Posts in Words

Today isn't anything to some of you. Some of you haven't woken up to the sunshine yet. For some, today is "just another day".

Today is unfortunately a day from someone's worst nightmare. Death. Divorce. Whatever. Today is a few days after someone's birthday. Today is absolute shit for someone.

Today is a lot of different things for a lot of different people.

For me, today is a day I'll never forget. A positive one. A monumental one and a far more encouraging one that I'd ever imagined.

It's day 90.

It's also a day I've finally felt like saying something about it. A day to post a ramble about it. A day to just write it out and, at times, not even make total sense about it.

So, cheers.

Here's to 90 days... 90 days of being completely sober. No alcohol. None. Not one sip. And you know what's weird? I don't miss that asshole one bit. 

I want to continue on. Sober. Without that shit in my life. I hate the commercials. I hate the signs. I hate the thought of it. I still remember the taste of it at times and I hate that too. I hate what I became. 

There's not a day that goes by that I don't think back to the many times where having enough to drink was the main concern for the day. Or the times I'd stop at a store and drink in my car in the parking lot during my commute home. Or the times I'd keep drinking so I could sleep at night. Every night. 

There was that one Sunday many months ago that I went the entire day with nothing to drink. I woke up the next day proud of myself and thinking "I went a WHOLE DAY with no beer. I'm okay. I'm fine. I'm going to celebrate. TONIGHT!"

I celebrated. That day. At 11am. Until 11pm. I think.

I was actually not okay. I wasn't fine. I couldn't stand the thought of not drinking or running low on my oh-so-great supply.

I want to move forward with what I've learned about myself, what I've learned about my new way of doing things, and carry with me the damage I caused myself, my family, my kids, and everyone in my life and truly make it better. Better than ever.

I will carry on.

With the help, support, and love I have, there is no way I couldn't go forward. 

I don't fully believe in "never look back" or "good things come to those who wait" or any of that bullshit jargon. It's all just that. Jargon. I made mistakes. I want something better for everyone around me, myself, and the lives affected by those mistakes.

So yes, I WILL "look back" from time-to-time and see how far things have come.

I WONT "wait for good things". I shall go out and earn that shit. Every single ounce of it. All of it.

To my loving wife, adorable children, and heartfelt friends that have gotten me this far, you will not be let down. Ever again. I was a mess. A giant mess. A fat, lazy, defiant mess. 

I refuse to be that again.

WordsAnt Sanders
Dear Friends...

Friends. Please read. Help if you can.

We started GIANT to do something different. Along with a bunch of other people we got tired of the "same old same old". There is a need in multiple industries for a gathering for real people. For newcomers. For outsiders. For coders, writers, and designers. For makers and entrepreneurs. There's a need for an event that gives women and people of color equal stage. We made that event. We made 3 of them, actually. People have LOVED them. Right now we need help. We've had some things that were promised not be delivered.

If you at all believe in what we're trying to do help us out. Shoot us an intro to somebody you know who might want to sponsor and help us keep this going.

WordsHeather Love
What if...

It's been a whirlwind of a week.

Just over a week.

Roughly 8 days, 4 hours, and 9 minutes since I got the news. No longer would I have a job. No longer would I have income. My job search was to go underway immediately. I had no mindset that could have helped with this but I did have wonderful things. I have a supportive wife, a loving family, wonderful friends, positive reinforcement and all around great things in my life. All these came front and center towards me once hearing the news.

The ugly side of it all is that I was just that, ugly. UGLY with all caps.

Cranky. Irritable. Pissy. Sad. Mad. All of the above. Probably pretty crappy to be around. Actually I KNOW I was crappy to be around. Just ask the wife.

"What if I could somehow make GIANT work out to be a full-time thing?"

"What if I could find another cool remote designer position like the one I had?"

"What if we won the stupid lottery and I could spend it on land, a modest house, goats, chickens, a garden, and an old truck like I once had?" Oh, and Emma wants a horse. Like, a pretty horse that she can probably name "Princess" or something.

Questions. All day. Everyday. They never leave. They run around the brain like a 500 mile race to some unknown finish line. 

I applied for many jobs. I was turned down for a few. I didn't want a couple of them. I despised a few of them. All in all, I was searching and it was out of my hands. 

