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Shay Howe, Product Director at Belly

Posted on Oct 14, 2014 by

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Shay Howe is a designer, developer, writer, educator and more. As prolific as he is talented, Shay also wins a million internet points for writing the excellent and free HTML and CSS coding lessons, a resource which was enormously useful and instructive to this blog’s editor.

Please tell us a little bit about yourself & your background.

A Midwesterner at heart, I grew up in a small town in Ohio before attending college in Arizona and later settling in Illinois. I’ve always been a curious person with a love for solving problems with technology. As such, after high school I attended a small university where I received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Digital Multimedia, and today work as the Direct of Product for Belly helping build the world’s best loyalty program.

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How did you become a digital designer?

It all started with music. In high school I played in a band with a few of my best friends. At first we needed flyers for shows and t-shirt designs, and eventually we needed a website to share our music and touring schedule. Over time I also helped other bands with their online presence and fell in love with building websites.

Where do you get your design inspiration from?

Most of my inspiration comes from those building amazing products, and rarely from books, tutorials, and the like. I’m a sucker for a great story, a clever solution, and a strong opinion. I may not always agree but I’m always interested in the process. My family and friends inspire me. It’s important that I spend a fair amount of time with them to energize and motive me to accomplish tomorrow’s goals.

Do you see the design and development worlds colliding?

Everyday, and commonly for the greater good. Designers and developers need to come together, and achieve more than they could alone. Bringing these disciplines together is difficult but those that do have much to gain.

What are some industry sites or blogs that you read on a regular basis?

I keep a close eye on designers and developers I respect to see what they are sharing. The best resources always work their way around. I also subscribe to a handful of newsletters, including: Sidebar, Web Design Weekly, CSS Weekly, Sass News Weekly, JavaScript Weekly, Product Hunt, Benedict Evans, and Jen Myers.

What are a few of your favorite design software tools, and why? (Web frameworks, Adobe software, etc.)

Nothing beats pencil and paper or a trusted whiteboard. However, when I move to a screen I generally start with InVision, Photoshop, or HTML and CSS. It really depends on where I’m at in the process and the level of fidelity I’m comfortable with. When it comes time to start committing code I favor Middleman, Angular, and Belly’s own Rolodex front-end toolkit.

Could you describe what a normal day of work looks like for you?

Everyday is different and it’s beautiful. I try to focus on where I’ll have the largest impact. Some days that’s designing and writing code, and other days it’s planning, helping facilitate decisions, and keeping teams moving.

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What do you think is the most intimidating thing for first-time developers (or new designers) who want to get started? How do you think they can overcome this?

The sheer amount of perceived knowledge someone needs within this industry can be quite intimidating, and it’s a lot to wrap your head around. I recommend starting small and working on a handful of projects at different times. The best way to learn is through working on different websites and letting the problems of building each website dictate what you learn and when. In time, you’ll build enough experience and knowledge to be well on your way.

What advice would you give to someone trying to break into the industry?

The most important thing you can do is solve a problem you truly care about. Simply wanting to be a designer or developer isn’t enough. The best, and most successful, designers and developers work day in and day out on problems they genuinely want to solve. If you’re not interested in a project you won’t give it your all. Don’t waste your time, it’s too valuable. Find what you care about and go at it 110%.

Do you have any thoughts on what the future of digital design is?

Honestly, I have no idea, and that’s one of many reasons I love design. The landscape continually changes with new technologies, products, and so forth. I’m always on my toes, ready and eager for what’s next.

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