Team Snapshot: What Makes Great Design And Why Your Visuals Matter
By Ellen Clipson - 4 min read
Learn how to approach your creative projects with purpose. Our Senior Product Designer Jesse shares his advice to brands looking to refresh their digital product and how to get started with a career in design.
“Content is king” says our Senior Product Designer Jesse. For him, good product design should always start with understanding user needs and doing one thing really well. But as User Interface (UI) design becomes increasingly complex and new digital products are appearing at a rapid rate, finding the best design solutions for your campaign can be tricky. That’s why we caught up with Jesse to find out his approach to design and creative projects.
In this interview he shares his tips for brands looking to refresh their product and website design, as well as creatives looking to kick-start their career in design!
How to Approach Creative Projects With Purpose
What drew you to design in the first place and did you ever think you’d be in Berlin working EyeEm?
I started my career in graphic design after I saw the record cover for ‘Unknown Pleasures’ by Joy Division. I realized that I wanted my career to involve making beautiful pieces of work and graphic design was how to do it.
I was eventually working in a small studio in Perth, Western Australia, where I come from. It was there that I was starting to get onboarded with website work for Perth Fashion Week. I was still using print tools that had no application for website work, but I started learning what it meant to build a very dynamic piece of work. It was at that time that everything began to change and responsive web design started to emerge. When I moved to Berlin, I looked to continue working in website product design and thankfully, Berlin was the place for that!
If music was kind of your creative starting point, would you say that the music industry still fuels your design today?
Yeah, absolutely. The music industry has been a fantastic platform for me to be creative. I’ve run DJ events and started up a record label with a friend of mine. As a creative person, it’s more than just the output of designing a poster or a record cover, it’s about creating things for other people for them to enjoy.
Do you think you take the same principles of decision making outside of your design work and apply them?
DJing reminds me of the early stages of doing exploration work at the beginning of a project. You’ve got tonnes of ideas in your head and you have to figure out which one’s the right way to go. I mean, DJing is a lot more stressful because you’ve got about three minutes to figure it out, but at the end of the day, you really don’t know where the end of the line is.
I often feel like the most therapeutic way to think of a creative field as if you’re in a dark room, where you don’t know where the door is but you’re feeling the edges of the room to know that’s not the way to go. So, if you’re often making a lot of mistakes, eventually those mistakes will kind of lead to the right path.
“the first thing that a user will be reacting to is our image search results, rather than how the buttons work.”
What is your number one golden rule for you when you’re approaching a new product design project?
The most pragmatic thing is to figure out what data do you have about your target audience? Any designer or brand should be in touch with their users to make sure that what they’re doing aligns with their user’s needs or attitude towards your product. With any great product out there, you’ll see that they understand exactly what they’re doing and why they’re doing it.
What is a common product design mistake that you see a lot of brands still doing?
Ideally, I don’t try to revolve myself around products that I try to do too many things at once. If they don’t have a clear understanding of what your users really want, then that will breed this notion that maybe you can do many different things to try and guess what they may want. For example, if in an attempt to try to guess what their users’ might want and mitigate risk, they’ll present a number of different options to the user. This can create a lack of focus and is usually a telling sign that the product will eventually become not great to use.
“That can only happen when you’ve got a very clear understanding as to what your brand is, and what it isn’t”
Speaking of focus, ours has always been photography. Why are images important in product design?
I might be alone in this statement, but I think that content is king when it comes to your experience with a product. There are a lot of platforms that don’t necessarily have all the bells and whistles in terms of features but they have the thing that matters most, which is the content or the product itself.
A good example is a brand like Nintendo. When you think of the video game world, some of the biggest franchises come from Nintendo because they are fantastic at building video games and they understand that their goal is to create immersive content rather than build the best computer that can play it on.
Although my job at EyeEm is to create great UI, the principle remains the same. If I run a user test, the first thing that a user will be reacting to is our image search results, rather than how the buttons work.
What would be your advice for anyone who wants to start out either in graphic design or move into other areas of design?
It’s tough to answer because like there’s so many avenues of design that a person can start in and design can lead to so many parallel things. It’s a practical career that requires you to be on the job and to learn how to make mistakes, and so I would say pick up a pen and pencil and start sketching. Start by tracing other people’s designs and websites to better understand the patterns they are using. Eventually you’ll start to realize that these patterns have actually been existing in practices done through the ages.
That’s what stood out to me about EyeEm. We often try to explore ideas through designing and building it first. Then we are able to expand upon the product or design concepts in a more mature way once we know that there’s traction behind it. Coming from a company that liked to have a fairly polished product before seeing if it worked, EyeEm flipps that on it’s head. As a team, we first have an idea, we build it and see if it does affect our users positively before we invest in optimizing it.
How do you develop your own design skills?
I’ve probably been my most creative outside of any screen medium. Instead I try to develop my creativity outside of my professional career in product design. Going back to my work in the music industry, there’s always been a correlation to product design. You have to start thinking about what the problem is that you’re trying to solve and what’s the best way to do it? What’s the thing that drives you to getting to the end goal? It’s those same questions that I take into my day-to-day work at EyeEm.
So, the big question, what makes great design?
From my standpoint, it always comes from understanding that you’re trying to solve a problem that your users face but you’re also doing it in a way that they enjoy using the product. That can only happen when you’ve got a very clear understanding as to what your brand is, and what it isn’t. This will inherently create a lot of focus which would then bleed down into the user’s experience when interacting with your product.
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