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Friday Five with Alex Schleifer of Airbnb

San Francisco-based Alex Schleifer is the Vice President of Design for Airbnb, the site that lets you rent apartments and homes in over 190 countries around the world, where he works with a team of designers, writers, and researchers for the company’s web and mobile platforms. Airbnb is a design-led company so bringing on someone to focus on user experience, as well as the look and feel of the entire site, naturally made since. Schleifer came to the company exactly one year ago from Say Media and prior to that he founded interactive agency, Sideshow. Here, Schleifer shares five things that inspire his creativity in this week’s Friday Five.

Photo by Marcin Wichary

Photo by Marcin Wichary

1. Early Atari Computers
My first computer was actually my older brother’s computer. It was an Atari 800XL. It ran BASIC and you could start coding right after it booted up. It only came with one game so I taught myself to build games of my own. Its processor could only accomplish 1.77Mhz but you had access to 256 colors, which melted my seven-year-old mind. I later moved on to an Amiga 500, which truly set me down the path to becoming a designer, but the 800XL was the most transformational to me and my future. The entire line-up of Amiga computers are incredibly considered and their industrial design really has aged well.

Photo by John Krzesinski

Photo by John Krzesinski

2. Californian Roads
Living in Northern California, I’m lucky to have access to some of the most beautiful roads on the planet. Weekend rides along the Pacific Coast Highway or even a short trip through the San Francisco Presidio are one of my favorite ways to recharge and find calm after a busy week. My current bike is a Triumph Bonneville that is beautiful in its own right. It’s a modern bike built around a design that is now over 50 years old. Its classic frame is not only pretty but also easy to modify. Modern parts make it incredibly reliable. I aim to take it from San Francisco to Joshua Tree and back again sometime in 2016.

F5-Alex-Schleifer-Airbnb-3-Katsuhiro-Otomo

3. Katsuhiro Otomo
Otomo’s seminal Akira (both the manga and a feature length anime) were hugely inspiring to me growing up. The scale of the work is incredible, especially when you consider that he single-handedly wrote, penciled and inked each of the comic’s 2000 pages. I’m not a particularly big fan of manga or anime, but there’s something about Otomo’s work that I find incredibly powerful. Beyond being a great writer and artist, everything in his world is thoughtfully and purposefully designed— From the city’s monuments and infrastructure to the gadgets and vehicles of its citizens. This attention to detail gives his work an incredible depth seldom seen in any form of entertainment. He strikes a balance between art and design like no one else.

Adam Savage and Astronaut Chris Hadfield, photo by Phil Plait

Adam Savage and Astronaut Chris Hadfield, photo by Phil Plait

4. Adam Savage
I’ve been a fan of MythBusters since its inception in 2003 so I was sad to hear that the show is in its final season. While the show’s success is clearly the result of a talented team, I’ve always been drawn to Adam Savage’s endless enthusiasm for his craft. I can spend hours watching him talk about his workshop or the build process for a particular project. There are numerous makers that could have made this list, but the passion that Adam Savage infuses his work with sets him apart. He’s the ultimate maker and I can’t wait to see what he does next.

F5-Alex-Schleifer-Airbnb-5-iMac-retina

5. Apple iMac with 5k Retina Display
I wanted to share something I use regularly and kept coming back to the iMac 5k. I haven’t been excited about a new computer since Apple switched to Intel CPUs but this powerhouse has had a profound impact on the way I work. The sheer beauty of its screen and the space it provides is incomparable. The iMac 5k’s considered design and construction, both inside and out, is proof that Apple builds the best creative tools in the industry. So much for the rumors that the iPhone would distract them from building professional tools.

Caroline Williamson is Editorial Director of Design Milk. She has a BFA in photography from SCAD and can usually be found searching for vintage wares, doing New York Times crossword puzzles in pen, or reworking playlists on Spotify.