Inside DigitasLBi XD: Laura Materna, Experience Designer

Inside DigitasLBi XD is an interview series of the Boston XD team’s “Unicorn of the Month.”

Laura Materna, Experience Designer (Photo by Christine Aiko Beck)

Where are you from?

A tiny town in Central Jersey named Metuchen. We have, of course, excellent bagel offerings and diners every half-mile. And we once got a shout out on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt when Tina Fey introduces herself: “I grew up in Metuchen. Exit 10, go bulldogs!”

Did you always want to be a designer? If not, how did you choose design for your career?

Not exactly. Growing up, I thought I would work for the State Department or be a courtroom interpreter. I started studying Spanish in preschool and have been in love with the language ever since.

My artsy side was always something I assumed would come second. You can’t make a living off charcoal sketches, I figured. But all through high school and college, art was never something I could bring myself to leave behind. I found graphic design as an elective in college and quickly made the decision to double major. And as I’ve gotten more into UX in particular, I find it blends design knowledge with a certain element of translation for the user. In a sense, it feels like I’ve come full circle.

What led you to Digitas?

I was looking for a job in design or UX. During that time, I reached out to a few fellow AU alumni to learn more about the design world in Boston. One of those alumni (who also works at Digitas) gave me some really good advice — including the suggestion to apply. And the rest is history!

What do you like about working at an agency?

Mostly I love the people here; I love how many skillsets come together in one place. The community at Digitas (especially within XD) is really like a family; I’ve learned so much by getting to work with a wide range of people. And as an added bonus, it’s nice to work on fairly recognizable clients and know that millions of people will see something I designed.

What types of projects do you find inspiring?

At the risk of sounding like a millennial, I like the idea that something I design will have an impact. The goal of any UX project would be to make a part of someone’s life easier, right? And if done correctly, the UX isn’t even noticed. I think of it like the stage crew in theater.

So I like looking for small ways to help others — whether that’s through a digital product, a good micro-interaction, or a small volunteer job for a nonprofit. There isn’t necessarily one type of project that matches this best, so long as I can find a meaningful way to be a stagehand.

Work-in-progress screens from a passion project — a website redesign for a nonprofit helping Central American immigrants in DC

What are your career goals? What are you hoping for?

At this point in my career I’m trying to soak up as much knowledge as possible from those around me — and there are certainly enough smart people to learn from. But then again the goal would be to never stop learning.

I would also love to work abroad at some point in my life; working as a designer in a Spanish speaking country would be the ultimate challenge, for both my Spanish and design skills.

What are some of your favorite tools?

For designing: Sketch. For prototyping: Axure has really nice conditional logic, so I enjoy using it for small-to-medium sized interactive prototypes. It’s not a tool for everyone or every project, but it has its strengths. Otherwise I’m working on getting more into Principle, and love an excuse to build something scrappy in HTML.

Favorite sites for inspiration?

Google’s National Parks site was a big inspiration for the last project I worked on; it’s a nice one to get you thinking outside the typical webpage experience. If I’m looking for more general inspiration, I like niice.co and designspiration.net for visuals, awwwards and pttrns.com for layout or UI, and sites like HeyUser.com and CodePen have a good collection for motion design.

What do you like to do outside of work?

I play Ultimate Frisbee; sometimes I’m even half decent at it. I also keep up with watercolor, and occasionally I do some city sketching on a postcard-sized sketchbook I carry with me when I travel. And since I’m relatively new to Boston, I look for ways I can get to know it better: walk around a new neighborhood, find new cafes, flea markets, bookstores, quirky or tiny antique shops to explore… Anything that counts as finding a new “spot” I can steal away to on a free day.

Personal sketches from traveling. Clockwise from top-left: 1)Interior of a café in Buenos Aires, Argentina 2) Monument Mountain, the Berkshires 3) National Cathedral, Washington, D.C. 4) View of the Casco Bay from Peaks Island, Portland, Maine

The views expressed in this post are that of the authors and may not reflect the views of the agency or company.