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The “short”

I’m a Digital Creative Director / UX Consultant and live in the Mother City. With a Development qualification as well as Design education, my schooling & experience cover both the creative and technical realms, enabling me to have a deep understanding of the marriage of the two areas. My aim is always to create high quality, meaningful, user-focused and original digital experiences. Here’s more on how I approach my work:

The “long”

The name of the game in the fast moving field of digital design is the constant need to adapt and redefine ourselves. Yesterday’s ways of doing things won’t work for today. Technology changes by the minute, expanding outward toward new things, but also inward – specialising and refining itself and with that comes the necessity to reinvent & refine our roles too.

I call myself a recovering Creative Director on the Road to Usefulness and Meaning. And here’s why.

My design journey started 15 years ago at Dimension Data. Back then the term “Graphic Designer” covered everything from wedding invitation design to coding. I loved the variety and was pretty good at what I did in those days’ terms, but if I look back now I’m amazed at how the digital work we did back then lacked depth.

Fast forward many years of freelancing and more recently working at agencies: my scope covered “everything digital”, working on projects that ranged from websites to newsletters to digital campaign work to native mobile app work. I realised that although I only specialise in digital, and more specifically in the design component of digital, I can’t keep a finger in every pie since each component requires an entirely different talent set & thinking hat.

Campaign work always left me slightly uncomfortable. I struggled to get excited about “the big idea” when more often than not, the sole benefit was to make the rich, richer. On the flipside the application work had me hooked. There I found a field where I could inject creativity and brainwork into something more lasting and tangible that often made our lives easier. I valued the idea of creating entirely new tools that changed the way people do things and that make a real difference to their lives. I especially enjoyed working in the mobile space with its infinite possibilities. I also enjoyed redefining and improving old products and systems. There’s a real fulfilment in making things better, making things that last – and not get thrown away after targets are made. Products are meaningful as they address a real need. I was attracted to the fact that they evolve, should be nurtured, measured and built on.

It’s a challenging job – for one, when reimagining old systems, there’s often existing legacy systems and structures that need to be taken into consideration. And with the final goal of attaining that perfect balance between business goals vs. user needs vs. market needs often comes a delicate balancing act. This to me is in contrast with advertising where the only goal is to manipulate and convince the public that they should buy into an idea.

A friend from Art School asked the other day whether I get creative satisfaction in this field as it sounded very analytical and technical to her, and my answer was that it takes enormous art and craft to bring all the different threads together into something that is complex behind the scenes, but simple, beautiful and a pleasure to use for the user on the other side.

Product design takes brainwork and gutwork. And a lot of humility. The first few tries are never the best solutions. I often have to throw entire solutions out the door because it simply doesn’t work or fit the bigger picture. Additionally, in the end, the user is always right. Sometimes it’s the pieces of brilliance that you’re most precious or proud about, that the user doesn’t understand or doesn’t care about.

Why do I have a need to define what I do?

Because I have to figure out for myself, what it is that really makes me tick. So to summarise, this is what I do (until the need to reinvent my role arises again… who knows… in 5 years’ time I might be called an Aero Automotive UX Product Designer for Audi):

In broad strokes, I’m a few things.

Firstly a Product Design Strategist. I’d explore and discover all aspects of a business, product, product strategy and together with IT, client and the users, formulate and create a solution that best translates the business’ and users’ needs. Information Architecture and Functional Specifications also form part of this. The industry uses the words “Service Design” to describe the roles above but to me it’s a bit vague.

I’m also a UX Designer – so I’ll take these findings and concepts and translate them visually into drawings, models, graphs, low fidelity, and then high fidelity interactive prototypes.

I’m an Interface Designer. Having designed interfaces for more than a decade, this is second nature to me. Although nowadays I prefer directing the visual design as I find I’m of more value helping visual designers improve their craft than designing myself.

Which brings me to the other thing I love doing which is, for the lack of a better word, Creative/Art Directing. I love mentoring and guiding designers in a way that builds their confidence and builds on their strengths.

I’m not convinced that my mother would understand what I’ve just explained but hopefully this sheds more light on what I do.