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September 5, 2016

Nick Spriggs (@ncsfoo) is a partner at Vector Media Group in New York City. Though he wasn’t one of the original founders, Nick’s role at Vector has been to grow the design and branding offerings to complement the development and marketing capabilities previously in place.

In this conversation, we discuss cultural differences among designers and developers, office rituals used at Vector, how to keep your remote colleagues in the daily mix, and best practices to keep an entire team communicating clearly and working productively.

Catch up with Nick on the website for Vector Media Group.

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Show Notes & Links
  • Nick & Prescott are co-hosts of The New York City Podcast Meetup
  • Past guest Vijay Mathews is a mutual friend
  • Nick is a native of Australia, came to the US for University in 1999
  • Rocky Mountain College of Art & Design
  • "Somehow a year in New York turned into 14."

    —Nick Spriggs

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  • Prescott ran afoul of the Visa situation when he graduated from a UK university
  • E-3 Visa for Australians, TN NAFTA for Canadians, et al.
  • Christina Canters, a past guest on The Busy Creator
  • The Museum of Mathematics
  • Vector’s output is mainly websites & apps
  • Their studio is rooted in branding, typography, traditional graphic design
  • Nick likes the term “Product Designer” in the rare cases when it actually applies (thought beyond the page or the pixel, to the inter-connected parts and a bit of the “how”)
  • "Clients sometimes don't understand what the term 'Design' means."

    —Nick Spriggs

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  • The “explosion of explanation” can be exciting for a client
  • Designers are trained to observe, critique, discuss our work; clients, not so much
  • Vector was created around 2008 by Matt Weinberg & Lee Goldberg
  • Vector is staffed with “Creative Developers”, not just code monkeys
  • Nick was invited to join as a partner after working together as a collaborator previously
  • Vector [still] takes on pure development projects, as well as a few pure design projects. Most stuff is collaborative, though.
  • "You really have to be on your game when explaining something (to remote teammates.)"

    —Nick Spriggs

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  • Reddit, and the “well, actually” culture
  • Vector has started creating a Darts-scoring app as a side project
  • They also created a “Project Hub” for client milestones & assets. (Click to enlarge)
  • Client dashboard (as static HTML)
  • Basecamp
  • “Clock Discipline”, the habit of tracking your activity hour-by-hour
  • Ken Carbone on fixed-costs project fees
  • Matt Inglot of Tilted Pixel
  • Consigliere
  • Vector provides staff with laptops, allowing transportability and work-from-home
  • Google Hangouts on Air will become YouTube Live
  • You can now do VOIP calls in Slack
  • GoToMeeting
  • Zoom
  • UberConference (and their hold music)
  • 9 Habits of Highly Creative People
  • Adam Harrison Levy uses wood-stacking as creative distraction
  • Formula 1 Racing
  • "A big part of building the business is just time management."

    —Nick Spriggs

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  • Todd Henry books “office hours”, a time where your team can access you
  • “Distractioneering”, when social media companies distract you on purpose
  •  Nick Spriggs on Twitter
  •  Nick Spriggs on Facebook
  •  Nick Spriggs on Instagram
  •  Nick Spriggs on LinkedIn
  • Tools
  • Google Hangouts
  • Burn down reports
  • Stack Overflow
  • Slack
  • UsabilityHub
  • Techniques
  • Keep clients excited & enthusiastic beyond the project itself (if they can’t stay energised, it’s hard for you).
  • Bring clients “in” to the process (wireframes, sketches, etc.)
  • Have clients describe “found objects” in early phases; let the client use their own language so we can use it later
  • Allow designers & developers to cross-involve each other
  • Learn to hold quick, informal meetings internally
  • Involve developers into design-led processes; they too can participate
  • Formalise kick-off meetings to involve the whole team, when possible
  • Use retainers with clients; set aside blocks of hours ahead of time to ease minds and control workflows
  • Schedule “reverse meetings”, time where you’re actually at your desk working and no one can distract you
  • Take a screenshot at a random time during the day; see what everyone in the shop is working on
  • Habits
  • Use collaboration to inspire ourselves
  • Observe the politics of your client’s company
  • Bring your remote employees to headquarters for occasional workshops/retreats
  • Explain with clarity when sharing with clients or remote colleagues
  • Hold daily Standups, even with remote staff (via video call)
  • Celebrate the project conclusion (close-out, hand-off, etc.); create office rituals around milestones along the way
  • Track your time internally — as individuals and as teams — for your own learnings, regardless of how you bill the client
  • Visit the quirky coffee shops in your neighbourhood
  • Take the time to walk home (even if it’s 1 hour or more)
  • Take a 10-15 minute walk when you feel “stuck” or distracted
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