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Our Work-Life Balance Is the Best Thing Since Sliced Bread

| 05.8.2015

Conversations about work-life balance seem to be happening all around us. We hear that women should “lean in.” We hear that “women still can’t have it all.” We also know that women aren’t the only ones who want work-life balance.

Companies in Silicon Valley are often perceived to be at the forefront of promoting work-life balance. After all, Google is known for offering perks such as access to onsite fitness, cafes, and shuttle bus service (with WiFi) from around the Bay Area. Yet, companies here and everywhere continue to struggle with how to offer work-life balance or perhaps how much to offer. Yahoo! made headlines with its decision that employees needed to be physically present in the office each day, determining that “speed and quality are often sacrificed when [employees] work from home.” But what is sacrificed when physical presence takes a premium over mental and emotional well-being?

We at Sliced Bread want to be a part of the work-life balance conversation, because we believe that even small businesses can have a big impact by demonstrating that there are alternatives to the usual sacrifices associated with working and raising a family. We pride ourselves on doing great work while being a great place to work. Julie and Ellen started Sliced Bread with the fundamental belief that work should be rewarding, enjoyable, and compatible with happy lives outside of work, too. Sliced Bread’s commitment to work-life balance matters to all of us who work here–and as we’ve recently learned–many who don’t.

We recently received a friendly email from a woman named Pam living in Massachusetts that reminded us that work-life balance anywhere can be inspirational everywhere:

“I just wanted to say that I read an article on your company in one of my parenting magazines and your whole premise truly inspired me. The work-life balance you have created sounds perfect.

I am a first-time mom to a now sixteen-month old and returned to work full time after maternity leave. I am starting to realize just how hard it is to juggle everything and have started thinking outside the box.

I wish there were more companies with your mantra around here, as I am on the East Coast (Massachusetts). Thanks for the motivation to continue a job search outside the box!”

Actually, we should be thanking Pam. Her email made us pause and appreciate the many ways we promote work-life balance at Sliced Bread. Here are a few of our favorites:

  • We believe in a comfortable, flexible work environment. Unlike Yahoo!, we believe that we can maximize productivity both in and out of the office. We work out of Julie’s sunny, friendly home office in Mountain View on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The rest of the week, we enjoy an open door policy. Some of us choose to come in to the office on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays while some of us choose to meet near our own homes on those days. Others choose to collaborate remotely those days from within our own homes. All of us do great work Monday – Friday, regardless of where we work.
  • We’re respectful of each other’s time. In fact, everyone at Sliced Bread gets to choose their own hours and their own standard work weeks. Many of us work part time – and that can include a creative 26 hour work week, with a daily schedule determined by dropping off and picking up our kids from school. Perhaps even more important, we’re encouraged to work our standard hours each week and not expected to put in additional hours beyond that. Of course, we do have weeks when we all exceed our standard hours, but most often, we strike the right balance.
  • We actively create a positive work culture. We also like to eat well. That’s why we enjoy yummy, homemade meals together every Tuesday and fun catered lunches every Thursday – and we don’t talk about work over lunch. No wonder many of our clients like to invite themselves over for lunch just to catch up.
  • We take work breaks. We know that we’re more creative, engaged designers because we’re able to take an occasional work break. We go for a quick walk around the neighborhood. We celebrate birthdays and special occasions in the office. We had a temporary halt on all client work to celebrate when our dear chicken Amelia laid her first egg (Yes, we have chickens: Artemis, Daisy, and Amelia. They live in a custom chicken coop in Julie’s backyard, but they are also given free range to explore the yard. Chickens at Sliced Bread enjoy great perks, too).

Photo of Sliced Bread chickens

  • We believe that work and life can co-exist and don’t have to be in a constant tug-of-war. At Sliced Bread, sometimes our employees leave early to catch their child’s school performance. Sometimes they leave early to pick up their sick child from school. Sometimes they bring a sick child with them to the office because, heck, life happens and work goes on. Katrina Alcorn, designer and author of Maxed Out: American Moms on the Brink, sums us up well: “Everyone is just focused on doing great work, and doing it efficiently so they can enjoy their lives.”

And it’s not just moms who value the ability to work from home and build their schedule around the things that matter most to them. In the words of Jesse Day, our token dad:

“As a new Dad, I didn’t think it would be possible to find meaningful work in Silicon Valley while still being able to make blueberry pancakes for the family and do sidewalk chalk on weekdays. Feeling blessed!”

