Aubrey Johnson on forming design systems

Aubrey Johnson on setting up the design processes at startup companies.

Aubrey Johnson is one of 10 nominees for Best Online Portfolio in the 2014 net Awards. He has led design at various startups including Twilio, Memolane and Color, and now he works for Science. We quizzed him to find out where he gets his inspiration and how he put his site together.

Give us a summary of your career so far.

Wow! It's been a wild ride. I started (for a really short period of time) in the agency world. I moved over to startups and couldn't imagine doing anything else. I was lucky enough to start my career at the beginning, influential stage of a company (Twilio) and have been doing that same kind of work ever since - essentially practicing at forming a company's design systems, how the processes work and what we do and don't do. I've led design at Twilio, Memolane, Color and Science so I guess there's a pattern of setting things up at a company from the design perspective. I've also been really blessed to meet some earlier-in-their-career designers and been able to help and show them some of the cool things I've learned so far.

What have you been working on over the last year?

I've been advising and designing for Los Angeles startups via Science, and I've also worked with a handful of YCombinator companies on branding, apps and design.

I've been leading/advising design at Science for about a year and a half and have been lucky enough to work on a bunch of mobile apps, internal tools, external sites and branding for quite a few of the companies (including Science itself). It's so full of variety and different challenges, I really enjoy it.

Tell us about the process of designing your portfolio site.

Funnily enough, I have captured a few parts of my process as easter eggs for the portfolio itself. On my 'About' page I have included some sketch sessions, as that is where I often start to ideate. I usually sketch some ideas, quickly try some styles in Photoshop and then see if those styles work in code (I wrote the front end of my site, but am not really an awesome developer).

Aubrey's portfolio site

Who and what influences and inspires your work?

I really respect the things that Jason Wilson and Justin Edmund do at Pinterest. I love the photography of JonPaul Douglass; Craig Henry and Mike McQuade illustrations get me going; Marc Hemeon of Google and Josh Hemsley (formerly at Nest) are some local pals and they really get my mind moving. I love those guys.

Often times I'll try to translate non-interface / non-interactive design things into interfaces or interactive designs - I think this is what inspires my work. I ask myself "What is useful in this communication as it relates to an app or an interface, is there anything?" or "Is there ever a way this photo, or this thing I saw in the city can translate to an interface/interactive work?".

Name an 'unsung hero', someone you admire who deserves more recognition for their work.

Charles Riccardi (product designer at HighFive) and Jeremiah Shaw (designer at Apple).

Vote in the net Awards!

Celebrating the best in web design and development, the 15th net Awards is open for public voting until 24 March. With a record breaking number of nominations this year, it's set to be the biggest and best yet. Have your say by casting your votes here.