Laura Grey Humphrey is a graduate of the Obsidian Cohort. Prior to joining DESIGNATION she was a packaging engineer.
Where do you work, and what’s your job title?
I’m Senior User Experience Designer in the Design and Marketing Group at Impact Networking in Chicago.
Tell us briefly about your company. What do they specialize in? What does your team look like?
My company specializes in branding, web design, marketing strategy, and digitally streamlining workflows, essentially offering a full service to clients from the inside out. We give them a fresh face, targeted messaging and PR services, and a digitally-optimized day-to-day experience in their workplace.
Tell us briefly about your job.
I lead UX research and design within a cross-functional team—a content developer, two marketing strategists, two UI designers and two developers. Interacting directly with clients, I work on various projects simultaneously from kickoff through wireframe refinement, and hold collaborative face-to-face client meetings during key points in a project.
What did you do professionally before you started at DESIGNATION?
I was a packaging engineer before DESIGNATION. It’s the engineer’s job to find the sweet spot between functionality and structural design to create a package that will protect, contain, function, and appeal to a target audience. I’ve worked for Kraft Foods (now Kraft Heinz) and Solo Cup Company, and have lead packaging projects with General Mills, Sara Lee and The Sonoco Institute. I lived in Chicago and, prior to that, South Carolina.
How did you hear about DESIGNATION? And why did you decide to attend?
I was intrigued by the thought of diving further into design after packaging. And I wanted a culture change in my daily work environment. I began exploring the startup community in Chicago and stumbled on an article about DESIGNATION on Built in Chicago. The fast-paced and hands-on learning environment, in conjunction with client, group, and individual work led by talented and experienced designers, sounded like the perfect formula for effective learning, successful career transition, and a unique life experience. And it was.
What made your DESIGNATION experience unique?
My cohort ended up being filled with really amazing, outgoing, supportive people, many of which I’m still closely connected with and I think I will be for life. During the virtual and in-person phases, having that uplifting and supportive network made all the difference.
What was your favorite part of the DESIGNATION experience?
The whole thing. Going through DESIGNATION was one of the most unique experiences I’ve ever had. It pushed me to my limits personally, professionally, and technically. It threw me in situations I wasn’t always prepared for, but taught me how to push through that. It taught me through doing, not hand-holding. And because of all of that, I became a better person, a more prepared professional, and connected to the design community and my cohort. I learned what I was made of in many ways.
What did you find was the most useful skill, tool, or experience from your time in the program?
Aside from technical and process learnings I now directly utilize in my daily job, I’d say learning to dive into tackling a challenge no matter what and then improving through iteration and critique.
How did DESIGNATION help prepare you for your job?
DESIGNATION goes beyond sitting in a class. I quickly jumped into practicing what I learned and then gained real client experience with mentoring along the way. By the time I began a role within a company, I wasn’t starting fresh with learning how the process might go during a real life project; I was practicing what I knew and adapting to how my company works in the process. I was able to contribute immediately with client interactions, improvement proposals, insights on how UX should be run within our department, effective wireframes, and the ability to collaborate properly with my team. Of course I’m still learning all the time. The key was making sure I’m always learning, learning on mentors, and utilizing the network I built.
“It’s amazing what a strong network and support system can do for you personally and professionally in the design world.”
What advice can you give to someone trying to start in the design industry?
Jump in! A program like DESIGNATION helps with the transition. You get information on current practices and client work for your résumé from the start. Also get as involved as possible in the design community in your city. It’s amazing what a strong network and support system can do for you personally and professionally in the design world.