We’ve meet the ambitious and savvy bosses of media, publishing and fashion, and now our #IAmaBoss series is venturing into the exciting world of design. From the moment these impressive ladies wake up, they’re tackling new and innovative ways to bring creativity and ease to their projects. Whether they’re promoting up-and-coming designers, creating tools for experienced designers or teaching future designers, these women are all about contributing and supporting the incredible field of design. Scroll on to read their productivity tips, morning routines and more!
Meet the Bosses
Joanna Berzowska: Joanna is Associate Professor and Chair of the Design and Computation Arts Department at Concordia University, as well as the founder and research director of XS Labs, a design research studio with a focus on innovation in the fields of electronic textiles and reactive garments. Berzowska is also the Head of Electronic Textiles at OMsignal, a wearable and smart textile platform that enables leading fashion brands to design smart apparel. Joanna’s art and design work has been shown in the V&A in London, the Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum in NYC, the Millennium Museum in Beijing, the Art Directors Club in NYC, the Australian Museum in Sydney, NTT ICC in Tokyo, SIGGRAPH, ISEA, SIGCHI and Ars Electronica Center in Linz, among others. She lectures internationally about the field of electronic textiles and related social, cultural, aesthetic and political issues.
Jannie Lai: Jannie is the head of user experience for Light, which is bringing the highest-quality photography to the smallest possible devices. Prior to Light, Jannie was the director of product design at Citrix, where she was responsible for the design and product experience of Citrix’s mobile consumer business apps. Previously, she held similar design roles at LiveOps, eBay and Oracle and has issued over five patents since the start of her career. She studied industrial design at California College of the Arts and received an engineering degree from the University of Michigan.
Allison Stuart: A Louisiana native, Alli moved to San Francisco in hopes of landing a role as a graphic designer. She stumbled her way into a great job, becoming the first member of the Community Team at 99designs, a global marketplace that connects designers with people who need design. In the last five years, she has connected with passionate designers all over the globe. Helping grow the community to over a million designers, she now runs a team that focuses on educating and motivating designers to reach their fullest potential. She loves art and design, and wants to one day not only encourage designers from all backgrounds to grow, but children as well.
What is your morning routine?
Joanna: I wake up at 6am, put on my comfy yoga clothes and take my little furballs for a walk. I either have a green smoothie or a green juice. I feed the dogs (my husband and I cook our own dog food), prepare breakfast or sandwiches for my boys, quickly check the technology news (especially filtering for material science, smart textiles and wearables). I see my trainer at 7:30am (she lives in my building, which is super convenient), then shower and go to one of my three offices. I don’t check email until I get to the office. It took me 40 years to come up with this routine, and it’s an awesome way to start the day!
Jannie: Before getting out of bed, I check in with theSkimm and catch up on design-related news from Fast Co Design or Design Milk. If I haven’t checked email already, I usually do that too to make sure nothing popped up overnight that will change the course of the day. On the mornings that I have more time to exercise, I’ll go for a walk or do some sun salutations. After exercise, I hit the shower, where I think about the things I want to accomplish for the day. My thinking time is in the shower: It’s where I’m most creative.
Allison: I am not a morning person, so my routine is meticulously timed down to the second. The official plan starts the night before, when I pick out my clothes and pack my bag. The morning routine is about 15-20 minutes, depending on how my pillow-hair looks.
8:35am: Stretch, moan, stretch some more.
8:36am: Talk myself into getting out of my comfier-than-usual bed.
8:40am: My feet hit the floor, I open the shutters and turn off my box fan.
8:45am: Run into a wall with half-closed eyes, get dressed and brush teeth.
8:50am: Throw on makeup, fluff up the hair.
9:00am: Check bus schedule and run out of the house just in time.
What is the last app you downloaded?
Joanna: Good Fences, a geometry puzzle game developed by a colleague of mine who is a professor at Waterloo University. It’s really hard.
Jannie: 500px. I started as one of their beta users, and it is nice to finally see how the community is responding to the new app. I recently browsed through the new interface and the app seems to be more socially oriented than before. I love the interaction I have with the photographers I’m following within the app.
