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Wide Eye's Chris Montwill shares his one key to effective collaboration

Chris Montwill explains how trust and collaboration go hand in hand + more worklife tips in this interview series.

Design by Selena Aggarwal

Profile picture of Lilly Smith

10.25.2021

3 min read

In a new series, we’re asking lead designers across the industry to share their work life advice, design do’s and don’ts, and secrets to effective web design collaboration. Consider it our design take on the Proustian questionnaire, with the aim to give you insight on how top designers work and think about design in a time unlike any other. (And they might just spill a few more secrets along the way.)


Chris Montwill is the newest creative director at Wide Eye—one of the biggest players in the political branding space and the creative agency behind the 2020 Democratic National Convention branding (with Zero NYC), March on Washington branding, and the White House website under the Biden Administration. Montwill himself has built a career working on the UX and design for organizations like the United Service Organizations (USO), the Pew Charitable Trusts, and the Natural Resources Defense Council websites, among others.


Here, Montwill shares how trust and collaboration go hand in hand, the one skill he always looks for in a designer, and why he doesn't take layer naming too seriously.



The key to effective collaboration is...?

Trust.


The most surprising difference between in-office collaboration and remote?

Free food.


When is collaboration most important?

When you need context and perspective (which is early and often).


Your advice for leading a design team?

Start with questions.


Your advice for making a design team more collaborative?

Make a safe space for it.


The one quality you always look for in a designer?

Curiosity.


What’s your proudest moment?

When my mom understood what I did for a living.


What was your biggest learning moment?

When I realized that great relationships make great ideas and not always the other way around.


Your biggest realization from the past year and half of working amid a pandemic?

Bread is not a coping mechanism.

What’s your work mantra?

The future favors the fox.


A mistake you’re glad you made?

Moving to DC.


Best advice you’ve received? (From whom?)

Think with your head, not your clothes. (Joanne Droese.)


Who is your dream client?

NASA JPL.


Design you wish you thought of yourself?

All of the Avengers’ HUD & UI work.


Design faux pas you’re secretly a fan of?

I am not afraid of a tasteful, well-placed, and subtle lens flare (see J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek).


Design skill that’s overrated?

Component variants.


Design skill that’s underrated?

Writing.


Difference between a good designer and a great one?

Persistence.


Your favorite question to ask during job interviews?

What’s the one thing other people think you care too much about?


Your favorite typeface?

I’m pretty polyamorus on this subject but I am currently infatuated with Vocal Type’s homage to sociologist W.E.B Du Bois, aptly named Dubois.


How do you avoid team burnout?

By decreasing noise, creating space to focus, and not taking layer naming too seriously.


The song you listen to when you’re the most productive?

LCD Soundsystem- Dance Yrself Clean


Project from the past year that most excites you?

Wide Eye’s Reform Alliance work.


What keeps you up at night?

My cats.


What gets you up in the morning?

Working with a great bunch of people who give a sh*t.


What’s a piece of advice you’d give your younger self?

Learn from people you admire, don't try to be them.


Design is…?

Appreciation


Design isn’t…?

Neutral


What’s a question you wish we asked? (And what’s the answer?)

When do you overcome imposter syndrome? You don’t, I still am.



If you enjoyed this interview, check out this one with Emmy Award winning creative director Karin Fong and this one with chair of the BFA advertising and design departments at SVA Gail Anderson in the same series.

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