Buy my Books!

The Sketchnote Workbook is a fully-illustrated book and video, showing how to use sketchnotes in new ways, along with advanced tips and techniques.
Learn about and buy the book →
Download a FREE chapter →
Watch a FREE video sample →

The Sketchnote Handbook is a fully-illustrated book and video, designed to teach regular people how to create sketchnotes.
Learn about and buy the book →
Download a FREE chapter →

Mike Rohde (Color - Square)

ROHDESIGN is the website of designer Mike Rohde, who writes on design, sketching, drawing, sketchnotes, technology, travel, cycling, books & coffee.
Read more about Mike →

SIGN UP! Get the Rohdesign Newsletter.

« SXSW Sketchnotes on Evernote | Main | Moleskine Planner Hack: 2 Years Later »

The New Gig: Art Director at Northwoods Software

NWS-Door-NameSM.jpgLast November, I mentioned in detail Apple contacting me about a job opportunity with the iPhone/OS X design team. After taking time to ponder and reflect on the opportunity, I felt it wasn't the right move for myself or my family.

I loved living and working in Milwaukee, helping independent software developers with branding and design challenges at MakaluMedia.

These were the major reasons I decided to decline the Apple opportunity.

Fast forward to spring 2008.

Following several discussions with leadership team and design/development staff at Northwoods Software, I've been offered an art director position, which I have accepted. I start my new job in mid-May.

After 10 great years at MakaluMedia, I'm taking the next step.

A Tough Decision
This change was a very tough decision. I love the design work I do, the clients I help and the many colleagues I've had the pleasure to collaborate with. I've spent several years building a reputation for doing good design work, solving problems for my clients and being a designer who listens and is easy to work with.

There is nothing wrong with MakaluMedia. I've loved my time at MakaluMedia.

This change in direction is about new opportunities and challenges on multiple levels. This is the next step in my growth as a person, a designer and art director.

10 Years at MakaluMedia: Priceless
Working for MakaluMedia since 1998 has been a wonderful experience. Matt Henderson, the owner of MakaluMedia and I have been through quite a bit together.

office.jpgI was Matt's first employee, leaving a position with Hare Strigenz, a Milwaukee print design firm. I'd developed a passion for the web and wanted to learn the new medium by diving in head first.

I learned HTML from books and building sites in BBEdit. in 2003 I shifted from tabled design to web standards, thanks to Designing with Web Standards.

I was the first MakaluMedia employee to work fully remotely. This was way back in 1998 when it was still a little quirky and unusual. I produced my design work on a Powerbook Wallstreet, with a 19" Sony CRT on a folding table in my apartment.

I experienced a shift from larger design projects with the European Space Agency, to building a network of small, independent clients over several years. The first year was tough, but a long-term, steady approach to doing good work and making clients happy has paid off in many referrals, a backlog of work and profitability.

By working remotely and having to build my own network of clients and partners, I've effectively run a small design business. I've enjoyed the entire process: finding clients, winning projects, solving design challenges, selecting and managing partners, producing the solutions, invoicing the work and promoting the work.

These past 10 years have shaped who I am, formalized my iterative design process, provided a better understanding of business, built my knowledge of helping clients, improved my customer service and more. It's been a priceless experience.

Northwoods Opportunities & Challenges
Becoming an art director at Northwoods Software is a step in my process of growth as a designer and a person. I'll be working on larger projects, exercising research, analysis, problem solving and visual thinking skills in new and different ways. I'm looking forward to bringing what I've learned to new projects and users.

I'm very excited about working within a creative group again. Working alone has developed my focus, but I've missed being in an office with a small group of creative people. Over the years I've built a network of design colleagues online, but IM, Twitter and voice chats are just no substitute for having colleagues close at hand.

Sharing with my team will be satisfying part of the position. I'm looking forward to offering up my 20+ years of experience in design practice with colleagues. I hope that all of the joy and pain gained from many years of working on projects with clients will benefit my colleagues at Northwoods.

The company is focusing on new creative areas of expertise, and I'm extremely excited to be part of this. I'm hoping my skills and experiences in building a small design business from scratch will be helpful in this regard.

Finally, the company attracted me with its unique working environment, including a private office with shower and toilet, ping pong tables, popcorn on Thursdays, workout and nap rooms and space outside for frisbee. Northwoods' family first approach and flexibility made a positive impact on me, as I'm coming from a pretty family-friendly and flexible work at home environment.

All in all, I am very excited about this new Northwoods opportunity.

I'm very thankful to Matt Henderson for the opportunity to be a part of MakaluMedia these past 10 years. It's been a great ride, I've learned quite a bit, and I know the team will continue to produce great stuff.

