Managing Lead Experience Designer at DigitasLBi
Christina Goodwin is a painter turned UX Designer at DigitasLBi.
Editor’s Note: Christina’s work is all protected by NDA, so unfortunately we couldn’t directly feature any samples. Instead, we’ve used some images from her fine arts portfolio to complement her fantastic responses : )
Where do you work and what is your current title?
I’m currently a Managing Lead Experience Designer at DigitasLBi.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself & your background.
I actually majored in Painting at Boston University in 2005. I went on full scholarship and I’ve been painting (still paint!) since I was 14. I grew up in the suburbs of Boston and my dad was an art director for many years. I think watching his work and talking about the agency world as I grew up always made me curious about what it’d be like. But I stayed focused on painting for quite some time. My goal was to go to graduate school for painting, but after several years of rejections, I was tired to waiting around for life to start. I’m so glad I moved towards UX design as it’s the perfect combination of business with creative thinking.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a designer?
As a classic A type, sometimes I felt the fine art world wasn’t quite “organized” enough for me. I love painting and showing my work, but I knew I wanted something where there was more interpersonal interaction, public speaking or presentations, business, and strategy. When I moved on from Boston.com to Pearson Education, UX was a new field in the industry. There weren’t any rules yet. It dawned on me one day that there were no traditions, and I had a wonderful opportunity to be a part of a field when its foundations were only just beginning to be established.
What was your first design job? Any interesting stories about how you broke into the field?
Occasionally I had down-time at various freelance gigs, so I taught myself Flash, then HTML/CSS. I signed up for Lynda.com and every chance I got, I watched a video and used the exercise files to learn on my own. I used the task of redoing my own web site each time to make it a project I cared about. My Flash portfolio for Boston.com was basically just my own web site and a few basic animations. It was probably terrible, but Gene Yoon, an incredible guy (and still my best friend) took a chance on me and it was absolutely the opportunity I needed to get into the industry.
Please describe a normal day at your current job. What’s the workflow like? What are your primary responsibilities?
As a Lead, I start each day with checking in with my team. We discuss the previous day, and determine what MUST get done today, versus what can be tabled for tomorrow. More often than not, we’re planning for a client review later in the week where I’ll be presenting the latest round of updates to the feature we’re working on. Typically, this is all leading up to the next user test, where I’ll be working with the client on the test discussion guide, and reviewing the prototype we’ll use for the test. My only goal everyday is to ensure every team member knows exactly what to work on, has clear direction, and transparent understanding what all the work is laddering up to. I always want my team to feel included and part of something bigger, not just cogs in the machine.
Are there any memorable war stories, client interactions or close calls that have taught you something important about how things work?
The first time I was responsible for specs on a design, years ago, it was a simple responsive experience with note-taking capability. I made the mistake of making the specs for the note-taking feature at a fixed size, and it caused a world of problems with the developers. For whatever reason, the developers didn’t flag it with me right away. Instead, it was built incorrectly, and the QA process was really difficult. What I learned was #1) don’t be too proud to ask for help and ask questions (see next answer). #2) After sending anything to your prototypers, developers, etc., —whoever is building your experience— follow up with them immediately and ask if they have what they need. Ensure what you sent matches what you’ve described as your desired experience. If it doesn’t, remedy it fast, and learn from the developers how to better deliver and communicate what your ideal experience must be.
What’s a common mistake you often see entry level designers make? What are some tips to avoid or overcome it?
Don’t pretend to know something you don’t. If you’re unsure of something, ask for help. Don’t be a faker and coast on someone else’s knowledge. Ask questions and learn for yourself. I’ve seen too many people think they can fake their way through UX, and pretend to have a wealth of knowledge. It only ends badly when someone relies on them for a key part of a project, and major gaps in understanding make themselves clear at the worst time. Always ask if you don’t know, and don’t be afraid to look stupid. Better yet, check with your superiors and ask “What would you do with this project?” “Is there anything I’m missing? Or something I should read up on to be better prepared?” In a sense, you can “know what you don’t know” but you have to ask for help first.
Any industry sites or blogs you read on a regular basis, or anything else you read for inspiration?
Always checking out Feed.ly for new posts and I subscribe to the InVision blog. I like their style of writing and the variety they have in content is great. I follow UX Design.cc and Muzli on Medium, too. I really love industrial design and fine art of course, so if I’m really stuck, looking at something totally different like that clears my head to get some perspective on my work.
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?
Well, obviously I’m excited about all the great products I’m working on that are yet to be released ;). I’ve recently become a bit of an accessibility geek, and I’m always interested in new advances in tech for persons with disabilities. Crutches, wheelchairs, special glasses, etc. I’m actually very curious to pop the hood in that regard on Apple’s new Touch bar. I’m curious if there are special things about it that might be great for persons with disabilities, or perhaps there are major flaws that would be hindrances. I’m dying to find out.
What advice would you give to someone trying to break into the industry?
Experience Design is tricky, to be honest. It’s a field where you have to prove your judgement is sound and can be trusted under a range of challenges and situations. A good UX portfolio (which is all I care about – not degrees or trainings per se) has complexity, and “shows the work”, just like you had to do in math class. I want to see great solutions to hard problems, especially even problems I didn’t know existed. Anyone can do this. For a couple junior folks I mentor, I’m having them redo the UX of sites they’ve used where their experience was really terrible (think DMV or 401k management). If you’re building your portfolio, think about times when you just wanted to do something simple, and the site or tool was simply awful. I bet anyone reading this already has four or five in mind. Write down the “story” of what you were trying to accomplish, where the problems/obstacles occurred, and sketch out the better solution. This will make you passionate about the experience and problem you’re conquering. Ultimately, passion and good judgement go a LONG way with me.
What do you think is the future of your industry?
I’m really fascinated by voice-only interaction design. I’m can’t wait to see how the borders between our apps disintegrate and the daily usage of our devices focuses on the convenience of using our voices to get things done. Very soon we won’t be opening apps every few seconds, but instead simply asking for what we want. Where does this leave the UX designer? I’m not the first to say this, but it might turn our job almost into more of a psychological, writing-centric role. We’ll have to focus on how to communicate with words more than designs. It’ll be really great to see how this realm of our work evolves.