What got you into the web industry?
I had gigantic battles with my High School teachers about the design bit of ‘Art & Design’, so in the end they threw me a Letraset catalogue and I was instantly hooked on type. This was back in the late 80’s, early 90’s, so I only had an Amiga and a hacky attitude to figure it all out. After school I did the usual design diploma, then studied traditional typography for a few years (lots of maths and just pencils!), before a degree in design psych.
How did you land your first job in the industry?
After studying I went back to teach typography for a while. I had taught myself really rudimentary HTML in Uni, but remember this is still the 90’s, so it was super basic but I saw the potential for it to be huge (we’re still in CD-ROM territory at this point). I interviewed for a web design role and pretty much lied about my coding skills to get the job, but back then you could brush up on HTML skills in an evening so got the job and have been faking it ever since!
Do you have any interview tips or techniques?
If I’m interviewing someone I don’t want to just see great looking visuals (I do want to see great looking visuals, don’t get me wrong this is still super important!), but more of a narrative of how you got to this conclusion. What were the stages, the research you did and how did this inform your earliest ideas. The rationale and reasoning, backed up with evidence and even mistakes are so important. Telling the story of design and being able to present your work without a ton of slides filled with bullet points is also critical. Pitches, interviews and presentations are a delicate balance of information and entertainment, so following a narrative structure that keeps you interested is important to get right.
Do you have any general advice for those trying to get into the industry?
Get as much exposure to agency processes and experience as possible. Learn the ropes, make the tea, but more importantly listen and soak up the wealth of experience that’s out there. If you’re traditionally a confident visual design, figure out how to make yourself ‘T’ shaped by developing other skills to back up your design, like understanding strategy, psychology and engineering principles. These broader skills can make you far more effective, but also allow you to take a step away from your design and be more objective.
What are some useful resources for those trying to get into the industry?
It’s a great time to be a designer, especially in Birmingham. We have designbirmingham.co as a channel for designers to talk to each other, there’s the Birmingham Design Festival which is going to be huge along with a lot of people who are genuinely interested in helping young designers get started. I spend every day reading a set of links from Wired to fromupnorth.com to even just Dribbble. Reading is good for those broader skills. I’ve recently read Psychology for Designers by Joe Leech, which is a great primer for getting into the neuro-science of design. I can also really recommend the UX books that Jeff Gothelf writes, his workshops are also super cool.
Give us a fake brief for people to use as practice
I tend to set a design challenge at interview that follows a few stages of the design process. It will start with outlining the brand challenge: British Gas & Hive are looking to engineer their IOS app to incorporate a suite of smart home devices but the overall UX needs consideration. The first stage is coming up with a list of different uses for smart home technology, so not just security or heating, what are some niche or edge cases (think elderly care or home delivery too for instance). Then the second stage is to take one of these and produce a user flow, following the key stages and interactions for a user. The third stage is to wireframe a key part of that journey, giving more detail to how it works. The final stage is to then take a critical part of the wireframed journey and produce a high-fidelity design. So the brief makes you start macro, with a range of ideas, then you funnel an idea into what an end to end experience looks like before diving in to fleshing out an important stage of it.
Big respect to Karl for taking his time to contribute to Vetode! Be sure to check his social media as well as 383
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