Generate speaker and Albion design director Jonty Sharples on creative process, Lean UX, restless curiosity and good scotch
What are you going to speak about at Generate?
Arrogance and confidence in design.
What do you think makes a good conference?
A desire by the organiser to challenge the audience - I usually find the best conferences and events are specifically weighted so there's a real diversity of speaker and content.
What are you most looking forward to about attending Generate?
It’s a new conference, so the speaking schedule will definitely be eclectic. Elizabeth McGuane’s talk [on structuring content in an evolving design] sounds pretty interesting, she’s addressing a challenge designers have faced since time immemorial.
Can you tell us about what you're working on right now?
Not in a great deal of detail, but I do consider myself to be really very fortunate to be working with clients who are actually excited about creating connected customer experiences, rather than just talking about them. Albion was always ahead of the curve; first with its integrated offering and now with real end-to-end design, rather than silos.
What are the big ideas you're thinking about at the moment?
The challenges of conceiving ideas and then crafting those same ideas with truly multi-skilled solutions teams; designers, developers, copywriters, art directors, planners, and clients are all part of the design process and we've put that thinking in to practice. The next step is to continue to hire smart, imaginative people who understand that working in this solutions-based manner is the future, and that coming up with an/the idea is just the start of the process – it’s what happens to that spark when grown within a group that matters.
What would you say are the key factors that have driven the direction of your career?
Diversity of work and a kind of restless curiosity have helped – they’ve also hindered. I’ve been terribly impatient. I've also been very lucky with the kinds of people I've worked with and for; I hold them directly responsible for where I am today (in a good way).
What's the Lean UX movement about?
I'm not a huge fan of process monikers, but the thinking behind Lean UX is sound and most of the people evangelizing it are real doers rather than just a bunch of flag-wavers. The nut of Lean UX - and the guts of our process at Albion - is the un-silo'ing the creative process. With regards to design, we only put stuff behind glass when it's good and ready, and that means testing and iterating at an appropriate fidelity as often as we’re able, whatever the budget.
What are your top tips for a young one starting out?
Listen lots. Be empathetic. Find a craft and be good at it, then fold in your other passions and skills. Be honest, with yourself and those you work for and with. Find somewhere to work and learn. One of my biggest regrets is the amount of time I spent isolated, freelancing; yes I enjoyed myself and met all sorts of interesting people, but I actually think it stifled my career because I wasn't a part of a design family. Having said that, it taught me an awful lot about how I wanted to be involved with design, and the team I work with now is testament to that - and their behaviour is very much familial.
What do you look for in a good Scotch?
I'd love to say I'm a pretentious enjoyer of Scotch, but I'm really not that fussed. I do like Highland and Islay single malts. Caol Ila is my dram of choice.