Those family members, supporting wife, friends, and surroundings were wishing me luck.

I left a super rad interview on Monday of this week asking "What IF I worked there?"

"What if I could truly make a difference at a rad company I've looked up to for years?"

Well.. I can. I will. 

Next week, I join the super rad folks at Mullen Lowe to lead UX for the agency. I am beyond stoked and at a loss for words at how great this opportunity means to me. 

Turns out, they have a montage of some of their rad work, aptly titled "What If?"


WordsHeather Love
Never a perfect score

From the super rad visit to Asheville on Tuesday to yesterday being a harshly devastating day, this week is a rollercoaster at best. Yesterday, I was let go from Mad Pow along with quite a few others due to budget cuts. No further work. No immediate need for the positions. No notice. Nothing. This kind of crap happens and has hit close to home many many times but I always avoided the loss of a job. I have been extremely fortunate to have never been fired, dismissed or laid off from a job. I've honestly never had a job that wasn't in the creative field. 

Well, other than Arby's when I was 15 but I was a "sandwich designer". I made one heck of a roast beef sandwich that you can't get on the menu. Ingredients are still secret so don't ask.

Oh, and the nursing home when I was a little older but even there, I was a "mood designer". I tried to make old people laugh that I knew were having a much worse day than me. I actually washed dishes but to me, I also made people smile. It was kinda cool. Old people are cool. They teach young jerks like myself at the time a whole lot.

Best Buy was next in my oh-so-awesome career path and even there, I got to design and lay out end-caps and retail stuff for new media releases. I was a "Media Specialist" but to me, I was around music so I didn't care.

Today was a new start but I awoke with anger. I awoke with hurt, and disbelief. I awoke with a beautiful family to support and not knowing how that would happen going forward but somehow the Wife puts the worry aside to make sure the 3 little ones have a solid breakfast and a smile on their face. I could learn a few things from her through this I bet.

There's never a perfect score in this weird shit we call life but we all keep moving. We all keep hoping for the best and somehow, some way, it works out.

This time, I REALLY hope it works out because, 35 years into this thing called life, I got plans. I have goals. I WILL reach them. 

Bring it, life. Let's do this.

WordsHeather Love
An Appreciation of Graffiti in Asheville - the River Arts District

Yesterday, I took a day off to spend with the family for an impromptu trip to Asheville, NC. It's one of our favorite places to visit. We'd been a thousand times but never had we seen such beauty. The mountains, the food, the people, the weirdness, the smell of hippies is all amazing in it's own way.

This time we went more for art (and food of course) than anything else. The River Arts District to be exact. It was absolutely mind-blowing! Patch Whisky, Gus Cutty, and STUTR were just a few of many graffiti artists that have graced thousands upon thousands of feet of wall space behind the River Center on Old Lyman Street.

WordsHeather Love
A Simple Man and a Simple Gift

Up until the last few years, it's always been just another year that goes by. Just another month of April. Just another April 16th to be exact. As a little punk-ass teenager with very little respect or care for anything other than myself, I always had a thought of "oh well, I didn't know him that well" and would just carry on with little to no emotion.  Now, 30 years later, I feel like I knew my Grandfather a hell of a lot more than I ever gave it all credit for. He passed away 30 years ago today and thoughts have been crowding my head for weeks. 

It's never been that I didn't care about him or that I didn't understand the pain it caused my family. The pain of loss. The pain of unexpected death. I was 4-years-old when it happened. It being the auto accident that took his life that year. I remember my parents holding me, being excited to go into my Grandparents house but, once inside, not understanding the sadness, the crying and the shock on everyone's dreary faces. But I do remember. I remember a lot of it. The newspaper clipping describing the info surrounding his death. The obituary. The building of strength within my Grandmother and Mom through the years to carry on. All of it. Each year, a new memory surfaces.

My Grandfather was a solid dude. A preacher. A family man. One heck of a guitar player. He'd play an old Gibson acoustic guitar louder and more precise than many crappy musicians nowadays attempt to with an electric and an amp. 

