The Startup
Published in

The Startup

Designer Portraits: Design + Illustration

A story about how a lab researcher with a passion for illustration became a UX Designer

First off, can you share a little bit about yourself?

An illustration of a woman figure, drawn by Marielle Palatino
Illustration made by Marielle

Can you elaborate more on your passion for illustration?

Oh man, I have to go way back. I was always a homebody kid that poured my time into arts and crafts. Illustrating was my escape from everyday schoolwork, but it wasn’t until I started watching anime and playing video games that I developed a serious interest in it. Growing up, I was inspired by Death Note, Kingdom Hearts, and Yoji Shinkawa’s work from the Metal Gear series. Fun fact: I recently met Yoji Shinkawa and Hideo Kojima at a signing event and have an autographed copy of Death Stranding! It was a surreal, unforgettable moment to see one of my childhood art heroes in real life.

You mentioned that you have a biochemistry background; how did you go from biochemistry to user experience Design?

I studied biochemistry in college because I liked learning about the super granular details in biology. But I think that love of detail translates into a lot of different fields. After working in the lab for a few years, I realized my motivation for being a scientist wasn’t for passion. I wanted to challenge myself in a more creative field, like what I had originally wanted when I was younger.

An illustration of San Francisco created by Marielle Palatino
Illustration created by Marielle

What are you currently working on?

At the moment, I’m working with a medical device startup on branding and web design! I’m super excited to help the science community in a way that better aligns with my new long term goals. Other than that, I’ve been working on expanding some of my illustrations into 3D art and recently completed my first design hackathon with three fellow UX designers!

Can you share more about that Hackathon experience?

I participated in the UX Result’s 2020 Design Hackathon, which was a 48hr event to solve one of several design challenges. The event was completely remote, which meant endless hours on Zoom, but also the opportunity to work and compete with over 130 teams of amazing designers all over the country!

A screenshot of a zoom meeting with four people cheering
A celebratory cheer of Marielle’s Hackathon group

Ask someone who made a leap from a different into UX. Do you have any advice for someone who may be in a similar process?

Everyone’s design journey is different. It’s so easy to be self-critical and compare yourself to others when you have no context of their situation. Hard work, tenacity, and resilience are so essential during a career transition, but it’s also important to be patient and remember that luck and chance play huge roles in the journey, as well.

Let’s end on a more casual note. What are you interested in outside of design?

Outside of design, I’ve been getting my science fix through baking! I’m always hunting for the next best local bakery and trying their cookies to up my own game. I’m also making my way through Persona 5 Royal and FF8 Remastered!

A portrait of Marielle Palatino
A photo of Marielle Palatino



Get smarter at building your thing. Follow to join The Startup’s +8 million monthly readers & +768K followers.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store