Interview With Francisco of Finch

I’d like to welcome Francisco as my first interviewee on the blog! Many of you know him as Finch or the guy with the big logo. But who is he really?

I was able to get him to stop working for a few minutes in order to answer some questions and let us in to some of his juicy secrets. Let’s dive out and find out who this guy really is!

First, can we have a short bio of who you are? Did you go to school for design?

My name is Francisco Inchauste. I am also known as Finch from my website. I’m a designer and writer.

I didn’t go to school for design. In my first job I volunteered to try and help out while one of the designers was gone for a few months. They ended up liking the work I was doing. You could say I am self-taught, but that isn’t the reality of it. I was really fortunate to have some great mentors along the way that taught me a lot and guided me towards the fundamentals of graphic design. Without them I don’t think I would have the mindset I needed to be a designer. I did end up taking some courses in typography and print production. Jumping in the deep end and getting experience, as well as finding mentors, was everything.

What do you do for a living? Do you have a full-time job, do you freelance?

I work for Universal Mind as a Senior UX Designer in our Michigan UX studio. We create applications for companies like Verizon and Adobe (and many others). The projects are always about solving very interesting problems through design. Many times there are not things out there you can refer to as a benchmark. Everyone from design to development is really great at what they do. It pushes me to grow everyday. At the same time they don’t take themselves too seriously (a.k.a. no big egos) and are easy to work with.

What I love about my job is I can come into the office and collaborate with the team, or work at home for the week to just crank on some work. It’s a very flexible environment.

What do you specialize in?

My sweet spot is interaction design. I have been moving away from designing websites in the past few years. I focus on design for desktop software, web apps, and I’m also doing more work for devices like the iPad.

I work with the team to create the front end of the application. We call it the design framework. I also work on the more IA piece of projects to sketch out the structure and screens, as well as wireframe. I love this part because you are laying the foundation of the design and quickly figuring out what works and what doesn’t in quick iterations with the team.

Print or web? Why?

Print. If you look at the trends, every web/digital designer wants to be a print designer. Although, not literally. We’re just pushing the designs behind our flat, smooth screens to have some sort of life and become much more tactile. Look at the use of faux surfaces, added texture to elements, and the infamous letterpress effect.

Now with tablet devices we’re seeing the surge of published materials like the Wired magazine app being designed to mimic print magazine layouts. The art directed posts and articles for blogs also do the same thing for websites. It’s natural that as digital designers we would take inspiration from this more established form of design.

Where do you find your inspiration?

Everywhere. The creative side of my mind is always on. I stash away ideas for later use. I try to have a notebook handy to capture ideas if I can. For some reason when I do work that doesn’t require much thought, like mowing the lawn, my mind starts generating tons of ideas for designs or articles I’m working on.

As for pure design inspiration, I find a lot of it in looking at handcrafted work and vintage illustrations. One of my favorite blogs right now is A Journey Round My Skull. Some really cool stuff there.

Who’s your favorite designer? Typographer?

I know it’s almost a cliché at this point, but Paul Rand. It’s not necessarily from his design sensibility alone. It’s from his design thinking. Every time I’ve seen a video of him talking about design, or read anything he has written, it is very poetic. I can only aspire to have that same clarity and be able to articulate my thoughts about something so encompassing as design.

My favorite typographer is quite easy. My big ass logo would not be what it is without the work of Alejandro Paul. His type foundry Sudtipos has some nice work. Another foundry I really like is Hoefler & Frere-Jones.

How do you start a new project? Do you sketch?

If I am starting a project with the team, we whiteboard, and use a lot of sticky notes. If it is just something I am working on without anyone else I try to start with sketches. I still have a bad habit of wanting to just start designing in Fireworks, but I find it is much more efficient if don’t. I can find and discount solutions that seem great in my head because once you start to build out the screens or workflow you quickly find what works. Better to do that in 20 minutes on a sketchpad, rather than an hour or more on the computer.

What’s your favorite type of project to do?

I love projects that are starting from scratch and where I’m not just brought in to fix something that is near the end. Design isn’t meant to cover up problems; it’s meant to solve them. That also has to do with how people think about design. If they only see it as a veneer, then they will never get a value out of it. If they see design as a balance of things that are visible and invisible, then the project can really be successful.

I see many cases that people bring the designer in after the software or website is functional. When you leave design out of a product it does not equal an absence of design, it means an intentional creation of poor design. Surface level touch ups can’t cover up a poor experience under the hood.

Can you do any development? Is your HTML pretty?

Well… I wouldn’t say I am a developer by any means. I try to structure my HTML and CSS as good as I am able to. It is very important for me to have valid code. Although I forgot to do that the last time I updated and was blaming other things. I really only code and maintain my personal site and CMS. It’s a better world for that.

What’s something you think you do well? What’s something you need improvement in?

Design for both. There is this point where you know that you suck at certain parts of design and are good at others. I think you can only get there through experience. I don’t think that there will ever be a point where I get to the top of the design mountain and say I’ve conquered it. It is this constant in your career where you get to the top of one mountain only to find there is an entire range of mountains you couldn’t see before. At that point you have to choose which one to conquer next. You also realize you’ll never be able to physically climb all of them.

Where did you come up with the Finch identity? Why such a big logo? Are you compensating? 😉

I came up with the identity while I was researching typefaces for a while and came across a few that worked. Once I put the Finch name on the page using Candy Script, I knew it was right.

When I was working on the last version of the site in late 2008 I was trying to be more graphic and design the site with a bold, print feel. I wanted something like you would find on the intro page for a feature article in a magazine. For the heck of it I made the logo huge and dropped it on the page. I knew it would either be misunderstood or that people would like it. Either way it caused a reaction, which I think is a good thing.

Mac or PC?

Mac for sure.

Is Scrivs whiny? (Don’t worry, he’s too mean to read my blog, he’ll never know what you really think of him)

I think Scrivs (Drawar) is a good guy and is working hard at building a great community. I don’t think he is whiny, maybe more wimpy. He needs to really stand up to some of these other design community blogs and tell them to get out of the way.

Tell us something no one online knows about 🙂

I’ll give you two as promised:

1) The name Finch is not just some random thing. A long time ago someone said they would type my name in an email and “F, Inch” would come up and not show the rest of my last name. So she started calling me Finch. I decided it would be a good identity for my design work.

2) I used to be a postman. Maybe more postboy at the time. Anyway, I worked for the U.S. Postal Service as a mail carrier for a bit during college.

For the ladies in the design/dev world, are you single?

I think the interest in this question will have passed after seeing my picture. If you must know, I am taken. However, if you are reading this and your name is Shakira, then I am very single.

The Readers

Any questions for Finch?