No one is hired to just move pixels around
We’ve been able to get in touch with a ton of great designers recently so when someone pointed us towards Rodolpho Henrique we knew we had to get an interview written up.
He is a designer based in Sao Paulo, Brazil and is currently working for McKinsey in creating digital experiences.
All designs shown are work by Rodolpho and made available for us to share. Please visit his website here for more.
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How did you get into design originally?
I’ve had a passion for music since my early years and I’ve been playing with punk rock bands since I was 11 years old. Punk rock has shown me how bands can communicate their message to a specific audience using nothing more than just music and art.
That was when I developed an interest in helping the communication between bands and their public.
Back then none of us had any money to hire a design/communication company (I would say we didn’t even know there were companies doing this work) so I felt a sense of pride in helping them to have an identity and better communication with their fans. It all started with me playing around with Adobe Photoshop/Illustrator doing concert posters, t-shirts, festival flyers, album covers and then I was designing entire layouts for Myspace band profiles. I didn’t even know that ‘design’ existed back then.
After high school I went to study Graphic Design, because I wanted to do something related to arts or design. This time was super valuable because it was when I started to get into this discipline and understand the basics and rules of design.I got my very first job when I was 18 at a small design agency in my hometown in Rio de Janeiro. Starting to work early gave me a good perspective and knowledge about how things really worked in the real world.
Don’t get me wrong, I do believe in formal educational experiences and how important it is for each individual but the truth is, the reality is a different one.
The problems you are going to deal with day by day with your team and your clients are truly different than what they teach inside the classroom.
Back then I spent 1 year mostly focused on branding and advertising, but during this time I quickly found out that I preferred the digital part much more than the graphic. I found a greater connection to the logic of designing for the digital having users and real behaviours in mind. This transition was quite interesting because all I know about digital I learned working with people more experienced than me.
What has been the most enjoyable design you’ve been working on recently?
I love that my work is quite varied. Since I left the agency model and joined consulting 3 years ago I’ve been working across several projects that are in different stages and moments. I try to keep myself focused to achieve the main goal, since I’m responsible for people’s final experience of the product.
I have just finished a project for which I was working on a digital transformation for one of the largest banks in Peru. I spent 5 months living there and working literally side by side with the client team, which was amazing. This process was crucial to put myself in their shoes and understand their culture to help me visualise what impact my work could generate.
From a designer’s perspective, the difference between the agency and consulting model is definitely the approach and relationship we as designers are having with our clients. We’re inside their institutions building with them, failing with them, learning with them and then rebuilding with them. I can clearly say how this is valuable and gives us a better understanding of what we are aiming to do. It also explains a lot the fact that the biggest agencies and even design studios are rethinking their business model and starting to work with this consulting approach.
We noticed you recently redesigned your personal portfolio, how important do you think it is for designers to share their own personal brand?
The people who work or have already worked with me know how I’m a huge fan of showing work in progress and my processes. As a visual designer it took me a long time to understand this but I simply stopped only showing the final results and polished pixels on my portfolio and I will tell you why: each piece of your work has a story, from the colours you have been using to the size of that heading typeface. Each decision you made has a reason and a rationale behind it. So show it.
No one is hired to just move pixels around and put beautiful shapes together with no reason, it just doesn’t work.
The very first thing to do when you are starting to create your portfolio is to define your target audience. Are you looking for a new job at that startup? Are you comfortable with your current position and your portfolio is just to show what you have been doing without so far? Are you trying to be interviewed by that big agency? The target audience will directly influence the approach of your portfolio. By defining your target audience you narrow down the design choices to express and illustrate your work. Do not try to target everybody. This is insane and will never work.
Design is all about selling your idea or convincing your client about what you are proposing. There are a lot of things we can do outside of our screens to gain credibility and expose ourselves to different scenarios and knowledge. You may be the greatest designer in the world but if you can’t turn off your screen and talk to developers, project managers, clients or any other person to express your ideas and explain your decisions, you will only be recognised by other designers.
What advice would you give to someone looking at getting into design?
Love people and use things. The opposite never works.
Surrounding yourself with people who are way better than you and who you can learn from. I do love that sentence that says: “If you are the smartest person in the room, you are in the wrong room.” Whatever big move or choice you make, do not think about just the company or the client, think about the team. Think about which people you are going to be surrounded with everyday. Think about what you will learn and also what you will teach them. This is how life goes and I’m not talking specifically about design. The most important and valuable things of my life I’ve learned from people who are not designers.
Try to get inspiration on things you appreciate outside your medium. Inspiration can be a tricky thing when you are designing websites and looking to other websites to get inspiration, for example. You will be surprised to discover about how different mediums like fashion, nature, interior design, architecture, music, movies and even food can work as a perfect source of inspiration.
And of course: work very hard. If you want anything in life, you have to work super hard to get it. You have to take risks in order to move forward and that’s really it. Talent is overrated and if you want something, there is a price you have to pay.
Do not complain, make things better. When you catch yourself complaining about some work or something repeatedly, try these 2 options: do something about it or let it go.
Can you give us any insight into your work flow? how are you going about tackling any particular projects at the moment?
In terms of workflow I do believe it all depends on the project you took on, the client you are working for and what you are trying to solve. I mean of course as a Visual Designer I tend to focus on craft, typography, colors, templates, grids and composition but I don’t think there are magic steps you can apply and follow to be successful in everything.
It’s not uncommon to me, starting a project with one problem and discovering another one — that is actually the real problem — to solve. Sometimes the client is so stuck in the idea that what they need is a new mobile app or a fresh website when in fact what they need is to take one step back and rethink the business model and strategy.
I had really amazing experiences over the past years working on some service design projects where we went deep on discover, research and strategy phases designing super detailed user journeys and blueprints, but in the end we did not have a website, a mobile application or any fabulous UI with high fidelity prototypes to represent the success of the work.
Personally, I consider that success and achievements in my role can be evaluated in two ways: the first one, the design work I do feels high quality — it means it’s valuable for people, it’s easy to use and it is well crafted — and second, my team and I feel happy, motivated and creatively satisfied with this. I’ve been very lucky in having exceptional and inspiring design leaders that constantly push me and remind me of what matters, and what my goal is as a designer at the end of the day.
My favourite part of the job is still the craft. I love designing and playing with different visual possibilities to solve something, and that’s why I’m continually amazed by the work I do.