Smashing Spotlight: Nick Pollock, Senior UX Designer
Wonder what makes Smashing Ideas so smashing? Our people! We sat down with Nick Pollock, Senior UX Designer and legit rock n’ roller, to talk shop, how being the lead singer in a world-renowned rock band impacts his understanding of user behavior, and what led him from touring the world to joining the Smashing team.
First things first…you’re a pretty well-known musician, including being in an early formation of Alice In Chains, and more notably, lead singer for My Sister’s Machine. Give us a brief background on your life in the music scene.
I met Layne Staley (lead singer of Alice In Chains, for our non-Seattle readers) when I was 17. He and I had a band called Alice N’ Chains, which was the precursor to the famous Alice In Chains everyone now knows. We played for a few years and then went our own ways, musically, but remained good friends. I started My Sister’s Machine about 9 months later, got signed, made two records, three videos for MTV, and then toured… toured… toured…
We played around every club and theater in the US multiple times. We toured with Pantera, White Zombie, King’s X, Suicidal Tendencies, and many, many more. I got to meet a bunch of my musical heroes and even played huge festivals in Europe. The Dynamo festival in Eindhoven, Holland, which had 43,000 in attendance, was the biggest. I got to have some wonderful experiences and see some of the most amazing places. I consider myself incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity to do all this!
To be honest, though, I got tired of touring. It was extremely hard on me physically as a singer. I also missed being away from home for long stretches of time. I began wanting different things in my life, like a family and new challenges.
Writing, performing, and especially recording music, is prime driver in life for me. Music is and will always be nearest and dearest to my heart. Once I made the decision to quit touring, I also decided to go back to college for design.
How did you transition from music to digital?
I decided I would like to make more than nothing for my creative efforts (laughs). Seriously, I have always had non-musical creative outlets that crossed into my musical life. For instance, my first design job was creating the logo and album packaging for the first My Sister’s Machine record. I loved it! The whole process of coming up with a solution and trying to communicate it to the creatives at Caroline Records, our label at the time, was exhilarating. Even before we got signed, I loved making posters and hand bills for our shows. Long story short, I finally got tired of being on the road all the time and wanted to make a change in my life. I chose design and the digital realm grabbed me right away with Flash and web work.
How has your serious background in music influenced your role as a UX Designer?
I see everything in life through the lens of being a musician. I went to college (Cornish College of the Arts) the first time as a Classical Composition major. I play a few instruments well and have dabbled in others, but what I really love is writing music for ensembles. That translates naturally into bands and the recording studio. Orchestrating user experiences, to me, is not much different. I have to be able to speak the language of each player and their instrument to get the music flowing. Working with stakeholders, developers, other designers, use flows, wireframes, prototypes, etc., isn’t a whole lot different.
What made you most excited about joining Smashing?
Wow, I just have such strong memories of Smashing’s Flash work back in the day… my community of fellow designers were (and still are) always seeking out great examples of the work we would like to do. SI was on a short list of shops we admired and we all had such great respect for their output. I feel very fortunate to have become a Smasher and get to work with the whole group!
If one lyric could describe you as a person, what would it be?
C’mon, that’s not fair! It would definitely depend on the day, who I’m with, what I’m doing… I will say lyrics that relate to what I’m doing come to mind all the time throughout my day.
What’s more nerve-racking…performing in front of a crowd of thousands or presenting a client with an innovative concept?
Presenting to a client, for sure. I feel like I do well with both, but performing music for me is like what swimming is for a fish.
What are some apps or websites you love?
One of the coolest I’ve come across in quite a while is this music demo app by Propellerhead Software called Take. Every musician who writes and demos their songs used to use a 4-track cassette recorder. Take streamlines that process and makes it so you can document your musical ideas anywhere. It was so well thought out…musicians don’t have anything in their way with getting each part of the song they are trying to get out of their head before it fades onto their mobile device. Propellerhead took it one step further with a free service to post the songs online to share or collaborate. I love this app!
Do you have any philosophies or principles that inform your designs?
Each morning, when I pick up from where I left off from the evening before, I ask myself what I can take away from the design that doesn’t need to be there. I think it’s a good practice to focus on the essence of the design. I feel we could all benefit from taking more away from our design than adding more and more to it.
What was your last truly smashing idea?
You might think this is corny but my last truly smashing idea was to become a father. It’s changed my life in ways I would never have dreamed of. 🙂
Finally, what’s on the horizon for the world of UX?
Smashing Ideas, of course!
The best experiences will always be born out of an attention to detail and solid design process. Where I hope UX is going is towards a deeper and more authentic integration of UX teams in their respective organizations.