Mariusz Cieśla, Co-Founder and Lead Designer at Lifetramp
Where do you work and what is your current title?
I’m currently a co-founder and lead designer at Lifetramp. Aside from that, I do all sorts of design work to pay the bills until we either to decide to raise a proper round for Lifetramp or the revenue starts paying enough for me to get a proper salary.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself & your background.
I started out as a web designer in high school, worked mostly for family businesses and Counter-Strike teams, because everyone was going into the newly founded eSports scene and needed to look more professional. After that I worked for a couple of studios, agencies, product teams and as a freelancer.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a designer?
I always liked doing something with computers. Since my Dad is a total geek, I got my first computer when I was 2, I think. It was a ZX Spectrum (1986, you know) and I loved it to bits. I learned some programming and generally looked deep into what this computer thing can do. Later, when I was already on a PC I was quite active on the demoscene: doing graphics and ASCII/ANSI art and having a ton of fun doing it, so I decided to go in this direction.
What was your first design job? Any interesting stories about how you broke into the field?
Please describe a normal day at your current job. What’s the workflow like? What are your primary responsibilities?
I’m really forcing myself to create habits and rhythm, because before that it’s always been a bit hectic. Since the new year started I tend to wake up around 7am, meditate for 10-20 minutes, look through things to be done (I usually plan those the day before), set up my MIT (Most Important Task) for the day, do all the important work until lunch time, usually take a break then, because I’m useless between about 2-4pm and go back to work after 4pm and work until I feel I’m done with everything that I planned.
Are there any memorable war stories, client interactions or close calls that have taught you something important about how things work?
I vividly remember every screw up I did — over-promising and under-delivering, not delivering on time, not remembering about a meeting etc. The idea is to remember it happened, learn from it and move on.
What’s a common mistake you often see entry level designers make? What are some tips to avoid or overcome it?
Jumping into “actual work” way too early. Young designers are often way more focused on pixels, instead of users, process, craft, and why they even build those things. Too much “how”, not enough “why”. When you focus on the “how”, you can quickly become what I call “a design screwdriver” — people will basically use you as a tool to implement their ideas because they quickly catch the fact that you’re not questioning what they ask you to do.
Any industry sites or blogs you read on a regular basis, or anything else you read for inspiration?
I don’t read that much, because I can’t do it while commuting or walking. I usually listen to audiobooks and podcasts, mostly not about tech or design. My favorites right now are mostly focused on neuroscience, cognitive science and generally how the brain works. If this is your cup of tea, I can highly recommend All In The Mind and Hidden Brain.
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’ve been in business long enough to see trends come and go, but I’m really interested in where augmented reality will be heading — especially with professional applications, like medicine or construction. The whole “zero UI” movement, with user interface being driven by data, voice, proximity etc. instead of screens is very interesting as well.
What advice would you give to someone trying to break into the industry?
Find your rhythm, try all the things and find what works for you, don’t rush it and question everything, including — and especially — yourself.
What do you think is the future of your industry?
After years, we finally got our seat at the table as designers. Now we have to prove we are worth it. I still see designers roll their eyes when I talk about business things and I feel like you can’t become a good designer if you don’t understand how the business you’re designing for works.