The Truth About Style Tiles: Samantha Warren on Design, Twitter, and More

Fresh off her performance at this week’s An Event Apart Atlanta, we caught up with Twitter designer and “Style Tiles” creator Samantha Warren.

Where and how did you get your start in design, web or otherwise?

When I was growing up, my family owned a print shop, where I worked weekends and summers doing exciting things like prepress setup and collating!  I loved it so much that I went to school for Graphic Design.

After graduation, I did contract work, handling everything from branding to museum exhibit design; but it was when I got a taste of web design that I fell in love. One day, out of the blue I got a call from a connection I had through college. He asked if I wanted to learn to build websites for the US Army. It was an unlikely first web design gig for someone who knew nothing about the military, but I wanted to learn “how to code.” On the first day, the team handed me a copy of Designing with Web Standards, and I never looked back. We really had a lot of fun.

What’s it like to work and design at Twitter?

Working at Twitter is an adventure. Being a designer at Twitter is about being flexible, iterative, and open to new ideas. Ego does not fly. I get to work with some of the most talented people from all over the world, and they bring diverse and interesting perspectives to the table. Across all departments and roles, everyone is incredibly passionate and dedicated. One of my favorite perks is taking part in “extracurricular” activities like Tweet (Toast) Masters and improv classes. I have never worked in another place where I have made so many interesting and multi-talented friends.

What’s the 30-second summary of what Style Tiles are and why they’re awesome?

Style Tiles are a tool that help you remain flexible in your design process. They are the step between a mockup and a conversation, and can take lots of different physical forms. Style Tiles are less about an actual “thing,” and more about the journey you take to arrive at a look and feel. It’s about being more efficient, so there is more time to spend working on the extra special details—like just the right texture or the perfect little shadow. Or finding the font with the best uppercase R for the design. Nothing like a good strong sturdy uppercase R!

What will people take away from your talk in Seattle?

Style Tiles are much more than a PSD template, they are a catalyst for re-imagining your personal design process. My process is about breaking down big ideas into smaller pieces while including your team and clients along the way, so there is less confusion and more buy-in. People will leave the talk with an understanding of the framework and processes from real-life examples that have worked for me. They also will want to save kittens. Adorable baby kittens.

Samantha Warren will present her hour-long presentation “Faster Design Decisions with Style Tiles” at An Event Apart Seattle in March, along with eleven other brilliant designers, developers, and strategists. Don’t miss this inspiring, cutting-edge educational event.