Sam Brown

The redesign of

One of the primary reasons I wanted to work at foursquare in early 2010 was to have the ability to work on one product alone and continue to improve that over time. The majority of my freelance projects never lasted more than 3 months, once a site had shipped I had very little to do with it and would move onto another project. Being able to rapidly iterate on a single product over time and see real measured improvements has been massively satisfying.

When I started working at foursquare we had two designers, a visual designer and a user experience designer. Both working across all aspects of the product on everything from web and iOS app design to communication materials and graphic design. A grand task for just two and thankfully the team has grown to almost 10 since then with a mix of visual, interaction, ux and web ui designers.

At foursquare we see the website as an integral part of our product and getting the chance to redesign this from the ground-up was a great opportunity, one that the small redesign team has slaved, sweated and poured a vast amount of our effort into over the last few months.

The new foursquare site is a breath of fresh air compared to our old utilitarian and generic 2009 website. While we continued to push amazing new features and projects to the site, we have always felt constrained by it’s abilities and style. Today we launch a brighter, fresher and more flexible design that is not only a huge improvement visually but lays the groundwork for new features and projects that are coming down our road map in the very near future.

Gone are the days of content-in-a-blue-box and in moves the era of easier to digest content, interactivity and discovery. With easier navigation, even more photos & comments, and clearer venue details to interactive maps, venue recommendations and list discovery we hope that becomes the destination site for people looking to keep up with their friends, discover what’s nearby, save money and unlock rewards.

Checking into full-time employment

Yesterday, April 11th 2011 marked my first day as a full-time foursquare employee! I have been working solely for foursquare since August last year on a contract basis and it was around this time last year that I first started doing some occasional freelance work for the NYC startup.

This last year has been a complete blast and to have been offered a full-time position whilst still based in the UK was amazing. At only 55 full-time employees our team are really cranking out some amazing new product and it’s a job I am absolutely relishing.

Now you know why so many cobwebs have grown over this site, I plan to change that too. :)

Have you tried foursquare? Check out the new sign up flow and start exploring today →

New Adventures 2011 - My experience graph

The Albert Hall in Nottingham saw 650 web design aficionados descend upon it for the first New Adventures in Web Design conference hosted by the venerable Simon Collison last week. This event brought a very large portion of the web design community together, both speakers, attendees and contributors (to the The Paper) – Simon did a superb job of curating the event into what felt like a real coming of age party for our industry.

New Adventures Conference 2011 Experience Graph

All ten talks at New Adventures were of such a high caliber, even those that were brand new and being delivered for the very first time. Stand out talks for me were Dan Rubin on the new language of web design that we need to forge for ourselves – Mark Boulton on designing content out, creating connectedness and binding this to the device – Andy Clarke on storytelling and shaping your content for the visitor and of course the hilarious Brandan Dawes on the beauty of product design, I could literally listen to Brendan talk all day!

Our host, Simon was as charismatic as ever and deserved every bit of the warm reception he received at the end of the day spurred on by Andy Clarke. New Adventures was one of the most enjoyable, forward-thinking and community focussed events I have attended. Simply fantastic.

Suggested Reading

Build Conference 2010 - My experience graph

I spent four days in Belfast at the beginning of November at the fantastic Build Conference which in reality is a Web Design Festival. Andy McMillan put on 5 days worth of events for the attendees in what is quickly turning into the mini-SXSW of Europe. From Book Clubs and Exhibitions, to Evening Lectures and Pub Quizzes, to Launch Parties and Film Screenings, you would be forgiven for not realising there was an inspiring conference to be had in the middle.

Build Conference 2010 - My experience graph

I’ll spare you my detailed diagnosis as others have written well about the days speakers at length which I have linked to below. It was a joy to meet the super talented Keegan Jones, Tim Brown was a masterful speaker and Liz Danzico really impressed me with… the pause. Frank’s intelligence and wit were provoking and it was a real honour to hear Dan Cederholm talk so passionately about pushing forward with CSS3 today. All in all, the best web event I’ve attended.

Suggested Reading

Brooklyn Beta 2010 - My experience graph

The inaugural Brooklyn Beta Conference was held on the 21st & 22nd of October 2010 and it was a phenomenal success. Cameron Koczon and Chris Shiflett created an inspiring event held over two days at The Invisible Dog Gallery in Brooklyn that started with four half day workshops from Simon Collison, Meagan Fisher, Patrick Lauke and David Kaneda.

