Hello! Who are you? Tell us about yourself. What are you passionate about? What do you enjoy doing?

I’m Megs Fulton, and I currently reside in Portland, Oregon but was born and raised north of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I share my home and life with my partner, dog, two cats, and parrotlet. I’m passionate about social good, creative expression, and how those things intersect with technology.

I enjoy a wide array of hobbies. To me there’s nothing more satisfying than squishing paint, mixing dough, or exploring a random flea market. I also love visiting new places and am fortunate that I get to travel as part of my job working for a fully distributed company.

How did you get started in product design?

It was a bit of an accident but not a surprise. I had been dabbling in web design and development all throughout high school, mostly messing around with animation and building small games in Flash. It gave me an inkling that I wanted to be a “web designer.” When I started to look at college programs for design, I realized they were primarily at art schools which required a portfolio of non-digital artwork to get in. I had pretty much resigned myself that I would study computer science instead as an alternative way into the field. But then I was so fortunate to have a high school art teacher who saw potential in my weird Flash experiments. He helped me prepare a portfolio that art colleges would consider acceptable and recommended schools with strong graphic design programs for me to apply to. I ended up attending Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia and studied in their Graphic and Interactive Design program. 

My professional design career began in advertising where I was the lone “Web Designer / Developer” at an advertising agency. I did that for over a year while I finished my degree. After graduating, I moved across the country to San Francisco mostly on a whim and for a change of scenery. It was the middle of the 2009 recession, and I moved without knowing anyone, without  work lined up, and with enough money to make rent for three months. I ended up taking the first job that came my way which was creating banner ads for a mobile gaming startup. The app experience was rough around the edges and I persuaded the powers that be to let me try my hand at designing for the product experience. I ended up loving it and taught myself as much as I could with what was available at the time. 

Where do you work today? What is your title?

I work for Automattic and I’m part of the design team working on mobile applications. I’m a Principal Product Designer. 

My cleanish desk

How big is your company? How big is your design team?

Automattic is over 800 people and the design team is over about 60 people now but always growing. 

Automattic designers at a meetup in Bilbao, Spain

What types of things are you responsible for day-to-day?

Coordinating and communicating with the engineering and design teams, making sure that everyone has what they need from me so they’re not blocked, heads down work time to keep my work moving forward, and sharing progress on my work to get feedback early and often.

What do you love most about your work?

I love the variety that comes with being involved in all the stages of product development. From conducting user research, developing a strategy and goals, designing the user flows and interactions as well as the screens, collaborating with engineers, making sure everything is working according to spec before it ships, and analyzing data after it’s out in the wild and in users hands. Not being stuck in a particular phase of work means I’m never bored. 

What drains you at work?

If you had asked me this a few years ago, I would have said commuting and open office floor plans. Now that I’ve successfully eliminated those stressors from my working life, I’d have to say that I miss being able to quickly and casually riff or bounce ideas around with a colleague. There’s a certain energy around it that’s not easily replicated remotely. I find having to schedule and plan a meeting for brainstorming isn’t draining per se, but it creates a formality around it that I’m not fond of. 

Can you walk us through your typical work day?

6:00amMy pets come first, so I start my day feeding and taking care of them. I make and eat breakfast with my husband and parrotlet, Oliver. Then I get ready for the day. Even though I work from home, I still make a point of getting dressed it’s a mental switch that the workday is about to begin. 
7:00am
I spend about 30 minutes journaling every morning before I open my computer. Then I spend the beginning of my day catching up on Slack messages and making my work to-do list.
8:00amIf I have meetings scheduled it’s usually during this time since I’m in a later time zone on the West Coast. If I don’t have meetings, this is my prime work time where I do my best thinking work. 
12:00pmI make and eat lunch around this time. I usually catch up on Twitter happenings or reading something related to work.
1:00pmMore focused work time. I try and save work that requires less thinking for the afternoons. Around 4pm I start winding down and making notes of what needs to be continued the following day. 
4:30pmThe lights in my office are on a timer and switch off at this time. I’m done for the day and use exercise as my evening mental switch. 

Where do you turn for inspiration?

I turn to sources outside of the design and technology industry because it’s so important to know what’s happening outside of the bubble that you’re operating in day to day. I follow fashion, visit museums and galleries, and attend local dance and theater performances. I also have a soft spot for kitsch and pop culture. To me inspiration is about getting out of your own head, a bit like a mental palette cleanser. Even just going on a walk around the neighborhood can be enough for me some days. 

What design or project are you most proud of? (It can be recent or older).

Hands down the Spruce Dermatology Clinic. It was a mobile app where you could have a virtual visit with a licensed dermatologist to receive a diagnosis and treatment plan with prescriptions sent to your preferred pharmacy. I loved hearing people’s stories about how having access to affordable medical care made such a positive and meaningful impact on their life and well being.

Walk us through the design process you used for a recent project (you can pick any project).

My process varies so much project to project that it’s hard to pick which one to use as an example. So instead, I’ll share one part of my process that’s my favorite. When I’m ready to start getting into designing flows or screens, I always start sketching with paper and pencil so I don’t get too caught up in tiny details just yet. At this stage I tend to focus on the content and the interactions. Then for each screen in the flow I ask questions that are loosely based on an empathy map: 

  • “What are they thinking right now?”
  • “What are they feeling right now?” 

By asking and then answering those questions, I can start to understand and try to mitigate what fears, worries, anxieties, annoyances, and other complexities might be a barrier to helping a user accomplish what it was they set out to do. 

What career advice do you have for product designers just getting started?

You don’t have to learn or know it all. The field of product design has expanded to include so many different disciplines that it can be overwhelming to know where to begin. Pick what you’re most interested in and see where it takes you. But if you really can’t choose, start with typography because it’s fundamental to the art of visual communication. 

Where’s the best place for folks to learn more about you or follow you?

Probably over on Twitter

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