"Step out of your comfort zone from time to time."
From jam-packed bookstores to the streets of New York City, Tom Sears can find inspiration almost anywhere.
And that's a good thing too. As the design lead for website mega-platform Squarespace, tapping into the inspiration of thousands daily is much-needed.
Read on for the full breakdown on how Sears gets motivated, the go-to tools he swears by, and how you too can score an epic design job at a company like Squarespace.
DesignRush: What inspired you to go into design?
Tom Sears: From an early age I enjoyed drawing, and also got heavily into taking photos in my late teens and early twenties. I always knew I wanted a job in which I could be creative, and design was where I ended up because it let me use the visual skills I already had from drawing and photography.
DR: Is there anywhere you look for inspiration?
TS: I can find inspiration from so many places in New York—there’s so much to see. The Strand Bookstore is always a great place to go for inspiration. I can spend hours just looking at covers of books. I am also lucky enough to be surrounded by a very talented group of people on a daily basis both in and out of my work.
DR: We're big fans of The Strand! So what projects of your own are you particularly proud of?
TS: Right now I am most proud of the work I do at Squarespace. We recently released a new homepage and campaign, which both showcase how the company puts good design at the forefront.
My wife Elena is also an incredible designer, and a few years ago were asked to create some album art for a band called Twin Tigers. It was great to work collaboratively with her, and it was such a change from my day to day which is more web design focused. We created the artwork by hand and then manipulated it digitally in order to visually reflect the nature of the music.
DR: Are there any design tools you swear by?
TS: Adobe and Sketch are my everyday go-to’s since I wouldn't be able to do my job without them, but sometimes I also like to go back to basics and create hand-drawn designs and lettering.
DR: Tell us about your first big project. What did you wish you knew before you started, and what did you learn coming out the other side of it?
TS: I can’t think of a particular project, but I wish I’d had more confidence to steer any given project in the direction that I felt would be more successful – rather than letting a client make snap decisions.
DR: You’re currently the Design Lead at Squarespace. What does that role entail?
TS: I am part of Squarespace's Front Site team, which primarily concentrates on our customer-facing website. Ultimately, our goal with the website is to help our customers navigate more clearly and be more informed about the product. In order to do this, we work closely with the Strategy team to create hypotheses, and then iterate on design to find the best way to solve a particular problem. We also work closely with developers to translate the designs across all breakpoints, and alongside a testing, team to make sure that what we design and build is actually helping our users. I also occasionally work on conceptualizing marketing campaigns, and the product itself.
DR: That is such a coveted job! What helped you land this particular position at Squarespace?
TS: I was actually very lucky in that Squarespace got in touch with me for this role, however, I think it was due to having a varied client list and experience at other well-known agencies. We are always looking for new talent so feel free to get in touch (firstname.lastname@example.org) if working at Squarespace is a something you are interested in.
DR: Alright, we'd love to know a little more about you, so tell us — you have the day off. What can we find you doing?
TS: On days off I tend to step away from the computer if I can. I like to spend some time with my wife and our french bulldog Ace walking around our neighborhood and seeing friends. I also own a couple of old motorcycles that I like to work on and occasionally, I take them out of NYC to unwind.
DR: Are there any brands that speak to you on a creative level?
TS: There are so many great designers and studios doing fantastic work, but there are a few who definitely stick out in my mind.
London based company called Sawdust. Everything they put out is incredibly strong, but an older project of theirs called “Wired Us” is one of my favorites because they've found such a clever way of mixing typography with the message itself.
Spin is also an amazing studio. Everything they put out is beautiful and modern, but also timeless.
In terms of thought-provoking video content, I think that Vice is putting out some really informative and interesting content on what can sometimes be considered very taboo subjects. It’s great to see how that company has evolved in recent years.
DR: What advice do you have for designers that who are new in their career but looking to grow?
TS: Keep learning. Surround yourself with people who are more experienced, and you'll learn faster. Also, the design industry is a very small world, so be friendly too. Work hard and get to know the people you're working with because everyone can teach you something.
DR: Do you have any tips for scoring an interview (or job offer!) at a high-profile company?
TS: It’s pretty easy to find who you should be talking to at a particular company with the use of social media. There is no harm in doing a bit of searching and going straight to a manager or team lead and asking if they would be interested in talking with you about your work or any potential openings they may have. It’s much more personal than applying through a site.
DR: Is there a mantra that motivates you in your work?
TS: It’s very easy to play it safe and become complacent, but it's great to step out of your comfort zone from time to time in order to progress. I think that goes for all aspects of life and not just work.
DR: Any final thoughts, comments, or words of wisdom you’d like to share with someone in the industry?
TS: Put out work that you enjoy. We are very lucky to be in the creative industry and doing something we love. I can’t imagine going to work every day and not enjoying it.
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