idea yet. I’ve learned everything I know from others. I wouldn’t be the designer I am without the tremendous influence of Jeffrey Zeldman, Dan Cederholm (my design hero), Cameron Moll, Doug Bowman and Jason Fried.
But there are others. Lesser-known, everyday types of influencers we all have crossed paths with in our careers. People that are not famous, but those with whom we’ve worked side-by-side and worked with in the trenches.
“If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”
— Isaac Newton
In the early days before I was a web designer, Steven Murray taught me how databases work and also how to work smart. Leslie Peeler is one of the smartest people I’ve ever known and championed my abilities when no one else did — not even myself. Kevin Brungardt taught me how to craft a message with precision and how to rigorously insist on excellence.
Andrew Shearer taught me more about CSS in 10 months than anyone else has in my whole career. Doug Alcorn taught me that its ok to push back and argue for what you think is right, but also how to disagree professionally. Jeremy Johnson and Travis Isaacs taught me how to creatively and effectively present and defend my design decisions. Pete Zaballos helped me rediscover something I knew, but forgot the importance of — the fact that words are important. Noah Wenz taught me how to find the humor in design complexity and linguistic redundancy.
Saving the best for last: Cori Mallott — my greatest supporter, fan and best friend — has taught me more than anyone else in my life. She's shown me how to love learning, care for others, embrace diligence and pursue quality in how I interact with people around me, how I parent, things I make and how I work.