I burned my hair off setting fire to a can of black powder.

Life was easy in 1st grade. All I had to do was draw what I saw outside my window and my artwork brought home the grand prize. As I grew I was horrible at making hydrogen bombs, avoiding attacks from wild dogs and keeping all five toes on my right foot. But I did win something at every art contest I entered.

Then things got complicated.

My friend’s mom hired me to design a golf instruction manual. This required drawing pictures of fat old ladies explaining things. That was my foray into professional design — and it was a crucial moment for me because I realized that my art had to meet a need in order to make money. And in order to meet needs in a marketable way I had to really think about what I was doing, often going through several iterations to achieve a great product.

In college I started entering design competitions. I won the best-of-state gold medal pictured below for designing a 3-dimensional animated Microsoft logo out of my art supplies when all of the other competitors were drawing their entries on paper. That taught me the value of approaching solutions in ways that my peers weren’t even considering.

I achieved a second-place finish in a national advertising design competition because I stayed in my hotel room and practiced designing restaurant logos while my roommate went sightseeing. It was my way of preparing for whatever the competition would throw at me. Little did I know I would use one of the vegetable drawings I had conceived as inspiration for a winning poster design the next day. I had not known the competition would be centered around culinary arts but I learned to be in the right place at the right time doing what I should be doing.

I also won a full competitive scholarship to an international design school — a prize awarded to only one person in the nation each year.

Now I mess with the magic thread.

Working as a design leader in various agency, in-house and business owner environments, I’ve observed a common thread that helps people connect with my work. It’s a magic thread woven from answers to questions like: “What made a teacher in Australia enter her email into this little box? What will make this product easier to use on next-generation mobile devices?” and “How will Fitt’s Law and change blindness affect this user’s journey?”

Each new project requires more magic thread, of course, but I always stitch my best work together with that magic thread. I believe my magic thread is what sets me apart from less structured and intentional designers.

Interesting facts about me.

I own a pillowcase with tractors on it and I’m not ashamed.

I have told my kids hundreds of adventurous bedtime stories and recorded many of them. The bad guy in my stories is named after a good guy (who happens to be our family pediatrician).

I am very proud of my chicken noodle soup recipe but not everyone in my family likes it.