Want my job?...with Mozilla's Cassie McDaniel

Want my job?...with Mozilla's Cassie McDaniel

Want my job?...with Mozilla's Cassie McDaniel

What is your current job title and what does that entail?

I am the Design Director for the Mozilla Foundation, so I oversee the design work of our Foundation projects; everything from Mozfest, to end of year fundraising, our teach.mozilla.org website, our software Thimble and Webmaker, our advocacy campaigns and fellowship programs. Much of what I do is supporting the designers to do awesome work on these projects, occasionally stepping in to provide big picture guidance or finesse of the details.

I'm proud to lead a group of six amazing designers. They are extremely talented, from a variety of backgrounds, all so pleasant to work with, very hard-working, and they really care about using design to make a positive difference in the world. I try to listen to them as much as I can.

I also try to create a welcoming culture of creativity for our team that extends further into the organization and our communities. Design can be a sometimes pretentious and exclusive craft, and I think it's an important part of working in open source to help dispel that pretence as much as possible and welcome in colleagues and contributors whether through participatory design, feedback and critique, or side-by-side collaboration.

What does a typical day look like for you?

Our design team is distributed across Eastern and Pacific time zones. I work about an hour outside of Toronto and most of my team is in Vancouver or Portland, so my mornings are usually quiet until they wake up!

When I am not in meetings, I trawl through Github tickets (we use labels and milestones to track all our work), noticing where I can be helpful and where I can push things along. Often designers will have pinged me for design reviews of their work, so I will lleave comments on Redpen or Invision, both awesome tools for leaving feedback on specific parts of a design. My favourite part of any day is when I get my own hands dirty, drawing sketches or putting together Pinterest boards for inspiration on a new design or campaign.

Meetings are a regular part of my day, which I love because it gets me working face-to-face with other people. Working remotely full-time can be really difficult psychologically, so the company often saves my sanity.

When and why did you decide to first get involved with Mozfest?

I've been at Mozilla since 2013, but I missed that first Mozfest because I was having a baby! The first year I was able to attend was 2014, where I led a session about open source design. We talked about the barriers to entry and how we could encourage folks to get involved with open design. It's an ongoing challenge but the first seeds of my efforts began there.

What kind of work will you be doing at the festival?

This year I'll simply be participating, and I'm so looking forward to learning a bunch of new things and meeting really interesting people. Leading up to the event I've played a larger role than ever before in the design tasks for setting up the fest itself, everything from what goes in folks' swag bags to the wayfinding signage and graphics on the big screens during keynote presentations. There is definitely a lot of lead-up to the event this time and I and my fellow designers are eager to see how it all comes together in Ravensbourne!

Has your approach to technology always been creative?

I'd rephrase this question to, "Has my approach to creativity always been technical?" Creativity has always been my focus over technology; technology has always been a tool that lets me better express an idea. When I was younger I wanted to be a painter, but I didn't know what graphic design or web design were back then, so when I discovered I could combine words, images and ideas in a career that let me explore all different kinds of topics, I was absolutely sold. Technology and creativity are both rad.

What more do you think can be done to have technology seen in a creative light?

Design and creativity can often be very exclusive to each other. I think first recognizing that technology is a creative pursuit is step one, kind of how the Arts and Craft Movement helped knitting and quilting be more welcomed in Art circles (though there's still some way to go). The divisions we put up between traditionally technological or traditionally creative tasks are often false ones; today you need art and science to play together to really get anywhere interesting and relevant.

Are there any exciting art and tech collaborations right now that you think we should know about?

This is a little self-serving but the open design movement happening within Mozilla is really interesting. We've invited interns to come collaborate with us on our work at the Foundation, and we are constantly trying to improve our processes so that it is easier to welcome contributors into our work. The main thrust of this is to create a more inclusive and supportive culture of design across our industry so that we can support other designers testing the water or just getting started. I'd encourage folks to poke around our Design repo if they want to get involved!

And finally, what advice would you give to a young person who was looking to get creative with their tech skills?

Don't stop! Approach learning however comes naturally to you – don't feel like you have to follow a certain pathway or process because that's what you see others doing. We all have innate talents and abilities that let us lean toward one craft or another, and having an open mind toward those abilities lets us embrace bigger, better, more interesting ideas.

Want to know more about how to make it as a Creative Director? Check out Creative Choices, the arts careers website:

MozFest 2015 runs from 6-8th November in London. You can follow Cassie on Twitter @cassiemc


Emily Steer

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