Blinker Profile: Meet Jake Fleisher

Blinkers are an interesting and dynamic group of people. Each Blinker is carefully selected to join the team because we understand how he or she will positively contribute to our culture and work. And while we do post Blinker Bios on our website, we thought we’d go a little further and profile our Blinkers on our blog. Today we’d like you to get to know Jake Fleisher, a Principal User Researcher.

Everyone arrives at Blink along his or her own path. What path brought you here? Tell us about your journey.

It was long and circuitous. As a kid, I never really knew what I wanted to do (like some other kids), but I always knew what I liked to do: art stuff, mechanical stuff, I liked to draw a lot, and I also liked to take things apart, fix and make things, and sometimes turn things into complete and utter clusters. As I grew up, I resigned myself to the idea that these two activities were truly, essentially different, and that they couldn’t be mixed.

But then I found this thing, this amazing thing, called “industrial design.” It was amazing to me because it mixed those disparate activities – simultaneously being artsy-fartsy and a grease-monkey –into one pursuit. I was ecstatic, even if a bit disappointed at my late discovery (post college). I eventually went back to school and got a degree in industrial design. Along the way I discovered all the other important activities that go into product development, like research and assuming a user-centered standpoint.

My professional experience has been in product development, supported by sound user research that identifies users’ needs. I still think in “design-y” ways, and I sketch a lot, too.

Jake using a paint brush to hand letter the name of a professor on a glass window of the physics department

Jake keeps this trade alive as Blink’s resident sign and sketch artist.

Jake, along with 5 other men, in hardhats outside of a construction site.

Working construction over summer break in college.

We are all encouraged to focus on an area of Thought Leadership here at Blink. Will you talk about your area?

Right now the majority of Blink’s work is in the digital space, but we are working on more and more products that have tangible, 3-dimensional components to them as well. The growth and existence of IoT (Internet of Things) means that tactility and tangibility are becoming really important components to successful, satisfying digital products. My background is in industrial design, and I have a lot of experience in consumer electronics, so this (IoT and similar) is a natural and enjoyable space to work in and to grow at Blink.

Who or what motivates you right now? What’s causing the greatest impact on the way you work/live/think?

Having children is a great motivator – they make you think of the future instead of just the now. A large part of that is teaching and preparing a child for a world that feels more uncertain now than it did when I was younger (or maybe I’m just thinking about it more). As a result of all this preparation, I think and do a lot around waste reduction, recycling, and pollution mitigation.

Another big motivator for me is to create great user experiences that are effective, emotionally compelling, and have just the right amount of stuff. Products (and services and messages) need to be really, really crisp and simple where needed and forgiving and helpful when they have to be deep and involved. Complicated can legitimately occupy a place in the world but arcane never can (caveat: everything’s different in gaming).

When you’re not at Blink, where would we find you? And what would you be doing?

I’d be at home cooking curry or making smoked salmon for my family and friends. Or I’d be riding my bicycle. Or playing music with my band.

A motorcyclist racing around a corner, the motorcycle is tilting around a corner and labeled #916

Jake during his time as a racer. “It was fun, except when I crashed.”

Lastly, if you set out on a long voyage at sea and could only bring one book to read, what book would you select? Why?

Easy one to answer: Modern Irish Short Stories, edited by Ben Forkner.

This is a fantastic collection of the “name” Irish authors, as well as ones I’d never heard of before. Every story is excellent and different. I re-read it once a year or so and discover new subtleties and meanings every time. These stories illustrate Irish appreciation for introspection, self-deprecation and heroism, wonderful sounds, appreciation for the underdog, celebration of individual victory, irony and weakness, and rich skepticism towards bureaucracy.

I recommend it for both types of people – those already familiar with the independent, creative, and sharp-witted Irish culture and those who aren’t yet.