I have no idea what I’m doing: Nick Jones speaks at Develop Denver - McKinney

I have no idea what I’m doing: Nick Jones speaks at Develop Denver

July 31, 2014

When Drew Dahlman asked Interactive Art Director Nick Jones to speak at Develop Denver, a “gathering of the makers, doers, mover and shakers in the development and design community” according to the conference website, Nick agreed. And that is a rare move for the busy business- and family man who goes by @narrowd on Twitter.

“Drew started the conference two years ago in a city with a really great interactive community that has been ahead of most others,” said Nick. “He’s also a developer at maybe my favorite design/development shop in Denver: Legwork.”

So, on Friday, August 1, Nick will discuss how curiosity and ignorance have fueled his success in a presentation titled “I Have No Idea What I’m Doing.”

Though the topic of failure has been a popular one for years in everything from The New York Times best-seller list to LinkedIn blog posts, few are talking about the asset of vulnerability. Maybe because doing so requires both vulnerability and bravery. It’s a unique combination, but Nick is unique. We asked him a few questions before he left for Colorado.

You were a successful freelancer before coming to McKinney. What brought you here?

Flash, what I’d spent the last decade learning and becoming an expert in, was dying. So when I was offered an art director job at an ad agency, I took it. I didn’t know what art directors did, but McKinney wanted me to be one, so I thought I’d go there to be a beginner again.

It turns out that I can do what I’m good at at McKinney and continue to learn about the things I’m not good at. That mode of learning to do things I’ve never done before, that’s where I want to stay. And McKinney is an unusual place where I’m encouraged to do it.

The best part is that we make great work this way.

Tomorrow night you’re talking about the benefits of not always knowing what you’re doing. How has that helped you in your work at McKinney?

My first project at McKinney was for a local homeless shelter called Urban Ministries of Durham. The project had the most soul of anything I’d ever worked on, and I’ve been able to do so twice in the last four years.

The first time, I worked with a team to make SPENT, the online game about living on the edge of homelessness. During that process I learned that sometimes design is used to make up for what’s missing, and that if the writing is strong, the design actually needs to get out of the way. The second time, I helped make Names for Change, which featured 169 photos of everything the shelter depends on every day. I’d never directed a photo shoot, and we ended up photographing, retouching and stylizing all 169 images. Among other things, I learned that sometimes three colors are enough.