I work with a small team of developers to create tools that visually convey, in a (hopefully) simple way, very complex information about video games real time performance.
What is your job title?
Senior Product Designer at Unity Technologies
What is your typical "day in the life of a designer" ?
This is an intense day, but gives a sense of what I do :)
I sit in front of my computer and first have a couple of meeting, usually with the project manager or the lead developer, to align on what to do in the coming sprint, clarifying the outcomes, user needs and open questions. This is a lot of Miro and Google docs.
Then I open Figma, work further on some design proposals I have in progress, share them on slack with other designers to get fresh ideas and critique or hop on a quick call with the developer working on the feature, and refine it based on the feedback.
Developers usually have some prototypes that we can test in quick sessions with users to see whether our design ideas answer their needs or there are any usability problems. If I have time left, I also look at the current work being implemented by the developers for the final release of the product, and check for any bugs, issues or UI adjustments that need to be done to refine the design.
Design principles you live by?
It is a hard question! But these are my personal ones that I feel are true in my work:
1) Design is collaborative, and part of your work is not just to design, but to learn to get people onboard. I am against the idea of having a designer figuring out everything and then handing over to developers/engineers. All my best work comes out of collaboration and sharing of ideas between me, developers, other designers, and users. I believe this is what makes every idea better... also because everyone feels involved in it and gives their best.
2) There is no unique 'best' design solution and all design is contextual. One solution that could work in a context, is a horrible solution in another one. I don't believe in strict rules/trends of UX or visual design that ignore all that is around an interaction or a tool, what our users are trying to do and in what situation they might be when they are using it.
3) There is no best design solution even when you look at your development process. At the end, it is a matter of what you can do with the resources you have, and how well you can get other people onboard. There is always an alternative and it is ok to kill your babies and find compromises, if this means getting things done and improve our user' lives even a little.
4) Workarounds or 'appropriations' of a product in use give you the best insights. Sometimes users might not be even aware that they are doing it, but every time I see people using a product in a different way than intended, I see opportunities for new features, improvements or identifying 'hidden' user needs.
5) Strive for accessibility as much as you can, and it will benefit everyone. There is no need to create unnecessary boundaries. Making things simpler to use, simpler to understand, usable by as many people as possible is my personal mission and something I want to learn to do better. Whenever I have seen accessible products, or whenever I have myself managed to make something more accessible, I could see the huge impact. We should all try to do more of that. On this note, the book "Mismatch" by Kat Holmes was a true inspiration.
What problem can't you stop thinking about?
How to get everything to be playful and pleasant without being annoying. And how to make everything more accessible and inclusive to the widest variety of people.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
I received a lot of good advice, but the most recent thing that stuck with me was exposed by Ed Catmull in Creativity.inc.
The point is: rather than overthinking and over planning something, just start doing 'something' and start exploring. You will probably be going in the wrong direction, but then you will know it and you will be able to change and explore other areas.
If you instead just think about stuff and avoid doing anything until you have planned it out, you might be equally wrong but you will have used much more time to figure it out.
Also, I do remember one fun thing that my design professor told me when I was doing my thesis. I had done some research and testing prototypes, and I felt lost with all the feedback I had received from users, and the ideas I had as a designer (and the thesis I needed to write needed to make sense!). There was no clear answer. And he just told me something like: "That is designing for the real world: it is a wonderful mess"
Design tools you can’t live without? (Physical and/or digital)
Pen and paper, whenever I am stuck I just take it out and my best ideas came from there.
Figma or any digital prototyping tool
But most importantly anything that involves physical or digital post its (lately, more digital as my work is remote, and it is better to collaborate on a real miro board)
What’s in your bag?
Ipad Pro with the pencil (I like drawing).
Very tiny sketchbook so I can doodle while in meetings and no one can see it.
Too many pens because everyday I try to decide what I really need, and I can't (what if I feel like drawing something nice in the middle of the day?)... so sometimes I have a full pencil case with watercolours, ink pens, markers, smudging stumps...
Sometimes I carry a book but lately I have not much time to read unfortunately
What is the greatest design object, service, product or graphic ever made, in your opinion?
I might change my mind in 5 minutes from now but... Books! A wonderful way to keep information in one place, pleasant to hold. You can browse, go back and forth, you can mark your page, you can doodle, underline, bring it with you. I feel like any attempt to digitise books still has drawbacks compared to the 'physical' version. Of course I hope one day we will be able to make something as good as them, so we will save some trees somewhere :)
Books you highly recommend for anyone pursuing a career in design?
Creativity.inc by Ed Catmull
Mismatch by Kat Holmes
A bit technical but "Divining a digital future" By Genevieve Bell and Paul Dourish (looking at the Ubiquitous computing concept and how it played out in the real world)
ANY book by Bruno Munari are great fun
Design of Everyday things by Donald Norman
Two Designer friends you admire and we should talk to!
Matteo Oliverio works in LEGO and I believe is a great designer.
William Reynish works with me at Unity and is a great designer.
What and where did you study?
University of Southern Denmark, Denmark
Bachelor's degree, Industrial and Product Design Sapienza Università di Roma, Italy