Output Afterhours With Ryan
Get to know the UX Designer behind the sounds at Output.
What do you do at Output?
I got brought in as our first dedicated User Experience designer, to work on our upcoming release. I spend a lot of time working on the path users take to complete actions, arranging what goes on each page of our software, and crafting the details of the interactions. Basically, I go in deep on maximizing on user’s creative capabilities with our products and making the experience as easy & obvious as possible.
What does a day in the life at Output look like?
It’s split fairly evenly between designing new material and overseeing the build process for “finished” designs, which we call developer handoff. For new designs, we build out a strategy with lots of research and development, create features and copy as needed, then I design wireframes from that work.
For the handoff stuff, I check over work that’s being built and give notes, and often get notes back myself and return to the design phase. Product teams need to design for the man hours and schedule of their developers, so this part of my job also includes discussion and exploration of how to design features and solutions that can reasonably get built in code.
What was your starting point in music?
In high school I played jazz guitar, and wrote songs for my emo band. During that time I became ‘the guy’ in my band who handled recording stuff. That led to dabbling a bit in pro-tools when I was in college. Back then pro-tools came with a free version of Ableton 4, so that got me started messing with some sound synthesis principles in Simpler and Impulse.
Then my senior year of college I took a class on synthesis. There was this locked door that sat at the dead end of a winding hallway in our music building, and behind it were a bunch of 70s couches, an ARP 2600, a Moog modular, and more. Everyone who took the class got the code to the door, and could go in and jam on analog synths whenever we wanted.
That kind of set my whole life in the direction I’ve been on for the past 11 years. Getting into synths led to doing sound design and editing, and making music on my computer for commercials and short films. That brought me to LA, where I met my wife, got into UX design, and had a baby. Thanks, ARP 2600!
How do you balance all of your creative endeavors?
I have a 7 month old right now, so the thing I am balancing at the moment is work and family. There’s no trick to it, it’s just about setting priorities and sticking to a schedule. I watch Indy in the mornings and rush home everyday to give him a bath and read him his bed time story. If I get to see him twice a day, then I feel like life is pretty groovy. Output is really supportive of me being a new parent, so that helps.
Outside of parenthood, I usually try to keep at least one creative personal project going at all times. I bounce between writing, drawing, painting, and music making. What I do at work requires creative energy, and to me, creative endeavors have a synergistic effect on one another. If I’m only focused on one thing for too long, I think there’s a danger of getting flat or running out of energy. I guess I am a creative person who needs a bit of distraction to be productive. So, I try to have at least two creative things going on in my life if there’s going to be any at all.
What is the most beautiful sound in the world?
Maybe some of the sounds glass makes? Thin glass shattering is a nice sound, or a lightbulb popping. There’s a sound that two glass cups making as they are brought together that I’ve always loved; it’s kind of a ramp-up noise as the cups bounce faster and tighter, then finally settle next to each other. I think they used it for a Star Wars creature in one of the prequels. I also love the sound the bad guys make in Metal Slugs when they die. They make a very satisfying “waauggh!” If I was a sound editor for TV, that would be my Wilhelm scream. You would hear it everywhere.