Can you share a bit about your background?
In my humble beginnings in the world of digital design, “Designing web graphics” by Lynda Weinman (founder of Lynda.com) became one of my earliest industry books, Steve Krug's 1st edition of “Don’t make me think” came fresh out of the press, flash animations were more important than usability or accessibility, smartphones weren’t invented yet, and product design was a term reserved for material items like furniture, interior, and exterior goods.
Following some initial self-teaching, I completed a one-year multimedia course while I took on my first photoshop and animation jobs. I enjoyed the media and interaction design space so much that I went on to study “Information and Interaction Design” which spanned a broad spectrum of graphic & editorial design, animation, exhibition design, branding, audio production, video production, web design, and UX design.
My studies also allowed me to take part in media programs and internships abroad which further fueled my lifelong interest in moving overseas. In 2014, I emigrated from Europe to New Zealand. Before moving here, I spent several years in the digital design agency space and eventually joined an in-house team for product design.
In your opinion, what has been the evolution of product design?
When I first started, product decisions were initially made on a management level and these choices became the foundation of a team’s project work.
With time, more teams began to adopt a design-thinking human-centered approach. As a result, modern product designers evolved into all-rounders and generalists who are held responsible for everything – from the beginning to the end of a successful launch as well as post-launch improvements of a product.
With lots of design departments having robust visual design systems and libraries in place, it’s less thinking about the visual appeal and user interface. Rather, their focus has shifted to cross-functional collaboration with product managers, engineers, QA, and other peers to develop design solutions that align with user needs and support the vision of the business.
What are the key fundamentals of product design that make a good vs. great designer?
I’m still learning and growing in this area, so I don’t have all the answers, but here are some qualities I’ve identified:
They’re product people.
A great product designer is not just expected to design the user interface. They are also expected to understand the needs of the business and the people behind the product to make sure the product is really solving the right problem for everyone.
Good designers put in the effort to come up with good solutions, and great product designers are constantly looking for ways to improve their designs for the best outcome. They know that the devil is in the details — and they're constantly looking for ways to improve their creations.
They're team players.
A great product designer knows how to collaborate with other designers, engineers, and stakeholders on projects. They know how hard it is to design something on your own, and they want everyone involved in creating products to make sure they had an impact on how things turned out.
They have a growth mindset.
It's not uncommon for a designer to pour their heart and soul into a design only to find the first version fails its purpose – and they need to go back and do a major redesign. But these are moments of learning. Learning how you can solve the problem better. From my experience, this constant familiarity with failure and growth is essential. I would go as far as to say it's impossible to design truly effective solutions without resilience to failure.
There are no shortcuts to designing great experiences. There is only the discipline to investigate and collaborate, the patience to analyze, the willingness to be wrong, learn from failures, and be brave enough to admit it.
How does Auror support good product design work?
I believe great product design doesn’t come solely from the design team, it comes from a design thinking company. Auror’s environment embodies this.
At Auror, design leadership sits alongside the business, product and engineering lead, and together, we play a role in defining the roadmap. Design is an integral part of the company’s future vision.
Here are some examples of our day-to-day workflows:
Being a small design team, we have several rituals in place, like 1-on-1 weekly UX shares where designers discuss their progress, bounce off ideas, get feedback from one another, and learn from each other's experiences. This helps our previously grown design team bond and stay on track with all the current projects. In addition, we can make sure our designs aren’t siloed but instead build on each other in ways that produce better user experiences.
Furthermore, we team up with the marketing design team on a fortnightly basis to make sure we’re all up-to-date and identify overlaps or areas where we can help each other.
Listening and acting on feedback
At Auror, there are multiple channels to collect and receive feedback in place, so the teams can be flexible and adapt to the needs of the customers and the business. Great products come from a continuous process of building and refining, not just building and building more. Auror uses those feedback channels to seek and react to opportunities that add a touch of magic to the customer experience.
In my stream, the product manager, the lead engineer, and myself (the designer) are currently exploring the idea of a triage, or a product trio. The goal is to include the right roles for each decision and that enables a cross-functional approach to decision-making. Limiting who leads the discovery process allows the team to move quickly and shields the rest of the team from being involved in all decisions all the time. That doesn’t mean other people on the team can’t or shouldn’t be involved. They should and they are involved at the stage where their expertise is most valuable and ideas have further evolved.
What is the best thing about working at Auror?
The people, culture, collaboration, autonomy, mission and most importantly, the work-life balance. A decade ago, I only would have dreamed about the way my work life functions today. As I live outside of the Auckland hub, it isn’t economical and feasible for me to work in the office, so I have chosen to work from home as my preference. To complement the already flexible culture at Auror, we also have shorter work weeks, where we all work 4.5 days for 100% pay and log off early every Friday afternoon.
In addition to flexibility, I love the autonomy I have over my calendar. Every so often, I prefer working when I am “in the zone” and this can be outside of official working hours. On the other hand, I am also able to take time during the day for myself. I go for walks, do gardening, or hop to the beach for a stroll or dip in the water before jumping back online.
Sound like somewhere you'd like to work? Check out our current roles here.