Select Page
Do you guys sell wheels, lift-kits, and other automotive things?

Nope—the “you guys” is just me. I’m Nina.
I don’t sell vehicle rims, lift-kits, or anything automotive. Never have.
I’m just a designer, a snowboarder, and a Michigan kid.
I’m also likely up way too late.

Why the URL, then?

In 2002 I needed an online portfolio—and the way to do that at the time, was creating one’s own website. I wasn’t keen on turning my name into a URL for just career things, and my ninavizz handle hadn’t happened yet.

My dad’s birthday card to me that year had a photo of myself as a toddler inside; seated on my broken mini-bigwheel, atop the brown-shag carpet that lined the home I grew-up in. In the photo I was looking down at my bigwheel’s tire lying on its side, with an excited smile, and seated upright in a determined posture. I have no idea why he picked that one image for my card that year, but it summed-up how I was feeling as I was about to endeavor both my first online professional presence, and my first ever website build. The domain was also available, and that sealed the deal.

I still like it: it’s playful, it speaks to that first device that brought a sense of adventure, agency, and independence to so many of us; or at least, that’s my memory of my bigwheel.

What's the image on your homepage?

One of my favorite views and moments in the whole wide world. 🙂

My view while seated at the top of the Magic Mile slope at Timberline, 7,000ft above sea level on Mt Hood; looking down at my board after strapping-in my boots. Just before standing-up for the ride down. Something I’ve been doing an awful lot of since getting back into snowboarding in 2021, after a multi-year hiatus. Timberline Lodge is a zippy ~45min Springtime drive from my home in rural Oregon, and where my season pass keeps me sliding 6mos of the year.

I did “squish” the part of the image with the mountains in the distance, to work with the image’s composition in a short parallax space on the homepage. The original image, is below.

Are you on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn?

I am!

Most of my social media stuff is personal. I locked my Twitter & deleted most of my Tweets after the creepy billionaire guy took over, so now I toot over in the fediverse—mostly about social justice and activism things. 

My Instagram and Facebook are both private, and purely personal spaces for me. I’m “friends” with many colleagues and past co-workers, but prefer to keep my work and private life separate with current endeavors.

Why is there a backwards copyright symbol next to your name, in your header?

Because I love open source, culture jamming, and wish our culture of innovation would look more toward collective growth, than to individual gains.

The symbol is called Copyleft, and it’s an early open-source licensing concept from the 1970s.

Copyleft was popularized in the Gnu Manifesto in 1985—but the spirit in which programmer Li-Chen Wang first used it in his 1976 distribution notice for Tiny BASICCopyleft, All Wrongs Reserved —speaks more to my mischievous-spirit, and also to my interest in seeing copyright and IP laws changed to better suit public interest & scholastic needs.

"Design Thinking" is important to us. Is that something you do?

As a practice, yes. As a project or stand-alone task—that’s not Design Thinking.

In my +18yrs in product design I’ve encountered many divergent understandings of what Design Thinking is—so I prefer to speak to more consistently understood concepts. Like partnership with stakeholders for ongoing collaboration, inquiry as a basis for empathy; the imperative of informed empathy for users guiding design, and co-design with users as a process opportunity.

Human centered design (HCD) is the approach I most closely align with, and Design Thinking is considered an extension of it. HCD is also more consistently understood as an approach, and not a stand-alone activity. 🙂

Some context: Design Thinking became famous a few years after I finished college, with innovations from Swiffer, Apple, OXO, and shifting approaches to consumer automotive design, all heralded in case-studies in mainstream magazines. IDEO, Frog, Sapient, and other boutique innovation consultancies were heralded as the rock stars, with companies soon hot on the heels to get a piece of the new “innovation theater” for themselves, as this article from MIT Technology Review brilliantly explains.

I get it, people gotta pay their bills and selling design as an external consultancy is hard. I suspect that’s where a big part of the problem is. No ill intentions, only misunderstandings as a byproduct of our collective hustle. I never saw my craft as a white-glove service. I have a shovel and a chisel, not a cape. I welcome and prefer collaborative processes with stakeholders, and with users, but it’s work—and, its a practice. Not a project.

