What led you into design?
The internet led me into design. Finding early web communities opened up this whole world to me. I had already become interested in art and (physical) product design through school but graphic (specifically digital) design got me hooked. The immediacy of it made a big difference and the fact it felt like the rules were still being written, thankfully they still are.
What does a typical day look like?
Most of my team and clients are in the US at the moment, while I’m based in Europe. Because of that my mornings start quietly which suits me. I normally focus on larger async tasks until the afternoon when the US comes online and I shift gear with meetings and sync work.
What's your workstation setup?
Where do you go to get inspired?
When I lived in London it felt like the center of the world and the source of so much of my inspiration. Moving to another city/country allowed me to reset my point of view. Lisbon is amazing but it’s not London or New York. Since living in a smaller city I’ve started to look outward more to other cities. I intentionally visit places to recharge on culture.
I’m lucky to be surrounded by such an amazing team at XXIX/Garden3D that constantly inspire and challenge me to do and be better. My partner Leni also helps me to spot things I sometimes miss. I appreciate her helping me to stay focused on what’s important in life.
What product have you recently seen that made you think this is great design?
At the moment I’m interested in the influence of sustainable materials and new tooling on physical product design. In particular I’m excited by the work of brands like Cake, Byborre, Raeburn and of course Nike.
I’m interested to see what impact 3D printing will have on our built environment, the work of Barry Wark is really exciting.
The pace of evolution in collaborative tooling is amazing to see. The design teams at Notion, Google and Figma are making my life easier with each release.
What pieces of work are you most proud of?
I’m really proud of the work we’ve done this year with Stripe, Figma, Pinterest and Google. Doing work that breaks ground within the context of an established brand is an interesting challenge, I really appreciate the open collaboration with the amazing teams at all of these organisations.
On the other end of the scale we’ve been really lucky to work on smaller brand projects with younger organisations like Modern Life, Gnosis, Air Company, Salt & Stone and Fishbird. These projects have helped teach us to work efficiently and deliberately. I’m also really proud of the results.
What design challenges do you face at your company?
Part of what sets us a part is the way we challenge conventions by default, this constant thirst for improvement creates amazing results, but it also means we’re in a constant state of flux which can be disorientating. As with so many things it’s about finding the right balance.
What music do you listen to whilst designing?
Any advice for ambitious designers?
Let go of your ego and focus on the fundamentals of being a good collaborator. Approach your work with personality. Be confident – confidence is cool. Be detail orientated, learn how to effectively communicate, this will help make you dependable.
Learn to write. Learn to sell yourself and your ideas. No matter where you end up these skills are invaluable.
Don’t be afraid to say no. Don’t forget to have fun!
Anything you want to promote or plug?
Only our amazing team at Garden3D (XXIX, Manhattan Hydraulics and Sanctuary Computer). If you want to make great work with smart, thoughtful people who really care, get in touch. You can also find me at jamesmusgrave.com and @jamesmu.