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Catching Up with Basecamp Founder Jason Fried

Jason Fried is the co-founder and president of Basecamp, the Chicago-based web-application company formerly known as 37signals. Basecamp helps wrangle people with different roles, responsibilities and objectives toward a common goal: finishing a project together. Ten years after its launch, more than 15 million people have Basecamp accounts, and the product continues to accelerate with lightning speed.

In addition, Fried has co-authored all of 37signals’ books, including the recent “Rework,” as well as the minimalist manifesto “Getting Real: The Smarter, Faster, Easier Way to Build a Successful Web Application.” He also helps maintain popular Signal vs. Noise Basecamp blog, and is regularly invited to speak around the world—including HOW Design Live—on entrepreneurship, design, management and software. Here’s a sneak peek at the genius behind the creative industry’s favorite project-management tool.

What are you especially excited about and/or challenged to be working on right now? We’re working on some significant upgrades to Basecamp, which is always a challenge because it challenges our own status quo. Every few years, we try to throw out what we’ve done and start again to see if we can beat ourselves. It’s thrilling, frustrating, challenging and rewarding. We’re right in the middle of it right now.

Who are your design heroes or the biggest influences on your career—and why? I’ve always looked up to architects, furniture designers, industrial designers, copywriters and all-around multidisciplinary designers. Some of my favorites are Raymond Loewy, Norman Bel Geddes, JeanProuvé, Peter Zumthor, Frank Lloyd Wright and David Ogilvy. I tend to stay away from focusing on figures in my own industry since I’m naturally exposed to their work. I don’t want to be too influenced by someone who’s close to me—I want to bring new points of view in from entirely different industries and design disciplines.

What are the most valuable lessons you’ve learned in your career thus far? I’ve learned that designers design better when they don’t overthink things. It’s so easy to get caught up in all these details that simply do not matter. That’s not to say details don’t matter—they do—but only the right ones. It takes a career to figure out which ones those are. I find that many designers focus on details that their peers would admire rather than ones that really matter to their customers/clients. I try to focus on the ones that matter to the people who have to live with whatever I design.

You’re dong a live Q&A with Ilise Benun at HOW Design Live? What types of takeaways can attendees expect? Honest ones. I speak my mind and am never afraid to share an unpopular opinion. Hopefully a fun and insightful session!

Anything else you’d like to share? Just looking forward to it!

If you, too, are looking forward to Fried’s session at HOW Design Live, don’t miss out on the early bird deadline. Register before March 31 to save $200 off your registration fee!

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