James Perakis is a graduate of the Viridian Cohort. Prior to joining Designation he worked in design for an engineering and design consulting firm in New York.
Where do you work, and what’s your job title?
I’m a UX Designer at LearnVest.
Tell us briefly about your job.
We’re a financial technology company best known for our suite of digital tools that improve access to financial planning services. Our products make it easier for people to get financial advice and take control of their personal finances. We have a highly integrated design team composed of UX and visual designers, copywriters, and design researchers, and we work closely with product managers and the engineering team throughout the entire product lifecycle. Right now, there are about 30 people in design, and we’re spread across multiple projects.
What did you do professionally before you started at Designation?
My background is in architecture and urban planning, and before Designation I was an environmental designer at Atelier Ten, an engineering and design consulting firm in New York.
How did you hear about Designation? And why did you decide to attend?
I think I first heard about Designation on a Quora thread about UX. At the time I was trying to learn more about digital design and figure out how to make that a bigger part of my career. I was looking specifically for ways to get experience on real projects in a more professional setting, and Designation was one of the few programs that offered that opportunity.
What was your favorite part of the Designation experience?
Getting to know the design scene in Chicago. I’ve been on the east coast my entire life, and it was great to experience Chicago’s unique culture of design and innovation. There are so many awesome things happening there, and Designation felt like the center of the action. 1871 is such a hub for innovation, and an amazing place to meet other enthusiastic designers, engineers, and entrepreneurs.
What did you find was the most useful skill, tool, or experience from your time in the program?
By far the most valuable experience was interacting with people who came from different professional and academic backgrounds. I think the best designs come from connecting ideas across disciplines and Designation, more than anything else, helped foster those connections. Architecture was an industry that felt a little cloistered at times, so being able to work with people who have different approaches to solving problems was extremely helpful in terms of my own evolution as a designer.
How did Designation help prepare you for your job?
Designation does an awesome job of reinforcing a rigorous design process, which can help make even the biggest design challenges seem a little less daunting. I had some design experience coming into Designation, but was more or less completely new to the digital world. That process really helped build confidence in my ability to take on a new role as a UX designer. I also can’t say enough about my cohort – everybody brought such a unique perspective and I think that ultimately helped strengthen my own unique voice as a designer.
Designation does an awesome job of reinforcing a rigorous design process, which can help make even the biggest design challenges seem a little less daunting.
How did you stand out from the competition in applying for, interviewing for, or getting this job?
Having a portfolio of client work, as opposed to merely academic projects, was invaluable during the interview process. I was able to speak directly to business and design constraints for each project, which isn’t something that comes through in more academic portfolios. The Designation alumni community is also incredibly active and everyone is eager to help make connections in the industry. I actually found my current job through another Designation alum.
What advice can you give to someone trying to start in the design industry?
Be patient and enjoy the ride. Your interests might shift over time, so don’t be afraid to pivot and try something new.