Friday Fives: Carly Ayres (Google Design)

April 30, 2021

On Fridays we give #highfives to a different designer from our extended family of PNCA students, faculty, alumni, and guest lecturers. 🙌🏾🙌🏻🙌🏽 We ask them five questions, and post five images.

Carly Ayres is a writer and digital innovator, using language and interaction to engage people in new and interesting ways. As a New York-based creative and true “Docs” connoisseur, Carly is well known for her precocious, funny, and often cutting-edge sensibility. She has turned heads in the design world by way of her homepage—an editable Google Doc website made long before such sites became the design trend. Part genius and part tongue-in-cheek, Ayres runs the 100sUnder100, a Slack group and event series for creatives “under 100 years old”. She also co-founded the acclaimed design and technology studio, HAWRAF. Now, as part of the UX Community & Culture team at Google, she leads content for Google Design, telling stories about the people, product, and practice of UX.

Carly is joining us on 5/5/21 for our Design Panel Series, a student-powered conversation with visiting guests, current PNCA Design students, faculty, and friends, presented in collaboration with FISK. Join us for the online conversation by registering on EventBrite (we'll send you a's free and open to the public!).

Graphic Design department head Kristin Rogers Brown spoke with Carly in April, 2021.

Q: What do you "geek out" about?

A: OoOh. The answer to this changes month to month, depending on my inputs—who I’m talking to, what I’m seeing, et cetera—so admittedly the list has been a bit shorter lately, but have been recently extra interested in: 

Q: How has quarantine/COVID times affected your creative process most drastically?

A: So much of my work is about people. Connecting them. Bringing them together. Sharing resources and knowledge among them. I’m an extrovert, as well, so a lot of my energy comes from those interactions. There hasn’t been as much of that lately, and while figuring out how to translate some of those exchanges to remote, mostly digital contexts is exciting in ways—I feel an immense amount of inertia around much of doing anything lately. I know I’m not alone in this, but working remotely has also greatly changed the way I relate to my laptop. Previously, coming home and opening my personal laptop felt like a transition from “the bad screen” to “the good screen.” I’d work on personal projects, write articles, organize resources, et cetera —but now they’re… both the bad screen. There is no good screen. As a result, I find myself seeking projects where I can get away from the screen entirely. That’s led to more hand-on activities like baking bread, volunteering, gardening… in the next year (fingers crossed), I hope to retain some of that, while also getting back to my regular scheduled creative programming.

Flinging open all the doors, democratizing the knowledge. Increasing the diversity of perspectives and experiences in the room. Designing with groups of people, rather than for them.

Carly Ayres

Above: HAWRAF (2016-2019) interactive website, via It's Nice That. HAWRAF was Pedro Sanches, Nicky Tesla, Andrew Herzog, and Carly Ayres.

Q: What feels important to the future of design, to you? 

A: Access! More people included in conversations and spaces that they previously weren’t. Flinging open all the doors, democratizing the knowledge. Increasing the diversity of perspectives and experiences in the room. Designing with groups of people, rather than for them. Less users, more people. Inclusive language. Design practices that center communities. Considering entire ecosystems, structures, systems, looking to what already exists to envision more resilient futures.

Q: What responsibility, if any, do creators have to do work they believe in/meaningful work? 

A: Work is a job. I believe that as humans and citizens of planet earth, we have a responsibility to leave this place a teensy bit better than we found it—or at the very least do as little harm as possible—but, beyond that, I don’t believe that your work needs to be ‘meaningful’ at all. Sure, if you can derive some meaning and purpose from your work—fantastic. Gravy. But, it’s a slippery slope towards conflating your purpose with your job, particularly depending on how much control you actually have over the latter. It’s advice that I don’t take nearly as much as I dish it out, however, so take it with a grain of salt (like all advice).

Happy billboards via HAWRAF.

Q: Here's a good question from a previous guest... “Why do you do what you do?"

A: Because it interests me. When it ceases to do that, I’ll do something else.

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Hear more from Carly in conversation with students and faculty in our Design Panel Series, recorded, below. Co-hosted by PNCA Graphic Design and FISK.

See more from Carly via her google doc homepage or on instagram at @carlyayres, or by following her on twitter @carlyayres. You can also find some great work (“scrubbed of all the stuff that would get us sued”) still accessible through HAWRAF.

Follow along with our #fridayfives on instagram @pncadesign.

Pics of Carly by Bridget Badore.

(Poster by FISK)