Jasper Hauser, design at Darkroom


What’s your relationship to visual design?

I’m a designer by trade, product and icon design being my core strengths in that department. But these days I do a lot of entrepreneurship and people coaching as well.

What role does visual design play in your entrepreneurship and people coaching?

On a personal level it plays a big role. I still design hands on for both of my companies, one more than the other. I really enjoy doing that, both creatively as an outlet and also from a process perspective. As an entrepreneur the design thinking process and customer centric perspective has always proven to be valuable. And as a founder it has meant there was never a question about the value design brought to the table. For coaching, all of the above experience over the past 20 years mean I have a broad and deep experience on everything that touches design. From the craft and tools, to management and leadership, as well as business fundamentals and the value design can bring to a company.

Can you tell me about the hands-on work you do?

At Darkroom (the Apple design award winning photo editor) I do all of the product and marketing design. That includes new feature design, interaction and UX, as well as all icon and app icon design. I also do the design for our website and social marketing, blog etc. So everything the company and product needs.

What split have you landed on between Apple’s native style and custom visual design, for interface elements?

I actually did a talk for the GitHub Mobile team on that subject last year.

The majority of the Darkroom UI is custom, but looks and feels native. This is for various reasons, mainly because we couldn’t achieve our desired outcome any other way. That being said, we try and keep everything native as much as we can.

Were you ever tempted to use a completely custom visual style?

Not for Darkroom. Earlier in my career I have absolutely given that a try with Disco, and during my time at Facebook we tried many times to do that. The thing I have ran into time and time again is that when you go full custom, many customers can get lost, or not understand, because they don’t recognize patterns they’re accustomed to. So in favor of understandably, and usability I have always gravitated towards product design that looks and feels native. Not just to the platform, but also to what I would call “industry patterns”.

Is there anything people might not be aware of about application design if they usually design websites?

Yes. Apps run on platforms and people expect a visual language they are used to, that they know. The web has always been a free-for-all, however the common language of apps is defined by the platforms. The exception are the mass adoption apps/platforms that are so big and common that they can set their own rules. TikTok/Instagram/Uber. But the rest had better stick to the visual language most people know. There is wiggle room, but not much, and it can quickly and sometimes invisibly hurt the adoption and usability of your app.

Is there anything you want to share about visual design that I haven’t covered?

I think the challenge and reality within product design is to find the area where you can be more free, and not feel restrained. I do that by spending more time making my colors and icons expressive, and using marketing imagery as the place to be free. So much of product design is and has to be driven by business that for some it’s seen as not free enough.