Leslie Middleton

How did I get here, anyway?

in Words + images

A journey map tells a story, with all the pains and opportunities along the way. You see, just like the products we design, we, the designers, become iteratively improve and grow. Here's my backstory, I'll spare you the nonrelevant bits. I started professional design by going to

Boston for MassArt and Design.

I did what any kid fresh out of design school would do and started pimping out my services, freelancing as a designer for ad agencies, design studios, anyone that would hire me. I worked for Spinnaker Software, and Ketchum in Boston, and Chiat/Day in NYC. I loved the energy and excitement of the cities, but the long grind and the advertising culture didn’t suit me. When my partner got transferred to the west coast I was thrilled we went to

San Francisco, a design and tech mecca.

Designing collateral print and packaging for a cosmetics company taught me the value of research to inform the design. Colors have different meanings in each culture and for women’s products, it’s crucial to know your target audience.

Motion design and the www explosion.

But the catalyst was when I discovered motion design, web design, and things that would morph and change as you used it. I went headlong into a job at Macromedia, and my experience design career began.

Back East, to CMU.

I moved to Pennsylvania and started grad school at Carnegie Mellon University in design. On a hot July night, I used Java to make airplanes land in a queue with some running out of gas and crashing.  or build a heart algorithm, I couldn’t still my beating heart. I switched from the school of design into

Human-Computer Interaction.

Back then we wrote the AI models (in LISP!). It was the smaller research and start-up projects that engaged my interest - things could happen quickly and decisions were made on the fly, tested, iterated and launched. Exciting times.

Raising some rowdy young humans.

A stint in fintech taught me agile processes and how to organize and build design systems. I learned how important it is to know the business model and figure out how to select good projects for impact.

Then, the Pandemic.

During house arrest, I took a deep dive into positive psychology, coaching, and how to manage my mindset. That was life changing and I’ve rolled the principles into team building for remote work.

I’ve learned how important it is to find the right culture, to build a great team and to do exceptional work. This is the “meaningful work” that everyone seems to be looking for.

Neural Networks & Artificial Intelligence.

AI and how to use it in the process of design, and as an engine of the design. This is exciting and I've been tinkering in the lab. I’m curious to know how we can use these technologies for the greater good. For wellbeing - emotional, mental, physical, financial. 

I’m interested in using design to build a better world. If this aligns with your mission, let’s talk.

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