Jesus Valenzuela is an innovative freelance designer based out of California. A recent college grad, Jesus is already doing work far beyond his age and experience.
Where do you work and what is your current title?
I’m currently freelancing but I’m currently in the process of getting into the Northern California tech industry.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself & your background.
I just earned my BFA in Web Design and New Media from Academy of Art University and I was awarded best in class. I brand myself as a UX/UI designer but I’m a really a jack of all trades in the visual design world. I design, I code, I do motion graphics, I’m the make it happen captain.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a designer?
I always kind of knew I wanted to work in some sort of creative industry since I was a kid but it was difficult for me to settle on a specific one since I’ve always had so many interests. I started going in the designer direction in high school because the only thing that could fully engage me was making things in photoshop and nerding out on myspace and message board layouts. When it was time for me to pick out a program in university, it was between graphic design, new media design, fashion design, and automotive/industrial design. The regular graphic design was too print based and I wasn’t too interested in that, my sister had already beat me to becoming a fashion designer, and industrial design seemed like it would be complicated to find a job when school was over so I went with new media. I also thought I was a little hacker when I was in high school so new media design seemed more natural since it’s a STEM degree even though I went to an art school.
What was your first design job? Any interesting stories about how you broke into the field?
Up until now, it’s mostly been freelancing but I do remember the first thing I was paid for was to do some photoshop layout back in like 2007. I was so scared because I felt like I didn’t know what I was doing, but looking back, I did.
Are there any memorable war stories, client interactions or close calls that have taught you something important about how things work?
I did this project that was sponsored by Nissan where we had to come up with concepts for a future car in a team with industrial designers. The thing that I took away from that is, I needed to become confident with my work and I needed to speak up when I had ideas because everyone is really out for themselves. I’m not saying that in a bleak, the world is all doom and gloom manner where everyone is going to backstab you. You will still make friends and have a good time, just be aware that every designer has an ego and they’re all hustling. I had to be confident with my ideas and make my voice heard because if I didn’t, it was going to effect the end product. The group wasn’t thinking of what the end user wanted or needed, they were thinking of themselves.
Another thing I want to throw out there is, unless someone is paying you or you’re doing something open sourced, NEVER give some other designer your files. Having your ideas stolen can feel good because you’ve become a source of ideas but after a while it becomes discouraging.
What’s a common mistake you often see entry level designers make? What are some tips to avoid or overcome it?
Using premade mockups. It’s fine for really quick mockups here and there but if you’re going to be putting stuff in your portfolio, take the time to make something yourself in photoshop. You don’t want your stuff to look like someone elses. Another thing that you should avoid is using your initials for your own personal branding. It makes your branding abilities look weak.
Any industry sites or blogs you read on a regular basis, or anything else you read for inspiration?
I can talk about this for hours but I’ll keep it short. Behance has a lot of good, solid inspo so I usually go there if I’m having trouble figuring out a layout and I need to get the juices flowing. I also have a huge folder on my computer where I horde the new or old styles that I think are going to be big that might come in the form of fashion, photography, graphic design, cover art, internet art, it all helps to develop a feel that I’m trying to establish. One form of inspo gathering that I found to be really helpful is it go out and buy a fashion magazine, print out some stuff you’re feeling and just tape it all over a wall that you’re going to be working by. Fill it the fuck up! I used to go to Dribbble for a while but my work started to look like everyone else so fuck that. I also used to visit Awwwards a lot but I was recently featured on it and now I’m meh about it. This next bit is going to be weird and unhealthy but bare with me sometimes I like to stay up till 3am listening to new Spotify playlists while laying in bed with the light on. I’ve gotten so many good ideas that way because it kind of forces me into a new mood and the inhibitions are gone from my brain being tired. I’ve also done that at the gym but it can be hit or miss.
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?
My world has been saturated with the advancements of autonomous cars so I really can’t wait until that is here. I’m also really excited about what is going to come out of the world of biohacking. I think there will be a time in the near future where human biology gets thrown into the mix and you have teams that incorporate all of STEM and what we see as product design. It will be a blur of different talents coming togeather.
What advice would you give to someone trying to break into the industry?
A solid portfolio will get the attention of the big names but the resume keeps the conversation going. Intern or just get some entries in your resume that show you’ve done some work. Project managers and recruiters don’t like to gamble with new talent which is frustrating.
What do you think is the future of your industry?
I think the medical world will be a big one. A lot of the information in medicine is still raw and hard to digest all at once. There’s a lot of opportunities to make communication better between doctors, their clients, and the tools they use. Going back to the autonomous car, there will be a huge demand for strong UX and UI in cars because cars are really the ultimate gadget of them all. The switch between flip phones to iPhones and Androids will be nothing compared to what will need to change in the near future when autonomous cars expand to the full mainstream.
You can see Jesus' unique work at his portfolio, here.