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Mark Jardine

Co-founder of Tapbots

Mark is a co-founder of Tapbots, an indie iOS/Mac software company, which started in 2008. He does all of the creative and design work for the company. Before that he worked as a web designer for 15 years and his last employment was at Oakley, Inc. Mark lives in Northern California with his wife, two boys, and a dog. When he’s not working or spending time with family, he enjoys spending time trying to drive his car faster around local race tracks.

What do you do?

I’m basically a swiss army knife designer. I’m not great at any one thing, but I am pretty competent at a lot of things. I spent most of my career as a web designer, but the last 7 years designing app interfaces for iOS and the Mac. I do pretty much everything that needs to be done on the creative side for our company. I design all of the icons & interfaces for our apps, the animations & sound, promotional videos, and I design and build all the pages for our website. I also occasionally create character illustrations to tie into company branding. I spend time practicing/studying photography which has come in handy many times in my work as well.

What do you find most rewarding about your role? Most challenging?

The most rewarding part about being a designer for an indie software company is seeing the response and feedback from apps we release. Knowing people are using something you've created on a daily basis is a great feeling. But you also get a lot of feedback on what you did wrong. I think that can be one of the most challenging aspects because it takes a thick skin to read through some of the really negative comments and see what the real problem is. But criticism is always constructive if you learn to take it that way. I’ve made many bad design decisions along the way, but that’s how I learn and grow.

How do you stay up to date with trends in your industry/field?

I don’t have a formal way of staying up to date with trends these days. I usually hear about interesting things on Twitter or come across cool concepts in various apps I find. I used to spend hours a day reading magazines, books, and blogs about all kinds of design-related inspirations and tips. I just don’t have the time for it these days. I’ll usually do a lot of research when I have something in mind that I’ve never attempted to do before.

What are your top five applications or programs?

Sketch by Bohemian Coding has changed everything for me as a designer. It has replaced Photoshop for 90% of my work. Not to self-promote, but I spend a lot of time in our own app Tweetbot for all of my twitter consumption. Since everyone in our company works remotely, I have to mention since that’s how we work together 100% of the time. We also stay focused on tasks using Basecamp. We’ve gone through a few task management/collaboration apps in the past and have gone back to Basecamp since it’s still around and just works. For my illustrative sketches I adore an app called Sketchbook. I’ve been using it since the very first version and find the tools very natural and optimized for drawing tablets.

Best way to stay on top of email?

Sadly, I’m the worst when it comes to email. I definitely need to spend time optimizing my workflow and creating rules to filter out the unimportant stuff that I just need to archive. And I should probably dedicate 15-20 minutes a morning or evening to reply to emails. It just gets tough when you have a family.

What is your best time-saving trick?

Grabbing my laptop/earbuds and heading out to a local coffee shop. It’s not so much of a time-saving trick as it is the best way for me to focus 100% on an important task.

One non-tech thing you can’t live without?

My driving shoes. Living in the suburbs (closest store being 5 miles away), I spend a good amount of time driving to get anywhere and after I bought my first pair of Puma Drift Cats, I haven’t been able to wear anything else. I have like eight brand new pairs in my closet because I keep buying sets when they are on sale in case they stop making them someday.

What does your workspace look like?

When we moved into our first home, I decided it was time to build a dream office because I spent all my time working from home. My biggest issue has always been lack of desk space so I wanted a desk that went across the whole room and even wrapped around one corner. I have random tools that I use like printers, vinyl cutters, and music instruments and it’s nice that I have the desk space to place them on when needed. I also wanted my home office to “feel” like a real office so I went with corporate furniture and picked styles/colors that fit with our company. But my main work area is pretty simple. On the left I have all of my drawing/sketching tools. Front and center I have my computer, and on my right I have my drawing tablet and all of my iOS devices for testing.

Structure of your typical day, how do you divide your time?

I usually wake up somewhere around 7-8am when my kids get up. I’ll spend 20-30 minutes catching up on work emails, forum posts, and work related tasks, and then get ready for the day. My first order of business is food and coffee. Then after walking my dog, I’ll start my workday. I’ll usually work for about 3-4 hours and take a lunch break. I’ll use this time to run any errands I need to do. After that I’ll just work until I find a good stopping point. Depending on the task it could be anywhere from an hour to late into the night. I never force myself to work if I’m not feeling it unless something is on a strict deadline. I think great work comes from passion. When I’m done working for the day I spend time with my wife and kids, and occasionally play games.

Why do you do what you do, what motivates you and makes everything worth it?

I love creating stuff. I’ve experimented in many creative outlets, but design has been the most encouraging for me. Designing for the web and software has been rewarding because I love providing a great user experience. Seeing people excited to see and use what you create makes it all worth it.

What is the greatest piece of career advice/wisdom you've ever received?

Take risks and always challenge yourself. Never be afraid to do something different.

Who would you like to see featured on Ways We Work?

Eddie Lobanovskiy and Neven Mrgan.