From sunny San Diego, designers Jessica Moon and Claude Piché anticipate issues and solve problems around the way you interact with everyday tech. “Remember the last time you had an app that you were really annoyed with? Our job is to figure out why it annoyed you, and then create a better design solution that will make you happier,” Moon says. The pair are part of the team at Telepathy, an experience design agency, and they recently presented a series of cool projects at AdobeLive.
Here, they share stories about the early days of Photoshop, the importance of a good attitude, and a custom playlist to get in the zone.
What drew you to UX/UI design, and how did you get your start?
Claude: When I was 13 I started to play with Photoshop, making rap CD covers for friends and selling them for $5. I loved it. After high school, I took a graphic design program in Ottawa and afterward, I just chose to continue doing it. Eventually, I had to choose between print and web graphic design; it was one of the big pivots of my life, but I decided to go with web because I feel the future is there.
Jessica: Since I was old enough to draw, I loved illustrating. In high school, someone introduced me to Photoshop, where I learned how to vector illustrations, and eventually digitally paint them; with those skills, I was even able to make a little side cash spinning up logo or business card designs for people every now and then. I went to college for something completely different–sociology–because at the time the field of UX wasn’t even on my radar (nor most folks’, let alone the education scene); but I graduated right out of the recession, so I couldn’t find a job in the field. As I was trying to figure out what to do next, I came across a random flyer for design classes and thought I could polish my side-job skills making graphics. As it happened, one of my instructors hired me as a mobile UI designer, and since then I’ve been happily living out a career in the UX industry.
How do you get into the mindset of your users, and/or potential users?
C + J: By talking to them. This simple action allows you to learn so much. Asking questions, really listening, and intently observing is how you can achieve deep empathy. As a bonus, when you talk with real people and get to understand their frustrations as well as their joys, you end up really starting to feel like you’re on a mission for them, which can really energize as well as focus you. It’s immensely fun!
Let’s look at one of your current projects. What was your process like creating Nite Lite–an app you designed on the spot at AdobeLive–and how did Adobe XD help you make it happen?
On the first day of Adobe Live, we wanted to do something that would satisfy a few concepts:
- Create a cool new technology (via a connected home app);
- That showed the process of design from idea to testable prototype;
- And allowed each of us to use XD in our own styles and habits;
- While incorporating an element of live audience participation.
LiteNite is a “skill test” we send out to potential applicants, and touched on the first two criteria. Rather than build one app together, we thought it’d be fun to do a live ‘design battle,’ where each of us worked on it in our own way.
We each sketched out some flows and concepts, brought them into XD and started refining from there. Along the way, we’d pull in AdobeLive viewers by asking them to provide feedback that we’d integrate that on the spot–including the awesome logo that was provided by a community member! As the design got closer to higher fidelity, we were able to add transitions and start bringing it to life.
Watch Jessica and Claude design and prototype Lite Nite on AdobeLive.
The thing that makes XD really shine is its ability to support you through design thinking on a tight timeline. It allowed us to easily toggle between design and prototype mode, which made the whole “create and validate” process seem like one blended effort; and since LiteNite is a mobile app, we were able to use XD mobile app to have Michael, the AdobeLive host, test it as a user on the spot in the stream. We even posted the final prototypes via web links and had the community click through each concept and vote on the one they liked the most. It was a real design battle but both of us came out even in the votes, so you could say we both won that day.
What is the most challenging part of being a UX/UI designer? Most fun?
C+J: Finding the balance between what businesses and clients need, what users need, and the overall overlap between the two can be difficult; translating those ideas into actual workable concepts is incredibly challenging, but also rewarding. There’s always an internal struggle–fighting people’s instincts, assumptions, aesthetics, and taste, while trying to keep decision-making as objective as possible–and collaboration can be tough with clients and team members who don’t fully understand the impact that design can have on a user’s experience. But when you show your clients a concept and they say it’s exactly what they wanted, that’s magic.
Keeping up to date and staying fresh makes the job really fun and refreshing. One of the most exciting things in agency life is the variety of industries and diversity of people you’re exposed to. It’s really just a cool, exciting career overall, and unique in a way—there aren’t many designers in the world, especially compared to other professions.
What excites you most about the future of UX/UI design—both in terms of creating it, and engaging with it?
C + J: A lot has changed in the past two decades. Right now we live in a world that’s entirely centered around technology, and we’re in a profession so closely linked to defining that technology, and pushing it forward, and anticipating what’s next. It’s exciting to know that there’s always some evolution, some greater thing on the horizon that will completely shift our daily lives–hopefully for the better–and it’s doubly exciting to know that we’re makers of that world, and that we can have a direct impact. No matter where it goes–whether AI or more advanced technology redefine the future we live in–it’s rewarding knowing we’re always going to be there trying to make things human for humans.
What bit(s) of wisdom can you share with creative folks who are interested in becoming UX/UI designers?
C: From the start: You’re not an artist. Let your ego go. You’re not your work and your work is not you. No matter how long you’ve been a designer, always approach what you do as if you are a beginner, with a beginner’s attitude. Your attitude is bigger than your talent; it’s more impactful than your talent. You can get far in life if you have an amazing attitude and work ethic. With every project, try to get better. Stay aware of new stuff. Don’t be a d*ck.
J: Be a lifelong student. Always look forward and push yourself to grow. Always stay humble, and to cultivate that curiosity and awe that comes with being amazed by what the world has to offer you. Surround yourself with smart people with good attitudes and good perspectives–individuals who embody what you would like to become. Find mentors and like-minded professional friends; join UX communities; introduce yourself to those who you might be too scared to shake hands with; and contribute to design networks.
Whose UX/UI work do you look at and go: “WOW”?
C: Everything that Intercom does is pretty good.
J: Lately, it’s been anything related to the connected home; Zero UI, bringing different software together and seeing it come to life, literally, in your home.
Best tunes for getting into a creative flow?
C + J: We put together this “In the Zone” playlist to share with Adobe readers.