Do you have any UX certifications?

Nope. Certificate programs are valuable experiences for a lot of folks. Especially 2nd career folks, or practitioners who discovered UX within the past decade.

I studied design in college, majoring in graphic design and minoring in industrial design. The WWW premiered as an entity along with HTML1, my freshman year of college; with CSS only entering the world, my senior year. I then honed my craft in digital over the years “User Experience” as a practice came into fruition.

Continuous learning is absolutely my jam—and seminars, courses, reading (a lot!), 1:1 coaching, and attending conferences, are all vitally important to me—and parts of evolving in my career that I consider essential, and personally relish.

We need a real Design Expert to whip our project/team into shape. Is that you?
That depends. I’m not going to be an a**hole or a steamroller. If you’re looking for that, there’s other problems with your organization that an individual design hire won’t be able to help with. Conversely; navigating ambiguity, self-starting, facilitating collaboration, mentoring other designers, and coaching non-practicioners in product development are strengths I’m proud to bring into my work, and believe to be essential to centering humans in digital services and products. Collaboration is my jam, not authoritarian superhero stuff.

My approach to collaboration with non-UX practitioners I feel is well captured in the below sentiment I wrote to encourage the SecureDrop team to participate in the design process, while best positioning myself among the scrappy open source developers as a resource. Imposter Syndrome and Strong Feelings Steamrolling are opposite ends of spectrum of comfort, and I much prefer team fun over uncomfortable perfection. The superhero crap also just gets lonely and tiresome, after a while.

UX practitioners are not keepers of some guarded skill or mystical talent. Design is a craft, no different from engineering; it takes years of practicing a craft to do it well and in an informed fashion. Yet everybody is also a designer, in practice. Small decisions in our everyday work vs focused practice.

Perspectives are often needed from non-practitioners of each craft to push that craft’s boundaries, and sometimes perspectives or specialized execution are needed from skilled practitioners.

Learning happens through critique, through dialog, and through open sharing. Nobody is an “expert;” only “skilled practitioners” and “enthusiasts,” whom all come together in projects as makers. Respect & reciprocity in balance, with service to our end users as a shared goal. At the end of the day all of our work is stronger and everybody has more fun, when we come together like this.

I don't understand your aversion to offering your salary history

Yeah—this is a sticky issue. I truly am sorry for the specific moments of awkwardness and inconvenience this policy of mine creates. I respect how hard it is to be a recruiter, and appreciate how this can throw a wrench into that already stretched-too-thin role a recruiter plays in hiring. Especially within larger organizations that have their Formulas. Those. Formulas. Formulas intended to remove bias, but in practice have been proven to amplify past biases.

Pay inequality among people of different genders, races, ages, and abilities, is all systemic. So, much as your organization may be vigilant in seeking to undo pay inequality (which I would only want to support and APPLAUD!), folks entering your organization who may have experienced inequality in the past then have those inequities carried into their present when compensation for a new opportunity is based on that of past inequities. Make sense?

I wish I had answers. I have ideas, and I have chutzpah; some US States have already enacted pay transparency laws; but I don’t have answers.

I do welcome verbal conversation about compensation, though. Hit me up, and I’ll make the time. 🙂

Is any of your work for Palm, Yahoo!, or other earlier stuff available to view online?
I see you used to live in the Bay Area—what would it take to get you to move back here?

I lived in the Bay Area for almost 25 years. It’s a cliché, but I did leave a big piece of my heart in San Francisco. I’m just not a fan of what the City—or really, the entire region from Marin to Watsonville—has turned into in recent years. Living in the middle of that made me angry and anxious. Having since left, its become a lot easier to love it again; and love is a good thing I don’t like to mess with. 🙂

I do enjoy frequent travel, and have traveled weekly (for months at a time) up and down the West Coast for past projects.

Sidenote: I’ve got these cuties and snow, just outside my bedroom window here in Oregon—how ya gonna top that, Bay Area?

Two elk graze in a yard next to a tree, with snow on a field in the background.

You REALLY met Erik Estrada?!

I did! It was an amazing moment. Ask me about it, sometime!