I’m Rachel and I’m the Senior Designer at AD - meaning, as well as spending the most of my time working on client projects and helping to win new business, I’m also in charge of the design team. I’m passionate about user-centred design, reading fantasy novels (if a book doesn’t start with a map, don’t give me it) and giraffes.
How did you become a designer, what made you pursue this as a career?
My design career started at Glasgow Caledonian University, where I studied BA(Hons) Graphic Design for Digital Media. While I was there, I worked part-time at Glasgow University’s Sport & Rec department, doing mostly print work with a little bit of web design. After graduating, I moved to London to work in digital advertising, which is where I naturally progressed into UX. I worked with a lot of blue-chip clients (Nike, Disney, Coca-Cola to name a few) mostly creating fun digital campaigns and, since I worked for a start-up my role was really diverse. I worked across a lot of departments, dabbling in copywriting, user interface design, video editing, retouching, and the more traditional aspects of UX. Being multidisciplinary and working in an agile agency is where I feel I thrive, I love working on a lot of different projects and putting on different hats, so to speak. I’ve gotten to where I am by constantly learning, I do a lot of online tutorials and various UX courses, I’m a big advocate for never getting too comfortable with your skill-set or the work you put out, so it’s important to stay relevant.
If you weren’t a designer, what would you want to be?
A zookeeper? I love giraffes, so I think it’d be pretty cool looking after them all day. Or maybe I'd work in a museum, I love going to museums and learning about history.
As a Senior designer, what is it you do at After Digital?
As the Senior Designer, I’m in charge of all creative output at AD. I oversee the work of others, whilst also working on my own large-scale projects.
Describe an average day for you at AD.
My days can vary a lot depending on which phase of a project we are at. I could spend all day at my computer creating interfaces (if we’re at the design phase), or if we’re at wireframes I’ll spend the whole day working on those. I often am off-site too, conducting hands-on discovery sessions to uncover client and user needs at the initial stages of a project, and I also attend pitches to help win new business. During those, I talk to clients about our approach to design and UX at AD.
What is the hardest part of your job?
Hmm… the hardest technical parts of my job are often the parts I like the most, where I problem-solve the issues on existing websites. Those can be usability issues, structural problems or many other things. The part of my job that I’ve had to get most comfortable with is presenting and public speaking. I’m a relatively quiet person and that’s always been the thing that pushes me a little bit out of my comfort zone.
What is your favourite part of your job?
When you reach a sprint goal with no major issues! Working on loads of different projects in different areas of industry is fun, and working with so many amazing arts and culture institutions is very cool. I really love getting to the bottom of how a business works so we can make their website as user-friendly as possible
How do you get ready for your working day each day?
I eat porridge and blueberries for breakfast EVERY day, my mum tells me it’s brain food. I also like to watch whatever sitcom is on Channel 4, because I’m pretty grumpy when I wake up so it’s good to have a bit of comic relief! I then get a good brisk mile and a half walk into work, where I listen to some music and finally come to life! I always get into work early and make a cup of tea for me, get some nice cold water in a bowl for Noodle and scheme about what terrible pop songs I’m going to stick on the office Sonos that day.
How do you unwind from your working day?
I have a decently long bus ride home, so I start to unwind then as it’s a great excuse to spend an hour reading a book each day. Then I’ll go home and get some dinner, and either go to the gym or watch some good TV. By good TV, I mean either something cheesy on Netflix or some cooking programmes.
Top 5 tips/top 5 tools that you would recommend for everyday use?
I love a good Chrome extension, so I’d recommend:
- Muzli - for those wanting to keep up with the latest design and tech news.
- Site Improve - for checking your website’s accessibility rating.
- CSS Peeper - for pulling out styling from a website’s front-end.
- Pesticide - for checking out alignment and spacing on a website.
- Perfect Pixel - to make sure builds match your design expectations!
What advice would you give someone thinking about pursuing a career as a designer?
I’d recommend anyone wanting to get into UX design to try and get as much real-life experience as you can. Self-initiated projects, approaching small businesses and volunteer work are great ways to get some experience with real-life clients and briefs. I’d recommend getting a really solid base of knowledge of usability too. Don’t Make me Think by Steve Krug is a really fun and easy read to introduce you to UX and taking courses on Interaction Design Foundation is a really great way to up your skill set. People often confuse UX and UI, when really one can’t be done without the other so knowing what you want to do and where you see yourself progressing a designer will help you make decisions that will aid you in the type of work you apply for.