Brisbane-based product designer Danny Peters chats to us about his 12-year (and counting) stint at Squiz, designing solutions to technical problems, and getting Squizzers fit at lunchtime.
Squiz: In which office are you based Danny?
What did you study at university?
I did one year of industrial design, which didn’t really click for me, so I switched to graphic design and did three years of that.
What’s your role at Squiz?
Officially, I’m a product designer, so I work at Squiz labs and help design products that most people use day to day. I help design the interfaces and work closely with other product managers, as well as with our chief of engineering, to assist in the design of the features themselves. We won't get a brief that says, “Okay, we need this feature”. Instead, we have a discussion around what would be the best solution to a problem, and we create the features and help design those. So I’m quite involved in the product-creation side of things.
How long have you been at Squiz?
It's coming up to 12 years.
What are your favourite things about the company?
Probably the people, the atmosphere, and the relaxed setting; it’s a very Australian kind of environment. There’s not much of a dictatorship or anything like that. In the two offices that I’ve worked in, it’s always been the people and the environment.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
If I could’ve been anything, it would’ve been a stuntman. Before I was born, my dad was a stuntman, and he rode motorbikes and worked in a couple of really small movies. However, he stopped doing that when I was born, as it probably wasn’t the safest thing to be doing. So in that way, I idolised that side of things.
Have you had a favourite day at Squiz?
When you reach your 10-year anniversary, you receive a gift of some description. When it came to mine, what I didn’t know was that my boss and managers and a few other people were scheming with my wife to come up with a good idea. She suggested a Kickstarter project for a one-wheel electric skateboard, which I thought was a really cool idea with some really interesting technology, so secretly, they presented me with one of those.
What’s an interesting titbit about you?
I’m not very exciting, but I’m quite into fitness, and I run social fitness events at Squiz about four days a week at lunchtime.
Is there someone in business who inspires you?
I look up to some of the big tech giants, such as Tim Cook (the CEO of Apple), Sergey Brin (the co-founder of Google), and Jeff Bezos (the founder and CEO of Amazon). They're inspiring because they seemingly achieve amazing things, they run amazing things, and they produce amazing products. But in the end, you have to realise that they’re just people, and they have to go to sleep every night, they have to eat, and they have to look after themselves. In a way, I find this humbling – that they’re just regular people, but they work in these incredible roles.
What’s been your greatest achievement at Squiz so far?
I suppose it’s not a huge thing – it’s something we did in a couple of weeks – but we built the second version of our WYSIWYG (what-you-see-is-what-you-get) editor from the ground up. Obviously, our web developers did the JS coding side of it, but I helped come up with a new interface for it and defined all the HTML/CSS; we had a prototype built, and we got most of the functionality working for it. We did this in only two or three weeks, but it came out as a really good product, and the core of it – even though we’ve re-skinned it since then – still stands.
What does an average day look like for you?
I spend most of my days in Photoshop, because I’m designing interfaces – pushing pixels around most of the time. Because some of my work takes a while, there are some days that I don’t really have to interact with my boss, who works remotely from me. When I do have to, I can easily have a one- or two-hour conversation with him. So on a regular day, there might be a couple of calls to discuss mock-ups. I sit right next to the other product designer, and we try to have a mini-stand-up each morning to see what the other is working on; we’re always throwing around ideas and bouncing them off each other. When new interfaces that have been designed finally do get built, we also review and work with the developers to make sure the HTML and CSS used is the most appropriate, and we update all the fine details so the end result matches original mockups as closely as possible. So that’s the web side of things.
And as I mentioned, I run a bunch of fitness stuff at lunchtime, so I also spend time trying to rally some troops to attend on particular days – trying to get people out and active.