Meet the Team is our ongoing series of employee profiles. It’s an opportunity for our users and partners to get to know us a little better. As a remote company with employees around the world — from the U.S. to Slovenia to Spain to New Zealand — it’s also an opportunity for our team to get to know each other a little better.
We’re excited to introduce Todd Collins, Head of Design at GlobaliD. Todd has an art school background with a focus on industrial design. He spent the early part of his career as a marketing designer with companies such as E-Trade and Oracle before helping design and launch Feedbin, a popular RSS reader.
Now, he’s a central part of our team working on the future of digital identity. During our conversation, Todd discussed the challenge of reimagining what identity looks like, developing language and visuals that appeal to people, but are also easily understood, and what attracted him to his role at GlobaliD.
Introducing Todd Collins
I’m Todd Collins, Head of Design. My responsibility is to own the user experience and user interface around the GlobaliD app.
When I first got the position, Greg [Kidd] told me that we needed to define what a credential is in this space, that I needed to define the future of what digital identity and credentials look and feel like, because these things didn’t yet exist in the world — at least not in the way we think it should.
On how designing in the world of digital identity is unique
This is sort of a unique position to be in, design wise. Typically, you’re working on things that already exist, that you can get easy inspiration from. But with digital identity, you’re really carving out your own path into a jungle. You have a machete and you’re cutting your way through, and people are going to be following you versus the other way around, which is part of the fun.
Why GlobaliD appealed to him
I’m at GlobaliD because it sounded really murky, really undefined. I don’t want to work at some other tech company and just do optimizations, post-market fit and all that. In that situation you’re just kind of making the company more money — optimizing, making more money, optimizing. This was not that, and that was very attractive to me.
What he likes about self-sovereign identity versus the convenience of big tech
I think Big Tech has caused a lot of issues with how they’re rolling out identity and how they’re managing it, which is very profitable for them, but I love the idea of controlling your own data.
There are conveniences with Big Tech, like using Google to log in across the web, but that means they get even more of your data.
What’s really cool about the notion of web3 is being able to connect to things and share just bits and pieces of info that are relevant. Hopefully, in the future, sharing data will be beneficial to me, and I’ll control it. There’s nothing wrong with getting a very good targeted ad as long as I’ve given you permission to access my data and only the data that I want you to see.
On his design priorities — make it relatable
I don’t want to build products for the San Francisco tech elite. It needs to be something that folks can actually use. How would this work if my mom was using it? How can I avoid making this some sort of technical thing? Those are the questions I think about.
I need to take this very complex concept, this challenging mental model, one that’s intimidating for anybody coming into it, and remove a lot of the complexity. So that in the end, folks understand what they’re doing and what’s happened.
There’s a lot of terms that get thrown around in the web3 space, and they just feel like gatekeeping to me. Like gas — that’s just a fee. If we ever have gas involved in our wallet I don’t want to use that term. I want to use terms that people understand. Just call it a fee. We all understand what a fee is. My mom knows what a fee is.
So, it needs to be relatable. That’s always going to be a big thing for me in my design philosophy.
Bridging the gap between physical ID cards and our digital future
The way I think about it is that we’re in a transitional phase between what we’re used to in the non-digital ID world and what we’re bringing over to the digital world.
Which is why right now, in our ID wallet that will be launched later this year, we have cards. Those are what we call the level ones. They look like cards, but they don’t look exactly like the ID cards in your wallet because we’re not interested in remaking a digital version of that.
We’re using a skeuomorphic approach, which is when you take a physical object and mimic it in the digital world so it’s easier for the user to interact with it. The early versions of Apple Books used this approach when they first launched to make folks feel comfortable with the idea of a digital book. These days, folks are very comfortable with these things and the skeuomorphic approach is not as needed anymore.
I see the card thing for the next couple years as the same kind of bridging approach where we’re helping people get used to the idea of digital IDs, but in the long run, I don’t even want to see the cards.
Making credentials, ID wallets and digital identity cool
We need to make this something that people covet, and that will open up the door to more people adopting digital identity.
We have plans after the initial launch to really beautify the credentials you’ll keep in your ID wallet, to put some cool designs in there. That way, if you’re at the coffee shop and you show your ID, or you’re at the bar and you show that digital version of it, people are like, what the heck is that? That’s super, that’s awesome. I want one of those! That’s what I’m trying to achieve right now in the short term with the team.
What the digital form factor can bring to identity
It’s important that we take advantage of the digital form factor, that’s key. With something digital we can bring in motion, we can bring in animation and other dynamic pieces to it. We can constantly update the look and feel of it. Whereas with physical IDs, you can’t do any of that. It’s a physical artifact that can’t change once it’s been made. So, it’s important that we really utilize the opportunities that come with designing digital products.
On his education background and early career
I actually started out as a musician. I was a drummer, and I was playing in bands, but then I decided I should go to college. I went to art school and studied industrial design, and I loved it. I liked working with my hands. I got to design and build a lot of physical things, work on computers, things like that.
After graduating I immediately went into marketing design. I worked for all sorts of Bay area companies like E-Trade, Oracle, Lyft, Samsung, and a bunch of startups as well. I was building marketing websites, doing product discovery and always working on something new. I really loved being in that space.
How he helped build the Feedbin RSS reader
Ben, a developer I was working with at the time, told me he was developing a project and asked if I could do some design work for him. He ended up creating Feedbin, a web-based RSS reader, because he got the feeling Google had stopped working on Google Reader, their own RSS service.
He announced it, and shortly afterwards, Google said they were shutting down Google Reader. All of a sudden we were getting thousands of people signing up for our service. Next thing you know, he started charging for it and generating revenue. He asked if I would help him out moving forward, and here we are 10 years later. We’ve got over 10,000 paying customers including prominent CEOs and journalists. There’s also a mobile app and a Feedbin podcast app is on the way.
What he’s most excited about for GlobaliD moving forward
I want to bring GlobaliD to the next level. I think that our users are in a good spot for 2022. We’ve set them up for success with the beautiful wallet we’ve created, but I’m very excited to bring on more verification partners. I really want to connect with businesses and provide a product they see as a legit solution to their problems. That’s what I see as the biggest challenge and opportunity moving forward — really serving those business needs, and then beyond, working with credentials issuers as well. That’s what excites me right now, trying to make that work and bring these awesome products to market.
We’re hiring! If you’re interested in joining our team, visit the Careers page.
If you would like to learn more about GlobaliD, sign up for the GlobaliD Insider newsletter. You’ll get monthly updates on digital identity, company news and more.