His musical talent carried through to my Mom and eventually onto me. I learned by watching bands on TV, reading magazines and tablature books. Eventually I learned myself and what I wanted to be. A musician. An artist. A designer. I wanted to make an impact. Years later, his Gibson guitar was handed down to me and to this day, I play it on a regular basis. For many years, I played in bands, toured the country, and eventually started this whole design thing by meeting other bands on the road that needed shirt designs, cd layouts, etc. It all started with a simple man like my Grandfather and a simple gift he wanted me to have. The gift of a stellar instrument but also the gift of impact on my life. The gift of memories. The gift of music.

Today, I play that same guitar.

It's scratched. It doesn't stay tuned. It's old and it's missing a couple small pieces but it's an amazing thing to have around. Those scratches are his. Those tuning pegs are the original ones. The deep sound that guitar has doesn't exist in many instruments anymore. A definite conversation starter and overall, a lasting memory of things it took me years to actually care about. Second to the beautiful children and family I've been blessed with, no better gift can ever be given.


WordsHeather Love
Blending it All

Tomorrow is going to be rad. Really rad.

For us at GIANT, for our friends in A Will Away, for our buds in Head North and for me personally. 

We are releasing a split 7" EP record by both bands on Giant MKT and the pre-order will be available to the world tonight at midnight. 

What's got me so psyched about it on a personal level? I was able to blend every single one of my passions and strengths into one single project. 

Music got me started in all of this craziness I call a career. I started many years ago designing shirts and CD layouts for bands. 17 years later, here I am and it's still fun.

Design is a strong passion and creating a record layout was a no brainer.

Friendships are what hold a lot of shit together. The guys on this GIANT roller coaster and the bands we work with on the record label piece of it are some stellar dudes. 

Family is what it's all about at the end of the day. The kids on the record layout for this release are my two beautiful daughters.

Hope you like it!

WordsHeather Love
Creaky Floors and A Simple Thank You

Something big is just a few days away and for once in the past nine months, my mind isn't racing a thousand miles an hour. Well, it is but maybe I hide it well from myself. I sit here, alone in Charleston waiting for it all to start. It's a weird feeling. A good weird. A calm weird. A super-solid-amazingly-rad weird. But weird.

It may be the creaky floors in this old house we have for the week, or the fact that the claw-foot tub is in what I consider the "guest" bathroom. Maybe it's the fact that the laundry room door randomly shut on it's own. I don't know.

The place is stellar and has it's Charleston charm, but it's oddly laid out. Either way, it's the calm before the storm. A super-solid-amazingly-rad storm.

January of 2013 began something amazing. We (Joel, Christian and I) started GIANT as a small blog. If for nothing else,  a platform to bitch about the super-amazingly-crappy "UX" decisions the higher-ups were making for our digital experiences at the time, or even the way we'd handle things better if given the chance. We even wrote about leadership. Good leadership. Great leadership. We were perplexed. We were frustrated and we wanted more. We had the three of us and were surrounded by amazing people that we knew would support us in whatever we attempted

We blogged. We wrote. We deleted. We posted anyway.

"I'm not a writer", I often thought.

We kept writing articles, we kept pushing and we kept on.

In August, we began talks of organizing a design conference. We were silly. We were crazy and I'm pretty sure we even told each other we were out of our minds. Lunatics.

It was a rad idea and we gave a shit about making it work. So here we are...

Tomorrow is Monday, June 9th. I head to the airport at 8am as Joel and Christian arrive from their redeye flights from Denver and Seattle. 

GIANT Conference starts bright and early on Wednesday.

This is a simple thank you to everyone in each of our lives for making GIANT rad, supporting us, and believing in us that we'd make it happen. This week will be stressful but incredible, tiring but energizing and most of all, it will be one for our personal history books.

Thank you.

WordsHeather Love
UX is the Village, Disciplines are the People

Originally posted at Giant UX

User Experience (UX), a term coined by Don Norman, founder of Nielsen Norman Group, has been around for a very long time and will continue to evolve. A lot of companies are just starting the build-out of a UX department. The key to this is structuring it in a proper way with the key components and clear definition of what each piece is all about.

The fun thing about UX is that, like a lot of things, it is always evolving. Like many neighborhoods, venues or even buildings, they are containers. They hold pieces that make up that establishment. I think of UX as a village and the disciplines as the people.

