Design / Media / Workplace culture

How I Work: NPR Creative Director Liz Danzico

Liz Danzico is busy. The School of Visual Arts program chair and NPR's first creative director shares some pro tips: How to get to JFK quicker, how to write the perfect email and how to not suffer half-truths.

Liz Danzico. (Photo courtesy of Liz Danzico)

Liz Danzico is NPR‘s creative director (its first) and the cofounder of the School of Visual Arts’ MFA in Interaction Design, a program she chairs.

Danzico describes her design practice as user-centered with a focus on collaborative approaches. She has advised and collaborated with a wide array of companies and startups. Examples of her work can be seen here. She describes herself as “part designer, part educator, part editor.”

The name of her website, Bobulate, is meant as the opposite of “discombobulate.” As in, “to be thrown into order.” She lives in Boerum Hill.


What’s the first thing you do every day before doing any tech related work?

Take a long run with my dog. Running for me is meditation. While doing it, I am capable of thinking about nothing. It clears away any stress of the previous day.

Going with my vizsla means I get the benefit of a motivating partner and meditation in one. I’ve been alternating between running the Brooklyn Bridge Park waterfront or Prospect Park for a good 10-12 years or so, while I’m in town. By the time I get to work, I’ve already done something hugely enjoyable for myself, so no matter what happens, I can hold onto that.

I believe this is why I am still sane.

How often do you check your e-mail, and do you use any program to get to ‘Inbox Zero’?

I check all the time during the week, but not really over the weekend. It was a rule I had to mandate several years ago (training the people I work with more than myself) and now it’s just habit.

As far as Inbox Zero, I’ve tried a few things, and even now I use a modified GTD approach where I transfer all to-do-like email content into a to-do app. But basically those all pale in comparison to this simple approach:

Don’t write email that people can respond to.

If you ask questions in an email, people will respond. If you don’t answer their questions, they’ll ask again. If you write charming email, they will want more. Don’t do those things. Write an email that is impossible to respond to. Answer every question. Tie up every loose end. Write a complete and completely un-respondable email.

How do you keep track of your revenues and expenses?

I use separate credit cards for personal and business expenses, monitor all statements, and have a good close relationship with my accountant.

When you need to take a break, what are you turning to?

If it’s an emergency, I jump on my bike and cycle to the beach (Brighton). But if I have more time, I’m on Lisa Nett’s Urban Natural List, and I’ll see what she’s recommended in the latest edition (comes every two weeks). Recently, she recommended an astronomy crash course, nature walk and her awesome Tree Identification course. One of my favorite things about living in Brooklyn is how easy it is to pretend that I don’t.

What’s your gear?

iPhone 5s. MacBook Pro, 15″, retina display. 27” Thunderbolt display when at a desk. Dropcam to monitor the dog at home. The Blackwing 602 pencil to write things on paper.

What’s one time saving tip you have? 

If you’re traveling to JFK, the LIRR from Atlantic Terminal to the AirTrain at Jamaica is the best-kept secret in Brooklyn. Don’t fear the Long Island Railroad.

What’s one way in which you believe your day-to-day work is better now than it has been? Is there something you do now (or don’t do) that you didn’t do before (or did) that has made a big difference? 

I have far less time now than I used to. And that’s forced a kind of efficiency and honesty I didn’t have the courage for before, if I’m being honest. I’m more direct than I used to be. Life’s too short to suffer half-truths and inefficiencies. Be honest. Be open. It’s magic.

Companies: NPR
Series: Brooklyn
People: Liz Danzico

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