Charged Chat with Scott Savarie

Charged Chats are a series of interviews featuring inspiring voices from the pros. What motivates them, what inspires them, and what can we take away from their stories to charge ourselves up.

Scott Savarie is a designer from Berlin, Germany, originally from Sudbury, Canada. Scott works as a “Principal Product Designer” at InVision, a company focused on creating products for designers and product teams.

Tell us about your career path. How did you get to where you are now?

I got into design through music as many others did. I was really into album art, gig posters and all that stuff. I was also a part of the whole myspace/music era and learnt some basic web development stuff by customising mine or my band’s myspace. Another avenue that kind of brought me to design was going to local gigs growing up. I got really into taking photos of the shows and eventually built up a little portfolio for myself. That lead me to start taking corporate photography jobs with a local design agency (Over The Atlantic). I quickly realised this wasn’t really my thing though, I wasn’t one of those photographers that can make the subject feel comfortable. Around that time I had also started studying graphic design at Cambrian College. From there I slowly transitioned away from doing photography jobs, to more and more graphic design jobs. During my last year, instead of finishing my last semester, I ended up getting an internship in Amsterdam at a company called Edenspiekermann. I did that and met people that would eventually lead me to Berlin a year and a half later. Before that however, I came back to Sudbury after my internship finished and ended up freelancing for two companies: Bureau, which was a local design firm in Sudbury ran by two good friend/bandmates of mine, and Rareview, a UI design firm based out of LA. The work at that time was all leading more and more towards digital stuff. I don’t remember actively deciding to drop traditional graphic design, it just sort of happened. I enjoyed it though and got more and more into app and interface design. I liked that it required more logical thinking as opposed to marketing type websites which were more about communicating information, selling something, or evoking a certain emotion. So after about a year of working, during my last semester at Cambrian, one of the people I had met in Amsterdam contacted me about joining Edenspiekermann’s Berlin office. I was thrilled about the opportunity and accepted the offer. After finishing the semester I moved abroad to Berlin. While there, I only stayed about 1.5 years. Through some random chance, a recruiter from Facebook found me and asked if I’d be interested in interviewing with them. I did, and ended up getting the job. From there I moved to San Francisco for about 2 years. During this whole time I had been getting more and more into programming and becoming a kind of hybrid designer/developer. At some point while working at Facebook I ended up taking a free Objective-C course that offered so I could learn how to write my own iPhone apps. Upon completing the course I made a little app called “Napkin” which was kind of like a crappy version of Sketch on your phone which allowed you to design basic app screens on your phone. Towards the middle of 2015, I was not feeling SF much anymore and recalled what a great time I had while living in Berlin. I decided I should quit and move back. After moving back, I worked with a few friends at their agency called A Color Bright in a designer/developer role. After only about 6 months though, an opportunity came up that really intrigued me. InVision were aware of Napkin, that silly app I had made, and wanted to “acquihire” me. On my first day, they asked me If I’d be a Product Manager, instead of a designer. It was my first day, so I said “uhmmm ok”. About 6 months in, we kicked off the InVision Studio project. In the early days of that, my role switched to a kind of designer, developer, pm hybrid. Once the project got more mature, I settled back into my comfortable designer role, but still go quite a bit of programming day-to-day.

Describe your current role?

My current role is quite broad. On one hand, I’m involved in helping define the strategy and high level direction of the product we’re working on, and on the other I’m designing, speccing out flows, and programming features.

How do you stay motivated when you’re going through a rough patch?

I remind myself that this is just a job and it doesn’t really matter. (Sorry to sound like such a nihilist)

Do you have any words of wisdom for anyone looking to follow in a similar career path?

If you want to get really good at UI/UX work learn how to prototype. Better yet, learn how to program. I know that’s annoying as hell to hear, and there’s this stupid on going debate about whether or not designers should code or not. All I can say, is that the best designers I’ve worked with so far (about 10 years in) at least have some basic programming knowledge.

Best piece of advice you’ve received?

I heard this from my friend Ed, who heard it from someone else…If you’re ever writing out design principles, to test whether they’re meaningful, write out whatever the opposite of the principle is. If it is something that no one would ever say, then the principle you’ve written is bullshit. Ex: “The design should be clear”. The opposite of this would be “The design should be unclear”. No one would ever say this. Obviously the design should be clear. Write a better principle, or don’t write any at all.