I'm also grateful to the team at Northwoods, for making me a part of their team at this exciting time in the life of the company. I'm looking forward to being a contributor to Northwoods' success and growth.

Northwoods Movies & Photos
Tracy Apps, a friend of mine and my future Northwoods colleague, has grabbed several movie clips and photos of the Northwoods offices on Flickr. I thought would be fun to post several of them here for a little context. :-)

My New Office at Northwoods

Yep, that's my own private office with a window, bathroom, shower and vanity. Northwoods has retrofitted an old hospital space for their offices, so every employee gets an office just like this. Pretty slick.

The Creative Wing Tour

Tracy takes the camera down the hall from my office, and shows the central area where the ping pong tables and other amenities are located.

Brian Artka Scootering in the Creative Wing

A few weeks ago, Northwoods picked up scooters for the team, and of course my friend Brian Artka had to show off his scootering skillz!

Tracy's Extreme On-Board Scootering

Here we have Tracy capturing her thrill-a-minute extreme scooter ride!

Ping Pong Tables
working hard...
And here are several Northwoods team members playing ping pong.

Reader Comments (23)

Many congrats, Mike. I wish you the best of luck in your new job. And wish Matt luck in finding somebody to fill your giant shoes!

April 23, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDaniel Jalkut
you'll be great man...looking forward to seeing the great stuff you come up with!
April 23, 2008 | Unregistered Commentersj
congratulations, mike! sounds like a wonderful gig.
April 23, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterender
Northwoods is very lucky to get you on board... Keep doing great work Mike!
April 23, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterPete Prodoehl
Really... what a deal for Northwoods, Mike. Much luck in your new adventure!
April 23, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterCarlos Sisi
Hey Mike, good move, much congrats.I'll not say good luck as I know you will make your own! And I'm a great believer in 'the more I practice the luckier I get' - and I know you've certainly put in the practice.

Looking forward to your sharing how it works out for you on your blog/Twitter etc.


April 23, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDavid McDonald
That is sweet sweet news! I know you just took it because you will be Tracy's Boss.
April 23, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKeVroN
Congratulations on the big change, Mike! It sounds like a great opportunity.
April 23, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterlux
Congrats Mike and best wishes on your new endeavor at Northwoods.
April 23, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterScott
Awesome! Congrats.
April 23, 2008 | Unregistered Commenter@alexdesigns
I am happy for you.Cheers.Ed O

April 23, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterchinchorrero
April 23, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterBarry Hess
Thanks everyone for the congratulations! I'm very excited about this next phase in my life, so it's nice to hear encouragement from so many friends.

@Daniel, I didn't know my shoes were so big! :-)

@KeVroN I don't think I'm even technically Tracy Apps' boss, I think the structure is pretty flat at Northwoods, which suits me well.
April 23, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMike Rohde
Congratulations Mike. You'll be great there. Please keep blogging about your work just as you have at MakaluMedia.

Quite honestly, I'm more than a little jealous. I wish there was a place this attractive with a work ethic like this close to where I am ...
April 24, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterNeal Dench
Wonderful! I'm very happy for you and your family in this next stage of your career. Sounds like it's a great fit -- and that you'll have lots of fun, too!
April 24, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterCorrie
Thanks Neal and Corrie! It is a great working environment and I think I will have fun there, along with the good design challenges.
April 24, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMike Rohde
Congrats & good luck! Looks like a place where you will fit in and thrive!
April 24, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterTim Dorr
That's great news Mike!
April 25, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterTim Bailen
Tim & Tim, thanks guys! I'm very excited! :-)
April 25, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMike Rohde
Congrats Mike! I wish you the best.

I was actually looking at taking a job with Northwoods before I got hooked up with Comic Wonder last year. They look like a nice team.
April 25, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKris Gosser
Mike this is such a great opportunity, I know you're going to love it. You're one of the most talented designers I know and they're extremely lucky to have you.
April 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMike Rundle
Congratulations, Mike. It sounds like you've landed in a great spot. I wish you all the best!
April 27, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKate Gomoll
Kris, thanks for the kind words. Northwoods has a great team indeed, and I'm excited to become a part of it!

Mike, coming from you, one of my fave designers, being considered a talented designer is a great honor. Thanks for the congrats, I think I'm going to have a blast at Northwoods.

Kate, thanks so much! Northwoods is indeed a great spot to make my next impact. :-)
April 28, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMike Rohde

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
All HTML will be escaped. Hyperlinks will be created for URLs automatically.