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Ten Minutes with: Rob Girling

If you have worked with us, you know that we are deep thinkers, great designers, agile engineers. But you may have missed (or been spared) the unique personalities that make Artefact special. As part of our anniversary celebration, A10, we will give you a glimpse at some of the characters without whom the place just would not be the same. We kick it off with one of our co-founders, Rob Girling, whose big ideas are outsized only by his personality. 

What are the 5 words that people would use to describe you?

I’ve heard, people use words like “a ping pong ball,” passionate, zany, honest. But my favorite is inspiring.

When did you know that you wanted to be a designer? 

I discovered interaction design, as an undergraduate in around 1989 by reading Don Norman’s iconic and foundational The Design of Everyday Things.  I knew I wanted to do something with computers and design, but my choice of undergraduate design school was highly motivated by what computer equipment the schools had. I bought my first computer a ZX Spectrum (128k!) in 1982, and spent a considerable amount of my teenage years, geeking out trying to make video games.

What is in your notebook?

I have three Moleskines currently.  One for note taking in general meetings about Artefact. A “big ideas” Moleskine for recording thoughts and ideas when I’m reading non-fiction, watching a TED talk or listening to an especially good podcast or audiobook. In the third book, I keep notes from the discussions with a peer group of outside folks that help me work through challenges of running a company.

What is the thing (product, service, etc) that you would die to design? Why?

I’d love to design an educational environment in VR, something that weds my passion for gaming, my interest in education and my tendency to want to save the world.

What advice would you give to your 10 year old self?

Design Minecraft (which, accidentally, combines my passion for gaming, VR and education into one excellent experience).

Where do you want to be in 10 years?

In 10 years, I’ll be 58, and about 10 years away retirement. It is quite scary, but I’m not interested in a life of relaxation. We are lucky to live in times when design and the business of running it is evolving very quickly. I can imagine that things will be as interesting, and as challenging, even 20 years into running Artefact.

What would people never guess about you?

Most people don’t realize that I am an introvert. My profession and role has made me suppress that, but I am happiest when I am focused on a big idea.

What is your favorite Artefact project and why?

This is the hardest question of all. It is like picking a favorite child. Only there have been 250+ projects in our ten years. Sometimes even getting my head around them all and is pretty challenging. The ones that have shipped while staying true to our vision, are in a special class.

What are you afraid of?

Everything. No, seriously.

Where do you go/what do you do for inspiration?

We live in a time when inspiration is not hard to find. I feel deluged with ideas. I could spend months lost on Pinterest looking at aesthetics, reading thought provoking books, watching inspiring talks, listening to podcasts and never feel satiated. Weirdly, music is the one place I go, when I need that “special” thinking time to crystalize ideas into something tangible.