Jenna Passmore is a graduate of the Quartz Cohort. Prior to joining DESIGNATION she was an experience designer for live events in NYC.
Where do you work, and what’s your job title?
I’m a Product Designer at Canary in New York.
Tell us briefly about your company.
Canary makes products that provide a new approach to home security. They want to make the world a safer place by giving people the information they need to make smart decisions when something is wrong, and helping them feel connected when everything is right. To accomplish those goals, Canary built a team of experts in the fields of product design, engineering, computer vision, machine learning, marketing, customer experience, and more. I’m so lucky to call myself a member of the team!
Tell us briefly about your job.
The product design team is responsible for all digital properties of Canary, including its mobile apps, website, and email. As a member of the product design team, I drive an end-to-end process for the projects I work on—from framing a problem we’re out to solve and developing strategy, to UX and functional design, to communication and visual design, through delivery and QA.
On any given day, I prototype a new feature the team is exploring, facilitate user testing, work with brand and industrial designers to think through the full customer journey, and work with engineering and QA to ship experiences for our users to enjoy.
What did you do professionally before you started at DESIGNATION?
I was an experience designer for live events and based in NYC. I worked at agencies like Proscenium and Freeman XP with a team of creative directors and producers to design every aspect of the attendee journey. This included visual and motion graphics, the venue experience, and set design. I got to work with Fortune 500 companies in a variety of industries, like Google, Walmart, Exxon Mobil, Harley-Davidson, TD Ameritrade, and Heineken.
How did you hear about DESIGNATION? And why did you decide to attend?
There were many conversations in the live events industry about how the digital experience could complement an attendee’s event experience. And I wanted to contribute to those conversations. I wondered as a designer, “How can I use design to truly connect with people, even with digital components?” I needed a more holistic approach to my design process, and I realized getting training in UX was the key. I found an article on the DESIGNATION blog about full stack design, and it was exactly what I looked for; I could learn UX skills while also flexing my visual design and UI muscles.
How would you describe your DESIGNATION experience?
Totally necessary and absolutely life-changing. I went to Chicago with a vague idea of what I wanted next as a designer. In the process of participating in the program, I got who I actually AM as a designer. I learned how to really connect with the users for whom I was designing and to design empathetically. That’s not something that DESIGNATION handed to me. It’s something that was always there, and putting in the work during the program for a few months gave me the time and space to actually uncover it for myself.
What are the people at DESIGNATION like?
The staff and instructors at DESIGNATION are an invaluable resource. They all bring their special flavor of support into the program, and I could really tell they cared about my success. The most important people in my program, though, were the other designers in my cohort. We had people from a variety of work backgrounds, ages, and interests. Without their diverse backgrounds and opinions, I would not have gotten as much out of the program as I did. Learning to work on a team and facilitate conversations is the most important skill I learned in my time at DESIGNATION. Everyone at DESIGNATION is taking a risk and a bold step in their career, and it’s a real bonding experience that sticks around after the program is over.
How did DESIGNATION help prepare you for your job?
The amount of support we had during the Career Phase was stellar. Yes, the projects and client work I got to do were very rewarding and totally the heart of the program…and that work wouldn’t have seen the light of day without the work and polish we did during the Career Phase. How many articles have you read on writing the perfect cover letter or “10 quick tips to have people want to look at your portfolio”? How much has it actually helped you feel more confident as you go into an interview? As a result of the work we did during the Career Phase, I got clarity on some of the things I wanted next in my design career. I learned I could actually design my design career and be really intentional about what would best serve my goals as a designer. The amount of personalized attention and information I got for my specific job search needs during my time at DESIGNATION was imperative to me finding the job I wanted.
How did you stand out from the competition in applying for, interviewing for, or getting this job?
Any designer can have a portfolio, but it takes someone special to be able to effectively communicate in their portfolio case studies. Like…seriously. I had multiple job offers, and every single one mentioned my communication skills were a key part of my getting an offer. Being able to communicate not only about the projects I did, but also who I am as a designer was essential to having a successful interview. You can only be comfortable with who you are as a designer if you’re comfortable communicating the past work you’ve done AND how it relates to your future goals as a designer. Otherwise you’re just faking it and the rest of what you’re saying is just fluff. You can say about half as much with twice the intentionality and get better results.
“Any designer can have a portfolio, but it takes someone special to be able to effectively communicate in their portfolio case studies.”
What advice can you give to someone trying to start in the design industry?
Get used to always learning, and embrace that feeling of being uncomfortable. It’s a sign that you’re actually growing as a designer. Surround yourself with other designers who are smarter than you. Most importantly: ALWAYS be curiously engaged about how to be the best communicator you can be. Bad design is a result of bad conversations, after all.
Design doesn’t happen in a vacuum, no matter how much you might want it to. There will always be a client, stakeholder, or team member with whom you need to communicate. You can’t learn those soft skills online. So, save yourself some time and go to DESIGNATION. If you do the work, listen to the instructors, trust your team members, and trust yourself (the self who convinced you to sign up for the program, not the one mid-project panicking about a deadline), you will get a really solid understanding of the design process. You will also establish a firm foundation about learning how to learn, which will stay with you for your entire design career if you keep practicing it. Now go forth and make things!