“How can we make what we did yesterday better?”
This is the question that stood out to me when I first spoke to Arlo Guthrie, Lead User Interface (UI) Designer, for Meet Team Sprout. As the head of our UI team, Arlo works primarily with the design and engineering teams to ensure that Sprout users enjoy a beautiful, consistent and user-friendly experience every time they use our platform.
Read our interview below and watch this clip to hear Arlo’s thoughts on curiosity, cooking in a sous-vide and where he finds inspiration.
Name: Arlo Bryan Guthrie
Started at Sprout: June 2013
How did you get to where you are today?
Like so many Chicagoans, I moved here to pursue a career in theater. I had aspirations of becoming a playwright and a director, but I also knew that I had to have another career. I started working in marketing for theater and realized that my favorite thing to do on any show was to design the poster and update the website.
I went back to school for graphic design, where I met my wife, and embarked on a career in the event industry. I worked on trade shows and big conferences and did everything from building applications to coaching speakers to designing graphics.
Now, as the Lead UI Designer at Sprout, I get to focus on one really great product as part of a team that thinks every day.
How can we make what we did yesterday better?
Arlo Bryan Guthrie
Lead UI Designer @ Sprout Social
So, you and your wife are both designers?
Yup. We met in school and a lot of our dates in the first two years were homework dates. We actually find a lot of joy in talking shop. That sounds depressing but it isn’t—we draw a lot of professional inspiration and new ideas from each other.
Do you have any recommendations for resources for fellow designers at any point in their career?
There are so many places to learn about what I do; it’s overwhelming. I find the most inspiration—and the least distraction—in museums. I like to go back and look at old art movements, like the Bauhaus or even further back, to see how they solved simple problems. Those problems still exist today, we just have different sizes of screens and different methods of interaction.
We have a lot of information, we need to consume it, and our responsibility as designers is to help it make sense for people. We can look back hundreds of years and find inspiration for how to solve these problems.
Tell me about the UI team at Sprout and what you’re currently excited to work on.
In some respects, our team is the glue that holds engineering and design together. Collaboration with those two groups, and across the organization, is absolutely the most important thing on our team.
Right now we’re working on building a design system: making sure that all the choices that we make for user experience, user interfaces and our brand are based on a consistent, cohesive set of principles. Ultimately, that provides a better user experience, because a user can rely on a pattern of action that’s consistent throughout the entire application. The pattern library we’re creating helps our customers learn to use Sprout faster, and it also allows our team to build our applications much more rapidly than we would if we had to design it bespoke every single time.
What are the qualities that make a really good UI designer?
You have to be curious. At Sprout, we’re always looking for a way to make things faster and to make them work better for our customers. Anyone who is thirsty for knowledge and excited to discover new things can make a great UI designer.
How would you describe the culture here at Sprout?
I feel like this is the funniest office I’ve ever worked in. Every day I laugh with someone, whether we’re talking about an internet meme or an oblique take on the work we’re doing.
Today marks two years working at @SproutSocial. It’s nice to finally feel like I have a career, not just a job.
— Arlo Bryan Guthrie (@arlodesign) June 3, 2015
But in all seriousness, Sprout’s culture is all about sharing what we know. People here are so generous with their knowledge. On Friday afternoons, the entire design department gets together and shares our work and talks through new ideas. A few teams host Lightning Lunches where people talk about everything from 3D printing to how to become a professional barbecue judge. We have Lunch and Learns for the whole company that cover everything from how to give a good public speaking presentation to how to learn a new programming language.
Outside of the office, how do you learn and stay inspired?
When I have downtime, I want to play with my kids. I want to build Legos with my son; I want to try and figure out who my two-year-old daughter’s imaginary friend is.
The sense of discovery is what keeps me moving in my work, and sometimes I need to rediscover it through my children. Everything is new and exciting for them.
You recently got into some cooking adventures with your son. What have you been making recently?
So I’ve gotten on the sous vide bandwagon. I absolutely love vacuum-sealing something and leaving it in a pot of water for eight hours, and then having a finished product that I can just cut with a fork.
Now recently, my son, who is six, asked for sous vide octopus for dinner. He enjoyed preparing the raw octopi, and he actually ate most of it!
You’re also quite the whisky connoisseur. What’s your favorite scotch?
It would have to be the Bruichladdich Octomore 7.1. It’s the most heavily peated scotch in the world. It’s fruity but leathery, and there’s almost a little bit of cigar smoke in it. I had it on a date night with the Mrs. She said it smelled like the worst Sharpie ever…but to me it smells like heaven.
Thanks so much, Arlo!
Jim Conti: Jim Conti leads Sprout Social's ambitious talent team. Affectionately known as the "Cruise Director" while in the office, Jim can be found exploring the streets of Chicago and planning his next international adventure when not growing and caring for Team Sprout. Give him a follow @SproutJim.