Hey Kevin! First, let’s talk about your journey. How did you get into design? When did you know you were meant to be a creative?
I always say that design chose me not the other way around. From as far as I can remember, I always found ways to bring design into whatever I would do. Instead of doing normal birthday parties in primary school, I would always do a theme and decorate everything based on that theme. I was also known as the “powerpoint presentation person”. I would always do crazy animations on my powerpoints.
If the desired path is kind of unknown, your strategy needs to be very broad.
What is your favourite design discipline and why? How did you find out it was your favourite? How can young designers find out?
Personally it’s always been a center of gravity for me, basically a 50, 50 split between the UX side of things and the visual design on the side of things.
One thing that I'm trying to do now is learning a lot more about other areas that at first I was maybe less interested in and honestly, way worse at.
A discipline that I've been really enjoying is content strategy, which is basically focusing on words. When you think about it, a lot of design problems are actually content problems.
If you don't know what you are good at and what you like, try a bunch of stuff. As Clayton Christiansen says in one of his books, if the desired path is kind of unknown, your strategy needs to be very broad. Try a bunch of things and the amount of investment or effort can be low in each one of them. After a while, some things will stick out.
In order to stand out, you should become really good at two things instead of just one.
Do you think young designers should try to learn many disciplines or focus on mastering a single one?
I don't want to claim that this is my own thought, but there’s an article titled “The best career advice you will ever get” that answers this perfectly. The gist of the article was that it is nearly impossible to become the best at something in life, there's always gonna be someone that's better than you. That being said, it's fairly straightforward to become really good at something, not the best, but great, right? In order to stand out, the article said that you should become really, really good at two things instead of just one. The overlap of people that are really, good at these two things is actually very small.
The biggest insight I think that I've gotten from my career is that the saying “Jack of all trades, master of none” is bullshit. The more things or other disciplines that you know will just make you better at everything you do. Stay curious, try to learn about different things. Start at a smaller scale (ex. colour and layout) and then slowly zoom out (ex. Visual design and Content strategy).
Stay away from your computer for as long as you can.
What is your creative process? Do you think young designers should have a set of processes or go with the flow?
Every person, every team and every project requires a different approach, so if you're trying to apply the same exact recipe to every project it usually doesn’t work, at least in my experience. What I'd want to encourage people to do is actually spend time to think about your process and what's working, what's not working. See it as a design problem and do as much as you can.
In general, I think starting with a phase dedicated to understanding the problem you are trying to solve is always good. It doesn’t matter what the process is as long as thinking about the problem is your goal.
Another pattern I see in young designers is that they jump into high fidelity too quickly. My challenge to you is stay away from your computer for as long as you can.
People are usually wrong about their solution, but right about their problems.
Did you learn any tricks during your career? Do you have any tricks you would have loved your young-self to know?
Something that I wish I knew when I was younger is how to deal with feedback. Designers deal with feedback all they long, from different sources. I quickly got to the stage where I was very good at defending my design decisions, explaining my reasons. But what I didn’t realise is that you miss a lot by doing that, you close that feedback door.
Try to dig deeper when you receive feedback. The user doesn’t like that colour? Instead of explaining why you picked it, ask why it’s not their favourite. You will learn much more.
People are usually wrong about their solution, but right about their problems. Here at Shopify, we banned all the suggestions from feedback sessions. Users tell us what they don’t like and we decide if and how to take action.
To wrap up, do you have a favourite quote? How is it relative to your creative career?
“Beautiful things work better”
- Stefan Sagmeister
There is something I really like about this quote, it speaks about what design is to me. To me design is both how it work and how it makes you feel. I think there is a sense of care users can feel in a well-designed product.
What I love about making things that are beautiful is that as a designer you don’t have to, but did it anyways. That’s what I hope to bring in everything I do.