Becoming a Designer Founder

User experience (UX) designers add necessary perspective and skills to early-stage companies, which are often overweighted with technical and business expertise. UX designers’ aptitude for considering holistic systems, desire to understand human motivations, visual thinking superpowers, and dedication to validated learning make them valuable early hires for startups. Increasingly, designers are taking more strategic roles at early-stage companies, but founders with a background in design are still relatively rare.

Watch this presentation to hear me talk about:

  • Why I joined Brooklyn Copper Cookware
  • Ways my UX career prepared me to be a designer founder
  • Consultant thinking versus owner thinking
  • What it means to be a design-led company
  • Examples of UX practices used at Brooklyn Copper Cookware

Thanks Mary Treseler and Leah Buley for inviting me to present “Becoming a Designer Founder” at the O’Reilly Design Conference in San Francisco March 2017.

Balanced Craft at TalkUX

Ladies That UX invited me to be the closing speaker at TalkUX 2016. As I transition from UX practitioner to entrepreneur, I am glad to share back what I’m learning with my communities. Hopefully I’ll inspire other UX designers to take the plunge!

In this short video, I explain why I’m excited about what we’re doing at Brooklyn Copper Cookware, and why I think TalkUX is such an important event.

You’ll have to wait a whole year for the next TalkUX in Taipei, Taiwan. Until then, you can sample the talks from this year’s conference, (or re-live the good times if you were there). Click here to see videos of the presentations from TalkUX 2016.

Thanks to the kind folks at Blueprint for the interview and event videos!

Founder Myopia

My friend Ben Yoskovitz, author of Lean Analytics invited me to present at the AB InBEv ZXlerator program on June 21, 2016.

This talk was a new direction for me. Instead of talking “to” founders about what they should do, I’m now able to speak “with” founders and share my own direct experience. In this talk I discuss a common error of perspective founders can succumb to, illustrated with examples from my own company, Brooklyn Copper Cookware.

Balanced Craft

How can we shape our skillsets to be effective participants in Balanced Teams? Complex software projects require a wide range of skills. As an individual who seeks meaningful work, you understand the need for cross-team communication and collaboration, but the skillset is overwhelming. What do you need to know? How deeply must you know it?

First presented at the Balanced Team Summit 2015, Grand Rapids MI.



Structured UX Design Critique

I was invited to speak at the Downtown LA UX Study Group on the topic of UX Design Critique. You can look at the slides here, or download the deck from SlideShare.

Here’s the list of resources I reference at the end of the deck.

Make an animated GIF with Keynote and Photoshop

I enjoy the InVision newsletter because it includes great interviews with designers and useful tips, like this article from Andy Orsow called 7 tips for designing awesome animated GIFs.

I learned how to make animated GIFs with Photoshop at Shillington, but found the process unwieldy. I didn’t realize you could give yourself a huge head start by doing your animations as a video first. I didn’t have ScreenFlow or After Effects, so I was intrigued by Andy’s suggestion that I could use something considerably more low-tech (and probably already on YOUR computer too.)

Pro tip: If ScreenFlow or After Effects aren’t in your budget, create your animation in Keynote, and export it as a video. Yep, there’s finally a use for that setting. —@andyorsow

Here is the result of my little experiment. I made this animated GIF with Keynote and Photoshop. It was a pretty straightforward process and it was a fun way to learn something new. If you want to try it out yourself, please read on for a few more tips you might find helpful.


Set up your Keynote workspace

You can change the size of the “canvas” in Keynote by setting the slide size in the inspector. I choose 600×200 because that’s the width of graphics for my blog. You can pick any size that makes sense for your project.


Screen Shot 2014-12-14 at 6.32.34 PM

Turn on the rulers and drag some guides so you can orient yourself as you’re working.