Brooklyn Beta 2010 Experience Graph

The main event hosted talks from six inspiring speakers who spoke about their experiences, trials and tribulations of creating products and businesses. I’m almost certain every single person in the audience left the event wanting to go create something new for themselves, I know I certainly did.

Shelly Bernstein is the Chief of Technology at the Brooklyn Museum and spoke about how successful the museum had been in employing social media to increase foot traffic and buzz at the venue. Their use of foursquare was particularly interesting and has proved to be a big success.

Elliot Jay Stocks spoke about his fantastic type magazine 8 faces, where the idea came from, the steps he went through from start to the final product and the issues he had with fulfilment and resolving things on a limited print run.

Cameron Moll first played a well put together video of the Brooklyn Bridge that he may or may not be studying for a future endeavour, then went on to speak about the story behind Authentic Jobs and how he turned this fantastic little side project on his blog into a fully-fledged business that supports him and his family.

Kevin Cheng is the Product Lead of #newtwitter and spoke well about how that came to be, the iterative steps involved in making such a big change with a small core design and development team. Most interesting to me were Doug Bowman’s mockups of what a #newtwitter could have looked like, you need to track these down if you can – I know which ones I prefer!

Marco Arment who recently left Tumblr to work on Instapaper full-time was another very inspiring speaker who talking about taking his small side-project that he created initially just for himself and has managed to turn into a successful business that is now his sole focus.

Lastly Fred Wilson from Union Square Ventures spoke about what he thought were the 10 golden rules of successful web apps. As a VC Fred obviously has great insight into what these are and I’m sure it was very reassuring for people creating web apps to hear these things from someone so successful. What I liked most about Fred’s talk at the end of the day was the relaxed nature of a 20 minute talk and 20 minute Q&A session, this is rarely done at conferences and I feel it’s something we should be seeing more off. It was a super way to end the day.

One of the real highlights of the day was the several hours after the last speaker came off when pizza and beer arrived and everyone was able to have a chance to talk to one another, to the speakers themselves and other attendees in an awesome environment. There was no blaring music to shout over, nor was it too cramped or hot. Cameron and Chris really nailed the overall experience of getting a bunch of really awesome designers, developers and business folk in one room to talk shop!

As a whole this was an incredibly hard experience graph to create, all of the speakers were fantastic and even the demos were enjoyable to watch (if slightly pitchy). Furthermore the audience that attended Brooklyn Beta was of the highest caliber, it was a true delight to be there and I would highly highly recommend it for next year.

dConstruct 2010 - My experience graph

The sixth year of dConstruct may very well have been its best to date and it certainly was from my point of view. Design & Creativity was this years tag line and it was right up my street, it’s safe to say I came away from the conference with a lot of thought and inspiration.

dConstruct 2010 Experience Graph

The selection of speakers and topics at this years event was fantastic, it was nice to have big names like John Gruber and Merlin Mann come across but likewise it was great to finally get to hear Brendan Dawes and David McCandless speak.

Robbie Manson has written an insightful overview from each of the talks and I would highly recommend you simply download the audio from the talks and dive right in. As usual, a fantastic event that I look forward to attending again.

My passion for Side Projects

I have written about why I think Side Projects are massively important and something everyone should be doing regardless of full-time employment or being freelance before on several occasions in How to stay sane when freelancing from home & Why I love being freelance.

Now I’m planning on speaking about it at SXSW Interactive Conference 2011 in Austin, Texas next March. Infact, I am that passionate about it that I am part of two fantastic panel line ups:

Collaboration Nation: How Side-Projects Can Keep You Relevant →

Pet Personal Projects for Fun and Profit →

If you plan on attending SXSW and are interested in this topic or either of the panels specifically I would be grateful for your vote. Thanks.

Debates over terminology and semantics are for...

“Debates over terminology and semantics are for archivists and academics. If you’re interested in the living heart of what you do, focus on building things rather than talking about them.”

Very sound advice from Ryan Freitas on 35 Lessons in 35 Years via @wilsonminer

Sam Brown co-founded Iterate, and was previously VP of Design at Foursquare. Based in NYC.