is a blog about design, technology and culture written by Khoi Vinh, and has been more or less continuously published since December 2000 in New York City. Khoi is currently Principal Designer at Adobe, Design Chair at Wildcard and co-founder of Kidpost. Previously, Khoi was co-founder and CEO of Mixel (acquired by Etsy, Inc.), Design Director of The New York Times Online, and co-founder of the design studio Behavior, LLC. He is the author of “Ordering Disorder: Grid Principles for Web Design,” and was named one of Fast Company’s “fifty most influential designers in America.” Khoi lives in Crown Heights, Brooklyn with his wife and three children. Refer to the advertising and sponsorship page for inquiries.+
Employers ask me regularly if I know of any great designers they can hire. Usually, I suggest that they list their open position over at the Authentic Jobs board, where I’m a member, and then I tweet out the link a few times and mention it to people I know who might be a good fit.
Some of these jobs deserve a bit more exposure, though, as they’re unique and/or genuinely interesting. So today I’m introducing a new feature on Subtraction.com that I hope will become regular, or at least semi-regular: Job Opening Spotlight. With each installment I’ll pull a select listing from Authentic Jobs and ask the employer to make a case for why that particular job is worthy of special consideration from designers seeking new opportunities.
First up is Toca Boca, the Swedish “play studio” that has generated an amazing string of App Store hits with their toy-like apps for children. (My daughter is a big fan.) The company is branching out now, and they’re establishing a State-side presence focused on creating what they claim will be a new breed of video products for touch devices (There’s a good write-up of their plans at The Guardian today.) I talked to J Milligan from Toca Boca about their opening for a design director for this team:
What makes this job unique?
We have the chance to rethink the experience of how kids interact with video on what is becoming their first screen: the tablet. What’s so cool about the Toca Video Project is that there is no legacy to burden our design choices. We can think about content and the interface in totally new ways. For the design director it’s a chance to go way beyond the sort of DVD menu derived systems people use for video players on the web—boxes with thumbnails in grids. We need to make something playful, something that engages the viewer in the entire experience. This job is about joining a small collaborative group, designing a product, a team and a studio simultaneously, building everything out, and making it better and better. And it’s not a start-up. It’s a big initiative from a huge kids’ brand.
Is this a management job, or a hands-on job? Or both?
Definitely both. We’re going to start with a core team that is going to figure out the plan and design for the product—the larger team as a whole and the studio we need itself. So at first, the Design Director will be very hands on, expressing the philosophies and goals of the project with art, wireframes, animations, and whatever techniques he or she will utilize. As they build their team they will have to manage their resources, whether they be freelancers, staff artists and developers, or even an outside agency if we go that route. But I would hope that this person never stops sketching, experimenting and iterating. We are a production unit, not a bureaucracy!
What kind of experience would your ideal candidate possess?
Ideally this person would have worked on a variety of projects for a variety of audiences. Kids experience is a plus, but what I’m really looking for is an empathetic designer who can feel their way through the choices they make in terms of our audience’s experience. Also, they should be product-focused. We are shipping this thing on a schedule. While we want to explore and experiment, we also need to ship on time and on budget!
If you’re interested, see the Toca Boca job listing for design director. Also, if you have feedback on how I can improve this Job Opening Spotlight idea, let me know.+