If you ask Designer of the Week Tim Belonax, there’s a definitive way to achieve design innovation in the corporate world. Lucky for us, he’ll be chatting about just that at HOW Interactive Design Conference Chicago. (Register by September 10 to save $200!) There, you’ll hear all about his experiences with side projects—utilizing analog art and design practices within some of today’s most groundbreaking companies—and walk away ready to put what you’ve learned to use in your career.
Here, we’ll get to know a little more about Belonax. The designer, writer and educator is currently the graphic design lead at Airbnb in San Francisco. Before that, he was a communication designer at Facebook, where he helped establish the Facebook Analog Research Lab, a print and design studio, and became the principal designer there. He also led identity design for internet.org, the Like thumb, and the Facebook wordmark.
Read on for his thoughts on creating constraints for how to create work, details on his most challenging project, his perspective on “safe work” and more.
Name: Tim Belonax
Location: San Francisco, CA
Design School Attended: BFA from RISD
How would you describe your work?
I’m a generalist. I’m often unsatisfied with most design and try to remain critically curious of the world. This typically shows through in my expanding list of side projects and teaching assignments at CCA. My work has changed over the years, and I hope it continues to grow and morph. I strive for a consistent level of conceptual output rather than cohesive visuals between projects. I enjoy reacting to content by creating constraints or instructions for how to create work. I think this is one reason why I enjoy identity design and teaching so much—in both cases I’m working on the blueprints for something greater to come.
Where do you find inspiration?
I find inspiration everywhere—books, exhibitions, friends—anything can be inspiring if you look at it the right way.
Who are some of your favorite designers or artists?
I admire different people for specific skillsets, activities, or types of work. Most recently I’ve been admiring two friends: Jez Burrows for his work with writing and graphic design via Dictionary Stories and James Edmondson’s redux of Hobo via OHno Type Co. Chris Eckert’s Mechanical Parables at the San Francisco Museum of Craft and Design is also a recent experience that was inspiring.
Do you have a favorite among all the projects you’ve worked on?
I don’t have a favorite design project since I tend to move onto the next thing fairly quickly. One that I’m still fond of is “The Reward is in the Process,” a book of optional class assignments for the design-minded.
Is there a project that stands out to you as having been the biggest challenge of your career so far?
Perhaps the most challenging project of my career thus far was working on the redesign of the Facebook wordmark. Designing something that important for a company serving over a billion people was no easy feat.
What do you hope to accomplish in the future?
One of my future goals is to create a forever stamp. USPS, if you’re reading this, call me!
What’s your best advice for designers today?
My advice for designers today is to demand more criticality and discussion from your community. I’m worried that designers are becoming too reliant on online resources like Dribbble or Pinterest for inspiration, thereby creating more homogenous, safe work. These online tools aren’t inherently bad, but I see them being used too much as a crutch for inspiration and research.
If you want more of Tim Belonax, we invite you to join us all at HOW Interactive Design Conference in Chicago. Belonax will present “Side Projects for a Corporate World,” which includes the following takeaways: 1. Learn best practices for building a strong internal culture 2. Equip yourself with the know-how to make side projects happen and 3. Discover the benefits of side projects at work.