Maurice Cherry pays it forward. The designer runs several projects that highlight black creators online, including designers, developers, bloggers and podcasters. His design podcast Revision Path, which recently released its 250th episode, has won awards from AIGA and the Creative Market Awards. He told us about his work process, lessons he’s learned from guests, and all his favourite gear, from professional mics to a four-in-one multipen.
Location: Atlanta, GA
Current mobile device: OnePlus 6, iPad Pro
Current computer: Lenovo Yoga 920 (work laptop); HP Omen 870 with two 23" Dell monitors (home PC), and an HP Pavilion 15 (personal laptop). I also have an old iPad mini mounted to my desk.
One word that best describes how you work: Focused
First of all, tell us a little about your background and how you got to where you are today.
I’m from the deep South — Selma, AL to be exact — and I moved to Atlanta when I was 18 to attend Morehouse College.
I got my undergrad degree from there in mathematics in 2003, then I worked around the city for a few companies (AT&T, WebMD, et cetera) before getting my master’s degree in telecommunications management in 2008.
Later that year, I started Lunch, then I started Revision Path in 2013, and in late 2017 I joined the team at Fog Creek.
What apps, gadgets or tools can’t you live without?
My Hobonichi Techo Weeks notebook, Thunderbird (with Send Later), Google services (Drive, Docs, Sheets and Calendar), Enpass, Dropbox, Inoreader, PhraseExpress, a good pair of wireless headphones (currently I have the Sony WH1000XM2’s), a stack of Post-its, and my Pilot Hi-Tec C Coleto four-in-one multi-pen.
What’s your workspace setup like?
Because I work remotely, I can set up anywhere I have an internet connection. Sometimes that’s a local coffee shop, or it could be a co-working space. Most days I work from home, and I have a dual monitor setup for my home PC, and I connect my work laptop to one of the screens when necessary.
I have a Nighthawk Pro X mechanical keyboard on my home PC, and I use a Logitech MX Ergo wireless trackball mouse with Logitech FLOW software so I can use it across both computers like a multi-monitor setup. There’s also a Rode PSA1 boom arm and an Audio-Technica AT2020 studio microphone attached to my desk for easy audio recording for videos or podcasts.
When I’m at the New York office, I have a sparse cubicle space. But because our company is mostly made up of remote workers, we have a good bit of office space for anyone who works directly from HQ, including lots of different work zones based on different styles of work.
What have you learned from your podcast guests about effective design?
Asking the right questions is very important. I think all design is effective if it’s in service to the right goal, but I’ve discovered that sometimes clients and businesses aren’t clear on what that goal is. As a designer, you should ask as many questions as you can to clear up any ambiguity so you can get to the heart of the issue. I think that makes a better design process for everyone involved.
What’s your best shortcut or life hack (no matter how small or niche)?
Scheduling and time-shifting; it’s the only way I’m able to stay on top of everything. I schedule podcast episodes weeks in advance. I schedule social media by the quarter. I even time-shift my emails so if I happen to be up late responding to emails, I can time-shift them to send later in the day when I’m sleeping. Time is a construct, so hack it and make it work for you.
Also, there’s my “now” page. Shout-out to Derek Sivers for this fantastic idea. People always ask what I’m working on, and I just point them there. Saves me a ton of time answering random emails.
How do you keep track of what you have to do?
Google Calendar and Thunderbird. If it’s not on my calendar or in my inboxes, then it doesn’t exist to me. I have a pretty good memory, but I use a modified Google spreadsheet as a CRM for every person I’ve reached out to for Revision Path.
How do you recharge or take a break?
Music and writing. All day, every day.
What’s your favourite side project?
Right now, I’m working on a graphic novel concept that I’ve been kicking around for years. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, but I always put it aside when other work came up. Now that I have more time these days, I’m finally getting the idea out of my head and into a notebook so I can start writing it. It’s been really fun to revisit, revamp and flesh out these characters and stories.
What are you currently reading, or what do you recommend?
I’m always reading something, whether it’s an article in my Pocket queue or something from my bookshelf. I also listen to a lot of audiobooks and podcasts while working, so recommendations are tough for me. I just finished David Sedaris’ latest book Calypso and I’m in the middle of No Ashes in the Fire: Coming of Age Black and Free in America from Darnell L. Moore.
Who else would you like to see answer these questions?
Beyoncé. But if she’s not available, Anil Dash.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Karma is real, but it’s not always your job to serve it.
We've asked heroes, experts and flat-out productive people to share their shortcuts, workspaces and routines. Want to suggest someone we should feature or questions we should ask? Let us know.