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 Ian Taylor, a new member of the Cloud City product design team. Read on to learn how he evolved from architect to user interface designer, and why he explores giving up control with his art outside of work.
Currently reading: The Value of Art by Michael Findlay and This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald
How did you get started with product design?
My product design journey started in college while I was studying architecture. Designing buildings and 3D products taught me strong methods for structuring and carrying out design projects. From there, I jumped into professional illustration and design.
Eventually, I started a full-service growth marketing agency — which was the first step of my consulting journey. Along the way, I became more invested in designing digital products, like websites and apps.
Wow, architecture. What inspired your shift to digital design?
Digital product design feels like the perfect challenge because it sits at the intersection of system architecture, visual design and human interaction. A lot of the terminology and design process is the same for all UX design, physical or digital.
I started turning in the direction of UI and UX because the timelines are much faster. The idea that I could be stuck on a single architecture project for a decade was really crushing. And the design phase might only last 5% of that ten years. With product design, there’s more opportunity to innovate and be truly creative over and over.
This sounds like an interesting yet natural evolution for you.
Definitely. Creativity and problem-solving evolve just like anything else. So does product design itself, which existed before computers, when it focused on physical products. With the advent of digital technology, product design has expanded to encompass designing user experiences on the web.
You also have a fine arts background. Do you create outside of work too?
Yes, I’ve always been artistically oriented. I love, love, love drawing. I draw just about every day, digitally or with black ink on paper. Illustration kind of bends your brain and makes you focus on something in detail, which keeps all of my design skills sharp.
I also like to paint in oils, but it’s just so messy and takes up so much space and time that I don’t do it very much these days. Though in 2017, I did an artist residency in France called Château Orquevaux. It was a real honor to be awarded that residency in an international competition.
France? Très chic. Are you a big traveler?
Very much so. Before I landed in Denver, where I am now, I backpacked around the world for a long time. I enjoy challenging experiences, and I appreciate all the ways travel changes your perception of both yourself and the places around you.
After my artist residency in France, I solo traveled to 10 more countries that year. Spending so much time with myself in places where people didn’t speak the same language as me helped me become more self-reliant. After that pivotal trip, I came back a really different person.
Speaking of art, what are you drawing and painting these days?
For product design, everything has to be very tight because UI/UX needs to be pixel perfect. So outside of work, I like to challenge myself by pursuing artistic mediums that force me to give up control.
For instance, trying to do portraiture with a really raggedy brush. Or there are brushes that dispense ink in really unpredictable ways, so you have to go with the flow of whatever it decides to do.
Digitally, I really enjoy experimenting with glitch art. It’s an underrated artistic medium that also forces you to give up control. The final product is largely determined by the technology of the time. Modern glitch artists actively seek out those technological limitations. That might be through physical interference, corruption in the source code, or repeatedly pushing against the edge of a software’s abilities.