User Research
This can be as simple or as detailed as needed. It simply allows for understanding of the actual user of a product, application or system through various observations. This provides data needed to make sound design decisions. Data is king.

This is the measure of a user’s experience while interacting with a product or application.

Content Strategy
Content strategy is the creation, planning, delivery and oversight of useful, usable content. Many think of content as just the words. However content strategy is everything from images, video, text and photos to diagrams and graphics.

Information Architecture
This is the identification and organization of information within a product to make for a purposeful and meaningful structure.

Interaction Design
The design of interactive behaviors between a product and user.

Visual Design
The visual qualities or “look and feel” of a product or application to appeal in an aesthetically pleasing way.

Front-End Development
This “makes it work” and should be in sync with the Interaction Design that has already been established.

WordsHeather Love

Today is a bittersweet day. I have decided to resign from my position here at Benefitfocus, head away from this beautiful city and back to the Charlotte area.

On April 21st, I'll be joining the UX team at Ally Bank as a Senior Information Architect. I have tons of solid feelings about joining the team and moving forward in my career there. Fortunately, I know and have worked with quite a few of the folks there so they won't be too frightened by this monster beard that Charleston made me grow. It's my comfort face. (ahem.. Ally, please don't make me shave)

Will I miss Charleston? Oh hell yes. 

Do I feel accomplished with everything that has started to develop here? Yes! and HECK yes

I do plan to continue on with the rad things in motion here. The family and I plan on being back and forth quite a bit from now through the summer, especially for GIANT Conference in June.

Why leave? We came here for the job and actually fell in love with a place. A city. A location. It's weird but this place is absolute paradise. I don't golf or play tennis and for damn sure don't wear tucked-in pastel shirts with extremely short khaki shorts but this place ruled. It always will.

Anyhow, A lot of various things lead to resignation but, in a nutshell, I want to be at the dinner table at night. I want to be able to focus on GIANT things outside of work and most importantly, I want time with my beautiful girls. I want to be home at night and actually be home at night.

So... that's all really...

Oh yeah...  Always do great work and give a shit about it. It all pays off in the end.




WordsHeather Love
We Learn Ourselves First

Originally posted at Giant UX 

Roughly 14 years ago, I started as a graphic designer churning out fifty-dollar t-shirt designs for bands as I toured across the country playing music. It worked for me at the time, but something was missing.

When I started thinking more about what I was doing and why I enjoyed it, I quickly realized I wanted it all. I wanted to handle all the design work: the CD layout, the backdrop for live shows, the website, the logo. Everything. I became slightly obsessed with how everything fit together, but it wasn't until I read and researched more that I realized I was actually practicing it. You know... it. User Experience. UX. All of it.

I share the story above because I was reminded of that moment where everything clicked for me after a recent conversation about UX principles or movements, if you will. During the conversation, some questions were raised: are UX movement, books, articles and overall principles created completely out of context or as theories that can only work in an ideal UX design and development environment? Or are each of them a small piece of the greater UX puzzle that help every UX professional in their own way?

These questions got me thinking. In such a new, evolving and undefinable field as User Experience, do we constantly search for ways to define what we do? Do we want to accept what we know now as unchanging principles that we can point to for answers? Or, instead, do we carry on the way we've always done by learning piece by piece from each bit of knowledge we gain?

There are pioneers in every field of work, and there are always people we look up to. As a musician, I would have given anything to meet Otis Redding or to rock out with Elvis. Did one of those musicians make me a musician? No. Did reading one UX book teach me everything I needed to know to be a solid UX professional? No. We learn ourselves, and we improve ourselves, as we learn piece by piece.


WordsHeather Love
Hey Designers, Ya Mind if I Redesign Your Work?

Did you see the redesign of iOS 7 Apple announced yesterday? Rhetorical question. You’d have to live in a cave to not have seen the constant feedback in your social feeds about it. Simply put, they went flat with the design and the backlash was nuts. I don’t lean one way or the other on the flat design phenomenon but I will say, it’s clean and will possibly be that much more usable for a lot of platforms out there. More specifically, love it or hate, Apple continues on with their software releases. Don’t like it? Don’t use it. Within the design community, there are other things to talk about.

