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Q&A with Nick Disabato

Designer from Chicago | Interaction design consultancy "Draft"

I’m Nick Disabato and I run an interaction design consultancy called Draft.

How did you get started in design? 

I’ve been working with computers my whole life, and in high school I started to realize that I cared more about how software affected our expectations of technology. I would play a lot with the layout and behavior of web pages, and carried that into college, although the web had nothing to do with my major.

When I got out, I went into graduate school for human-computer interaction, and started at a small agency as a front-end developer. After a series of gigs and self-publishing Cadence & Slang, I ended up doing interaction design exclusively.

What are you working on now?

Today, I’m actually between major projects. I kick off a major project, redesiging a large payroll application, when I return from a long weekend.

On a monthly basis, though, I help people refine their sites gradually over time through a process called A/B testing. I also coach others to run independent, stable, durable businesses, although this has little to do with design itself.

Most of my days are spent writing, either in clarifying an interface’s functionality or teaching others how to make their own products more useful and functional.

What tools and software do you use for your work?

Interfaces are usually made in OmniGraffle, although I also use Coda to write HTML, CSS, and JavaScript when I create prototypes. User flows and site maps happen in OmniOutliner first, and then I make the final thing in OmniGraffle when I want it to look nice. I write fancy documents in Pages, and unfancy documents in iA Writer. Most of my non-physical-book reading happens in PDF Expert or Instapaper these days. And Soulver is indispensable for business calculations.

As you may have surmised, I use Apple hardware. I have a Retina MacBook Pro, iPad, and unbendable iPhone 5s. I have an old Mac Mini as a server for personal stuff, as well.

I have a white board in my office, and sketch a great deal as well. Pen and paper goes a long way in my design practice.

What is your ideal work environment?

The one I made, of course. I like having folks stop by.

Where are your favorite places for art?

The Museum of Contemporary Art is a great resource in my own home. I’ve had my mind blown there on a few nonconsecutive occasions. I also go to a lot of shows, especially at the Empty Bottle and Lincoln Hall.

Online, I like Sight Unseen a lot, and I always pay attention to what Boomkat and Mimaroglu care about. Totokaelo is fun to browse if you parse it more as a museum.

Who are the designers, artists you admire most?

Too many. A heinously incomplete list: The Knife, Bruno Munari, Basic Channel, Sonnenzimmer, Christopher Alexander, Robert Bringhurst, Ishmael Reed. I tend to get more out of music than design, probably because I spend so much time looking at design.

Sort of clich?, too, but my local community inspires me the most of all. Not just Chicagoan designers, though, but people who are committed to Chicago – that’s a significant distinction, and it can’t be faked. I am intensely grateful to be living in this town.