Jesse also shared that when he made this comment he was actually at the peak of a big project. In fact, he worked 10 hours that day, but he didn’t feel overburdened because our remote working options made it so that those 10 hours did not prevent him from spending precious time with his family during his breaks.

At Sliced Bread we believe that what we’re doing is about more than just our bottom line. It’s about paving the way for a new model of work that values the whole individual and prioritizes arrangements that promote mutual respect between employer and employee.

When we received that email from Pam, Julie took the time to reply to her personally, thanking her for reaching out and wishing her well on her job search. We sympathize that a company like Sliced Bread is indeed tough to find, but we hope she’ll keep searching for an employer that values work-life balance and keep asking for the kind of flexibility she wants to have in the workplace.

We think it’s much easier for companies to be successful with a flexible work arrangement than they think it is. After all, our business is thriving and our clients are happy. So are the people who work here.

In fact, we’re hiring – and we’d love for you to join our team!

Have your own work-life balance experience to share? Leave us a comment. Tell your story. Join us in the work-life balance conversation. Like Pam, we hope you’ll keep asking for the kind of work-life balance we’re thankful to enjoy at Sliced Bread.

Job Opening: Senior UX Designer

| 09.8.2014

Sliced Bread Design is on the lookout for a Senior UX Designer, employee or contract. You’ll design for a variety of products and industries alongside a crew of seasoned, passionate colleagues (and three chickens).

We are a boutique user experience design agency working on interesting, complex human/tech interaction problems. Our philosophy is user-centered to the core: we’re constantly talking to users and testing our designs. Since we’re a small shop, many of us take on multiple roles (user research, client work, and creative direction).

Here’s what will make a good match:

  • Your portfolio shows examples of complex interaction design problems you’ve solved. We’re looking for detailed design work on rich applications (for example, searches, dashboards, or transactional flows).
  • You’re smart and motivated. You get up to speed quickly, and you like thinking through tough design problems.
  • You’re comfortable with all phases of the design process, from concept creation and quick sketches through detailed interactive wireframes and testing with users.
  • You have solid prototyping skills in HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.
  • You live in the greater Bay Area. Ideally, you live close enough to Mountain View, CA to join us in the office on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
  • This is not an entry-level design job; you need to have worked in this field for a few years.

If this describes you, we’re guessing you’ve got options. So what makes Sliced Bread special? We combine a single-minded passion for doing high-quality design with a uniquely flexible working environment. Our world headquarters is a sunny, friendly home office where we all work on Tuesdays and Thursdays; the rest of the week, we collaborate remotely from wherever we like. Katrina Alcorn, designer and author of Maxed Out: American Moms on the Brink, sums us up well: “Everyone is just focused on doing great work, and doing it efficiently so they can enjoy their lives.”

Sound like you? Email jobs@slicedbreaddesign.com with a link to your portfolio, resume, your rate/salary requirements and availability.

Meet our 2014 summer interns

| 07.2.2014

This summer, we’re welcoming two interns from the Learning, Design, and Technology (LDT) master’s program at Stanford. They’re joining design teams working on interaction design projects in the security and small business spaces. We couldn’t be more excited to have their creativity and expertise in the house!

natasha-jesse

Jesse Day is obsessed with clarity. He designs to strip away confusion, exposing meaning and purpose. As a teacher and an artist, Jesse spent the last decade in the pursuit of crystalline communication through writing, image, and music and is now working to bring this ideal to interaction design.

Before Sliced Bread Jesse was a lecturer at Parsons The New School for Design where he taught courses in communication design, and writing and public speaking for artists and designers. At Parsons, Jesse helped to reshape the undergraduate experience and received two Innovations in Education awards for his work on curriculum and designing pedagogical tools. He is the author of Line Color Form: The Language of Art and Design, a visual guide to the vocabulary of form and function. Jesse holds a BA in Modern Literature from the University of California Santa Cruz. His favorite bread is corn bread.

Visit his website at http://jessedaydesign.com.


Natasha Prats from american eagle loves designing intuitive products for users, bringing in her psychology, art, and engineering background into the process. She’s done smaller projects with Purina, Miele Appliances, and various start-ups, along with a longer-term stint at Google Shopping.

