Mike Gowen

I'm a Product Designer living in California. Learn more about me here.

Yobongo has been acquired by Mixbook!

Huge news! As you may have already heard, Yobongo is being acquired by Mixbook. The move is definitely a no-brainer for both companies. It’s almost creepy how perfect the match is given the history of our teams among a few other interesting coincidences. More on that later.

I will be joining Mixbook as Director of Design & UX and working down in Palo Alto once again. We’re really excited to join the Mixbook team, and help them take their already hugely successful product to the next level.

On a personal note, I couldn’t be more happy to be sharing this experience with not only my colleagues, but my best friends. We put together a killer team at Yobongo and it’s been nothing short of surreal coming to “work” every day. This is a huge milestone for all of us.

Finally, if you are a designer and are looking for an exciting new opportunity, drop me a line. Mixbook is growing like crazy, and we’ll be building a top notch design team over the next few months. It’s going to be wild ride :)

Introducing Pictuo

A year ago I set a very important goal for myself. I decided that I wanted to reach a point where I could conceive, design, and build any of my ideas independently…if only in the form of a working prototype. So I set out to teach myself to code. My front-end skills were passable at best, and while I understood the foundations of programming, I hadn’t learned a language.

On January 1, 2012 I reached that milestone. I sent out a link to very close friends to an app I’ve been working on for the last 6 months. Today I’m ready to open it up for public beta. The app is called Pictuo and it was born from a desire for a “visual feed reader”. There are more and more image-based blogs/feeds with each passing day. Text-oriented products like like Google Reader are not well suited for consuming them. Pictuo currently lets you add RSS feeds (or simply subscribe to a few pre-selected curated feeds) and view them in a clean, and elegant grid fashion.

As with any product, there is still much to be done. The design is not where I’d like it to be, the feature set is very limited, and there’s bound to be a few bugs. Being that I am only one person, I have to pick my battles accordingly. I do plan to eventually charge for the app, but I’ll be keeping the public beta period free.

So please go request an invitation, and I’ll begin letting people in at a *very* controlled rate. You can also follow Pictuo on Twitter here.


Mike Gowen
Designer + Developer

Moving Forward

Two years ago my friend Caleb and I made a difficult decision to leave Scrapblog and move to the Bay Area. As part of that move we made an informal pact that when either of us started a company of our own, one would go work with the other. That time has come, and that company is Yobongo.

In early July I’ll be joining Caleb and team at Yobongo as their first Product Designer.

Over the last 2 years I’ve learned more than I have at any other point in my career. My assumptions were constantly challenged and I was forced to confront my core beliefs around what makes a company great, and more importantly, what makes me happy. The inevitable side effect of this process is that things which once seemed like a good fit, are no longer so, and other opportunities seem much more obvious. Such is life.

I’m eager to get started, but for now I’m going to take a few days off and enjoy a little much needed decompression time.

California or Bust!

That’s right! After 8 years in Miami, I’ll be making my way to Palo Alto, CA to join Andrew Chen (@andrew_chen) and company. I couldn’t be more excited about the opportunity and I am humbled to be welcomed into such an amazing team.

Needless to say, leaving Scrapblog was a very difficult decision for me. Scrapblog was more than just a place of employment, it was my life and my family. It’s been an absolutely amazing ride and not a day has gone by where I wasn’t truly excited come to work. The knowledge I’ve gained has been priceless, the relationships deep, and I’m continually impressed by what we’ve been able to achieve. I can’t wait to see where the team takes it from here.

When I get settled in on the West Coast, I’ll likely reflect a bit more in a longer post. But for now I’ll keep it short and bid Miami a fond farewell…see you on the other side!

Kysio is Born

My girlfriend (@HeatherOT) is busy getting her own business off the ground. She specializes in a form of holistic therapy geared towards helping professional athletes recover faster and perform better overall. As such, she was in need of a few basic things to enable her to begin bringing her services to market. This included a name, a logo, a website, and a solid brand strategy. With these goals in mind, we got to work.

