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 Messages.app 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.