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Motivational tunes: I have a customized Spotify playlist that mainly includes jazz and math rock, but I especially like the music of the Japanese band toe and the Taiwanese indie band No Party For Cao Dong. This indie band broke the boundaries of music, which made its music become even more successful. In a similar way, designers also wish to break the boundaries of visual design, to both bring a nice experience to users and seek their own identification as designers.

Trend source: For websites, it would be siteInspire, as only the best websites will be featured. I also sometimes join seminars to get inspiration from what designers are sharing. Although we sit in front of our monitors looking at different designs, we seldom really listen to how other designers think. So, going to seminars can bring reflection and improvement. 

Workday necessity: I always bring my Bose QuietControl 30 noise-canceling earphones when I go to work, as my commute takes a long time.

Useful tools: For the organizing work I do on the internet, I use the Chrome extension Toby. The interface design tool Figma is also impressive; it’s especially good for collaboration across distributed teams.

Inspirational reading: Oliver Jeffers: The Working Mind and Drawing Hand because I didn’t know the whole context behind why he dipped me in paint.

Creative challenge: To get inspired, I make new things that make me uncomfortable. An example is my new YouTube channel, John Maeda Is Learning. I have so much respect for YouTubers now!

Guilty pleasure: Shopping. I grew up in a family business, and my mother’s only escape was to go to the mall. She always brought me along, so I learned to love shopping.

Reliable help: I am dyslexic; luckily, my assistant is always able to decode me.

Favorite collaborator: Aristide Benoist! We’ve already worked together on two projects—my portfolio and the Epicurrence site—and it was a dream. I’ve never worked with a developer who nailed the implementation of my designs in combination with such smooth and perfectly timed animations. He’s very passionate about his work, and it shows.

Valuable platforms: Winning site of the day on Awwwards and The FWA made my portfolio traffic shoot through the roof. Other than that, Twitter has turned out to be very engaging. I actually once landed a job at Ueno through designer Chad Tafolla, someone I got to know on Twitter.

Underappreciated resource: Pinterest. It’s a great tool to collect and organize all the design inspiration I run into on the web. It’s not all cooking and interior decorating on there.

Primary stress reliever: A tough workout followed by a good night’s sleep. I also have almost all notifications off on my phone. That helps too.

Daily routine: I enjoy biking to the office. It gets my blood pumping and helps me feel energized for the day.

Go-to tools: All of my personal projects go into Evernote. It’s easy to search, and it’s available on all my devices. When I’m working with others, it’s hard to beat Dropbox.

Eye-opening read: Aarron Walter’s book Designing for Emotion helped me see that great design work requires that you understand things like psychology and human behavior. Graphic design skills will only get you so far.

Mind-blowing work: I recently started using Vimeo, and I was way impressed by its video upload workflow. It wasn’t splashy or anything—just intuitive every step of the way. I love seeing complexity made simple. It’s like magic.

End-of-day reward: That feeling of progress. It could come from closing a Jira ticket, seeing a new subscriber or watching a feature go live. Whenever I look back on my day and see that tangible forward motion, I’m feeling great.

Workflow management: Abstract offers multiple services to help designers, but the main aspect I love is its version control for Sketch files. Using the tool does require you to change your design workflow, but the benefits of being able to collaborate and not worry about file versions are so worth it.

Creative fuel: I use Google Play Music to stream music and am always working to a beat. I mix it up between lo-fi hip-hop and chillwave stations when I want to concentrate, and when I need to recharge, I listen to indie Korean hip-hop. Since I don’t understand much Korean, the lyrics never distract me like English language music does; the production of the beats and the way the rappers flow their verses are incredibly addictive.

Following now: I’ve followed so many brand accounts on Instagram based on the aesthetics of how they present their companies in each post. Some standouts are Brandless, Allbirds, and several cosmetics companies, like Glossier, 3CE and romand.


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