John Cowen is the Head of Design at Funeral Guide where he spends his time doing design and creative thinking. He holds a fascination for all aspects of design, from theoretical design down to the nuts and bolts of production-ready HTML & CSS. He is invested in research, workshops, presentations and conferences that have all blossomed from the simple pursuit of applying creativity to interaction design.
What motivates you to do what you do?
I love to solve problems, make things simpler and more beautiful. Design gives me the opportunity to do this. And I still love the creative freedom that comes from working online and the ability to quickly publish new designs and the constant iteration that follows.
How do you start your mornings?
Overnight oats and the Guardian crossword.
What does a ‘typical’ work day look like?
My days are typically split between meetings with stakeholders and other departments to both review work in progress and gather requirements for new feature development work.
It’s then going back to the team and making sure everyone has got the right information and direction they need to be able to deliver the different projects they’re working on. So for me this varies a lot between running design workshops, individual and team critiques, art direction, brand development, writing HTML and CSS or helping steer and develop our design libraries for different products.
Who do you lunch with?
Because so much of my day is spent talking with other people, I quite like a bit of time to myself at lunch. If the weather’s good I try and get out for a walk and some fresh air. If it’s raining I’ll probably be at my desk reading the Guardian online (Anyone who knows me, knows I’m a bit fanatical about the Guardian).
When are you most productive?
Early. I like to be at my desk working by 8am. The first few hours of the day are always the best for me.
What’s one thing you try to do every day?
As the design team has grown, I spend more time planning and reviewing work – ensuring the quality of design being delivered across the department is as good as it can be. I try to keep some space in my calendar every day to sit down and do some hands-on design work of my own. This might be UI/UX or graphic design work, or writing HTML & CSS, but it really helps keep me in touch with our products, have an intuitive feel for the design ethos and better identify what is and isn’t working.
What is your talk about?
You know the joke: Two CSS properties walk into a bar – a bar stool in a completely different bar falls over? This talk provides some tips on how to stop your bar stools falling over and suggestions for structuring CSS on large projects.
What is the best resource for people who want to dive in deeper?
For high level methodologies for writing and structuring CSS I can’t recommend Harry Roberts at csswizardry.com enough. I’ve learnt a huge amount from his blog posts over the years.
Thanks John for your answers! If you want to find out more, come along to our meetup: