Twitter profile image of Paco Coursey

Paco Coursey@pacocoursey

Paco is a design engineer currently working at Linear. He is a former engineer at Vercel where he developed Vercel's design system, website, and dashboard.

What do you do?

Craft interfaces as a design engineer at Linear.

What led you into design and code?

Coding never felt particularly useful without a visual output. Web development was one of the few aspects of studying computer science that felt tangible – you could build real, beautiful products that people actually use. I needed a way to put ideas in your hands. Websites are that way.

Could you tell us a bit about your time at Vercel?

I joined early on as an intern – seeing ZEIT I knew I should be there, pushing forward the minimal and monochrome design. Over 4 months in San Francisco we solidified a design system and component library, set the standard for data fetching in React with SWR, and architected a fast, static-first dashboard. I loved that it wasn't just intern busy work, we shipped impactful and lasting explorations that remain today.

Afterwards I joined full time to work on websites – tons of design system work, 4 online conferences, a rebrand, and several dozen marketing and dashboard releases.

I learned everything I know at Vercel – getting deep into React with @shuding_, consistent UI patterns with @skllrcn, and building a brand with @evilrabbit. It was a wonderful way to begin my career.

What's your role at Linear and what do you do on a daily basis?

I’m the design engineer on a web team of three, caring for everything on the public Linear website. Each day I’m coding unique web experiments, helping design the future of the Linear brand, and maintaining systems like our documentation and CMS.

How does the design process at Linear look like?

Read through this Figma file of explorations of our new homepage, including a Q&A about the design process and team:

Community Homepage Q&A

What in your opinion makes Linear receive so many praises about the design?

Linear feels native.

We hold website and apps to weirdly different standards. Linear bridges the gap from slow, point-and-click websites to a performant and consistent experience that is totally focused around managing product work.

The early bet on details, delight, and consistency make it one of the first true web applications. It showed that you could design and build a native-class product with web technology.

On the website and brand side, we walk an honest line between retro and futuristic. We’re trying new things: a set of delightful interactions, engaging storytelling, and cutting edge visuals. People are attracted to each because it’s unusual for a marketing website to be built this way.

What pieces of work are you most proud of?, ⌘K , anything I find good enough to tweet.

Where do you go to get inspired?

Book stores, to browse cover designs. It’s fascinating to see several hundred pages of ideas condensed into a single visual.

Art museums, for the architecture and framing. The National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. has these smooth, seamless marble bannister and pink marble panels I couldn’t stop admiring. I know nothing about architecture, but being surrounded by beauty (not even the beauty you’re supposed to look at!) made me realize that “everything around me is someone’s life work”.

iOS apps for micro-animations and interactions. Type foundry websites for best-in-class web typography and layout. A walk. A shower.

Seamless marble bannister.

Seamless marble bannister.

Monument in The National Gallery of Art.

The art of framing art.

Hanging lamp in The National Gallery of Art.

Everything around me is someone’s life work.

What do you enjoy more, design or code?

I enjoy “encoding design”: actualizing the ideas generated in design into tangible output and systems.

Design is ideas, waiting for Code to bring it to life. Days spent in Figma leave me with good ideas, not good output. You can’t ship an idea.

Design is enjoyable manifestations of “what if”. You ignore your system constraints, ignore what CSS can do, and focus on the desired feeling and experience.

Photo of a page from an old book.
Photo of a page from an old book.

How do you keep yourself motivated?

I don’t. Passion for this work waxes and wanes. Polish and go deep when you’re motivated. Rest, recharge, and plan when you’re unmotivated.

Explanation of Sony's principles.

What are your design pet-peeves?

Poor design manifests as slowness. Intuitive, unobtrusive design is about presenting swift solutions. What we call a delightful user experience is just delivering a faster path to user goals. I don’t like slow software.

What are you currently excited about?

Details. Imbuing every aspect of your work with care.

Animate those icons. Brand that scrollbar. Polish that :active state. Load a single typeface glyph to render the world’s best ampersand. Make it fast. Make it accessible. Add keyboard shortcuts. Add tooltips. Animate the transition between two open tooltips. Manually measure text and avoid line wrapping widows. Design favicons that reflect app state. Convert internal URLs to rich previews. Render a custom <input /> text caret and animate it better than any web browser does. Design a whole new stylesheet for printing. Design a whole new page for mobile. Dynamically generate video thumbnails and use them in a custom video player. Optimize your re-renders.

Every single interface has infinite opportunity for polish and delight. Reading that list is exciting – imagine a product that goes the extra mile, then goes an extra ten miles. It makes me want to drop everything spend my life crafting the details. I want to build extraordinary things.

Do you have any advice for ambitious designers or engineers?

Design and build your own apps. You’ll never understand the challenges, tricks, and edge-cases of a note-taking app until you build a note-taking app.

Copy and re-implement work you admire until you can proudly create for yourself. Work where you can grow.

Play The Witness.

How does your setup look like?

Studio Display, MacBook Pro, MX Master 3, AirPods Max & Pro/2. Keyboard: E-White Volcano660 / Filmed & 205g0 OPBlack / PC / Durock.

Other keyboards: Milk Koyu / Filmed & 205g0 Sakurios / GMK Keycult No. 2 Rev. 1 / 205g0 Tealios / Brass / Durock Silver Haus / Filmed & 205g0 NOS Vint Blacks / Alu / GMK clip-on Rose Gold & Stainless Steel Bauer / Filmed & 205g0 Ink v1 / Brass / Staebies

What are your favorite brands?

Apple, iA, LFE, Stripe, Sketch.

Key Takeaways

  • What we call a delightful user experience is just delivering a faster path to user goals.

  • Every single interface has infinite opportunity for polish and delight.

  • You’ll never understand the challenges, tricks, and edge-cases of a note-taking app until you build a note-taking app.