Get to know the people of Cloud City. In this regular (and sometimes irregular) series, we sit down with our designers, engineers and other team members to talk about development, consulting and life in general.
Today, we’re chatting with Manda Miller, a new addition to the Cloud City design team. Read on to learn how Turntable.fm changed her life and why she can’t wait to go to Japan.
Currently reading: Felicia Day, “Embrace Your Weird: Face Your Fears and Unleash Creativity”
Currently binging: “Succession” and “Euphoria”
Currently streaming: Chillhop Music via YouTube
Did you find design or did design find you?
A little bit of both. I started my design career way before I even knew there was such a thing as a design career. I was just 16 when I created my first website (using Angelfire and Notepad, of course).
At first, design was a way for angsty teen Manda to express herself online. This was before Instagram and Facebook. Back then, the only way to be “creative” online was to alternate the capitalization of our AOL Messenger away messages.
Design was my way to say, “This is who I am.” It was also how I connected to the communities that I cared about.
What kind of communities did angsty teen Manda care about?
I was a teenager when I was first introduced to the world of Kawaii. This is the Japanese “cuteness” aesthetic expressed in design, fashion and toys. It’s also all over the packaging in many Asian countries. Some easy examples would be Hello Kitty or Harajuku Girls (a la Gwen Stefani).
Back then, there was a whole online community of young women designing these adorable Kawaii-inspired websites and pixel art. I totally fell in love and they welcomed me with open arms. We all celebrated and promoted each other’s work — whether it was through 88x31 buttons on our sites or through faux storefronts where you could “adopt” a “cutie” someone else had created. We also stayed in touch through message boards and our dramatic LiveJournal entries. I’m still friends with some of those amazing women today.
Since then, design has continued to be a way for me to connect with people and causes I care about. At my last project, I worked for Whole Foods. I loved their team and mission. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to find another company with such a great culture. That’s why I was so happy to hear about Cloud City.
How did you find Cloud City? Is there a good story there?
Yes! Brendan, who also works at Cloud City, and I have been in the same Turntable.fm room for ages. One day, we started talking about work and it came up that Cloud City was looking for another designer. I was like, sign me up!
It makes me love working here even more because I connected with the team doing something I love.
How do you approach your projects?
It starts with learning as much as I can about my client. I want to know who they are, their journey, and how they talk about their products and services.
As I’m listening, I can usually start to “see” their brand. Then, it’s just a matter of bringing it to life so they can see it too! From there, we collaborate and refine the vision until it’s just right.
In another life, you would be a …
Professional organizer. Putting everything in its place is very therapeutic for me. Plus, I really enjoy helping people.
Where can we find you on the weekends?
I’m a singer and drummer. I also love karaoke. My favorite songs to perform are Defying Gravity from Wicked, and Time is Running Out by Muse. When I want to change things up, Chop Suey by System of a Down is my surprise song.
I also have a 2-year-old named Naomi who is creative, left-handed and in love with Hello Kitty, just like her mom. When she’s old enough (and it’s safe to travel again), I want to take her on a trip. I’ve been lucky to see India, Italy, France and The Netherlands. I can’t wait to explore the world with her!
Where do you want to travel to next?
Japan! I can’t say I care about the Kawaii culture without actually experiencing it at least once!