Interview with Joshua Robinson, Designation Alum and UI Designer at Centro

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Joshua Robinson is an alum of the Diamond Cohort. The founder of Forma Collective, a quarterly design, culture and lifestyle magazine, Joshua joined Designation with the dream of turning his interest and experience in design into a full-fledged career.


Where are you now working, and what is your job title?
I work at Centro as a UI designer.

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Tell us a little bit about your new job!
Centro aims to improve the lives of people in the media industry by building media management software to help people reach their business goals better, faster and more frequently.

My role in that process is working with researchers and a UX team to design new features for our software. We work Agile in two week sprints, so it’s fast, but we have talented product managers and developers that make this kind of work really fun. I’ll admit, it’s a complicated industry to design for. We are designing an entirely new workflow for people who are used to a very inefficient process for managing media and ad campaigns. It definitely involves lots of data and testing. We just hired a guy who used to design helicopter cockpits for the military. So that’s interesting.

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What was the most interesting or useful thing you learned during the cohort?
By far, the most useful thing I learned was the importance of learning from failure. Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” It’s a little like that. Failure encourages growth in ways that success does not. I remember walking out of one client presentation thinking, “I will never do it that way again!”

But I learned more about presenting design from that terrible presentation than if it had gone really well. At Designation, all of your ideas are challenged (which is a good thing) because most of your ideas are terrible. Successful problem solving is all about weeding through the 10,000 ways that won’t work. But maybe the next time it’s only 5,000, and then the next time…

“The most useful thing I learned was the importance of learning from failure. Failure encourages growth in ways that success does not.”

What are the people at Designation like (including staff, instructor and fellow students)?
Committed. There are high expectations of what is possible at Designation. You are there to learn and instructors are there to teach. The instructors take great pride in making sure you “get it.” You’re encouraged to work hard from day one, but the work often feels more like play because you have to loosen up to get creative. It’s the paradox of taking it so seriously that you don’t take it serious.

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What were you doing before you came to Designation?
Many things: sales, publishing a magazine, playing accordion in a band, writing and reading…

How did you hear about Designation, and why did you decide to come?
A close friend studied to become a Ruby on Rails developer though another bootcamp and he landed an incredible job, at Centro in fact. I wanted to learn good coding practice, but I’m a highly visual person and I’m fascinated by the psychology behind both product and service design. And Designation had earned a reputation for marrying front-end, UI and UX.

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How did Designation help prepare you for your new role?
Even though I was applying for a UI position, it was a tremendous boon to be knowledgable about everything from UX to jQuery. The best employers are looking for candidates who showcase a broad range of interests and knowledge. Designation does a great job of pointing you to further resources if you want to deep-dive into certain areas. Hint: O’Reilly everything.

“Even though I was applying for a UI position, it was a tremendous boon to be knowledgable about everything from UX to jQuery.”

At Designation you have the opportunity to talk about your work every day. That’s incredibly helpful when you begin to interview. If you are new to the industry, then seize that opportunity, because great design doesn’t sell itself. No one stares at a projector, speechless, at the glory of your designs while you sit back and feel warm inside. You learn to talk about your decisions, intelligently, but also how to be gracious and helpful to others when you are called on to give feedback. That’s a maturity that can’t be faked during a project presentation for an interview.

What was your favorite part of the Designation experience?
The sense of pride you feel when someone from your cohort lands a great job; you’re all rooting for one another, especially as you work on your portfolio. You become a member of a family that will advocate for you in the industry. And that is well worth the price of admission to Designation.

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What advice would you give to someone who was trying to break into the industry?
Be fascinated by everything. Fascination feeds the lust for knowledge. We’re in a time when the preeminence of design is unchallenged; and it’s here to stay. So don’t limit yourself. Healthcare, finance, non-profits, the internet-of-things, politics, wearable tech, data science, robotics, deep machine learning…whatever industry you happen to be interested in, it needs good designers. Last, if you want to be a great UI designer, start by reading everything by Edward Tufte. And learn to code; it pays off in dividends. And read everything design-related by O’Reilly. Seriously, so good. Okay, I’m done.

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