Cap Watkins

Cap Watkins is a product designer and a manager of creativity. He is currently the VP of Design at BuzzFeed, where he manages managers, a product design team that covers the site, their apps, internal tooling, data analysis, and ad sales. He also manages the consumer branding team, which works on logos, the style guide, and swag. If you ever see someone with a BuzzFeed T-shirt on, chances are high that Cap had strong influence over it.

He believes in the spirit of collaboration, as well as thoughtful, holistic design solutions that get out of the way and empower people to accomplish much more. His big ideas and ceaseless drive have led him to some of today’s biggest tech companies. His past work includes Formspring, Zoosk, Etsy and hush-hush stuff at Amazon.

Cap is a prolific blogger, conference speaker, an avid fan of startups and technology, and his favorite holiday is Thanksgiving. So, for this DQSD interview we carved out (pun intended) something a little different. Towards the end, we asked Cap a series of rapid fire questions about his overall affinity for Turkey Day, and his answers are delicious.

Q. What’s the last weird thing you ordered from Amazon (Prime)?

I buy things with two-day shipping that don’t need quick shipping. I bought a gaming mouse and mousepad with same day delivery just because I could. But when I worked at Amazon, a friend of mine there was doing the Tim Ferriss 4-hour body thing, so he was eating a lot of beans. So I bought and shipped to him at the Amazon office a 20-lb sack of dried beans.

Q. If there was a walking tour of Buzzfeed what would be the highlight/lowlight?

There would be two highlights. We have pretty great graphic design on the glass all around the office. Our senior art director did all these hand-drawn illustrations on every piece of glass. The other highlight would be the glass pavilion. We are pretty high up in the building in New York. Our roof deck has a big glass pavilion. You step out into the glass pavilion before you step out onto the roof deck. I’m really excited for the winter, because it will be snowing and you can work outside, but you’re inside. The lowest light we have is probably like eight feet off the ground.

Q. Man grooming, yes or no?

Yes! The beard thing I have had for a long time. I’ve learned to take care of it, so it takes care of me back. Recently, in the last year, I’ve grown my hair out which I have never done before. That’s an interesting venture, because with long hair, I am stealing my wife’s hair products and seeing which ones work for me. Now, I have been buying some for myself, and it has reversed where she is stealing mine to see if they work for her.Cap Watkins Design Work

Q. Are there any nicknames you won’t stand for? For example: Caps Lock, Cappy, Ol’ Bottle Cap, El Capitan, Cap Gun, etc?

Cap is actually a nickname. The name that I can’t stand is my actual name. Someone the other day was teasing me by calling me my real name and it strangely bothered me beyond belief. I like El Capitan, but the only pain is in Slack. I’m also the director of IT here, so I am in the IT chat, and El Capitan is coming out and everyone is briefing it as El Cap, so I am getting pinged and Slacked a hundred times a day while they talk about the operating system update.

Q. What’s your favorite word that contains an X?

Xanthan gum. It’s a cooking product. I think it is primarily used in vegan recipes. I don’t know why, that word has always just stuck out to me.

Q. What is your go-to bodega beer?

Sixpoint Sweet Action.

Q. What was the last thing you were afraid of?

This is going to sound really stupid. I don’t like scary movies, but recently I have been trying to watch scary movies. There is a horror film called It Follows, and I have watched the trailer and I really want to watch the movie. It’s been in my queue on Amazon for months, but every time I sit down to watch it, I am too nervous to actually watch it. There’s no way it is going to be as bad as I’ve made it.

Q. Would you rather watch the movie Hackers every day for a month or play hacky sack every day for a month?

I have a clarifying question about this question. Do I have to play hacky sack for the same amount of time it would take to watch the movie? If so, I gotta go with Hackers, because playing hacky sack for an hour and a half would be the saddest hour and a half every day.

Q. What have you or would you write on the Union Square subway station Post-It wall?

I haven’t written or posted anything yet. It’s been cool and weird to watch it start and gain momentum. I never have a pen, but I think I might write “This isn’t normal.”

Q. What is the most embarrassing ‘pet name’ your wife calls you?

We actually don’t have any embarrassing ones. We do have nicknames, but just not embarrassing ones. There’s no like Pookie or anything. This is a good trigger to come up with some.

Q. What websites are you addicted to?

Post-Election, I constantly have the New York Times and the Washington Post open. I check Twitter a lot, too.

Rapid Fire Thanksgiving Questions

Q. Stuffing: Cooked in the bird or out?

A: Out of the bird. I’m not a heathen.

Q. Drink: Wine, Beer or Cocktail?

A: Wine, unless the cocktail is on fire.

Q. Table Setting: Fancy Napkin Rings or Paper Napkins?

A. Fancy.

Q. Turkey: Butterball, Free Range or Turducken?

A. Free range, though now I am considering turducken now that you mention it.

Q. Meat: White, Dark, or Giblets?

A. All! All! All of the above. I don’t discriminate against types of turkey meat, you’d have to be crazy.

Q. Brine: Yes or No?

A. Yes. If you don’t, you’re just wrong.

Q. Cranberry Sauce: From A Can or Homemade?

A. Homemade.

Q. Optimal Party Size: 2 – 4 people, 8, 12 or 20?

A. 20 people. It’s Thanksgiving. The more people, the more thanks.

But wait, there's more....
The Complete Series of Interviews