Designer of the Week: Husani S. Oakley (Print Magazine)

By Amanda Aszman
September 18th, 2015

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A look at Designer of the Week Husani S. Oakley’s latest tweets reveals quite a bit about the veteran technologist. He’s a fan of Stephen Colbert and The West Wing. He thinks everyone should be taught both coding and basic media literacy. And—lucky for us—he’s delivering the closing keynote at HOW Interactive Design Conference in Boston in November.

The Brooklynite has spent more than 15 years building “digital experiences that bridge the gap between art and science.” Currently, he’s the chief technology officer at GoldBean, an online investing platform that helps people start their investment journey with companies and brands they love, know and buy. And although he’s made attempts to erase the lines between “designer” and “technologist,” he does consider his role to be closer to that of a technologist.

Here, we feature some of the best projects Oakley’s had the pleasure of working on, and hear a bit of his unique perspective on things like the definition of design, “full-stack design,” and designing a whole company.

Name: Husani S. Oakley

Name of Company: GoldBean

Location: New York, NY

Design school attended: None. I’m a dot-com-bubble-baby, I landed my first job (at AGENCY.COM) shortly after high school.

How would you describe your work?
At my core, I’m a technologist, but my work focuses on telling a story and hiding engineering complexity.

Where do you find inspiration?
The best work is a synthesis of old ideas remixed to solve new problems. I try to find inspiration from lots of different sources: well-edited movie trailers, well-designed television graphics (The Weather Channel has done great work recently). TV show opening credit sequences. The chaos that is my Tumblr dashboard. Dribbble. I devote a weekend each month to reading magazines—on paper!—that I appreciate for both layout and content: The New YorkerScientific American, and MIT Technology Review, amongst others.

Who are some of your favorite designers or artists?
I’ve been a huge fan of Nick Felton’s work since I saw him speak at Eyeo a couple of years ago. I love the work that comes out of Hush StudiosIdeo, and Siberia. Tumblr has an awesome product engineer named Tim Holman; I admire his ability to craft both pixels and code with equal awesomeness. (He also used to work for me!)

Do you have a favorite among all the projects you’ve worked on?
My favorite so far is an experiential project for ESPN called “Human Twitter.” I worked with a fantastic team of designers, technologists, and event planners at Wieden + Kennedy (full credits listed at end) to create an analog way for X Games fans to participate with the games. We placed hundreds of extras in the stands at the Staples Center armed with big books of letters and numbers. Tweets with a specific hashtag were pulled into our system, and selected tweets would be spelled out by the extras holding up the letters and numbers. On live television. We also took a photo from across the stadium and sent it to the original Tweeter.

This project is an example of what I call “full-stack design”—every single aspect, from the interface used to approve tweets, to the custom, TV-ready font in the character books, was specifically and consciously designed to service the primary story.

Is there a project that stands out to you as having been the biggest challenge of your career so far?
So far, the biggest challenge of my career is my current role as CTO of GoldBean, a fintech startup. Our mission is to help beginners get started with investing in the stock market. All of our challenges—and, thus, all of my challenges—involve thinking about different dimensions of design. How do we
design a trading interface that beginners can use, and hide the complexity of what happens behind-the-scenes when a stock order is placed? How do we design our internal systems to allow us to service our clients in the best possible way? It basically comes down to a core question, one that has always fascinated me—how do I help design a whole company?

What do you hope to accomplish in the future?
Television and film are my third and fourth loves, respectively. I’d really like to explore creating work for both.

What’s your best advice for designers today?
Design ! = visual design. Design is what you see, sure, but design is also what you don’t see. Don’t restrict yourself to a single medium, and don’t assume that making things work is not part of your job description. Design is the conscious creation of an experience.

Husani Oakley