An Interview with Luke Beard of Elepath

If you’re a designer, you’ve probably seen Luke Beard’s work around the web and mobile from Zerply to Hipstamatic. We actually reviewed his app, Skimn, right here on The Industry a few months back. I had the chance to interview him last week amidst his crazy schedule, so without further ado, let’s introduce the Beard!

How did you get into design?

In my early teens I got obsessed with CD packaging; because of this, I became hyper aware of design, and how it was affecting my perception and opinions. I was always curious about how visuals were being created, but I was too busy riding my skateboard around to really investigate any further than that. During my first year of college, I had a few simple lessons in Photoshop and web design. Something there clicked: I enjoyed them immensely and seemed to catch on pretty quickly. So, I thought I would try and teach myself some design skills (Photoshop/HTML & CSS) to see where it would take me. I learned some fundamentals, and worked with a few of my friends’ bands to design some CD packaging and little websites. It was clear at that point that all I wanted to do was to design whatever I got could get my hands on.

How long have you been designing?

From a personal standpoint? Around 8 years. But as a career, I’d say about 7.

Where have you worked?

My first design-­related job was at a local web agency, where I was their only designer for 3 years. I refer to this time as my “in the trenches” years. I did support, dealt with idiotic clients, wrote really bad .net code, and designed some terrible terrible stuff (and once in awhile, a really great thing). Still, I came out of it having learned a great deal about designing for a living, and client­based working. From there I was luckily enough to start working with the fine folks at Zerply and have my first startup experience. This was a real game­changer moment, because it severely changed my career intentions to a much more product­oriented direction. I actually owe much of my success to the Zerply guys for giving me a chance (thanks Tanniel & Christofer!). After Zerply, I had a brief stint working on WordPress themes at Themezilla before focusing on design consultancy roles for various SF ­based companies. I had a great time working with Hipstamatic, Buffer and, most recently, WillCall. I’m now at Elepath working with some truly incredible people.

Who do you look up to?

I’ve been asked this question a few times and I find it increasingly difficult to pinpoint anyone specific, since I’m surround by all of these impossibly talented and inspiring individuals. But I think in general, I look up to anyone who is giving a shit about what they do regardless of industry or role. I know that sounds like a cop out answer, but I can get stoked on a lot of anyone who is really standing behind what they’ve done; everything from hearing a “my company nearly died but then we did x and now we are better than ever” story, to listening to my Dad talk about how he plans on renovating a haggard-­ass old boat he bought on eBay. It’s the dedication that I appreciate.

Also, Kyle Bragger.

What affects the way you work? What motivates you?

I worked remotely almost exclusively for the past 3.5 years and it became very apparent that being free from the standard “work hours” and having a lot of freedom brought out the best in me. By freedom, I mean things like the location of where you work, time to be away from your computer, and full control over distractions around you. That being said, having the right people around you when you are working is a huge plus. Thankfully, though I’m transitioning out of working remotely, I’m currently in a position where I have an incredible amount of freedom as well as surround by the smartest people I know. When it comes to motivation, it’s really very simple. I want to be good at what I do ­­ and not only that, but I want to get notably better over time. I get really excited when I compare the work I’m doing now to the work I was doing 3 months ago. It’s like losing weight; you get excited to continue improving when you can visually see great results.

What do you think is your best work as of now?

I always liked the work I did on I did all the design and build, and had a lot of fun in the process. The Buffer iPhone app is also pretty great too. ­

How does where you live impact your work?

I think it’s important to think about how where you live affects you as a person, as opposed to your work. If you live somewhere that is making you happy, your work will reflect that without you even thinking about it. Live in a place where you have access to decent friends, make sure you can see some shows, go off­road segway’n. It really does not matter, just make sure you feel happy. Once thing I have noticed is how a team of people can be affected by the vibe of the city they are in. I’m currently in Berlin with rest of Elepath and there is a very apparent opinion among everyone that Berlin is super chill compared to the tech focused madness that is San Francisco. I think everyone feels a lot more relaxed because of that.

What does an average day look like for you?

While I’ve been in Berlin It’s gone a little something like this: Waking up around 9/10 and then grabbing breakfast with any teammate who will be at our co­working space that day. We have been getting some great breakfast at joint called Aunt Benny. If you are in Berlin you should check it out. Once I get to my desk I generally I have a quick skim over tech/design news before getting down to some work. We grab lunch around 3:30 and leave around 7/8. The evenings are spent roaming around Berlin going to various highly ­suggested spots.

And your workspace?

I’ve not had one for about 2 months while I’ve been traveling/finishing my US visa. But in general all I have is a 27″ Apple display and a notebook. Right now I have a fan pointed directly at my face since it’s impossibly warm.

What music gets you “in the zone?”

I have a pretty eclectic music taste but I tend to lend myself to more ambient jams to just block out the world. This Will Destroy You, Cloud Boat, Long Distance Calling, Nils Frahm, Holy Other, XXYYXX.

What’s inspiring you right now?

My coworkers are all widely inspiring. Being around such a creative group of people has adjusted my thinking in a really positive way over the last few months.

Where or how do you position yourself as a member of our community, our industry we call “design?”

I think I’m pretty approachable (or would hope I seem to be). I will always reply to emails asking for advice, or just general questions. I don’t intentionally try to position myself anywhere.

What do you think is one of the worst design­-related decisions you’ve ever made?

Using hot pink in a few things. I also use a period in Comic Sans to create a circle now and again, just to troll myself later down my design process.

What do you want to see yourself as in 5­-10 years?

Hopefully just working on great things on a bigger scale with good people. I would quite like a dog at some point, too.

What advice can you give to designers just starting out?

Learn about your medium and learn to code (if applicable). If you want a career in design you will need to take chances and you totally should. Just be bold and honest about where you want to be and you will get there.

Where can people find you on the web?

My website, blog, Twitter, and Instagram. And here.

Jumpstarting a Design Community

Understand Your Compensation

Designer Monoculture

The State of Design Leadership

The Science of Product Design

Interview with Michael Flarup: Co-Founder and Lead Designer at Robocat

The Importance of Design Conventions