Spotlight: Brooke Clifton
Issue 107: Interview with Brooke, Staff Product Designer at Public
In the spirit of experimentation and testing, I’m trying a new format called Spotlight, showcasing and getting to know other designers, builders, leaders, and entrepreneurs in their own words. It’s a pleasure to feature Brooke Clifton, Staff Product Designer at Public.com. I got to know Brooke throughout the On Deck Design Fellowship and am ecstatic to share this discussion.
Tell us a bit about your design journey. How did you get your start?
How long do you have? My design journey has been a long and winding road. I first learned about design as a career option in college from another student who, like me, was in a bunch of art classes and lived on the fourth floor of Missouri Hall (my dorm). She told me that she wanted to be a designer after college and I didn’t even know what that was until that moment but immediately decided that it was the path for me. In 2010, 2 years after college, I moved to NY where I struggled to get a job as a designer. It took me a few months, hundreds of applications and constant networking to get a (paid) internship—which I ultimately credit to a friend of a friend.
Even after that internship, it wasn’t smooth sailing. I pieced lots of freelance agency work together until I ended up at my first startup one Saturday afternoon (they were in crisis mode of course). I converted to a full-time employee at the startup (VIPART) and worked there for about 10 months until they let everyone go and sold the company. It was at VIPART where I started to learn about UX and designing for products. From there, I went back to freelancing and agencies until I landed my next startup role at Birchbox. This was probably when I decided that I want to be in tech, working product-side on the user experience and solving business problems.
You’ve been early at a few places—the first designer at Stash and early with Public. What draws you to an early stage as a designer? What are the challenges?
There are so many things that draw me to early-stage companies—moving fast, having more autonomy, navigating ambiguity, problem-solving, making decisions, contributing to the roadmap—as well as getting to do different parts of the design and research process like building prototypes, creating illustrations & animations (I do this less frequently but still enjoy it), usability testing, iterating, initial research and user interviews. I get to do it all and I love that. As far as challenges, not having enough resources, time, nor data. And juggling the workload and decisions based on that scarcity.
What is one part of the design process you find so much joy in—the design love language?
This is always changing for me. Right now, I really enjoy all the moments I’m prototyping—specifically in principle. I like thinking through the transitions and the movement and ultimately, I love the feeling of having built something and being able to test it out on my phone and iterate until it feels just right.
Is there a particular project or work you’re really proud of in your career?
I’m pretty proud of most of my work to be honest. I want everything I design to be great whether it’s my idea or someone else’s, I love iterating and seeing a project get better and better. If I had to pick a specific project though, I’d probably say my first project/job in tech at VIP ART. At that point I didn’t have any training in user experience, nor product strategy, I had only really just started designing for web, so everything was new and challenging and exciting. As I look back on the ideas that I contributed to building that product and the design solutions that I came up with, I’m proud and a little impressed by 2012 Brooke.
This publication celebrates learning and continued experimentation. What aspect of your career or life are you most excited about learning?
I’m so curious about everything and in a constant state of learning. Right now I’m experimenting with nomad working/living, learning about angel investing, and figuring out how I can help other designers with their career journeys.
What do you do to creatively recharge?
I’m a creature of variety so one day it might be doing something I love like bowling with friends, another day it may be trying something new. Last year I went kayaking for the first time and am now obsessed. This year I’m doing a 3-day, 2-night backpacking trip. I’ve never done a self-supported hike and camp so excited to see how that turns out.
Where can folks find you on the internet?
Basically, my handle everywhere on the web is @brookenbrooklyn. That includes:
I’m trying to be more active on Twitter & Medium, feel free to hold me accountable.
If you liked this Spotlight experiment, reply and let me know who else you’d like to see. If experiments have a good signal, I’ll include them in the editorial rotation.
Tweet of the week
Congrats to Jared Erondu on his new role. There is a lot of writing about people being jaded in design, but I’d argue there is no better time to be a designer. It’ll forever be horizontal and connecting the dots.
A list of unsponsored roles I see throughout the week
Disclaimer: I am an angel investor in Stashpad
Disclaimer: I am an angel investor in Eraser
This is the foundation for the Scratch programming language developed at MIT—a huge inspiration to me and visual programming