Allison: I recently downloaded Duolingo in hopes of learning Spanish. My husband and I go through lessons right before bed… hasta ahora, todo bien.
What are your productivity tips?
Joanna: Every morning when I wake up, I ask myself, “What task is causing me the most anxiety?” Sometimes it’s an easy answer, since it’s been keeping me up all night, but sometimes I need to think deeply. My strategy is to start the day by tackling the thing that generates the greatest stress. After having completed the most stressful task of the day, I get a huge burst of energy and my creativity and productivity soars!
Jannie: While driving, I lean on Siri to help me send quick notes, respond to emails or jot down thoughts for myself. As a designer, I believe to stay productive, you must remain creative and reserve time to unwind, recharge or get inspired. In addition to Light, I try to always have a personal project that is not work related, say a painting project. Every three to six months, I take the time to think of the gigantic ideas, goals and dreams I want to accomplish. To make them real, I break them down into bite-sized, achievable tasks. It’s a thrill to look at a list at the end of the day and see things all crossed off.
1. Think REALLY big and creatively about whatever project you have to complete. Imagine the finished product — your finished book, your painting hanging on the wall, your clean laundry, whatever it is — let the finished product drive you. I often use big sheets of paper, markers, my weekly agenda or whatever is hands-on to get all of my thoughts out.
2. Then, break up the big project into really small, day-to-day tasks. Think of it as drip coffee: Every drip is crucial to make the full cup. I often take my brainstorming to the computer and use Evernote and Google Calendars to lay out the stages.
3. There are no rules! Whatever path you need to take to complete your job or project is fair game. Most people who complete things in unconventional ways are the most likely to innovate.
Tell us about one maker who you admire.
Joanna: Stefan Sagmeister. I love the way his design practice integrates physical materials, the environment and the human body.
Jannie: Geeky Hooker. She’s the kind of hooker who uses a crotchet hook to create geeky characters called Critters. I love the designer’s artistry, personality and perspective. Even better, she doesn’t make these critters for profit — she puts them in the community in hopes that people will find them.
Allison: This may sound obvious since I’m the head of Community Marketing at 99designs, but I truly admire the design makers I chat with every single day. I’ve worked at 99designs for five years and have met some talented creatives around the world, like the incredible designer Giulio Rossi from Italy, who won Bon Ivor’s tattoo contest and was featured in Rolling Stone. This year, we’ve set up weekly Skype-dates with our top designers, and the stuff I see them produce, even outside of graphic design, is truly amazing and inspiring.
I wish someone had told me _______ when I graduated from college.
Joanna: I wish I had listened to the people who had told me to really take good care of myself, to focus on good diet and exercise. When you are in your twenties, you feel invincible and pull too many all-nighters, eating crappy food and skipping exercise. When I graduated from the MIT Media Lab, I worked at my computer almost 18 hours per day. I kept it up for ten years. My body definitely suffered. It’s definitely one of the reasons I am so passionate about my work at OMsignal. The idea of having garments, seamlessly integrated into my everyday routine, which help me stay in touch with my body and keep track of my well-being, is truly invaluable!
Jannie: Don’t be shy about putting your foot in the door. It took me way too long for me to learn to verbalize what I want and share my goals with others.
Allison: I got some strange advice when I graduated from college, but now I completely understand all of it. There are a couple of things I was NOT told that I’m glad I realized sooner rather than later:
1. Be open to opportunities you didn’t plan for. I strongly suggest you pick your first job based on liking the day-to-day role and company culture. Don’t pick a job based on pay alone or just because you graduated in it. Trust me.
2. Always ask for a promotion or anything else you’ve worked hard to deserve. Be prepared with exact reasons on why you deserve a million dollars, and even if you feel your heart racing like the Tell Tale Heart, ALWAYS ask.
Does their advice resonate with you? Know a #girlboss we should interview? Send an email to email@example.com and she could appear in the next column!