This year, she’s decided to pursue her passion for design and is working on extending it into educational toys and games through Stanford’s Learning, Design, and Technology program. She’s been exploring interaction design (and discovered JQuery, her new favorite language!), so she’s excited to join the team at Sliced Bread team for the summer and learn more about this area of design. She holds a BS in Engineering (Product Design) from Stanford University. Most importantly, her favorite bread is French Toast.

Visit her website at http://natashaprats.com.


The Learning, Design, and Technology program merges educational theory with design practice. As a part of the program, all students design, prototype, and test an original educational technology product. As well as interning with us this summer, Jesse and Natasha are finishing up work on their master’s projects. Come see what they and their classmates have been working on at the public LDT Expo, held at Stanford University on August 1, 2014.

Our New Managing Design Director Might Look Familiar To You

| 02.27.2014

Sliced Bread Design is delighted to announce the promotion of Mia O’Neill to Managing Design Director. Mia previously served as Design Director.

Time flies when you’re as busy as Mia has been. Over the last nine years, she has led numerous high-profile assignments, including redesigning the dashboard and workflow for eBay sellers, dabbling in agricultural applications of big data with a new holistic system for The Climate Corporation to help farmers quote, compare and purchase crop insurance and making life a little easier for electric car charging station managers and drivers with a major cross-platform UI project for ChargePoint. Mia also gets credit for the smart new look and feel of the Sliced Bread site and also for www.besthomenerd.com project. She was the one behind our internal UX efforts and the key figure in innovating and improving our existing systems, processes and formats to keep things fresh and current and reflect our position as leaders in the design thinking space. No wonder we promoted her!

For clients who are used to having Mia as their primary point of contact, fear not – nothing will change for you. Going forward, however, her new role as Managing Design Director means that she’ll be assuming creative control over a greater number of projects, but serving as the direct contact on fewer. It’s too bad that there’s only one of her.

We at Sliced Bread pride ourselves on knowing a good thing when we see it. We scooped Mia up just after she graduated from Stanford and she’s been an asset to the team ever since. We’re excited to have her take on this new role and to continue the exceptional performance and trademark enthusiasm she brings to all of her projects.

Congratulations, Mia. We can’t wait to see what you’ll achieve next.

Saying Goodbye to Carrie

| 01.6.2014

carrie jazz hands

It is with great sadness that we share that our Project Manager of many years, Carrie Silver, has passed away after a long battle with cancer. Carrie began working at Sliced Bread eight years ago and brought an incredible joy, energy, and commitment to every project that she tackled. You may have interacted with her tangentially when discussing billing or hours on projects, but for us at Sliced Bread she was a critical component of our family. She was an incredibly kind, caring, and thoughtful individual who not only made sure that our critical weekly status reports came out on time, but also that everyone’s birthday was remembered and that we all ate lunch. And through it all, Carrie was funny. She saw humor in every situation and her stories and laughter were a regular part of daily life in our office. From Carrie’s personal blog:

I DO have something that I’m really good at. I’m good at being a friend. If you’re pissed about something and need to vent, I’ll listen. If you need me to stop by your house and water your plants, I’ll do it. If you’re sick and need me to get you something at the store, I’ll do it. If you need me to walk your dog or watch your dog or your kid, I’ll do it. Along the lines mentioned above, I like making people happy. I like being this way.

Carrie persevered through many challenges with incredible grace and fearlessness.  She leaves behind her devoted husband and a lovely seven year old son. We can’t describe how much we will miss her.

Designing for the iPad: Check Out Our Article in Smashing Magazine

| 01.31.2012

 

Today Smashing Magazine published our article, Ten Things To Think About When Designing Your iPad App. Mosey on over to Smashing to check it out — we’re pretty proud.

Looxcie Launches!

| 09.15.2010

Looxcie has just launched their wearable camcorder and the associated mobile app that we designed! Looxcie is basically a camcorder that you wear on your ear which pairs with your smartphone so that you can use it as the viewfinder and to review, create, and share clips.  If you see something interesting, you can hit the “instant clip” button on the headset which will save the last 30 seconds of video and package it into a video file which can be shared via Bluetooth to the companion mobile app. THERE’S MORE…

Launch: WeatherBill

| 09.15.2010

WeatherBill has just launched our new site design targeted at farmers and insurance agents. Following several rounds of rapid iterative design and Fast Insight user testing, we developed a user experience that educated customers about the unique process for purchasing WeatherBill’s insurance, provided insight into their current risk, and offered a simple yet powerful information architecture.  Here’s what Greg Smirin, WeatherBill’s Vice President of Marketing and Product, had to say about our work:

 “SlicedBread was a dream to work with. They’re smart, creative and took the time to understand what our users really wanted – and needed. The whole WeatherBill team can’t wait to work with them on the next project.”

