Get to Know Aarron Walter
Jul 09, 2020
Meet the Author
Up next in our Meet the Author series, we’re getting to know Aarron Walter—author of the essential, Designing for Emotion, now in a brand-new second edition. He tells us about how his garden keeps him grounded, shares the greatest gift his parents gave him, and explains how his commute has shaped him into a better designer.
ABA: What’s the first thing you do every morning to start your day on the right foot?
Aarron Walter: I start with espresso every day, I drink 32 ounces of water with a vitamin tablet, then do some form of exercise. Shortly thereafter I am in the kitchen cooking breakfast for my family, which I love doing. If only I could get my six-year-old to eat a proper breakfast!
ABA: In your opinion, what should someone consider before starting out in web design / development?
AW: Invest deeply in your passion by learning voraciously about your discipline. Outlearn your colleagues and everyone around you. Having been in this industry for some time now I see a number of people who have struggled with the high burn rate it requires. There may come a time when you feel burned out and wondering what’s next. It’s important to develop a plan B, a way out to a more restful existence when the energy of your youth fades. Your plan B might still be in design or development, but in a new capacity. Prepare for change as it’s what this industry is all about.
ABA: What is your go-to source of inspiration when you’re trying to get out of a creative rut?
AW: When I’m feeling burned out I go outside and spend time in my vegetable garden. I have an aquaponics system, many garden beds, a mushroom log situation, and chickens. I find doing something physical in my garden or just checking on the growth of everything grounds me (terrible pun there) and connects me back to the physical world when so much of my time is spent online.
ABA: Is there a fear or professional challenge that keeps you up at night? What is it?
AW: The further I get into my career the clearer it is to me that the toughest challenges are connected to people: collaborating, communicating, marshalling our efforts to common cause. It’s challenging and requires a lot of practice to get your bearings. I’m still learning (probably always will be). I often reflect on my work and wonder if what I’m doing is meaningful to others, or perhaps an important step in my learning journey. If I find myself in a situation where my work isn’t providing value or personal growth, that’s when I know I need a change.
ABA: What tool, object, or ritual could you not live without to get you through a week?
AW: I could probably live without all things if necessary. All I really need is my family. However, I do get a lot of joy from these things:
• Slayer single group espresso machine (OMG I love this thing)
• Blood Root gyoto knife
• My home. My wife and I spent four and a half years renovating a 1956 mid-century modern house and in the process learned how to live an intentional life. It gives us so much energy.
ABA: What’s the biggest sacrifice you’ve made to do the work you do?
AW: I spent sixteen years of my life commuting from my home in Athens, GA to Atlanta for work. I love Athens, and I loved my work so I was willing to wake up at 5 a.m. to commute an hour and a half then do it again at the end of the day. I drove the circumference of the Earth six times and spent 272 full days of my life in my car commuting. That was a tremendous sacrifice I made in service of my career. I’d love to have that time back, but I think of it as a necessary investment I had to make to build my career. Sure, I could have moved to Atlanta, but I wasn’t willing to leave the creative community of Athens.
I spent all of that time in the car listening to audiobooks and podcasts and reflecting on work, which in the end accelerated my growth. That learning time gave me a leg up in my career
ABA: Is there a piece of professional or life advice you’ve gotten that has always stuck with you? What is it?
AW: Though not necessarily advice, my parents did impart a gift that’s shaped my whole life. They gave me the implicit permission to be a creative person.
I was a strange child for a father who grew up on an Iowa farm and a mother from a small town wanting for culture. I loved to paint and draw, I was a magician (seriously, that was my first job), and I longed for contact with the world outside Iowa. I spent all of my free time doing creative things and I received such encouragement from my parents. They never told me to direct my efforts towards more practical things, they simply encouraged my curiosity and passions.
It must have taken a lot of courage to let me follow my own path into the arts, though it was unlikely to be very stable. That path took unexpected turns into technology, design, and the web. Things worked out for me in the end, but I couldn’t have found my way without their courageous support.
Their example showed me that it’s important to be open to the unknown. Indeed, what alternative is there?
Learn more about all our authors—check out the rest of our Meet the Author series!
Have you picked up your copy of Designing for Emotion, Second Edition yet? This book offers inspiring guidance for the principles of designing for humans, and addresses newer challenges that have emerged for web professionals tasked with reaching an ever-shifting audience. Add Design for Real Life to bring even more compassion to your design and save 10% (15% when you buy paperbacks & ebooks)!