One that’s bugged me about big tech releases, is that any John Doe designer feels it’s necessary to design existing (or upcoming) things as their own. It’s fine to explore. It’s fine to showcase skills but don’t you have clients that need those skills devoted to custom work for them? Sticking to the topic of iOS 7 redesign, at the end of the day, it’s still another designer’s work you’re so actively redesigning. Stop that shit. Focus on being original and stop stepping on toes. That kind of makes you an asshole.

It happens too often. Why not put that time and energy into cool side projects or beefing up your own portfolio? Hell, even redesign some of your own work.

“One of the biggest failures in design is to create something no one hates.”

So with this, I ask you…

Would any designers out there mind if I went through your portfolio and redesigned a few things I think could be better?

I originally posted this at Giant UX.


WordsHeather Love
The Fork In The Road and the Chance to Adapt or Vanish

As conversation luck would have it, I was recently speaking about “technology” with a person I don’t know. Let’s face it, I’m a nerd with a true passion for geek talk so I continued with the conversation. We spoke creatively. We spoke openly. We spoke honestly. When we talked more and more about technology and his company’s efforts to adapt to it, the conversation dwindled and it dwindled fast. “We’ve launched a brand new website with an online store at Amazon and implemented a full flash video strategy for our online presence.” When I asked about what considerations were being made for Mobile, the response was “We haven’t even thought about it, to be honest.” “That’s unfortunate” I said.

And by “unfortunate”, I meant “Are you kidding me?”, What the hell are you thinking with that flash bullshit? Get your head out of your ass and start talking mobile. Start talking digital. Most importantly, start talking about your customers. Someone’s opinion internally is worth as much as the dirt on your shoe. Absolutely Nothing. If you’re not testing, you’re not doing anything to help your efforts of adapting. You’re working very hard at vanishing.

Too many companies, small or large, startup or century-old, fail to realize this change that happens at a rapid pace. It’s truly unfortunate.

So again, get the dated head out of the analog ass and adapt, don’t vanish in the “sea of sameness”. Gah, I hate that term.

I originally posted this at Giant UX.


WordsHeather Love
A Message To Companies From Your UX Department

To be clear, I don’t think efforts are purposely being made to devalue UX, per se. But, there’s a damn good feeling that it’s not respected. So let’s talk about it. Data is King 
Data-driven design is key. Results from testing can actually tell us what users want. Genius, right? When data shows that cramming a hundred items on a page isn’t the best choice, don’t continue to request that ninety-nine is a decent solution.

Excel is For Spreadsheets, Not Wireframes
 Don’t abuse the power you have with Microsoft Excel. Excel only provides a UX team with a poorly done wireframe containing nothing but opinions. Give priorities. Provide requirements. Give us a problem and UX will put 110% into providing a solution. UX doesn’t step on your spreadsheet toes, so go ahead and step back from the UX shoes and let us fill them.

Print Is Not The Web
 I love print. I love posters, packaging, framed art and damn, do I love a good photo, but print is not the web. A sales paper won’t “seamlessly” adapt to a website. It’s a proven fact. Think of digital implementation, keep mobile in mind and always stay up to date.

Dollars Are Not The Only Measure of Success
 “We won’t prioritize unless the dollar amount meets certain criteria.” I call bullshit and I call it loudly. There are many metrics of success that should be considered when testing. Money is good. Money is great but user satisfaction and great experience are something to consider as well. Test fast, test often and iterate based on data. It’s simple.

It’s Not Always The Money Man That Makes The Money
 When you’re jumping for joy and celebrating all of the great accomplishments, look at the big picture. It’s not always the promotion, the sale or even the items that make a customer buy. It’s the whole experience. If a majority of your traffic is unique visitors, that’s an issue. Return visitors mean they are happy and you will eventually fail in a universe of one.

Amazon Is The Only Amazon "The way Amazon does this is attached for reference" is a terrible way to present a problem. You aren't original, you aren't thinking through things and overall, you sound like a blundering idiot. In fact, Amazon kind of sucks as Joel Kilby has established. Think for yourself, provide a problem or a goal and UX will take it from there. Competitive analysis is one thing but being a copycat is a huge mistake.