A few of our favorite features

Doormat drop down menu for WeatherBill products:

Clear infographics that communicate a farmer’s current risk:

Beautiful visual design:

To check out the site for yourself, visit www.weatherbill.com.

Launch: Intuit Trends Redesign

| 02.25.2010

We’re excited to share that our redesign of the Intuit Trends application has just launched!

home

Intuit Trends is a free online application that lets small businesses compare how they are doing financially (such as income, expenses, profits, etc.) with other businesses that are similar to them.

We talked with small business owners to find out what they most wanted to understand about how their businesses compared to their peers/competitors, and then introduced some big improvements to the previous design. This release delivers the first preliminary round of changes, and there are many more to come.

Key features of our redesign effort included in this preliminary release are:

  • Introduced a new, personalized Scorecard
    • Before the redesign, the Trends application only offered small businesses the ability to view general trends about how their peers and competitors were doing. Now, small business owners can also see how their own company compares to their peers along three key business metrics and receive individual and overall scores.

scorecard_small

  • Provided a simple bar chart and scoring solution
    • Now that the site was going to show comparisons between a specific business and its peers, we needed a compelling way to present this information. To get started, we explored a variety of different design options for how best to show comparison data. Next, we usability tested our ideas and moved forward with the design that users liked best. Our final solution combined a simple bar chart with a visual quartile score, in a format that was easy for scanning.

score

  • Created a clean, fresh, and consistent visual design
    • We all know that it is important for information on a site to not only be useful, but to also be presented in a clear, visually appealing way. To help the Trends site appeal to its audience and convey the desired tone, we created a modern, clean look and feel for the site that also followed Intuit’s brand guidelines. We also introduced a consistent color scheme to use for “Me” and “Peers” across the site to help users differentiate between the two types of data.

 visuals

You can check out our redesign for yourself at: https://workplace.intuit.com/db/bejqb2kpn.
We’d love to hear what you think!

2 SXSW Panel Proposals

| 08.17.2009

We’re proposing two panels for South by Southwest. Audience voting on the panels is open until September 4th and you can vote thumbs up or down on any as many panels as you want so if these sound interesting, please vote yes! (note that you’ll have to register but it only takes a second)

1. Mac-n-Cheese: Learning About Product Design from Comfort Foods

Comfort foods are the epitome of success. Delicious, ubiquitous, and easy. This panel of chefs and designers will explore what food can teach about product design. What makes a new recipe take-off? How do you make your product comfy on first use and then make people want to use it again?

Questions this panel will answer:

  1. What do eating a food and using a technology/software/website have in common?
  2. What makes comfort foods so appealing?
  3. Can those same qualities translate into software/websites?
  4. How do you create a new recipe that a mass audience will like as much as an old standby like mac-n-cheese?
  5. How do you have a successful yet cutting edge restaurant?
  6. How do you create a new product that people will feel comfortable using from the start?
  7. What techniques/lessons from recipe creation (for magazines and restaurants) can be applied to the design of new technologies?
  8. How do you innovate if people like known things?
  9. How do you get a following for your food? For your restaurant? For your product?
  10. What mistakes should you avoid when doing something new?

2. Flex, Silverlight, Javascript??? Picking your RIA Technology

Dazed and confused in a sea of technology and marketing fluff? This talk will help you pick the right technology for your Rich Internet Application based on the user experience implications. See specific examples of the trade-offs with each so that you can finally make an informed decision.

Questions this panel will answer:

  1. What is a Rich Internet Application (RIA)?
  2. What sorts of features should you expect a RIA platform to offer?
  3. What is Microsoft Silverlight?
  4. What is Adobe Flex/Air?
  5. Can you create a RIA using HTML/CSS/Javascript?
  6. Are there any other technology platforms to consider?
  7. What are the pros and cons of each platform from a user experience perspective?
  8. What are specific examples of applications using each technology effectively and ineffectively?
  9. What tools are available to design for each platform?
  10. What are the ten key points to think about when deciding which technology to use?