A couple months ago, I was heads-down, building the next item on my to-do list for Cushion’s new timeline, when something changed. Up until this point, I’ve been deep in the weeds, staying the course, and trudging ahead. Everything seemed to be falling into place organically. What changed, however, was my perspective. I took a step back, and all of a sudden realized just how complex and cluttered the UI was. The best way I could describe it is that I was building “Software” (with a capital “S”). With all the greys, borders, and mono-scale type, I felt like I was building software akin to a spreadsheet or word processor. It lacked character, and that stopped me in my tracks.
For the months since then, I’ve been redesigning it from scratch. I’ve gone back to the drawing board several times and still feel somewhat blocked. I’m chasing a feeling that feels closer to “Design” (with a capital “D”) where less is more, strong color contrasts strong white, and negative space becomes the dividers of UI. I don’t want to settle on a design system that works for all apps and makes engineering easier. I want to design a UI that’s unique and specific to its purpose. The last thing I want it to do is scream “Software”.
These past few years, I’ve really come to know myself with regards to my work—what drives me, what delights me, what I’m especially good at. While I do love engineering a component system that scales and fits so easily together like LEGO blocks, I also love designing one-off interfaces with inspiration from the tangible world, so the UI disappears. I live for moments where I can sneak in a pinch of delight because, to me, it’s necessarily unnecessary. I also strive to make apps that are so enjoyable to use that even if it lacks 90% of the features of the alternatives, folks would still prefer to use it because of how it makes them feel. With this design rethink, I want to lean into those qualities and come out the other end with something that screams “Jonnie” instead of “Software”.