Screen Shot 2014-12-14 at 6.38.43 PM

Create your animation in Keynote

The Keynote animation settings are a little fussy to get used to but there’s a lot already built in. Everything you’ll need us under the “Build” tab of the inspector. You “group” actions by using the “Start Build” drop down, which allows you to run actions at the same time. For example, the circle rotates and moves at the same time, that’s TWO actions)

Screen Shot 2014-12-14 at 6.40.26 PM

Export to Quicktime

When you’re ready, export the file to Quicktime format. I only had one slide in my deck with the animation, so I kept all the defaults (Playback Uses: Manual Advance), 24 frames per second. I just turned off Audio (not sure that was actually necessary)

Finish it up in Photoshop

Importing the .mov file into Photoshop was pretty straightforward. File > Import > Video Frames to Layers. As Andy suggested, I chose the option “Limit To Every 2 Frames”

Screen Shot 2014-12-14 at 6.46.12 PM

Once I imported the file into Photoshop, I immediately tried to Save for Web, but the GIF didn’t animate. I wasn’t sure what was wrong so the second time I imported it, I opened the animation panel (Window > Animation) and verified the playback was working before I exported.

It was better to do it that way anyhow because I could tune the animation by extending time and removing frames. I found that I needed to extend the last frame to 1 second to make the animation look like there’s a little pause before it starts.

What will YOU make?

Please leave a comment if you found this helpful or leave a link to your animated GIF project. I’d love to hear from you.

My favorite hand-drawing resources


I’m on a quest to be better at hand-drawn visual communication. I think of the subject as “chunks” I need to master:

  • Communicating abstract concepts visually
  • Hand lettering
  • People and objects in context
  • UI sketching

Here are some resources I’ve found fun/memorable/useful. Several of them cover more than one of the areas of mastery I mention above, so I have not categorized them.

Sketching Across the Design Process, Ray DeLaPena

Ray’s workshop at Lean UX NYC 2013 strongly influenced the way I think about the different contexts of sketching: “thinking,” “talking,” and “showing.”

Kate Rutter, Strategic Sketcher at Intelleto

My friend Kate Rutter creates and shares amazing resources. If you get a chance to attend a workshop or hear hear speak at an event, do it!

Hand Lettering Ledger, Mary Kate McDevitt

Although you might think that hand-lettering is just the territory of graphic designers and illustrators, I think it’s great for any hand-sketcher to have a couple different hand-printed fonts in their toolkit. The book has great examples and loads of different worksheets, so buy it on paper and practice, practice, practice!

The Sketchnote Handbook, Mike Rohde

This book is worth getting on paper. It’s printed on nice paper and bound well so it’s a pleasure to read. The electronic version is not as satisfying.

The “Back of the Napkin” series from Dan Roam

I first saw Dan Roam at SxSW 2010 when he launched “The Back of the Napkin.” He now has a several books and tons more resources on his site.


The VizThink folks are an international community. They have interesting events and good resources.

Quick, Useful UI Sketches, Lane Halley (that’s me!)

I’ve pulled together my current thinking about UI sketching in a workshop. I use a technique I call “reverse wireframing” to teach you to see the structure of UIs and through a series of exercises, you’ll create your personal shorthand to draw UI elements.

Good luck, and please leave comments with your favorite resources!

The Collaborative UX Designer’s Toolbox


From my half-day workshop at UX London May 30, 2014

Class materials

Class description

Are you challenged by unclear, conflicting and changeable product mandates? Frustrated by other team members who just don’t seem to “get it?” Do you struggle to find a sustainable pace where you can deliver what your team needs to move forward and still have a little time to think ahead?

The increasing popularity of Agile development and Lean Startup have created an expectation of shorter cycles and iterative delivery, yet our teams still ask for for pixel perfect deliverables. At the same time, we are asked to deliver great experiences, advocate for the business value of good design and facilitate a more inclusive ux process with our teams.

This presents us with an interesting set of challenges. How can we develop and support a shared vision while moving forward in small, validated steps? How can we find the right level of fidelity for the artifacts we create? How can we engage with the rest of the team without getting bogged down in “design by committee?”

I believe we can thrive and do good work in this environment of continual change if we reconsider our UX workflow as a framework of tools and activities that can adapt to the needs of our products and teams.

Attendees will learn how to:

  • Adapt familiar UX activities to be more quick, visual, collaborative and continuous
  • Diagnose when to apply different UX techniques
  • Help your team move away from opinion-based design
  • Create cooperative relationships with product managers and developers
  • Productively engage with team members who do not have a design background

Click here to visit the conference site