Chris Bannister, Designer at InVisionApp
Where do you work and what is your current title?
I’m the design lead for Projects and Spaces at InVisionApp.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself & your background.
I design products, I can’t imagine it being any other way, but when I got into design it was through the love of creating something tangible, something to feel and to hold in my hands. My speciality was in publications, but my focus changed with the launch of the first iPad. I bought one on release for no reason but to experiment with the transference of physical to digital (it was predicted to be a big deal at that time). Designing the reader’s flow in comparison to engaging through aesthetics on a linear page — for me — introduced the possibilities of taking control of an experience, and my obsession with UX began.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a designer?
I was 18, studying music and in need of CD covers, posters, all that jazz. My brother in law is a designer so he gave me a few pointers to get started. I loved experimenting with ideas, however terrible they were at that stage — it felt natural. I became addicted, ditched the music and never looked back.
What was your first design job? Any interesting stories about how you broke into the field?
My first job was at a marketing agency; there’s two milestones of how I broke in. The first with getting in the door and it was rather surreal at the time. In my interview I was sat with the Director and a couple of the lead designers, there was general conversation around the role and then came a slight moment of silence before; “We asked you in because we weren’t quite sure whether you made this stuff or you stole it”. I showed them the files and they hired me. I was young, I took it as a compliment.
The second; earning their trust. I was hungry and dying to prove myself but I was rough around the edges… Very rough. Everyone took to me straight away for these reasons, but I was still a kid trying to get as much responsibility as I could get — more than I could handle — in an agency that was dealing with the biggest brands in the world. Then, half a chance presented itself. The senior members on the team where working on a huge pitch for Coke, it was an extremely large scope but, most importantly to me, they needed an app. The company wasn’t a specialist in digital; it was mainly print, branding and ad campaigns. There wasn’t anyone with advanced experience in app design, so I stayed late, stole the files, worked on the UX and hacked together a working prototype (Remember a time before InVision? It sucked). They nailed the pitch and it was probably the moment my career trajectory changed.
Please describe a normal day at your current job. What’s the workflow like? What are your primary responsibilities?
InVision has a completely distributed team so being in London — along with the large percentage of our product designers — has allowed us to foster an extremely productive structure. I wake up at 8 and ease into the day with a couple of coffees, some news, puppy gif’s to really wake me up, and prioritise all that needs to be done for the day. I’ll then spend a short time with experimentation, directly or indirectly related to the projects i’m working through. It’s to get the brain going, causing me to directly focus on the creation, it makes me more effective on tackling the substantial problems through the day. Plus, something useful usually comes from it that may work it’s way into the product, somewhere, at some point.
I get in 4 or 5 hours of uninterrupted, focused work before our Product Design standup. We’ll communicate on slack through the morning but the standup is where we focus on bigger picture, collaborate and go over events of the last 24 hours. The US comes online roughly around this time, we’ll catch up on our engineering stand up and core product team stand up. The rest of the day is iterating and developing on our findings.
Are there any memorable war stories, client interactions or close calls that have taught you something important about how things work?
A while back I was at a company and the early days were great; I learned a lot, the people were good and it was interesting. I soon lost the passion for what we were doing, I lost trust in why we were making what we were, and when it came down to it I fundamentally didn’t believe in the work. It was tough, but it turned out to be a great lesson. Since then I’ve worked on nothing but things I believe in, work that brings value to people lives — that purpose and belief genuinely took me to another level as a designer over night.
What’s a common mistake you often see entry level designers make? What are some tips to avoid or overcome it?
A common mistake I see, and I was guilty of this starting out, is a fear of showing your work and getting feedback before you believe it’s “Ready”. One of the most important things is getting feedback as soon as possible, because getting a fresh perspective provides a more defined direction for the problems you’re trying to solve.
This ties into another problem; getting an idea out into the world as soon as possible, it doesn’t need to be polished or anything, just get something into peoples hands and see how they take to it, then get back to the drawing board.
Any industry sites or blogs you read on a regular basis, or anything else you read for inspiration?
Muzli’s great, it consolidates articles and inspiration into one place so it’s a lot more effective than going to your favourite sources individually. Outside of that I follow interesting people on twitter that lead to good articles, and medium is good for interesting reads.
There’s something new and amazing coming out every day. What’s something awesome you’ve seen recently that you’re dying to share, or something you’re excited about?
I was at a conference in Edinburgh earlier this year and got talking to Nick Finck, Founder of UX for Change. It brings mentor and mentee together to design for good causes, not only helping a foundation get work they’d otherwise not be able to afford, but also giving young designers the opportunity to gain valuable, real world design experience under expert guidance.
What advice would you give to someone trying to break into the industry?
Find your passion; design by it’s very nature is an empathetic endeavour. You’ll naturally work harder to make a difference, you’ll learn more and you’ll endear yourself to people, make a difference, become a better designer and a much happier person for it.
What do you think is the future of your industry?
That’s a tough one, saying Virtual Reality is a bit of a cop — it’s so obvious — but looking at some experiments suggests that interesting, real world solutions, outside the world of entertainment could be closer than expected. For example, Virtual Reality has long been used for Cognitive behavioral therapy, to treat PTSD, anxiety disorders, phobias, stress and countless other mental health issues. But, VR is expensive and the technology has had a long way to go. Now, the technology is becoming more accessible; it’ll be exciting to see how the results of clinical trials and research change the way doctors treat mental health patients, and a patient’s ability to receive that treatment. I digress from the question, but any future that opens possibilities to change and save the lives of more people is pretty amazing.