Hello! Who are you? Tell us about yourself. What are you passionate about? What do you enjoy doing?
I’m Luis, a half Moroccan, quarter English and quarter Welsh designer currently living in London. Like my heritage, my approach to getting things done is a tad scattered; my desk is a mess.
I’m passionate about building designs that scale, regardless of team size. My artboards and files are meticulously named and I’m more than happy to host an hour long meeting to make sure that our designs and code are aligned.
How did you get started in product design?
Like most people, I didn’t necessarily seek out product design as a discipline. In a digital sense, my job title didn’t even exist when I started working. I came into product design via what I’d traditionally call a web design background, via a hell of a lot of self learning.
Whilst in my final term at university, I landed a remote internship for an e-commerce company based in London. I worked on some graphic design and did some rudimentary code (PHP!) for their Facebook page – remember custom Facebook pages? They were impressed. After graduating, I spent 4 days in their office polishing up some other design and tech projects for them and I was offered a position without even having an interview.
Sometimes, you’ve got to be in the right place at the right time and work your butt off to get a way in; our industry is cut throat and unless you’re willing to put the hours in the doors won’t open.
Where do you work today? What is your title?
I work for @Upgrade Pack, a #loyaltech startup aiming to disrupt travel upgrades. I’m their lead designer.
How big is your company? How big is your design team?
We’re currently at 23 people, with the product team being 6. We’ve hired quite aggressively in 2019, doubling the product team and the company size overall.
What types of things are you responsible for day-to-day?
Starting as the only designer, I worked on our app, website, and any design collateral that was required on a daily basis as we scaled. Now that I’ve hired a junior designer, I’m still responsible for the overall creative output, but at the same time spend a lot of my efforts on helping her level up.
This isn’t just showing how tools work, but teaching fundamental parts of the role, like typography hierarchies, spacing systems and a general ‘systems’ mindset. We’ve spent hours working through how components are structured, and it’s fantastic that we’re allowed to spend the time working through this, as it impacts the whole product lifecycle.
I find that I get most of my energy in strategising with the team and working out the simplest (not always the quickest) solutions to complex user problems, and then fleshing those out with polished visual designs. This might mean that we end up with 10 versions of something as simple as selecting your payment card, but I’m just not going to offer a sloppy user experience if I can manage a better workflow.
I’ve always seen myself as someone with the broad interests and approach that would allow others to grow, and sharing work in progress is key to this.
Aside from the designs, I actively contribute to our blog, social, and marketing strategies, pitching in ideas on how we can scale our platforms. We’re currently in the process of drawing up a plan for vlogs, which I’ll be helping to shape and you may even see my face pop up on.
What do you love most about your work?
Flexibility and the ability to contribute to various parts of the business.
What drains you at work?
Idea generation. Sometimes staring at a screen is the opposite of what you need to come up with fresh concepts. This is why sharing your work often can help overcome this.
Can you walk us through your typical work day?
We’re currently trialling a 4 day work week, which means that my schedule is up in the air. I’m currently giving this a shot:
|6:40am||Wake up, swear at my alarm clock and collect my thoughts in preparation for the day.|
|6:45am||I’ll lay in bed for up to 5 minutes trying to collect my thoughts, before a long shower and then a 5-10 minute stretch to loosen myself up.|
|7:15am||Head off on my commute to the office. I listen to a learning Spanish podcast on my walk to the tube station and then I tend to read philosophical novels or ‘the classics’ on my journey.|
|8:00am||I’m in the office and it’s breakfast time. At the moment, I’m working my way through a custom porridge mix I made up – porridge oats, dates, mixed nuts, mixed seeds and a nut butter, with oat milk.|
|8:15am||I’ll then work through catching up on my emails, Slack messages, and Trello notifications. |
If there’s nothing urgent, I’ll read through my latest design and tech newsletters, seeing what the activity has been like on my designer Slack communities – I like to make sure I’m contributing back to the community throughout the day.
After this, I’ll check where I left off the day before. If I’m good, I would’ve written notes in my notebook, if not I’ll reopen Sketch and see where I left off. Then I’ll hammer through the tasks that I either didn’t finish the day before, or what’s in Jira / Trello for me to crack on with.
|9:30am||It’s probably time for coffee #2, or a tea.|
|12:30pm||Lunch time. I like to prepare my own meals and bring them in, so I’ll heat that up and usually sit around the benches with my colleagues to catch up with them.|
|1:00pm||Lunch time walk. If I don’t get out of the office and stretch my legs, I’ll feel rubbish come 4pm, so I make sure I get out and have at least a 20 minute walk around the town. I’ll usually put on a podcast as I walk around town, I’ve found myself rarely having headphones on in the office recently so lunchtimes are one of my few chances to catch up.|
|1:30pm||Back to work. If I haven’t finished what I was working on, I’ll try to make sure I can get it to a state that’s good for feedback by the end of the day. I don’t like to keep work hidden for too long, as constant check-ins is good for the team to keep tabs on our general direction.|
If I managed to get something in a near-enough finished state before lunch, I’ll share an InVision Freehand or Prototype with the team to let them see where I am. Sometimes it’s event just pasting a screenshot into our #product Slack group for quick feedback. If we need more time, I might grab a meeting room and use the whiteboard. I’m not looking for feedback immediately, it’s more of a chance for them to see where I am and look in their own time, in preparation for our regular catchups away from the laptops.
The rest of the afternoon is similar to how I start the day – catching up, checking in with the communities I’m a part of, and starting or finishing off my tasks.
|6.30pm||Is it 6.30pm already? Suppose we better go home then.|
Where do you turn for inspiration?
This is a curious one, because I don’t think I do this.
I don’t typically like to browse through things Like Dribbble, I find it vacuous and mostly an incorrect way of looking at how real products are built. There are only so many clones of a design someone can tolerate.
I like to keep libraries of inspiration as I go about my everyday life. At work, I’ve compiled an InVision board of app designs or treatments that I’ve seen in the wild and that I like. It’s paramount for me that inspiration comes from real world examples, and not unrealistic dreams. The thing is though, this board was created and forgotten. The ideas I stored are probably floating around in my memory somewhere, but I strongly believe that learning fundamental design principles and understanding your brief can get you over the line on most projects. It’s where you need artistic flair that ‘inspiration’ will be required.
Separate from that, we can learn a lot from physical product design. Considered composition, delicate use of colour and ergonomics are things a lot of our designs could use a bit more of.
What design or project are you most proud of? (It can be recent or older).
It’s definitely my podcast, Noise. This project took almost a year to complete, and was a stretch, but along with my co-host (based in Los Angeles, who I’ve never met!), we managed to launch a first season that included some incredible designers from around the globe.
The podcast is a audio series where we chat with creatives not just about the tools they use, but what drives them forward. Whether it’s working on side projects, traveling, or meditation, we’ve tried to ask some questions that you possibly haven’t heard elsewhere.
I’m incredibly proud to have got this project over the line, and very excited for how podcasts are going to shape the industry going forward.
Walk us through the design process you used for a recent project (you can pick any project).
I struggle with the concept of a single unified ‘design process’. Anyone who has this down to a tee is either a robot or a superstar, as our processes are typically fudging pixels around a screen until something clicks.
The fact that we end up with dozens of versions of our designs, to me, signifies that a process can only really exist outside of your artboards. This means being embedded in a traditional Agile process, or working to a familiar timeline of briefing, delivering, and testing.
For me, it all starts with a discussion of what we’d like to achieve. For example, the user needs to be able to purchase through our app. At this stage, we can start to flesh out the user flow, how did they get to this screen and where do they go next? From there we think about the page requirements, that means we need to list their ‘basket’, the price, their payment card options – including edge cases, how many cards do they have, what happens if they have no cards stored? – and a clear call to action. Then it’s into the tool, hashing out various designs based on our component library, or if something new is required sticking to our design system guides. Share it with the team, and possibly do some UX testing, then work through the formal internal sign off process and get it into the tech sprint. Voila.
What career advice do you have for product designers just getting started?
This is advice not just for people trying to start their career, but socially too – don’t wait for anyone.
If you want to learn something, go out there and find the resources, they are all out there. On top of that, you won’t get anywhere waiting for someone else to help you – everyone is busy with their own thing, and it’s up to us to push ourselves to get ahead. This is especially true for our hyper competitive industry.
Investing this time in yourself will ultimately land you at the feet of some excellent designers who will be willing to help push you to the next level.
Where’s the best place for folks to learn more about you or follow you?
Twitter is probably the best place to get me: https://twitter.com/disco_lu. 10 points to the person who gets the Simpsons reference in my handle.