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Q&A with Ryan Singer

Product manager at Basecamp

I'm a product manager at Basecamp. I started doing web design at 37signals ten years ago and worked on the first version of Basecamp, which we released in 2004. Today I come up with feature ideas, lead design on some features, and manage development.

How did you get started in UI design? What is your background?

I started playing with computers as a kid and became fascinated by database programs. I would make interfaces using Microsoft Access and the database app in ClarisWorks. When the web happened I taught myself HTML. I learned a lot in the beginning by studying Edward Tufte and Jakob Nielsen.

What are you working on now?

Some new things I can't talk about yet :)

What tools and software do you use for your work?

The tools I use most are GoodNotes for iPad and Vim. GoodNotes is an amazing sketching app. It replaced pen and paper for me. I use it to think through ideas and sketch concepts. Vim is my text editor. I use that for HTML, CSS and Rails.

What is your ideal work environment?

I get up and change whenever I need to kick off a focused session. I'll work from home for a while, realize I'm not being productive, then move to a coffee shop and get into the zone. I like having ambient activity around me without being directly interrupted by anyone.

Where are your favorite places for sharing experiences?

Probably inside a car or train. Traveling overland with friends is a great way to connect.

Who are the designers, artists you admire most?

Edward Tufte, Christopher Alexander, Jason and David at Basecamp, Kent Beck, Eric Evans, Rich Hickey. I included programmers in there because design is just as significant and interesting in the back-end. In both cases you're working with a system of connected parts that need to fulfill a function.