Cat Noone — Iris

New Jersey-based designer, focused on building products with meaningful experiences and advocates for the little details that make a big difference.

What led you into design?

Growing up I’d always enjoyed painting, drawing, and doing arts and crafts. And more so than that, I loved computers. I tinkered with them, played games, tried to figure out how and why programs worked the way they did. But I never really saw that my sketches and the computer could be blended until around the time I got into high school and took my first photoshop class. Previous to that, I’d only used photoshop to resize images or create very cheesy graphics where I’d crop someone out of an image and place them in really funny scenarios—like on a basketball court or in a different country. It was lame yet hilarious—I was a teenager.

Once I saw that illustrations and sketches of cars and what have you could be ported over and digitised, I began to truly explore what design is and eventually saw how impactful it could be when executed properly—from a timeless watch to software used to help visually impaired individuals.

What does a typical day look like?

A typical day is waking up at 6 am and doing some catching up on the latest news on social media until my daughter wakes up around 6:30-7am. From there, it’s Mom-duty (breakfast, playtime, etc.) with Emma for a few hours until she’s down for a nap at 11 am. I occasionally have calls in between, but for the most part, it’s Mommy time. I work from 11-3pm while Emma hangs with her Dad, and have calls scattered after that. Dinner time and bedtime routine for Emma happens from 5 to 7 pm. Once she’s in bed by 7 pm, it’s back to work for me for a few hours followed by some reading. My goal is 35 this year =X. I have a 6-7 hour work day. It’s definitely not as “free” as many folks who work from home, because I’m a work-from-home-parent [full-time], but the time I have is significantly more productive than it was before having Emma actually. Because I know my time is limited and not always guaranteed, I take huge advantage of it.

What’s your setup?

Where do you go to get inspired? Include websites if any.

I have a few ways I swear by when it comes to being inspired—research, travel and play.

I loving spending time looking at what other folks are putting out in the world—from illustration styles to new animations in a product. I continually download new apps, pay attention to not only those little details but aim to understand the problem the makers were trying to solve. Seeing the way they do so is always super interesting and inspirational.

I’m big on travel, whether it’s headed to a different state or country. I think the colours, music, smells and cultures from places that drastically differ from where you spend most of your time are the best way to understand how others think. It’s the highest form of inspiration to me and has a major effect on how I approach everything I implement into my projects.

As a Mum to a wildly beautiful toddler who just happens to love all things exploring, Disney / Pixar, messy art, etc. I have the privilege of being a kid again. The free spirit of my daughter Emma has me continually inspired for no other reason than remembering to enjoy the little moments and to do all things with the aim of having a positive impact on other’s lives whenever possible.

What product have you recently seen that made you think this is great design?

A mix of old and new products, both software and hardware alike:
Sway, Postepic, Duolingo, Apple Watch, an Epi-pen, AirPods

What pieces of work are you most proud of?

Iris - www.getiris.co
Liberio - www.liber.io
Stark - www.getstark.co
Toothpaste - http://imcatnoone.github.io/toothpaste/

What design challenge do you face at your company?

Iris is a modern day emergency alert. Given our aim is to be there in these truly scary moments for you or a loved one, the challenges for us are tackled from a slightly different angle than your average product. When building any product though, I have three pillars I place on top of the product’s foundation [or core challenge] that help tackle the issues in a much more efficient way: Simplicity, Friendliness, and Cohesiveness. With that said, the challenges we face(d) are:

What can be removed?
How do we make this as timeless as possible given this is a software product that needs to evolve over time in order to survive?
In the branding, how do we express empathy, commitment and compassion as a health product without having a typical looking health brand?
How do we deliver positivity but straightforwardness in the way we communicate with our users in a critical moment?
Of the UI that is there, what is the best copy, typefaces, colours, etc. to use that is professional but feels human, to ensure the above points are always achieved.

A few of these have been validated and aren’t necessarily a challenge for us any longer—for the time being. However, our design will eventually evolve for one reason or another, putting these back on the table.

Any advice for ambitious designers?

I have these 5 advice points I wrote down in my Notes app years ago that I continually share with others because they’ve been crucial and extremely beneficial for my career:

I. You're a beginner; keep that mindset even when you’re at a mastery level.
II. Jump off the cliff, your best lessons are at the bottom.
III. Your design is bad, you're not a bad designer (or person).
IV. Find a mentor and don't be afraid to ask for help.
V. Learn the fundamentals of your craft first. You can't paint a house without a foundation and frame.

Anything you want to promote or plug?

The Iris beta as we ramp up to launch. People can sign up at www.getiris.co
Stark - www.getstark.co

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