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Featured on Nov 14, 2011

Ross Popoff-Walker

"Redesign the world"


I find passion in leading teams to make something out of nothing. In working together with designers and technologists to build digital ecosystems. In creating tools and utilities that alter the way people behave, and give them something they didn't even know they wanted. I do this with a combination of skills in project management and UX design, and a background that led me from writing music, to working on the first version of Guitar Hero, to a bunch of digital agency gigs. Above all, I get excited working with like-minded, smart people who who settle for nothing less than awesome.

  • Title: User Experience Manager, various digital agencies
  • Age: 30
  • Location: Midtown
  • Contact: @rosspw

You currently do work as a UX consultant for startups.  How does the experience working with startups compare to your day-job at SapientNitro and your previous one at RG/A?

Life at an agency and or working with an early-stage start-up are remarkably similar. I've always seen user experience design as the binding element in creating a new digital product or tool. By taking the lens of the end user to a project, you immediately focus on what's important from a functional perspective, and from the high-level of the idea.

Where the two worlds of design agency and start-up really differer is in the business model: client-service vs. product iteration. I'm truly passionate about the start-up mentality, of making something from nothing in the most efficient, cost-effective ways possible. Most design agencies don't know how to make money off that yet. But at the end of the day, it makes as much sense for a giant brand like Nike as it does for co-founder team, and I hope design agencies start taking a more agile, iterative approach.

You’ve been working with startups for a little over two and a half years.  In general, what are your thoughts on the state of the New York tech scene?

I moved to NYC from Boston a few years ago, and I love the vibrancy of New York, but miss the tightly connected world of Boston. Theres a huge variety of people and ideas here in NYC, as well as a ton of tech and design talent. But the opportunities are so broad, that it's been a challenge to forge real connections. For me, partnerships always come down to a true sense of familiarity and trust, and I'm still exploring the right way to build those relationships here.

Who do you consider to be the thought leaders in the UX community that you’d suggest young designers follow and listen to?

Instead of following thought leaders, I think the most valuable mentality for UX designers, especially early on, is looking at as much design as you can, and deciding what you like -- collecting inspiration, and also becoming a great hand-sketcher. Browsing through sites like or and collecting inspirational interfaces or design elements -- that's an essential habit. And then there's the simple act of quickly articulating your ideas in the most basic way possible -- hand-sketches go a long way before prototyping or higher-fidelity design.

User Experience Designer