Spencer Schimel

Spencer Schimel — RocketVisor

Product Designer (Physical) turned Product Designer (Digital) based in NYC. Lead Designer (slash only designer) at Rocketvisor. Adjunct Professor at SVA.

What led you into design?

I grew up an art student, following in the footsteps of my more talented older brother, but I never really felt a strong urge to create new art. I was really much more of a tinkerer, looking at the objects I had and thinking about how they could work a little better in my life. Small things, like removing the buttons I didn’t need from my remote control so I could use it easier in the dark or making my own super-thin wallets because no stores sold bifold wallets as thin as I wanted them.

In middle school and early high school, I focused my creativity towards art because I didn’t know design was an option. When my older brother went to college for fine art in my junior year, he told me that something called industrial design existed (which is what I ended up studying in college).

What does a typical day look like?

Mornings start at 6:30 with coffee, eggs, and the latest episode of The Daily played on my Alexa. I try to get to the gym by 7 (rarely do), but an hour of exercise is an important start to my day. It makes all the snacking I’ll do later in the office much more “guilt-free.” It’s also where I get some focused thought, life-planning, and self-reflection before getting into work-mode for the day.

When I get to work, I like to spend my first hour doing any non-design tasks I have. I find that once I jump into UX or UI, I’m fully sucked in, rarely with a “stopping point” until the end of the day, so it’s best I get the small things out of the way first.

While my primary function at RocketVisor is to lead the UX and UI, I also spend a portion of my time conducting research, managing our contractors, creating marketing materials, running retrospectives, and I’m currently knee-deep in QA as we get our product ready for our first company pilots.

If the day in question is a Wednesday, then it’s a long day, as I’ve just started teaching intro to interaction design at the School of Visual Arts. It’s a 3-hour class once a week, which I luckily co-teach with my best friend (and former classmate then coworker), Greg. Anyone interested in teaching I highly recommend finding yourself a good co-teacher.

What’s your setup?

Where do you go to get inspired?

I’m admittedly not a great “seeker” of regular design inspiration, but I do look out for good books that could help me improve my design process, or help me approach a new challenge with more success. A recent (and short) read that I really recommend is The Mom Test by Rob Fitzpatrick, which has totally changed the way I approach and interpret user feedback.

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

I’m surprisingly impressed (and reliant) on my Amazon Alexa. I find it amazingly handy to use, as it doesn’t require me to look at it, touch it, or even be near it. Checking the weather on my phone now feels like a chore. It has shaved minutes off my daily routines, which really adds up!

What pieces of work are you most proud of?

Working on the Nike+ Running app still sticks out as an amazing experience 8 years later. When I was put on the project, I figured it was a good idea to start running to better understand it. I wasn’t much of a runner, but went on my first 3 mile walk/run with the app to test it out. About 7 months later I ran my first half marathon, using the latest release that I worked on,

What design challenges do you face at your company?

One challenge working at such a new product is getting real user feedback. It’s pretty difficult when you haven’t let in any users yet... Up until this point we’ve had a number of conversations with a wide range of potential users, and we’ve formed hypotheses and prioritized features based on those chats, but we won’t really know if we’re solving the intended problem until we get a number of companies to try it out.

We are finally onboarding our first pilot companies this month, so we’re currently thinking about how to best collect feedback throughout their use.

What music do you listen to whilst designing?

Any advice for ambitious designers?

An important lesson I’ve learned over the years (changing companies 4 times) is that salary is only one of many factors when choosing your next career move. Throughout my career, I’ve put a focus on growing my skills, and I join the companies that I think will help me develop the new ones that I need to get to the next level as a designer. In prioritizing growth and learning over salary, I’ve actually taken a salary cut twice (both times moving to a smaller company with less funding). It can feel like a step backwards at first, but it was a great decision both times I did it, and I’m a better designer today because I chased learning opportunities more than salary increases.

Anything you want to promote or plug?

If you’re reading this and you lead a team’s roadmap/priorities, you should try RocketVisor instead of the spreadsheet you’re probably using!

Sign up to try it at www.visor.us or send me an email at [email protected] to see a sneak peek or learn more.

Share this interview

Related Interviews

Ramon Gilabert — Netlify

Ramon is a Barcelona based interaction designer. He is into psychology and behavior, and is currently learning about behavioral economics, accessibility and inclusive design. A soccer fan and sometimes a runner.

Devine Lu Linvega — XXIIVV

Operating under the Neauoire moniker, Devine is a polymath working on a series of experimental tools and applications while sailing around the world and documenting their life at sea.

Aaina Sharma — Unmind

Aaina is a product designer based in London via San Francisco, currently heading up design at Unmind. Her passion lies in creating brands and digital experiences. Loves to travel and laugh out loud.

Franny Van Eyck — Freelancer

A funky fresh graphic designer who clowns around in pixels and is mastering the art of rewriting code. Currently residing in Minneapolis, MN.