Product Designer AT GOOGLE
Born and raised in France, Jean-Marc Denis fell in love with computers when he was a little kid. Even with an atypical career path, he is now one of the most famous French designers in the Silicon Valley.
He continues his career at Google and always aspires to new challenges.
I actually knew Jean-Marc before I met him in real life. I was following him on Twitter for a long time when I figured than I lived in the same building as him. What a small world!
Not only is he very talented, but he is also humble and generous. He's one of the best at playing Uno®
but drinks a lot of weird/awful tea. He inspires me by his thirst of knowledge and his positivism.
A lot of people already know you as a great designer but how did you get into design?
I guess you could say that I have an atypical carrer. I dropped out of school when I was 19 to create a company with my best friend. We learned a lot during the 4 years of existence.
After that I had to find a day-to-day job and which, with no diploma and people not valuing my entrepreneur experience, was not an easy task. I found a job as an operator and doing shifts. The good thing about that is that I had a lot of time where I was pursuing my dream of becoming a full-time designer.
After a few years I started my freelance activity and found amazing people who trusted me enough with their product. They became regular clients and one day a software was released as beta for Mac. The application was called Sparrow. I immediately loved it but the UI and UX had a lot of room for improvement. I knew I was going to use this application and “mod” it so I contacted the CEO, Dom, to whom I proposed to design the app for them - for free.
After a lot of work, tears and fun, we eventually got acquired by Google where I worked on Inbox by Gmail, from scratch.
I also contributed to Google new visual language Material Design and Gmail.
"After a lot of work, tears
and fun, we eventually got acquired by Google where
I worked on Inbox by Gmail, from scratch."
So you are Product Designer at Google.
Is that your dream job?
Work is going to fill a large part of your life, I think that the dream job is to do what you love and have as much fun as possible doing it. I also believe that these are the keys to do great work. As a human being and even more as a designer, you want to be challenged and rebooting yourself by leaving your comfort zone. It’s never easy but, because the learning curve is new, you’ll learn a lot of new things and most importantly, re-learn some of the things you might have lost along your journey.
I think that there is no such thing as a dream job but many dream jobs, because you aspire of different things during your life. I recently switched to a new position in Google VR and I am lucky to have such opportunity. This job check all the boxes for what I think is a dream job.
Do you have another super secret passion?
Not per say, I do have occasional whims which quickly become passions.
I recently got into the photography world and there is so much to learn that my brain kind of exploded. I'm not very good at photography but it’s like everything, it’s all about practicing.
I smiled when I realized that a lot of the things I learned in photography where actually extremely useful when I started
to learn 3D.
How/when did you realize that this was your destiny?
I am not sure I’ll call that a destiny but I think I fell in love with the computer world when I was a teenager. It was like discovering a new world, opening a new book. All you want is finishing the page to start the next one. Once you start creating things there is no turning back. There is no such thing as the feeling of discovering and learning things that you are passionate about.
Who was your favorite superhero/villain growing up? Why?
To be honest, I don't recall being fascinated or wanted to be a super hero while growing up. When I was a teenager, I read the Watchmen and really liked the Doctor Manhattan character. Not actually because I wanted to be him or identify myself to him but I really liked how Alan Moore uses him to bring philosophical questions about side effects of super-intelligence.
Dr Manhattan reaches a point in self consciousness where he has no more apathy nor ethics because how he perceives mankind.
Also he is blue and glows which is kinda rad.
You know that Batman has his Batcave and Superman his Fortress of Solitude. What's your favorite place/environment to do what you love?
I train myself to perform great work while on the go. That’s what I really like about the job is that you dont necessarily need to be somewhere to do it or require very expensive equipment.
What superpower do you wish you had and why?
*Laughing* The superpower to have all the superpowers I want.
Ok seriously... that's going to sound cheesy but the power of making people happy would be really cool. Imagine you can walk the streets, putting smiles on peoples face by solving all their problems in a heartbeat.
If I can’t have this one I’ll be selfish and go for flying. I'm usually getting cold easily though, so I'll have to work on a good suit.
What is your personal Kryptonite?
Crowds! I am afraid of crowds and confined rooms.
People moving in every directions or stacked in a small place at the same time is scary. It makes me super nervous.
Do you have a favorite object, like a lucky charm or something that really matters to you?
As far as I know, I do not have a favorite object or lucky charm.
I like to be prepared so you might almost always find me with some kind of first aid kit!
Who would you choose as a sidekick to fulfill your passion? Why?
Sidekick is always, you know... Not as cool as the main hero. I’ll start a trend to redefine sidekicks where we would be equally cool in different ways!
I’ll definitely choose the person I enjoyed to work the most during my career. He is actually not a designer, even though he has a strong sense for it. I’ll ask JB Bégué to be my sidekick in a heartbeat (I actually kinda did). He is a smart engineer with whom I share a lot interests and opinions. We work seamlessly and the product city we defend will be the safest and the coolest!
What is your definition of a modern hero?
I’ll keep my train of thoughts going, so my answer is a logical follow up. To me, a modern hero is anyone who is doing good for others, in any ways. It might sounds vague but it’s not.
It sure can be a lot of people and that what is great about it.
Who inspires you everyday? Your very own heroes
This is very strange but whenever I got doubts, I listen to Steve Jobs' Stanford Commencement Speech and things become more simple. I might have heard his speech a hundreds of times but it still give me goose bumps. I am always able to find any answers to any questions.
There is nothing more inspiring than a person who is passionated. I am lucky enough to be surrounded by these people, it’s a warm feeling.
One more thing… Mask or Cape?
I’ll go for the Mask. I feel more shy than egocentric. Also, it requires less energy to clean.