While anybody who has seen the Lua interface has interacted with his beautiful design, we want to formally introduce Austin Lane, our Head of Product Development and lead designer of our user interface/experience. Austin has been working with us since May and is extremely talented. We love interviews, so we’re introducing him Loo-ah blog-style with a few questions. Get to know Austin after the jump – you won’t regret it.
What was your last job?
My last job was a bit of a departure. Even though I started in utility-driven apps I spent the past 2.5 years making videogames as the creative director for an indie studio I co-founded called Muse Games. It was a fantastic experience to literally create and build the rules of your own imagined worlds from the ground up. As a big fan of film it felt like playing director, except instead of coaxing performances out of people, you have to manifest them in every aspect, from their settings to the character skeletons to their tiniest expressions. Probably not unlike making a pixar movie. But the constant that makes all these industries so interesting is the foundation on human interaction – the living aspect of your product. Whether that be an entertaining experience or a utilitarian one, that element is what engages you. A film is done relatively ‘in the dark’ and then shown the light, for better or worse. With the products I’ve worked on, I relish that they only truly have meaning when they’re used by people, not just consumed.
What keeps you in the startup world?
The chance to use my brain. At the core of a startup is a new idea. In established businesses the idea is often just that, established, and you are often perpetuating known processes with varying levels of efficiency. In a startup you have to create these processes yourself, often from nothing. In so doing you have to be creative and problem solving at every turn. I am unquestionably addicted to the rewarding nature of (that aspect of) startups.
How did you get involved in design in general?
I think high level design is something we’re all involved in. Design is a set of decisions really, made within a set of constraints. We’re all designers in the sense that we have to choose what we want to do with limited options. We design our days, our diets, etc. Over time those decisions add up to who you are. In my first work experiences I was the highest level design, architecting the product from a user’s perspective, doing so-called UX diagrams and a bit of wireframing. Over the years, jointly out of a long-time interest in formal design, and also out of selfish desire to see the end product reflect the intentions of the earliest ideas (which are often lost in the handoff between departments) I started into photoshop, then later coding. Again, it all comes back to the rewarding nature of having an idea, then owning the skills to build that idea into a reality. But I stress that each of us can, and should, think of our jobs as design – whether or not they be within the typical realm of what we think of as design – the notion that our work can always be better crafted, and result in a better experience for all involved.
Do you have any hobbies?
I dabble in guitar and photography and films but really what I do at work is what I most love to think about and ponder. So in essence my hobbies are my work. Which is great and I feel so lucky to have found this out early on. I also really love traveling and try to get out of the country at least once a year. Last year I went diving in Belize and this year I’m headed to NZ with my kiwi roommate. Should be a blast although my god do they drink in that country, I’m not sure my liver is prepared.
If you had to sit in a room watching a movie on repeat what would it be? And don’t say drive just because you look like Ryan Gosling.
First of all I both resent and celebrate my very vague (emphasis on very) resemblance to Mr. Notebook. Drive was extremely well-executed and just generally entertaining, but I couldnt watch it on repeat. The one director whose films I find myself able to return to time after time would be Luc Besson’s. Specifically Leon, The Big Blue, the 5th Element, and La Femme Nikita – in that order. What so attracts me to his work, and what I find tireless in his films is his lack of an aversion to simplicity. Luc Besson tells simple, raw stories, but ones rooted in the powerful nature of human emotion. And he tells them vigorously, unashamedly. I see these roots in one of our company favorites, Terrence Malick, but also in Michael Mann, Paul Thomas Anderson, even Spielberg. These directors are so human, they dont get lost in their own pretension – and in doing so craft strong work. Leon takes you on an arc, playful at first, emotionally striking at last, but I dont tire of the transformation no matter how many times I watch it. I’m fulfilled, but not exhausted at the credits. So yeah, anyways hopefully my desert island has a good cave and I crashed there on a plane full of flatscreens.
What are you doing for thanksgiving?
My friend Rachel put her apartment on airbnb for the holiday and is taking the money she’s making to rent an amazing loft in Greenpoint for all our friends to congregate at. Most of us are in our mid-late twenties and arent going home for Thanksgiving so we’ve been doing a big get-together for a few years now. The girls in the group are making a ton of amazing food and I can’t stress how great it is to have responsible adult females in your life. The guys and I are on the hook for beer, but otherwise just to get to sit back and generally behave like a bunch of children. Which is just a perfect arrangement.