A Book Apart

Get to know Scott Kubie

Oct 23, 2018

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Up next in our series, we get to know Scott Kubie—author of our latest Brief, Writing for Designers. He shares how he tackles self-doubt, his go-to source of inspiration, and the three questions every organization must be able to answer.

Scott Kubie, author of Writing for Designers

ABA: Is there anyone you’re following the work of right now, who you’d recommend others pay attention to?

Scott Kubie: Biz Sanford at Shopify and Andrew Schmidt at Slack have given some great talks recently about writing for products and interfaces. Sarah Richards with Content Design London keeps putting out phenomenal resources for content designers. I’m an Apple ecosystem guy, as I imagine many other designers are, and I get a lot of value out of tracking the apps and tools produced by Brett Terpstra, and the MacStories reporting of Federico Viticci.

ABA: In moments of self-doubt, how do you recharge and rally to keep going?

SK: Focusing on joy, play, and not taking myself too seriously works better for me than a head-on approach when it comes to self-doubt, anxiety, and all their mean friends. If self-doubt stopped me from doing things I’d never do anything, because it’s always there for me. I’ve learned it’s not something I have to defeat, just acknowledge.

ABA: What is your go-to source of inspiration when you’re trying to get out of a creative rut?

SK: I find learning new skills to be one of the best forms of inspiration. Inspiration to me is that excited feeling of “I’ve got to do something with this!” Learning something new, whether it’s how to sew a button or the right way to chop an onion or how to play a new lick on the guitar always gives me that feeling.

ABA: Is there a fear or professional challenge that keeps you up at night? What is it?

SK: I’m alarmed at the number of organizations can’t seem to clearly articulate what they do (or sell) and why they exist. There are three really important questions that I’m constantly trying to help folks answer, in roughly this order:

  1. What are you doing?
  2. Why are you doing that?
  3. Okay, but who gives a shit?

If a company doesn’t have good answers to those questions, every other design and content problem is harder than it should be.

ABA: What characteristic do you most admire in other driven/creative people?

SK: An awareness of their process and a willingness to show their work. I like to know how the magic trick works, and I like magicians who aren’t afraid to explain it. I’ve joked before that my favorite concert would be five songs followed by an hour-long lecture about how those songs came together. (Yes, I listen to Song Exploder, more stuff like that please!)

ABA: What tool, object, or ritual could you not live without to get you through a week?

SK: Index cards. Sticky notes are for chumps, they’re sticky (natch) and you can’t shuffle them. If I want to stick it on the wall I’ll use tape or push-pins like the Lord intended.

ABA: Is there a piece of professional or life advice you’ve gotten that has always stuck with you? What is it?

SK: “Clean your tools.” That’s from my dad. He worked as a bricklayer when I was growing up. He talked about how the new guys would show up with brand new trowels and levels and other costly tools you have to pay for yourself, and then just toss them into the back of their truck at the end of the day. The next morning, guess what? Your tools are now ruined (or at least a lot less effective), covered in cured mortar and other gunk, all because you couldn’t be bothered to take two minutes to clean them the day before.

Buy Writing for Designers