My First Year as a
Mozilla Designer

Ricardo Vazquez
Aug 14, 2015 · 4 min read

Time flies, doesn’t it? It doesn’t feel like that long ago since I wrote about my experiences after having joined Mozilla for one week. Well, it’s been one year. This year has been especially important for me, and I would love to share with you what it feels like to be a part of this organization.

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The Designers’ Pyramid at Whistler, B.C.

Growth is Exponential

One thing I’ve found here at Mozilla is that growth is non-linear. Ever since I joined Mozilla mid-last year, I began specializing on my strengths and skills. Whereas in the past I performed a blend of UI and UX, I chose to specialize in UI as I was more comfortable in this aspect of design. I am really happy with this decision. I am grateful of being given an opportunity to harness my focus in one major aspect of design. As such, my learning hasn’t felt like an minutely-increasing slope. Rather, I have felt my growth to be constantly evolving, almost exponentially. I haven’t found this anywhere but at Mozilla.

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I’ve Never Been This Open

I can’t stress this one enough. It’s incredible to work in a place where I can share everything I’m designing and creating. Before Mozilla, Design was always a closed practice for me. I wasn’t able to talk to share my excitement with someone about a new feature I was in the process of designing. Asking for the help of others was challenging because I always had to substitute names, use-cases, and even the product itself.

Nowadays it’s a much different story.

  1. Everything lives in open GitHub repositories. Anyone can join the conversation and offer feedback.
  2. I started a YouTube live stream series earlier this year where I design with everyone as my audience. This way, I can open our design practice to individuals eager to design but unsure of where to start / what design is actually comprised of. I can also demystify the design process and show that even the best designs always go through moments of hardships and challenges.
  3. I have designed things and made them open source. What a great feeling.
  4. My team and I like exploring different avenues to share our work with the world.
  5. Even my goals are in the open.
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Still from my talk at CascadiaFest

I Figured
Myself Out

In the past year, I realized that my perspective on design is emotional. After some self-analysis, I believe this perspective comes from my academic studies in Semiotics. When I was in university, I became eager in finding more about how we construct our identities as members of society. Do we follow an archetype? Do we deconstruct ourselves in order to fit in a particular community? Questions like these, albeit more philosophical in nature, have ended up guiding my approach of designing.

When I was doing my undergraduate research, I focused on the emotional impact a certain creative output yields to an individual. Music, for example, has long been regarded as achieving a deeply emotional connection to memories, experiences, and happiness. At Mozilla I’ve been able to explore just that. I seek to emotionally connect individuals with the products and features I design. Interfaces allow us to attach memories and emotions. The goal is to make them positive outcomes to fulfill happiness in UI design.

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We are set out to improve the lives of human beings

I know I said it a year ago, and even I was probably skeptical; but we really are doing it. Mozilla spends a lot of its energy in promoting web literacy. We’ve been hard at work the past year building innovative tools, supporting communities, teaching, learning, and shaping the environments in which the open web is made possible. We want everyone in the world to create, not just consume, the Web around them. This is what keeps me motivated day in and out. Improving human lives through technology allows me to feel like I’m making my part in cultivating our world.

It’s a Friday, and I just finished improving the design of our upcoming Webmaker App for Android. In one year I have worked on 9 projects. I have many to call successes, and some I call excellent learning opportunities. I have contributed to 21 open-source projects. I have been in heaven knows how many meetings, and I am still impressed at how calls are never dropped. I have chatted on 16 IRC channels. I have gotten a lot better at ping-pong, and I have taken many relaxing guitar breaks at the office.

The first year at Mozilla is a bit like a dream. It goes by fast, but if you spend a couple of minutes thinking about the past months, you look back and realize you’ve done so much. You have pushed yourself forward, you have found new avenues to reach more people, and you’ve done good with your code; all in true Mozilla fashion.

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