Lead Like True Leaders Should Companies without an Executive Champion for UX might as well have no UX department at all. Constant railroading, overruling and disrespect can and will happen. True leaders will go to bat for their people under every circumstance and support the decisions that their UX professionals have made. A poor leader will fold under the slightest bit of pressure. Lame.

Know Your Role Designers design, Developers develop, Copywriters write copy, Editors edit and Content Strategists strategize content (content is more than just words. Shocker, I know). They are all in place for a reason and most likely can provide a professional form of design, development, copy, editorial and content strategy. Your opinion on their work? Null and void. We don't tell you how to enter info into a spreadsheet, don't design by committee. Fair? Fair.

To some, UX is in the way. Those are the folks who think they are running the perfect web presence. It’s a pride issue. It’s a matter of feeling disrespected. Understandable to a certain extent but simply put, get over yourselves. Your opinions are worth nothing. Zero. Zilch. You are minimal compared to the swarms of great customers you could gain with a better experience. Solid UX Professionals aren’t telling you how to do your job. No one is telling you how to sell your products, subscriptions or content but rather how to sell your things in a better, and easier way, for the end user.

 I originally posted this at Giant UX

WordsHeather Love
Easy Does It When Buying Things You Always Need

Home Air Conditioning Filters Any AC or Furnace FilterEasy

So the process is simple. Take a product that users NEED and make it super simple for them to purchase it. does just that. While a lot of companies are spending major dollars and countless hours figuring out the politics around what products sell best in what locations on a website, launches an innovative way of actually buying that product. Maybe the overall retail experience is simpler than a lot of folks give it credit for. Props to FilterEasy.

WordsHeather Love
Digital Emotion is Still Emotion

Today was an odd day at best. I'm in NYC for User Experience training and learning a lot. After the first full-day course of this training, I took off on the R train to Brooklyn. I was headed to Brooklyn to meet up with a friend, Andy, that I haven't seen in a very long time. Over the years we played music together, toured through a few states in various bands and hung out a lot. Like with a large amount of things in my life, including my Wife, music brought us together.Andy is now living in Brooklyn and working in Manhattan. A super different life than what we both knew of North Carolina and growing up there, but he seems super happy here and is going to do huge things.

Along with this comforting reconnection in this extremely overwhelming area, I was notified of a disconnection of sorts. A long time freelance client, solid dude and overall great person to have in one's life lost his fight with cancer today.

At 4:25pm, Dominic "Dom" Mancuso passed away. The world lost a tough soul. Tough is an understatement. He took absolutely no crap from anyone, had a strong mindset for business, getting things done and putting 110% into every venture he started. He was driven.

Roughly eight years ago, I designed a small project for Dom's MMA Fighting Forum project. It was a little out of my realm of design and was hesitant to take a project where my style of design may not have been appropriate. I took it and did the best I could. He loved my concepts and we began an outstanding designer/client relationship.

Over the years, I designed and built a small website for his clothing line, a much larger website for his high-end wheel business and other various "consulting" work. As strong-minded as he always was, he was always willing to listen to me as the expert. There were a few times in particular that a small project from Dom helped with unexpected expenses on my end. He knew some things had come up and even threw in a little extra. His note within the payment was "thought this would help out a little more. keep your head up." Simple and to the point. That's how he rolled.

Similar to music bringing tremendous things into my life, design has done the same thing. I've travelled the country for both and have met a ton of great people. I've had a lot of freelance clients and love each and every one of them but Dominic was the absolute perfect client. Many would argue there is no "perfect client" but that's simply because people like Dom are rare. Very rare.

There's one odd thing about it all. I never met Dominic in person. It didn't matter. We built trust, we built a solid business relationship and things just clicked. Since January of 2010, Dominic has fought like hell to overcome cancer. In and out of the hospital for three years, he would keep me updated, keep his businesses going and stay dedicated to his business but more importantly, the people around him, no matter the extent of being a "face to face" relationship. So with this, digital emotion is still emotion.

All in a day's time, I've learned even more about user experience, reconnection and loss. All the while, I've put a stick in the sand to climb higher, go farther and be stronger.

Rest In Peace, brother.

Dominic "Dom" Mancuso November 2nd, 1985 - March 17th, 2013

WordsHeather Love