A Product Designer Who Sees Through the Code. Meet Joanna
Joanna successfully redesigned her career from IT Administrator to Junior Product Designer. After landing her dream job, she has been determined to create software products that combine clients’ expectations and high-quality design standards. Check out Joanna’s inspirations, sources of knowledge, and ways to cooperate with software developers.
While I was at college studying Informatics and Econometrics I realized that programming wasn’t my thing. At the same time, I enjoyed classes about UX. I wrote my bachelor's thesis about UX. It was a quite practical thesis because I redesigned the University of Gdańsk department website.
Then I went to post-graduation studies in UX Design/Product Design. At that time I worked as an Information Security Administration Specialist dreaming of a career in product design. Eventually, I got my first product designer job at Bright Inventions.
Joanna described her incredible career journey from IT Administrator to Junior Product Designer in another blog post. Read her career transformation story!
Great! Although I was shocked, when I was informed, before the interview, that it would take 2 hours. I thought, "What could we discuss for such a long time?". In the end, it went well because it was just a friendly, open conversation. It wasn't a typical round of questions.
Don't give up. You will probably receive lots of rejections. It will be frustrating, but you have to get through that phase. You have to keep pushing, keep developing your portfolio, and redesign the apps you think could work better. Naturally, you have to stay updated with trends by attending design conferences, workshops, webinars, and so on.
You know how it goes – as soon as you follow some profiles, your feed is quickly full of news, trends, and inspirations in that regard. I also sign up for various UX courses and try to regularly obtain certificates.
Books can't be overrated as well. I can recommend books such as:
- The Design of Everyday Things by Donald Arthur Norman
- Don't Make Me Think by Steve Krug
- User Experience Team of One by Leah Buley
- 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know about People by Susan Weinschenk
- Grid Systems in Graphic Design by Josef Müller-Brockmann
- GIVING A DAMN ABOUT ACCESSIBILITY by Sheri BYRNE-Haber
- Build Better Products: A Modern Approach to Building Successful User-Centered Products by Laura Klein
- Polish: Badania jako podstawa projektowania user experience by Iga Mościchowska, Barbara Rogoś-Turek
It's Figma, for sure! In my view, Adobe has slightly stopped developing as a product. Figma has surpassed its competitors because they truly focus on implementing user feedback. Also, Figma has a great community that enriches this product.
I think as well that Figma makes it easier to collaborate with developers. However, in my opinion, Figma is more oriented toward UI design and product design. Adobe Apps are in fact better for graphic designers, who make animations and more artistic stuff. So everyone can find something for themselves.
In terms of product development, I haven't seen any major issues. Obviously, I can see the commercialization and rising prices of Figma. However, every business wants to earn money. I guess that sooner or later Figma had to transform into a more expensive tool.
I have a strong sentiment toward Roc Grotesk because I used it to design products with my friends, and it became our brand's cool font. I also appreciate Inter which is Figma’s default font. On my top list, I would include Space Grotesk (although it is a little technical) and Acumin Pro.
The fact that I mostly design products for users who are in a hurry. Therefore, I have to find a way to display as much information on a screen as possible in the best way. Information layout is definitely a challenge in this regard.
I would say that being assertive is also a personal challenge for me sometimes. I am still learning how to find the balance between meeting clients' and developers' expectations and adhering to design standards. I don't want to simply say “no” to the client's ideas or developers' needs. Yet at the same time, I feel that it is my duty to ensure we deliver a high-quality designed product.
What does your work on prototypes for clients look like? Can you guide us through your typical prototype design process?
Everything starts with research. This includes user research, business domain research, benchmarking, and so on. With the help of a project manager, we also establish all of the client's requirements.
After the research, I do sketches. Based on them I create low-fidelity or high-fidelity wireframes, depending on the time constraints we have. Let's face it, working at a software development agency means time is often working against us. 🙂 Finally, mockups originate from wireframes.
The moment when I have the mockups ready is pivotal in designer-client communication. Before this, we might have thought that we were on the same page through discussions, but the mockups finally reveal my intentions as a designer and whether they match the client's expectations.
When everyone is on the same page, I design prototypes with all the screens for every flow. I have to design and describe them well enough so that developers can understand the design of the entire system and start to implement it.
What are the biggest differences between your perception of this career and the daily reality of it?
Before starting the job, I had the impression that I would create the design, and then developers would implement it. However, while working in an Agile methodology, I discovered that sometimes during the same sprint, I need to do the design while developers simultaneously build features.
This presents another challenge because in order to achieve a successful implementation I have to communicate effectively with developers. There is no time for misunderstandings.
It's been going pretty great because we quickly give each other feedback, and communicate fast, and openly. I also appreciate the fact that even though we have different teams working for various clients at Bright Inventions, there is communication between the teams.
Many times, when I faced some challenges, it turned out that another team had experienced similar struggles. They have helped me resolve those issues based on their experience. I really enjoy the culture of knowledge sharing at Bright Inventions.
I also feel grateful because from the first day at Bright Inventions I was treated with respect even though it was my first product designer job. I was surprised that from the beginning people asked me about my opinion and expected my expertise. I was also happy that I could instantly implement all the new techniques and best practices that I learned at college.
The primary aspect is context. When communicating with a team member (and vice-versa), it's important not to simply state a request like "I need you to do it quickly because I say so". You need to provide the reasons behind your request and explain why you need their help.
Additionally, open communication plays a significant role in effective collaboration. Simply say what you mean, don’t make others assume your intentions because that will lead to miscommunications.
Another crucial factor in communication is empathy. It is essential to always try to understand the other person's perspective and take it into consideration.
They showed me that the key is to look at the design through the lens of the system we want to build. As a designer, I may start with an artistic and chaotic sketch. Yet thanks to developers and PMs I understand that it needs to pivot quickly into something organized.
Nowadays, the gap between code and design is getting smaller, but it is still there. As a product designer, I create a design that needs to be well-interpreted by developers, so order is crucial.
I have to also look through the code. The fact that I studied Informatics and Econometrics helps me a lot. I grasp that fonts and colors need to be presented as tokens. These, however, are part of the components that need to be reusable.
I also understand that sometimes a seemingly simple idea, like moving a button, may not be as easy as one might think and can even affect the backend.
I’d love to have a chance to design something that would let me express myself artistically.
In terms of industries, I would love to design something related to fashion. I don’t mean ecommerce though. I am thinking about a website for a fashion house. I wouldn’t say no to designing websites or apps for music festivals like Open'er Festival. That would give me a chance to create animations and implement some design tricks that wouldn’t be suitable for many other industries.
I’ve just finished a couple of product design courses and now I need to relax for some time. I do yoga, stretching, and travel a lot. Recently I visited Barcelona and New York. I like to create graphic designs. A graphics tablet helps me with digital illustrations.
You can check out my doodles on my Instagram @csznsk.
Apart from that, I enjoy attending exhibition openings, or just exhibitions in general. I like music and going to concerts or music festivals. Just recently, I went to Beyonce concert and Harry Styles' concert. Both were unforgettable experiences.
I'm a big fan of analog photography, so I have a camera everywhere I go with me.