Following a slightly roundabout route to UX and UI design that started with a love for gaming that eventually led to designing apps and websites, Joshua Oluwagbemiga’s passion for producing engaging online projects only grows greater the more he learns about the industry and develops his skills. From his homebase in Lagos, Nigeria, he works full-time at the multi-faceted agency Amplify Digital, but still finds time to get involved in creative community both online–in forums like Behance–and offline, where he meets up with other designers to talk shop and support each other. We Skyped with Josh at the end of a busy Monday about how good UX and UI design can make users care about a banking app, the allure of trap music, and discovering the “Jedi of design.”
What drew you to UX/UI design, and how did you get your start?
I played a lot of games growing up–like Call of Duty, Mortal Combat Deception, Winning Eleven, and Freedom Fighters–and eventually got curious about how they were made. I began studying 3D design about four years ago through online courses and personal projects, but it was really complex and I felt like I needed a more comprehensive education to master it. I thought about saving up money to go to Gnomon in Los Angeles [a school for computer graphics in the entertainment industry], but eventually decided to transfer my creative powers to another field instead. I started exploring and discovered UX and UI design, and have been in love ever since.
Because of my 3D design experience, I had a solid background in things like color theory and grid placements; once I got into UI and UX, everything just kind of fell into place. I started working at marketing agency after graduation, and everything’s just gone from there.
How does Adobe Creative Cloud fit into your creative process?
I’ve always been a paper and pencil guy, so I usually start sketching UI ideas and elements for a few hours before I go digital. Then I take those concepts into Adobe XD, which I’ve been using regularly for almost a year now. The software is so clean and its foundation is so impressive. It quickly became my favorite program because it’s so fast, and allows me to communicate with my clients in real time about our projects; I can send a link instead of a large file, and they can see changes I’ve made, provide instant feedback, and leave comments as well.
How do you get into the mindset of your potential users?
At the beginning of every project I tackle, I make sure that I define a specific target audience (TA), then I’ll study and research what resonates with them, looking at everything from existing apps in the marketplace to larger trends to colors to general habits. This helps develop a strong foundation for the visual design.
The actual user testing process varies based on budget. For most projects, I show colleagues and friends rough sketches of what I have in the pre-wireframe phase to see if they can understand the basics. Based on their feedback I’ll develop wireframes, then show those to the same people to see if they can follow the methodology of the app or site. I refine their input to begin the visual design. Usually at the end of that phase, we’ll employ a larger user testing process, bringing people from the pre-defined target audience to try out the app or site and study if ideal usability is achieved
Let’s look at a few of your projects. What was your process like creating PAWS, a template for veterinarian offices, and AIICO Pension Plus, an app for managing finances?
PAWS is a client based in the United States that wanted to offer veterinarians a fresh approach to present their services online. I started doing research and realized that lots of existing vet websites are really stale and bland; we decided to offer modern HTML templates in three gradient color themes that would really resonate with a variety of pet owners, with options to book appointments, view galleries, and learn about the staff.
PAWS by Joshua Oluwagbemiga on Behance
AIICO Pension Plus App was created at Amplify Digital for a Nigerian client. Here, many pension companies have mobile apps, but most only offer a basic breakdown of account balances and recent transactions; they’re pretty boring, and most users stop using them or delete them altogether. We wanted to figure out a way to make people want to engage. We spent about two weeks brainstorming at Amplify, then invited a bunch of different people to come in and give feedback on our ideas. We developed some, then created prototype links in XD to send out to friends and colleagues, to watch how they used the app.
AIICO Pension Plus App by Joshua Oluwagbemiga on Behance
AIICO Pension Plus App wireframes by Joshua Oluwagbemiga on Behance
One of the features we came up with is a game feature called “Retire in Style.” Users can select how they want to live later on in life–big house, nice car, etc–and the app will calculate how much they need to save per day, or per month, to get there. It allows people to take their pension seriously, and plan for their future in a fun, easy-to-understand way.
Another feature is the retirement calculator, which instead allows users to enter a straightforward savings figure, and find out how much they need to save per day, or per month, to get there.
A third feature is a personalized feed, which includes balance and transaction info, but also weather, news, and event updates based on your interests and preferences.
AIICO Pension Plus App by Joshua Oluwagbemiga on Behance
What excites you most about the future of UX/UI design—both in terms of creating it, and engaging with it?
I’m a big fan of virtual reality and augmented reality. I feel that’s the direction that UX and UI are going; that VR and AR will be integrated in everything from apps to browsers to maps in the future, and even sooner than that thanks to recent developments like the HoloLens and Google Lens. I’m trying to learn more about them and develop projects in VR and AR, but it can be difficult to find the right resources here in Lagos.
What bit(s) of wisdom can you share with creative folks who are interested in becoming UX/UI designers?
I think it’s important to understand the foundational elements of UI design–color theory, layouts, grids, visual points of view, content placement, text sizes–before actually going out and trying to get client work. Get that basic knowledge, and things will be so much easier when you move into more complex concepts.
Ultimately though, UX/UI design is a very agile process; there’s no definite, straight road to achievement. Sometimes you have to break out of your comfort zone to create something new and interesting.
Whose UX/UI work do you look at and go: “WOW”?
I take a lot of color inspiration from Balraj Chana.
Hixle Overlay by Balraj Chana
And Tobias van Schneider is like a Jedi of design. He has this kind of class and style, the way he plays with typography and creates these projects that go outside of a “normal” realm into something that’s still so visually appealing. I really studied his work when I was getting into UX and UI; he played a major role in my creative development.
DESK of Van Schneider by Tobias van Schneider
Best tunes for getting into a creative flow?
Constant. Electronic. Music. It never changes. Trap Nation is a great YouTube channel for when I’m working.
Spinnin’ Records Top 100 is another playlist I jam to.
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