There are great digital products out there with appealing design and slick features that bring joy to us when we’re interacting with them. We owe a lot of it to designers for making these products so intuitive and interesting. Digital design isn’t just about creating cool graphics - there’s a lot of research and analysis behind each wireframe to create a smooth user journey.
In this blog, we speak to one of our Senior Designers, Leanne, to talk about her role and what it takes to become a great designer.
Tell us about your role as a Senior Designer at Degree 53.
My day starts with project stand ups - this helps to bring the team up to speed with what we’re doing individually and ask for help where needed. Over the past few months, I’ve started being involved in presales, such as giving time estimates for potential projects to help our commercial team put together proposals and ideas for our clients’ projects.
Design work can change depending on the project, but my tasks include everything from wireframing, service blueprints, storyboarding, interaction design, interface design, animation, creating design systems, site maps, product design, email templates, user research interviews, personas, UX workshops, user testing… the list goes on! The variety of work involved is one of the reasons why I love being a designer.
How did you become a designer and where did you get your qualifications?
I started off my career as an apprentice tattoo artist in Belfast. I loved illustration but wanted to explore graphic design and the history behind it. I took part in a Foundation Art & Design course at Belfast Metropolitan which a year later led me to joining a HND course in Graphic Design & Advertising at Manchester Metropolitan. Manchester's art and design scene was eye opening. Its rich history helped influence me as a designer. From Malcolm Garrett’s famous sleeve artwork to the Science and Industry Museum, there is a wealth of inspiration and history to tap into.
During my third year, while browsing #DesignTwitter, I came across an advertisement for apprenticeships with supported learning by Hyper Island. The advertisement was pretty much a dream opportunity for any student designer: “Work as a paid apprentice and learn with one of the top design schools in the world”.
Degree 53 was the company I apprenticed with and I know a lot of the students in my group have stayed on with the companies they first joined. It was an amazing opportunity, and I’d lucked out on being in the right time and place. To put this into context, there were lots of changes happening in the tech scene in 2014. Apple had surprised developers with Swift. Google had just released Material Design and iOS7 had changed the app design landscape with a move away from Skeuomorphism and into a more flat and simple redesigned interface. This was a very exciting time.
What skills does a designer need to work in digital? How do you go about learning new software, features and skills as trends evolve?
When I first started out as a designer, universities were still very much focused on print design and there wasn’t much support around web design (my course has changed a lot since then, so kudos to the tutors for updating the syllabus!). I started off learning web design by watching YouTube videos and eventually found an online learning provider, called Treehouse, which helped me a lot by building my portfolio with websites I’d hand coded and designed. I also found Udemy to be a great, cheaper alternative to learning web design.
As a designer, the field is ever changing with new technology and tools. I love catching up on what’s new via inVision’s Chrome plugin Muzli. It’s like having a personalised magazine of your favourite websites.
I’m currently making my way through a Skillshare project for creating lettering on iPad, using Procreate. I know I got into design through my love of art and doodling and it’s always nice to flex these different muscles to keep that spark of joy alive! For anyone who got that reference, yes I’m a Marie Kondo fan!
What types of projects do you enjoy working on the most?
We work on a wide variety of projects at Degree 53, but lately, I have been enjoying the projects that involve a thorough look into interaction design. Some design tools today are still based around vector artwork. As a designer, it can make you think quite statically. I’ve found tools like Framer have really helped open my eyes again to all the possibilities available on the web and brought a bit of that experimental thinking back into my work.
How is designing for gambling different from other industries?
Designing for the gambling industry can be very complex. We have to cater to many rules and regulations that other sectors don’t have to think of other than the financial sector. As gambling is mostly related around money, you can imagine there is a lot of thought behind security. I feel working in this sector has really pushed me as a designer to not just focus on making something pretty, but create an amazing product that people enjoy and can trust.
As gambling has a wide ranging user demographic, we take accessibility very seriously to make sure everyone can have fun and take part. Part of that global reach is designing in different languages and working with clients all over the world.
What design mistakes do you see companies make and how could they solve them?
Designers love trends, it may be due to experimenting and learning from these trends, but I’ve seen cases where websites have been littered with animations and interactions. This makes me think of the saying “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should”.
How do you work with the rest of the design team?
My role has changed over the years, gradually taking on more responsibility, leading projects and supporting team members. I love being part of the team. Here, at Degree 53, I feel supported and cheered on to try new things.
What advice would you give to junior designers?
Spend as much time as you can learning the craft. If you are interested in web design or app design, it really helps that you have a basic understanding of how the code works, so you have the fundamentals necessary to design for the medium.
If you’re interested in UX design, you need to learn the above and also learn how to communicate clearly. As a UX designer, you work with many different teams and have to process a lot of information to create a product that is actionable, accessible and what your client envisions. I’d recommend writing up case studies during or after each of your projects. This helps you reflect on what went well and what didn’t go so well on the project, and builds your design language when explaining your thought process.
Tell us about your interest and hobbies.
I’ve recently started playing guitar again after a brief 10 year hiatus!
We hope this is a good overview and advice for any designers and those looking to pursue this career. If you need any further advice, you can always get in touch with us below, or take a look at our Careers section in case we have any suitable jobs for you!