Uses This

A collection of nerdy interviews asking people from all walks of life what they use to get the job done.

A picture of Louisa Heinrich

Louisa Heinrich

Designer, founder (Superhuman Limited)

Posted in designer, mac

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm the Founder of Superhuman Limited and Chief Strategy Officer at DesignTalent. Basically I'm adamant about putting people first when it comes to matters of technology and business, so that the things we make have a positive impact on our lives and our future, instead of making the world more dystopian/mysterious/difficult. I'm particularly interested in the complex issues around digital identity (what does it mean to own yourself in the digital world?), screen-less interfaces (the Internet of Things), Artificial Intelligence and design education. Superhuman is a consultancy that works with businesses of all sizes, and sometimes governments too, to apply human-centred principles to solve their problems - be that about making a product or launching a service, adapting to a new set of trends or paradigms, or introducing digital infrastructure to create 'smart' cities.

At Designtalent, we're working toward the same end from a different direction: helping businesses of all kinds introduce and successfully integrate design thinking into their organisations. We call ourselves a 'human-centred talent consultancy' - that means we use design and innovation methods to help our clients work out what kinds of skills and talents they need, frame a culture that will deliver on their goals, and find, inspire and retain the people who make it all happen.

I also do a lot of public speaking (talks, lectures, workshops, etc.) on these topics all over the world.

What hardware do you use?

I travel a lot, and am based (i.e. have homes and offices) in both London and Berlin. When I'm on the road, I've always got my MacBook Air 11" and an iPhone 6, which I use as a remote when I use slides for talks or other presentations. The 11" isn't great for detailed design work but I try to do most of that when I'm at one of my bases - when I travel, lean and light are the main priorities.

In both studios, I also have an external screen and keyboard. I have a Magic Mouse in London and a medium-sized Wacom tablet in Berlin. I've also got an assortment of tablets and smartphones (both Android and iOS) that I use for testing. Since I have two phone numbers - one German and one UK - I used to carry both an Android and an iOS phone, but now I've got a dual-SIM adaptor for the iPhone 6, which means one less thing to carry.

The only other thing I've pretty much always got with me is my Kindle. To be honest, I still don't really enjoy reading on an e-reader, but carrying several books around is also not an option. I often find myself (grudgingly) buying Kindle versions of the books I really enjoy (or if I'm reading a very long one) as well as the print versions.

In the Berlin studio, I also have a soldering iron, a couple of Raspberry Pis and assorted other bits and pieces for hardware hacking.

I suppose it probably doesn't count as hardware per se, but I still do rather a lot of my thinking without technological aids. I always have post-its, at least one notebook and an assortment of pens in my handbag, and you'll often find me whiteboarding or sketching on A2 paper as I think through a nice juicy problem.

And what software?

The usual, I suppose - Adobe CS, Keynote, various browsers. I'm perpetually on the lookout for a really good desktop email client - currently I'm using Airmail, which isn't bad. It's lasted over a week, which is more than I can say for many of the others I've tried. Email and calendaring are both simple concepts that have incredibly complex possibilities and implications, and nobody's really doing either of them brilliantly at the moment. I hear a lot of talk about how 'email is dead' but I can't help but wonder how much of that is because the experience needs updating, rather than the format having lost its relevance. It can be difficult to separate the two.

I try to avoid Microsoft products whenever possible because I find them bloated and not particularly nice to use, but I've not found another spreadsheet solution that works as well as Excel, so that's a necessary evil. I also avoid some of the core Apple software - Mail is awful, and iTunes is such a disaster that I find I hardly ever listen to my own music collection anymore. I do use Spotify, which has many flaws but also many workarounds, and Discover Weekly is the best music recommendation algorithm I've ever come across. I'm actually considering getting a CD player Hi Fi component at home and going back to hard media, because a shelf of CD or record spines is still more inspiring when it comes to deciding what to listen to than anything digital I've seen.

What else? For most of my writing I use TextEdit to craft the words and then do the formatting in whatever is most appropriate, depending on the document and whom I'm working with (Google Docs, Pages, Adobe CS apps, Keynote, etc.). For communications I use Skype as well as Gmail and Airmail, and I also use Evernote and Wunderlist, though not particularly methodically.

Finally, I have almost everything on my laptop backed up to a giant Dropbox account. This makes setting up a new machine super easy, as well as enabling me to pick up files anywhere, anytime.

What would be your dream setup?

A foldable, paper-light, high-res second screen that I could travel with, and maybe a projection keyboard and some sort of gestural interface that would remove the need for mouse or Wacom. Apart from that, I've pretty much got what I need - I'm just always thinking about how I can accomplish more while carrying less.

I'd also love it if Apple would stop removing useful ports from the Macbooks - having to lug around a bunch of peripherals and adaptors pretty much negates the benefit of having an extremely lightweight machine.