Frequently asked questions

I get lots of emails or questions on instagram/twitter often asking the same things. I get asked most about the tools (especially about what kind of pens I use!) so I have addressed these first.

Tools

What tools do you use?

Research

Research tools are hard to define since no project or team is the same but here are some of the regulars.

  • Conversation. Identify the people or groups of people that your product is for, what their problems are and talk to them lots and lots. Observe them and empathise.
  • Hotjar is great for large volume user observations and heatmaps and helping you interpret what’s happening with the data you see (and importantly what is happening that isn’t available in your data — i.e. your data will never tell you what a user was going to interact with but then for some reason didn’t)
  • Google Analytics - it’s awful to use but powerful
  • Google forms
  • Screenflow for recording user testing sessions
  • Niice A great way to create mood boards, do UI pattern research and get inspired at the start of a project
  • Spreadsheets, spreadsheets, spreadsheets

I still haven’t found a great tool for storing research and findings, making it usable and searchable. I mostly use google docs and folders, a lot of people use Evernote.

Product design

Tools vary from project-to-project. But here are my go-to products I tend to rely on most at both the prototyping and production stage.

  • Atom code editor
  • Sketch for UI design
  • Post it notes
  • Adobe Creative Cloud
  • Jekyll a static site generator that uses markdown and the liquid templating language. It’s brilliant for prototyping ideas really quickly in a browser and even more brilliant for creating sites (like this one).
  • Marvel for prototying apps or mockups of user flows
  • Pen and paper. An obvious one but it’s often overlooked. Sometimes this is where 80% of the real work happens.

Illustration

For larger pieces I draw on varying surfaces, papers and primed boards. Most of these choices are based on what the thing is for rather than personal preference.

For digital illustration I mostly use these:

  • Adobe illustrator
  • Wacom tablets
    • Bamboo A5 (reliable, portable and small)
    • Intuous A4 (for the studio)
  • Very rarely sometimes Photoshop (potatoshop)

Pads

  • Leuchtturm1917 pads (varying sizes, also Leuchtturms do paginated plain pads which are great for research or drawn-out projects)
  • Moleskine pads are more readily available than the above and a bit cheaper. They have a bit more bleed when using a fountain pen and personally I find the paper a bit skiddy with a fountain pen.

Pens

  • Sakura Pigma Micron - I most often use 0.1, 0.5 and 0.8 mm
  • Lamy fountain pens - these are really great and not too expensive to worry about dropping them on the nib if you carry them around with you all day. Most of the time I use a fine nib.
  • Posca markers - these are great for drawing on any surfaces, I like drawing on board and these markers are a great medium that dangle somewhere between drawing and painting.

Ink

For regular out-and-about drawing and sketching I use black Indian Ink in fountain pens ever so slightly diluted with distilled water. It’s normally a no-no to put Indian Ink in a fountain pen ink converter because it clogs up the pen. While this is the case and would cause many pen enthusiasts to cry, I find that if you use the pen daily there’s no opportunity for the ink to dry and gunk things up. I do advise cleaning it whenever you change the ink though and this is a small pay off for the value that using a water resistant ink gives you—which a regular non-cloggy fountain pen ink doesn’t offer—since you can wash over it with watercolours or if doing sketches in the rain it’s not annoying. However if you don’t use the pen at least several times per day it will be a tad problematic.

If I have a day or two where I don’t get a chance to do any sketching I use the pen for doodling in meetings at work to keep the ink flowing.

Pencils

I don’t really use pencils that much. I have a couple of antique draft pencils I use mostly because they’re nice to hold and have a better weight than pencils.

  • Blackwing Palomino - very reliable, easy to rub out, comes with a rubber on the end too. The rubbers come out as well.

Twitter bots

  • Tracery This is a beautiful javascript story grammar text-expansion library, but as well as stories and text there’s plenty of interesting things you can with SVG/XML, combining it with maths and text. It’s probably one of my favourite things to use.
  • CBDQ Cheap Bots Done Quick is a really easy (and free) way to deploy, run and schedule twitter bots - authorise a twitter account and paste in Tracery code/xml and your bot is running. There’s a local instance of it here if you want to run it yourself
  • Heroku is great for running bots and cron jobs. For a modest amount of bot use it’s probably going to be free to use for you.

General tools

These tools span all types of work and I use them daily.

  • GitHub for version control and documentation
  • Cloudflare for a CDN and for doing the performance heavy lifting on static sites
  • Basecamp
  • Slack
  • Google Drive
  • ImageOptim for crunching image sizes down

Freelance work

Will you work for me?

As a freelancer I am open to new and differing opportunities. Whilst my time is flexible, currently my full-time schedule is quite hectic and I am unable to take on any large or full-time projects.

However with some forward-planning I may be able to help with any of the following:

  • Workshops (product design, illustration, sketch note taking, design sprints, UX)
  • Small-ish websites
  • Logo design
  • Branding
  • Illustration
  • Consultancy
  • Product pitches
  • Advice on where to begin with your product idea

Illustration commissions

I am accepting illustration commissions. Please get in touch and let me know what you’re looking for.