In the Spotlight: Michael J. Metts

Michael J. Metts, Co-author of Writing Is Designing and Director of Content Design for Upwork

Michael J Metts is the Co-author of “Writing Is Designing” and the Director of Content Design for Upwork, a web-based platform that connects freelance talent to a wide-array of industries. Michael and his co-author presented Writing is Designing, Words and The User Experience  to the OHIOSTC community. He lives just outside Chicago; he is married, has two children and a small dog.

He is passionate about user experience (UX). Working in UX provides a communicator with an opportunity to understand customers and ensure their needs are served well. Metts describes working in UX as a “rare corporate career opportunity that is both exciting and which inspires his day-to-day work.”

Metts contends that writing is the critical component in good communication. Good visual design alone is insufficient if the writing is not part of the design process. Writing and visual design comprise the elements that determine whether the user experience is good or poor.

His interest in UX grew out of his first role out of college. He graduated from Spring Arbor University with a degree in Visual Storytelling. His goal was to pursue a career in  photojournalism. However, the field of journalism changed dramatically and he chose to find a different path. He took a role developing web content. It was in that role that he became interested in ensuring that the content he was developing was getting the job done properly. That led to his interest in UX.

When asked if he considered himself a writer or a designer, he responded:

“I refuse to pick one. I believe writing is designing, just a different form. If you think about the high-level definition of design, it’s about solving problems for people, and that’s something that can be done visually and through language. Usually both.”

His background in photography, has taught him to see opportunities everywhere. He has been seen taking pictures of walls. Others, viewing this are often confused because he is shooting a flat surface but once they see the image and see the details, they understand.

Metts said, “Photography teaches us to reframe details in our communications, which is also one of the most important skills any designer or writer can have. Sometimes problems need to be viewed from a new perspective.”

According to Metts, “Sometimes we just need to look at things differently.

His current reading table includes:

  • Erika Hall’s incredible book ‘Conversational Design‘, which has led him to read more poetry. Per Metts, “Reading poetry helps a writer/designer to think about writing and language in new ways.”
  • He recently finished ‘If They Come for Us‘ by Fatimah Asghar and was quite moved.
  • Currently he is reading the novel ‘The City We Became‘ by N.K. Jemisin.