Hello! Who are you? Tell us about yourself. What are you passionate about? What do you enjoy doing?

My name is Petar Perovic. I’m a design generalist who’s been working on different digital products for more than a decade. My wife’s job brought us to Porto, Portugal some three and a half years ago and we’ve been living here since. I’m still mostly occupied with reinventing my life here, adjusting to a different culture, learning the language and traveling around. Food, basketball and reading take up significant part of my daily routines.

How did you get started in product design?

I started in graphic design and had my first encounter with the Web through my first job after college back in 2006. I came in as a print designer, but was soon forced to learn HTML and CSS (which was really much more straightforward at the time) and basically since then I’ve been designing exclusively for screens.

Where do you work today? What is your title?

I work at Semaphore CI. It’s a SaaS that helps developers automate code testing and effectively ship faster. We are a remote company, with team members spread around Europe. I don’t have a specific title – I’m actively involved in both product strategy and delivering design. I would say I cover a full product design cycle.

How big is your company? How big is your design team?

We’re around 25 people and I’m the sole designer. Our product doesn’t have mobile apps, so that makes it doable for one person.

What types of things are you responsible for day-to-day?

I spend most of my time on product and some lesser part working on public facing, marketing pages.

In broad sense my job in product is to synthesize the information about our customers and our business, and to deliver features that are good for all. Day-to-day that translates to a lot of discussions and analysis, and later into designing, writing, illustrating and refining until the final delivery. I design directly in code, so that cuts a lot of intermediate work and allows us to feel, test, and prototype the designs in their natural setting. But also to move the design in very fast iterations.

On marketing end, it’s somewhat different and involves more graphic design work. Complexity of the interaction is more basic, but a lot more effort goes into visual communication – branding, typography, illustration etc.

What do you love most about your work?

Making things. It’s very fulfilling to see things work. Product design allows me to be in a position to enjoy a fine blend between design and technology every day. 

What drains you at work?

Switching context. When I’m deep into one thing and then I’m suddenly forced to refocus. For example when I’m working on a product and then have to switch to marketing website. This is impossible to eliminate altogether, especially in a remote setup, but better planning, asynchronous communication and a more considerate Slack messaging help a lot in reducing the stress that comes from it.

Can you walk us through your typical work day?

7:30amGet up. Have a proper breakfast and leave for work. Couple of time a week skip the breakfast, go straight to gym and eat outside.
Get to the office. “Warm up” on news sites and Twitter. Watch a couple of NBA game reports from last night. I don’t obsess too much about procrastination, I see it as a natural process of getting into the zone. As long you’re acting fair and keeping in sync with the rest of the team, there’s nothing to feel bad about.
10:15amStart the work. We typically sync early in the week and let everybody else know on Basecamp our rough weekly plans. So I usually already know what’s on my plate. Sometimes it’s an ongoing, multi-day task and sometimes many smaller chunks of work. 
12:00pmI don’t do too many meetings, but when I do, right before or after lunch is a good time. I don’t have issues with meetings, but it is true that they ruin the flow. So if it needs to be ruined anyway, it’s better to merge it with my lunch break.
1:00pmLunch. In Portugal they take remarkably long lunch breaks. Eating together is important in this culture, and over time I just stopped “protesting” and embraced the tradition. 
2:00pm 2nd block of the day. I tend to get better focus as the day approaches its end. It’s probably subconscious, knowing that there’s less and less chance of interruption.
6:00pmClosing the day and heading home. Sometimes I’ll continue working a bit in the evening, but we’ve become pretty good at not overworking ourselves, even during a recent major release. It’s more about flexibility to organize your day however you like, while keeping in sync with the rest of the team. 

Where do you turn for inspiration?

When I’m stuck I’ll just stubbornly stay with the problem until I figure it out. Although I do believe that moving helps – changing a scenery, meeting with different people or going to the gym. In general sense, just forcing yourself to a different mental or physical setting. 

What design or project are you most proud of? (It can be recent or older).

Most designers I know usually ‘tolerate’ only their latest work for a while, before they start discovering all sorts of imperfections. And I’m no different. So I have to say it’s the redesign of Semaphore we recently put out. And it’s mostly the invisible work of removing the UI I’m the most proud of. Developers know that wonderful feeling when you delete huge chunks of legacy code from GitHub. In design, discovering a more elegant solution feels about the same.

Walk us through the design process you used for a recent project (you can pick any project).

My design process is fairly simple: Design with the information you have – Release, test the design, gather new insights – Repeat. We collect information by talking to our customers and by looking at the data. All this combined shape the idea about what we want to build next.

When we know where are we headed we sit and talk about how to get there. These niche products can be tricky for us designers, because their mechanics sometimes aren’t easily understandable. Many of the concepts and some of the vocabulary are new to me. So it takes some patience and understanding. After I have enough information I’ll put together a design directly in code and link HTML static pages, so we can have a rough prototype and experience the flow. I owe a lot of the speed of delivery to Tachyons. This toolbox enables me to be quick enough to design in code, to get dirty in thinking while staying clean in the execution.

After a day or two, we’ll meet again so others can try the design and do a gut check. It’s important to evolve your team to the level where a design can be discussed openly and where it can be butchered without hurt feelings. I guess it’s a matter of trust like in any good relationship.

After couple of rounds of iterations, the design is good for the implementation. We communicate through Issues and Pull requests on GitHub, so I’ll usually write a little brief over there for developers. From that point they take it over and we may work together during the implementation phase, but normally the next time I see my design it’s live in production.

What career advice do you have for product designers just getting started?

Product design is a complex thing and the outcomes are always a team effort. A good management, competent engineering and solid customer support are just as important as design for the overall user experience. So if you want to feel good about your work, find yourself an organization and a team you feel good about. 

Where’s the best place for folks to learn more about you or follow you?

Probably on Twitter, I’m @ropsii.