I have never accepted that things are impossible and have never been satisfied with the status quo. When I decided to run the first design conference in my hometown, I never took no for an answer. I wanted to do something to make things better for my local design community, so when doors were closed to me at every turn, I took out a personal line of credit to bootstrap the conference. With so much on the line like speaking fees and costs associated with travel, advertising, venues, and catering, I got to work. At 26 years old, taking that risk should have scared me, but I knew the conference would do great things and would be a success. And it was. I sold out my conference, gained amazing sponsors (like Shopify, Microsoft, Mailchimp, Hoefler & Frere-Jones, and Treehouse), and brought industry-leading speakers Jeffrey Zeldman, Aarron Walter, Ethan Marcotte, Jeremy Keith, and Josh Clark to my small island of Newfoundland.
Go Beyond Pixels 2012 Speakers
I’m often asked why I put so much on the line to run the conference, and the answer is quite simple, really: it’s my passion. I love design and what it can do to liberate ideas. I was introduced to design when I got my first MacBook one Christmas. I remember playing with the word processor ‘Pages’ and the many templates it came with like the ones for making posters. I loved the feeling of taking the ideas from my head and putting them into a real, physical medium that I could share with others. It evolved from there; I quickly learned Photoshop and other design programs and started doing some freelance design work. I was making a little money designing posters and I enjoyed it, but the problem was that someone could only see my work if they happened to walk by wherever it was posted. So, once again, I got back on my MacBook and opened iWeb, the app it came with for making websites. I remember staying up until 3 or 4 in the morning trying to write HTML and CSS snippets into iWeb to create what I thought at the time was amazing web design work; looking back, these amazing designs were most likely just rainbow coloured words scrolling across the screen.
Banksy in London
But that’s all it took to get me hooked. I don’t think I slept for a year. I was always on my MacBook and on the web learning as much as I could and doing as much freelance work as possible while completing a double major in philosophy and political science. Right after graduation, I was hired by that same university to do web support for their distance education courses. I immediately knew that this was the way to get my foot in the door to work on the web full time now that I could apply for internal job openings. No more than 6 months later, I was building and designing online courses for the university.
Since then, I have worked for clients all over the world including places like New York and Australia and companies like Vox Media and Crush & Lovely. I’ve built apps to assist cancer patients and have hacked Twitter so that Newfoundland drivers could be alerted of dangerous moose sightings on our highways. This is why I love design; it can enable us to make our lives so much better, and I wanted to share my passion with those around me. That’s why I risked so much to run my own conference.
Rothko at Tate Modern
The conference was also such an amazing opportunity for me because I made so many valuable connections. Living on an island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean was no longer an issue; in connecting my local design community with world-renowned speakers, I had connected myself with an incredible international community of designers and developers who attended, sponsored, or spoke at the conference.
During this time, I also learned about the many pain points that thousands of event organizers have everyday including the cost of event apps that enable organizers to sell tickets online. In short, it cost me $2k to sell tickets online, and I had to wait months to get paid. This wasn’t good enough. So what did I do about it? I built my own event management app, Evey Events. With Evey, instead of paying $2k in fees, it would only cost $120 to sell the same amount of tickets. Also, ticket sale funds are deposited into the organizer’s bank account within 3 days. Evey is now used by event organizers around the world including Harvard, Caltech, and Shopify.
Today, I work as a Designer at Trello. Trello lets you work more collaboratively and get more done. Trello’s boards, lists, and cards enable you to organize and prioritize your projects in a fun, flexible and rewarding way. Sign up, it's Free.
Previously I worked as a Designer Advocate with Shopify. My goals at Shopify were to educate and provide valuable resources to the Shopify Partner community. This involved running webinars, writing articles, creating resources, and meeting partners at events. Design and education were at the core of what I did on a daily basis, and I was constantly searching for new ways to make things better.
I continue to work on freelance projects, and I’m always eager to explore new ideas and technologies; at the moment, I’m fascinated with VR (Virtual Reality) and plan to learn as much as I can about it.
Design, the web, and technology hold no limits. They allow us to do anything we want, help us to create a world where everything is possible, and enable us to challenge the status quo in order to make things better. I’ve experienced this first hand as they’ve taken me down a path to places I hadn’t imagined, and the best part is that this is just the beginning.