Interview with Zack Sultan...
We have a great interview to kick off the week...
Zack Sultan is a designer at Tumblr. He really has an interesting style and approach to design. I wanted to interview Zack to hear, and understand what Tumblr is like, and all about, as I for a long time have considered switching. Hope you like the interview...
Q. How/why/when did you get into designing?
A. Journalism was the gateway for me. Design interested me as way to effectively distribute information. When I was in fifth grade I ran a newsletter that I designed in WordPerfect and Xeroxed (double-sided) on neon-orange 8.5x11 paper. I kept at the journalism thing. In college, I spent a semester working as the features editor of our daily newspaper. Five days a week I would go to class during the day, and then report to our nightly editorial meeting at 6:00pm. I'd work until around 2:00am editing stories in a software suite called "News Edit Pro," and then go home and try to do my coursework. I didn't have the stamina for it. So I asked to work at the production desk, where there was a less consuming schedule. It was a revelation. Where line editing was painful, design was meditative, and still satisfied some of my interest in getting information to an audience. While I missed the directness of writing the content, there is something seductive about the more "ambient" challenges of design: creating the conditions under which certain messages can be received. I've continued to be fascinated with this aspect of design.
Q. If you were shrunk down to the size of a pea and dropped in a blender how would you get out?
A. I would use my laser vision to cut a doorway into the side of the pitcher.
Q. What is it like designing at Tumblr?
A. Tumblr is a great place to work as a designer. The design team functions as a small studio off to the side of the rest of the company, collectively handling everything that leaves the company, from iPhone apps to t-shirts. Structurally, it helps maintain a level of quality and attention to detail. It’s also a design focused company. We get to invent our product, as much as creating a presentation for it. This means that we can apply a certain rigor to how and why features get added. We’re almost reactionary in our approach; we’re constantly cutting down and perfecting details, looking to old objects to think about how we approach design today. Our goal is to have as little as possible competing with the content on Tumblr — which is a great philosophy to approach interaction design with.
Q. What computer do you use and why?
A. I use whatever computer is available. I do my best to avoid fetishizing the machine I'm using regardless of how anthropomorphized or "personal" the interface may be. I try to think of them as technologies to help achieve a desired result, like a pencil, or, for that matter, language. A computer can't improve an idea, though it can facilitate it.
Q. What can we expect from you in the future?
A. I've had a side project for a couple of years called the New York Moon. It's a newspaper that exists online, but also has occasional physical manifestations. We write about history, technology, science and urbanism, and publish according to the phases of the real waxing and waning moon. My hope for the future is to eventually print it on blue-tinted, broadsheet newsprint and distribute it as an evening paper to commuters on their way home from work. Another dream of mine is to work with architects to design a public building or space. I think a museum would be a fascinating project to think about. It’s a building that is itself a medium for content, and in many respects frames how you view and interpret things. There is an amazing power in this, but also a quietness and subtlety.
I am super jealous. Tumblr seems like a real "jive" place to work. For Zack I wanted to incorporate Tumblr into his wallpaper. You can buy it here.