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Day One journal creator Paul Mayne: 'expressing things without filters is liberating'

Day One journal creator Paul Mayne: 'expressing things without filters is liberating'

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paul mayne
paul mayne

Paul Mayne is founder and designer at Bloom Built, a Salt Lake City company that produces Day One, a journaling app for iOS and Mac. With Day One, Mayne has become known as one of the rare developers who can effortlessly create a powerful yet minimalist and refined user experience. Mayne took a few minutes to talk to The Verge about why we should journal, his first memory of the internet, and the app most important to his daily productivity. You can find him on Twitter at @paulmayne.

Where are you, and what are you doing right now?

I just sat back down at my desk in my home office after cleaning up deer poop in my backyard. They love to eat from my apple trees and I’m ok with that. I got your email and started writing.

How do you structure your days?

Every weekday I work from home from about 9:30 AM - 6:00 PM. Then hang with my family, play with my kids (I have three boys and a baby girl), eat dinner, bedtime routine until around 8:30 PM. Then I read on my iPad and hang out with my wife for about an hour, before heading back to work around 10:30 PM to test our latest builds, design, think, read more, answer emails, and relax until around 1 AM.

What’s the startup scene like in Salt Lake City?

There’s a lot of talent here, but to be honest, I’m not all that familiar with the startup scene. My local social connections and activity revolve around Cocoaheads and Dribbble meet-ups for networking, learning and sharing inspiration with the amazing developers and designers in the Salt Lake area.

What is journaling?

Journalling is a personal log of one's life, events, thoughts, feelings, and ideas typically associated with a point in time.

"It's capturing personal thoughts and ideas in a way people are already familiar with."

People have been creating digital journals for years, but Day One feels different. What’s the most important thing that contributes to its success?

I think the idea of micro-blogging or short status updates based on popular social media sites, Twitter and Facebook, allows users to easily grasp the concept of Day One. It's capturing personal thoughts and ideas in a way people are already familiar with, without having to share these writings publicly. It’s focused, it’s designed in a way that’s clean and not overwhelming, and it’s easily accessible in a way that makes the idea and motivation of keeping a journal fun.

What is lost by only letting the user express themselves with text, since analog journals often include scribbles, pasted in scraps of paper, colored writing, etc?

It’s not as physical or tactile, but what is lost is more than made up in terms of what a digital journal on an iPhone is capable of. It’s always with you, it makes composing text by typing or by voice so fast and easy. And I'd say take photos of your sketches and scraps of paper using the Day One app camera. It will be preserved. I might also note that we are working towards vastly improved export features in Day One that will allow PDF creation and printing abilities of specifically chosen dates and entries, well formatted and designed to give users the ability to create a beautiful, tactile version of their journal data.

What’s the biggest barrier to journaling in the lives we live today?

My initial concept for Day One was specifically for the Mac and it added three elements unseen in other journal-based apps to encourage writing. These were reminders, quick entry (via the menu bar), and inspirational messages. Before Day One, I was personally using a hodgepodge of solutions to basically achieve a similar result, like setting reminders in iCal to remind me to write daily. Day One for Mac 1.0 was about bringing these things together in a clean and focused app.

"Keeping these things private and expressing them without filters is liberating."

People today are busier than ever and rarely take even a minute to stop and reflect on the day. Formalizing the direction in one’s life is generally a trait of geniuses, and having a medium to do so is useful. Keeping these things private and expressing them without filters is liberating.

These days, consumers expect software that syncs between all their devices. How do you manage developing for multiple platforms as such a small team?

I’ve been lucky to work with some really talented and capable engineers, specifically my lead developer Ben Dolman. We have avoided the need for managing servers by relying on free cloud services like Dropbox and iCloud. Though doing sync well on these platforms is not an easy task.

What’s your first memory of the internet?

As a kid I used to download games and goof around on bulletin board systems using a 28.8k baud modem. I remember thinking how great this all would be if there was a user interface inside Windows to access these things visually, with buttons. I’ve been fascinated by the internet as long as I can remember, specifically the combination of design and the digital information space.

"I’ve been fascinated by The Internet as long as I can remember."

What are the most important apps on your home screen?

1Password is probably the most important, Things, Simplenote, Reeder, Sporttacular. I’ve begun to notice patterns in the utility these apps provide that allow me to simplify my life and focus more on what’s happening away from the screen. A lesser known app I like is Dropvox, a simple audio recorder that puts the audio file right into Dropbox.

As a designer, which other developers, artists, or architects should we be following? Which ones inform your work the most?

I find inspiration from many places, people, and products but I mostly find an attraction to artists and programmers doing experimental and creative things with data, playing with numbers to generate beautiful and unexpected results. Jared Tarbell, Erik Natzke, and Robert Hodgin were big influences from my days in Flash / ActionScript and a motivation for me to learn programming. Nicholas Felton’s work producing beautiful annual reports based on tracking his life. Stamen Design is always doing amazing things with data and design. If I had to pick one, it would be Marcos Wescamp, one of the great minds behind Flipboard. He’s done amazing work combining interaction design with information visualization.

What’s the best book you’ve read lately?

I just finished It Will Be Exhilarating by Studio Neat, the creators of the Glif and other cool, successful products. They talk about several concepts in running their company that are very similar to the approach I’ve taken with Day One: indie capitalism, simplicity, growing organically, and a focus on design. I got to meet these guys briefly at John Gruber’s live podcast event at WWDC.

What are your favorite blogs and sites to read every day?

I’m a big Seth Godin fan. He craps out gold every day on his blog. I also like to read Shawn Blanc, Brett Terpstra, Ben Brooks, Marco Arment, and listen to their great podcasts.

When was the last time you were really stunned by a development in technology (e.g. launching Spotify for the first time, or seeing sports in HD)?

The Retina Display, first seen on Apple’s iPhone 4. I’ve been blown away by these beautiful screens each time they’ve been introduced to the iPad and now on the MacBook Pro. Designing at this higher resolution is so much more satisfying and useful.

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