Yannic Scheffel is both a thinker and a doer. Balancing his communication design studies at the Hochschule für Technik und Wirtschaft Berlin with a part-time UX/UI designer role at Goodpatch, Yannic’s energy is contagious and motto is simple: Stay curious. Goodpatch: When did you decide that you wanted to be a designer?
Yannic Scheffel: I’ve always been interested in new technology, so when smartphones started coming out, I had to have one. This sparked my interest in iOS applications, but at the time, I had zero design skills and everything I tried to build just came out wrong. Instead, I chose to focus more on photography since I was already quite good and very interested in camera gear. My photography landed me a job at an advertising agency in Berlin and I fell in love with the agency environment. That’s why I decided to return to school to become a developer, but after only 2 semesters studying computer science I was motivated to shift gears for the last time and apply to a communication design school.
I started with UI design because that’s what I thought a designer was meant to do: become a good UI designer. But I soon discovered UX and realized that design is about way more than making things pretty. It’s cool to have a nice design but the user needs to understand it. It’s about feeling curious and going beyond what’s next. I want to go beyond what I’m already capable of and continue to explore what’s possible.
GP: You started working with us in 2017 — How did this come about?
YS: A lot of people at Goodpatch studied at the same university as I do. Three years ago, they presented themselves at a small, university breakfast event and soon after, a close friend of mine, Julius, started to work for them. He invited me to a Product Crunch event and I was impressed with the office. Although I was freelancing at the time, I was looking for a more regular job, so Julius recommended me and everything turned out fine.
GP: What do you enjoy most about working at an agency?
YS: I love being in environments where I can discover new design disciplines and manage my own design learning process. At agencies, the work is much more exciting and happens much quicker than when you work in-house. Also, with the kind of work we’re doing here at Goodpatch, you have to jump between very different projects and go deep into the experience of very specific industries, subjects and target groups. That’s why it’s important to work collaboratively with our clients.
For instance, we recently did a project with an insurance company. In the beginning, I thought, ‘Whoa, insurance? What is that?’ Yes, I’m German and German’s love insurance, but I really didn’t know much about how it works. Now, however, I know a lot about a specific kind of insurance and I think that’s fun.
GP: How do you balance your studies with your position as a working student?
YS: I’ve always worked while studying. As a working student, I’m only allowed to work a maximum of 20 hours per week, but when I have a busy week at school I’m only able to work about 10. It was easy at first because I had minimal school work but I found it hard to focus and stay motivated in school because I was learning so much more at work (laughs).
My internship at Goodpatch was full time until I left to study abroad in India. Now that I am back, I have to get used to working less and having far fewer responsibilities than before. It feels like someone has pulled the handbrake. My challenge now is to complete my studies by next year and return to a 40 hour work week as quickly as possible (laughs).
GP: Can you tell us about your semester abroad in Bengaluru, India?
YS: I wanted to go as far outside of my comfort zone as possible. I was interested in India because I had travelled there before but just as a tourist. I decided to study there for a semester but I ended up at a university that didn’t have any other exchange students, which created a very difficult situation for me. I made some good friends, but I had a hard time navigating the huge cultural gap and found it very difficult to connect with people. In the end, I left 2 months early, didn’t complete all my courses and realized that there’s such a thing as going too far out of your comfort zone (laughs).
GP: Have there been any clients or projects that left a strong impression on you?
Since February of 2018, I’ve been working with one client, R+V Versicherung. This opportunity allowed me to make a shift from UX/UI designer to design strategist. During this past year I took a big step and organized a few projects from end to end. I facilitated designathons with project teams at R+V and I had the chance to learn a lot about the strategic part of design. I also gained experience leading workshops and the process that comes afterwards, which includes summarizing workshop results all the way to their implementation. I had a lot of help from Doro, Monica and Sam, but in the end, I had a project where I could independently test all the things that I learned, playing the role of both UI designer and design strategist.
GP: What has been your biggest takeaway from working at Goodpatch?
Design can be really philosophical. Before I came to Goodpatch, I saw some value in design philosophy but I thought is was mostly fluffy language used to help sell the design. I used to approach projects with the attitude: ‘We are the designer, agency, and expert. The client comes to us with their problems and we’ll go away, close our door and present our solution after three weeks.’ At Goodpatch, we approach it very differently and now I understand what having a strong philosophy and values is all about.
We work very closely with our clients and try to sit with them as often as possible. During my Goodpatch internship, I was always at the clients’ office and it really made a difference. Yes, we’re the designers but we don’t know that much about the business side. The clients do. Great design requires the combined knowledge of designer, client and user, so it’s important to interview the user before you even start designing. You learn about this in school, but when you actually work within this human-centric process and have the type of positive culture that we have here, it’s possible to get really amazing insights around the user experience. It can be more work, but in the end, you have a high-quality product.
Goodpatch’s holacracy system was also very new to me. There is no fixed hierarchy, so even though I am a working student, I can still be the project lead. At Goodpatch, everyone plays a role in shaping the company. When you do something, you get feedback from the whole team. I’ve never had a work experience like this before. There’s no manager, creative director, or design lead to say, ‘You have to do things this way.’ We have ambition but our ideas and values are open for discussion. Nobody walks around saying, ‘No, this doesn’t fit Goodpatch.’ We can all contribute to the brand, which means we’re a part of it.