The Brand Strategy

One of the core components of her therapy involves a light massage that clears toxins from the lymphatic system, otherwise known as Manual Lymph Drainage (MLD). Originally Heather had decided on SportsMLD as the name of the company. While straightforward, this had 3 negative aspects. First, it would be difficult to brand given it’s rather sterile and soul-less nature. Second, it effectively closes the door on any additional techniques that could be bundled with her services outside of MLD. Finally, it didn’t let her “own” her technique, as the name was already inherently tied to as existing well-known technique (MLD). That being said, the first step was the decision to package her process as a product rather than a service. If you’re familiar with The Secret, you’ve witnessed this type of approach firsthand. Its very hard to own and brand The Law of Attraction, but wrap a very appealing and compelling brand strategy around it and suddenly you have something much more palatable sell.

The Name

The next step was to come up with a name. Being that MLD is considered to be an alternative medicinal technique, we didn’t want the name to draw upon any stigmas that might be attached to that sort of topic. Alternative medicine is largely regarded as having its roots in spirituality. Professional athletes and trainers who are looking for concrete and measurable results are going to be less responsive to this type of positioning. After a solid 2 days of brainstorming we chose Kysio (pronounced “Kee-zee-oh”). This was a play on words starting with the base word, “Kinetic”, then playing off the interesting “lym” letter pairing sequence in “lymphatic”, and finally appending the “sio” letter sequence from the word “physiological”. Together, Kysio sounded fresh, high-tech and still retained a bit of the zen-like aspect of it’s core technique.

The Logo

Kysio allows athletes to obtain heightened performance levels by stimulating the body’s natural recovery system. This made it important to design a logo that created a juxtaposition between biology and the kinetics. After playing around with a few ideas I stumbled upon two symbols that were visually similar, and spoke to both of the aforementioned concepts: a strand of DNA, and a spring. After a few hours of exploring their visual relationships, I had something we liked. A few rounds of refinement later and I had the basic logo complete. From there I chose a typeface that further clarified the direction, and gave the logo an overall fresh and confident look. Finally, I settled on a blue color scheme to convey a sense of rejuvenation and trust.

We’re both very happy with the finished product and I’m excited to begin working on the website. So without further ado, I present to you, Kysio…

The Love Machine (iPhone Game)

Those of you following me on Twitter have no doubt heard me referring to a “secret project”. Well today the cat is out of the proverbial bag. I present to you…

The Love Machine

What is it?

The Love Machine is a campy little game for the iPhone and iPod Touch that reveals the type of lover you are according to how *cough* dexterous *cough* you are with your finger. It’s currently “In Review” at the App Store and I’m hoping for a Valentine’s Day release (I know, wishful thinking). The Love Machine will be available for $.99.

Here is the official description that will appear on the App Store…

See how you measure up, or test that special someone to see if he/she is worth your time. This is the perfect ice breaker and conversation starter. Great on dates or in a bar or club.

As soon as you touch the heart, a timer will begin. You will then have 10 seconds to tease the heart in any way you see fit. Hint: A good lover has the right pace, and knows how to keep things interesting.

Scrapblog takes home two Adobe MAX Awards!

The winners have been announced and Scrapblog has taken not one, but two Adobe MAX awards in both the RIA category and the coveted People’s Choice Award! We could not be more excited about this. We’ve had our eye on this prize since the birth of Scrapblog and we can finally check that off our list. Kick ass!

"Creative Freedom" is an Oxymoron

During my career as a designer I’ve often been bestowed the great and wondrous gift of “creative freedom”. In my earlier days, I waited and waited for this day to arrive…for this was when I was finally going to show the world what I was made of. When that day did come, the excitement and jubilation quickly dissolved as I sat there staring at a blank canvas, panicking and shaking with intimidation.

As I grew as a designer, I became more wise. The illusion behind “creative freedom”, is that it is very hard to be creative with total freedom. The freedom tricks you into thinking you can really truly break new ground, while at the same time not requiring you to. Without constraints you’ll default to the familiar. It’s safe, tried, and tested.

I’m a big fan of Pablo Picasso’s quotes, and this is one of my favorites:

"Forcing yourself to use restricted means is the sort of restraint that liberates invention. It obliges you to make a kind of progress that you can’t even imagine in advance." - Pablo Picasso

So next time you’re blessed with creative freedom, give yourself some constraints. Find things about the project requirements that take away options from you. Instead of making a list of things you *can* do, make a list of things you *can’t*. In design (and in life), big reward comes from stepping out of your comfort zone.