First tell me about your work. You’re a designer, but also a photographer and curator. What do you curate? I’m a designer for Facebook, where I currently design the interface for our mobile products (iPhone and the mobile web). I also curate two sites – Level & Tap, a site dedicated to selling fine art prints, and Simple Desktops, which is a free site for simple, minimal desktop wallpapers. I started Simple Desktops mainly because I was constantly searching for desktops beyond the basic few provided by Apple and couldn’t find anything out there I liked. (Below: a sample of desktops from Tom’s site).
Where do you work? Describe the space. How would you define your aesthetic? I’m a minimalist for sure. Currently my desk is sharing space in my bedroom, but it’s a fairly big bedroom. I have a sizable desk, and the computer takes up a fairly small footprint. It’s a beautiful, all white, slightly glossy top, which feels like a big white board or canvas. There is a large window that looks out into a nice courtyard in the condo complex, which has a calming water feature.
You’re moving house at the moment. What would be your ideal home workspace? Will you have that in the new place? I am moving. My girlfriend and I are moving into a traditional old Victorian in San Francisco, and I can’t wait. It has high 12-foot ceilings and beautiful hardwood floors. We opted for a two-bedroom space, and the second bedroom will be my new office. I have high hopes for this being my ideal workspace. I plan to set up another work area for some print work (with some photos and maybe some more traditional print work) and really anything I get excited about. (Below: “My New Toy” by Besim Mazhiqi from Tom’s Level & Tap site)
With all those different hats – designer, curator, photographer – how do you organize your day? Well, with the day job I do my best to front load any of my curating work in the morning, either before I get into the office or during the commute. I’ve setup a few systems online to help keep the time requirement down, but it’s an evolving process. It’s always a balancing act though, as Facebook is my primary focus and is not really a 9-5 day job. Recently my photography has been suffering, as I haven’t been able to get out and shoot nearly as much as I would like. I have an embarrassingly large camera and film collection that’s gathering dust in the cabinet. (Below: ‘Meta’ by Tom Watson)
Are there practical things you’ve done to organize your workspace – both your office/desk and the virtual workspace on your computer? I’m diligent about cleaning things up at the end of almost every day, both in the physical world and on my computer. I let things get messy, throw pictures around on my desk and save plenty of files to my desktop as I work; but, before I close the computer and call it a day, I file everything digitally and clean up the desk before I’m done. If I don’t, my mind ends up far too cluttered and I struggle getting things done the next day.
What inspires you? Ah, everyone always says “everything” here, and they’re right, but in general, simple, clever things inspire me. A photo a very few objects, well-lit, framed perfectly and with clear intent always makes me smile. I love finding a beautiful interaction in a new space as well. Recently in mobile design on the iPhone, the “Pull down to Refresh” interaction has started to become a standard, and it’s been fun to watch it develop. People were constantly pulling and pushing the list; someone realized this and took advantage of it in a way that felt incredibly intuitive. I know I’m blown away by something when I think, “Damn, I wish I had thought of that.”
I’ve been inspired by all of the submissions to Simple Desktops as well. I setup the site with a limited set of restrictions (no gradients, drop shadows, “bling”, words, etc.) and am constantly impressed by how creative people have been within those limits. Limits really do provide the perfect kindling for creativity.