My Journey into Product Design
I recently moved from Mexico to New York to join Managed by Q as a product designer. Prior to joining Q, I worked as a freelance designer for several years. This varying experience enabled me to adopt a new perspective on design, by understanding the limitations of valuing aesthetics over problem-solving when working on digital products.
I first became interested in design when I was a senior in business school. I was part of an accelerator program where I co-founded a company and designed my first logo. That project led me to enroll in an elective media design class during my last semester in college, where my professor became my first design mentor. Her course and guidance gave me the confidence to pursue a career in design.
After graduation, freelancing and entrepreneurship became the primary ways I learned about design. My curiosity and hunger to learn led me across the US and Mexico, where I participated in a wide variety of design projects. Through this work I built a diverse design skill-set, which ranged from graphic design and animation to web design and development. While I was focused on learning and expanding my design skills, I never paused to question my purpose as a designer.
I believed my mission as a designer was to make things ‘beautiful’ (where I defined what ‘beautiful’ was). This approach worked well for graphic design and animation projects, but as I started working on my first web projects, I began to experience it’s limitations. As I designed and developed websites for businesses I faced continuous visual pushback from my clients. I (secretly) blamed this difference in opinions on my client’s ‘lack of taste,’ and I always left those meetings stressed and frustrated. As I faced similar feedback and continued frustration in future projects, I began to investigate the root of my stress.
Designing for Solutions
Through podcasts like Design Details, design events like Epicurrence, and tech company design blogs, I learned the best product designers see digital design as a collaborative problem-solving process. This helped me realize my aesthetic-focused design purpose was limiting my ability to understand the problems my clients faced — and were trying to solve. My frustrations were a consequence of prioritizing visuals — not my clients’ lack of taste.
This realization changed how I approached client projects going forward. I began to leverage my business education to understand my clients’ business problems, which helped define project goals and expectations. While clients continued to pushback on designs during critiques, I used their feedback to influence the next iterations of my design and better explain how it addressed the problem we set out to solve. This collaborative process helped me realize great product design is not the result of an individual designer, but rather, of the close collaboration of a multidisciplinary team, which includes design.
Designing as a Team
Since joining Q, I’ve spent most of my time collaborating with a cross-functional team to build features that improve the Q Marketplace experience for both office managers and service providers. The team I work with is comprised of engineers, product managers, designers, and a couple members of other departments like fulfillment or operations. Each individual provides a unique and valuable perspective about the problem, as product changes and feature updates (as small as they might seem) have widespread impact across internal and external processes.
As I continue my work at Q, I’ll be focusing on four areas I believe will facilitate my ability to make meaningful contributions to my team:
- User research: Continued practice interacting and engaging with office managers and service providers to understand how they think and what they need.
- Business research: Developing a deeper understanding of the business mission, it’s culture, and operations to get a clearer vision of where the company is going and what type of products it aspires to build.
- Communication: Sharpening my speaking, writing, and listening skills to more clearly articulate my design decisions and better understand those of my teammates.
- Process: Understanding the current creative process to optimize for efficiency, such as minimizing the time it takes to ship new features and obtain feedback.
This development will help the team create a more valuable experience for Q Marketplace users. As our product continues to grow at an increasingly fast pace, improving team collaboration will better prepare us to address complex problems that (appropriately) facilitate effective communication and collaboration between office managers and service providers.
I’m excited to continue my journey at Q as a product designer, and hope my perspective about design continues to evolve as I work with more stakeholders in the business and continue to learn how great product experiences are created.