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Q&A with Lara Schenck


My name is Lara (not Laura) Schenck. I struggle with a job title, but in short, I’m a hybrid designer/developer/consultant in New York City. My main focus these days is teaching - I like to say I “fill in the knowledge gaps”, and teach what you don’t learn in tutorials. I work primarily with individuals and designers who need support with specific projects or topics, as well as small businesses looking to move their website work in-house.

For client work, I provide small businesses with branding and custom WordPress websites. I am adamant about working from scratch, and depending on the client’s budget, I will pitch a “website with you” option where we select a theme and create a WordPress site together instead.

What inspired you to become a web designer?

My final semester of art school, one of my teachers was like,

You should learn to make websites, then freelance and call your own shots

So I did! I think a large part of my motivation was a rebellion against the conceptual art that predominated my school - I wanted to make useful things for everyone, not weird things for theorists to contemplate. Websites fit the bill. I quickly learned to love teaching myself code and, soon enough, learning new technologies became addicting instead of wildly frustrating.

What tools do you use to organize your work?

This will be a long list, brace yourself:


  • Macbook Pro
  • Wacom Tablet
  • Whiteboard
  • AeroPress


  • Harvest - time tracking and invoicing
  • Numbers - I set up a cute spreadsheet to track income goals with pretty graphs
  • Pocket - bookmarking links
  • Basecamp - project management
  • Evernote - of course
  • Mailbox - email
  • Torpedo - for quick file sharing
  • Spectacle - window management
  • iA Writer - Markdown loveliness

Dev stuff:

  • Sublime Text 3 + Emmet - ‘nuff said.
  • Starter kits - I’ve put together a few wireframing and Sass starter kits for myself, they are on Github if you’re interested!
  • Sass - gosh, I love Sass. Like, my heart is swelling with love right now.
  • Grunt - game changer.
  • Git - I would die if I had to deploy with FTP again.
  • Homebrew - OS X package manager. Makes my life more difficult, but fun to figure out.
  • iTerm - better than Terminal.
  • Timber with ACF - Twig templating for WordPress…it feels like flying.

Design stuff:

  • Illustrator and InDesign - for mockups, logos, and contract designs.
  • Typekit - the best option for fonts so far, but I’m slowly leaning towards Hoefler and Co.
  • Gridset - for designing grids. It comes with both a set of CSS classes for prototyping and Sass mixins for production.
  • Sip - the most adorable color picker in the world.
  • LittleIpsum - app for quick copy/paste filler text.

What is your ideal work environment?

My coworking space, New Work City. It’s a fantastic community and network, with a great space in lower Manhattan. All of the workspace is flex, so you can hop around from desk to desk but I definitely have my preferred spot. I like to get there early in the mornings before everyone else, the ideal focus time.

Where does your work inspiration come from?

First and foremost, New York City. Everyone is here to pursue a passion - you don’t come to New York for the standard of living. Walking around the busy streets of Manhattan is a perfect time for contemplating code problems and to-dos, or brainstorming designs and new ventures. The energy is contagious, and I’ve learned to love the hustle, even the smells.

Podcasts. Specifically Shop Talk Show, Businessology, Freakonomics and my brother’s MTNmeister. My dream is to be on Shop Talk Show one day (are you reading this Chris and Dave?).

Web-wise, Brad Frost’s food bank project and Stephen Hay’s RWD workflow. At the end of the day, I believe design is about process over product, and it is invaluable to see the processes of such talented people. Also, the latest and greatest from Designer News.

Lastly, cocktails. An expertly crafted Negroni is no small feat, and I think the art of mixing drinks draws many parallels to design. But full disclosure: I’m definitely more on the side of drinking cocktails than making them…

Who are the people you admire most?

Everyone involved in the mobile first/content out web design movement - particularly Brad Frost (of course), Jeremy Keith, and Karen McGrane. Design business gurus Dan Mall and Mike Montiero, and all things front-end from Chris Coyier and Harry Roberts. Finally, everyone who has ever contributed to the web community. It takes a long time to write a blog post, and I deeply admire anyone who makes an effort to give back.