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Taking Care of Yourself, My Next EP Album, and Inputs for Northstar

Dennis Cortés
Dennis Cortés
I’m a full-stack designer who makes music and videos. I’m currently the Head of Design at Northstar.
Outside of work, I’m a big fan of coffee, video games, tech, interior design, and learning new things. You can find me on Patreon for exclusive content and see more from me on my personal website.
My heart goes out to all the folks in Ukraine where life has been turned upside down due to the current state of the world there. If you haven’t already, please consider donating to help with aid here.

Take Care of Yourself, Take Care of Your Team
After hiring our 3rd designer at Northstar, I’ve been shifting a lot of my growth to learning about being a leader and mentor for my team. It’s a huge challenge for me personally, who has been mainly an IC designer in every role I’ve had in some capacity.
Now that things are starting to shift and my day-to-day is more around decision making and process iterations, people look to me for answers and guidance each day. I don’t know about you, but it’s scary to have that pressure every day you show up to work.
I know it comes with the territory and I asked for this in a way, but some days get harder to work through.
“If I just put in a few more hours, our goals will be achieved more quickly.”
“My team is counting on me, this has to be done tonight.”
“Eh, I can skip lunch for this call. I’ll eat after!”
“I can’t sleep in, what if an emergency happens even though it’s 7:00am on a Thursday?”
But after one-too-many weeks of this, I’d be setting myself and my team up for a worse situation.
When I don’t take care of myself mentally or physically, I slowly expend my energy exponentially. I’m not as alert in meetings, I’m distracted by stress, I’m overly irritable, I’m not myself.
I want to be the best version of myself for those around me. That way, I’ll be better able to do what I do best. I listen better, I’m able to focus easier, I’m more open to receiving feedback, and I give better feedback myself.
What You Can Do
You need to put yourself first. Not in a malicious way, but in a way that sets healthy boundaries between work and life. Boundaries that put your health and comfort first, in a way that lets you do your best work. It’s one thing to be self-disciplined and motivated, but another to drive your life into the ground for it.
Remember to spend time with yourself and with your family/friends. Do things that bring you joy and pursue your hobbies. Remember to exercise, eat right, and take care of your body. Go to therapy and work on yourself. Maybe try meditation or yoga before work. Remember to do nothing sometimes too, just exist and listen to the world around you.
Put yourself before anything, the people around you will be happy you did.
What I'm Working On
Updates from life, work, side projects, music, and more.
💍 The Proposal - I got engaged to my partner on Valentine’s Day this past month, couldn’t be happier! Marriage is a huge deal for me so this was a big step in my life. See the pictures and sappy caption on Instagram here.
🧩 Inputs for Northstar - I rebuilt our form field input components at work recently and uploaded a timelapse of the process, which received a great reception from others. Planning to talk through a breakdown at a slower pace on my YouTube channel at some point… maybe.
📚 Learn Design 1on1 with Me - This past week I announced my paid mentoring sessions for folks that are serious about leveling up with their design career. For example, portfolio reviews, learning my approach to design systems, moving into a more senior role, how to use Auto Layout in Figma, or to answer any questions you have about your career at the moment.
💿 My New EP Drifts - I announced my next EP called Drifts, going back to my beat music roots after my ambient album Sonder release in January. This is a 6-track EP, and the artwork was inspired by one of my favorite ambient albums PLACE by J.T. Boogaard.
Drifts album artwork, made by yours truly
Drifts album artwork, made by yours truly
What I'm Consuming
Games, podcasts, movies, and more that currently have my interest.
🏹 Aloy Returns - Horizon Forbidden West came out this past month and I haven’t been able to put it down. I’m still early on in the game but wow does it deliver. So many quality of life improvements, gameplay additions, and well-designed world-building. My favorite part is that side missions actually play into the main story, rather than just being random events.
🎧 From Screen to Podcasts - As a way to try and reduce my screen-time, I’ve been exploring podcasts as an alternative way to consume media. Recently I found the Gameinformer Podcast, a weekly show covering news in gaming, what the cast is playing, and listener questions. Really enjoying it so far, what podcasts should I add to my list that you recommend?
👕 Tyler, THE Creator - If you know me, I’ve been a huge hip-hop head since I was 7 or so and have grown to appreciate Tyler the Creator as his career has progressed over the last decade. While I wasn’t a huge fan of IGOR given its plagiaristic nature, Tyler’s new album Call Me If You Get Lost blew me away with the nods to mixtape culture and styles from the ‘90s and '00s, as well as the music video aesthetic and consistency. Anyways, he was recently in 2 interviews that were incredibly inspiring for me as a creative where he speaks on his music, new clothing line, approach to work, growing up, and more. I think you should watch them—All Star Series: Tyler Talk, Los Angeles & Fast Company: On Top of a Mountain with Tyler, The Creator
What I'm Learning
Books, topics, lessons, and more that I’ve been focusing on.
🍎 Principles of Apple’s Design Process - I finished Creative Selection: Inside Apple’s Design Process During the Golden Age of Steve Jobs, after my recommendation in the last newsletter. Still highly recommend it if you’re curious about the guiding principles for Apple’s design process. I won’t spoil it for you, but the principles really stuck with me.
👥 Leading a Team - I’ve been incredibly passionate lately about continuing to improve and learn about being a great manager, coach, and leader for my team at Northstar. Some of the resources I’ve found helpful lately include Know Your Team, Lara Hogan’s Website and Blog, Making of a Manager, 20 Great Open Questions, Managing People by Andreas Klinger to name a few.
💽 Playlists to Work To - As a musician and fan of music, I make a ton of playlists for myself. However, I’m attempting to learn ways to share these with others since I have many friends and colleagues who ask me for music recommendations and I never know where to point them to in my library. So, I’ve been working on Spotify playlists and am excited to share the first one with you, Beats for Code & Design, which is a relaxing playlist to get your best creative work done to. Enjoy!
Beats for Code & Design - playlist by Dennis | Spotify
Cool Stuff
Links and things I saved or found interesting recently.
Pokémon Scarlet and Violet Announcement
Curves
Along Video Betatape Prototype
Branding Agency - Ragged Edge
Teenage Engineering OB-4 Off-White™
Don’t miss out on the other issues by Dennis Cortés
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Dennis Cortés
Dennis Cortés @shyboytm

I share thoughts on leadership, design, and stuff I learn in work and life. I also share things I find that I find interesting and projects I am working on!

Designer, Musician, Content Creator, Software Tinkerer. I am currently the Head of Design at Northstar and make music as Cordio.

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