Masters to Masterpiece – becoming a Design Lead in tech

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We chat with Dan Gladman, Lead UX Designer at Damibu, about creativity, tech for good and the importance of asking questions.

What made you want to study design?

I’ve often had thoughts about why I feel as though UX design appealed to me, and the conclusion I have drawn is my ability to empathise. Through personal experience, like growing up around disability and being raised with good values, I have always had a natural gift to empathise with people, which I feel is a great base for making a good UX designer. This, mixed with great guidance from teachers when starting out in the subject. People who were genuinely passionate about spreading the word of good design.

How would you describe your current role?

My role at the moment is UX Designer at Damibu. I have to be very versatile – one day I could be designing and writing code for a website, the next creating a logo and brand for a new product.

What was the most surprising thing about it when you first joined the company?

I suppose there were two main surprising factors. We were in the midst of a busy time of year so the pace of delivery and turning work around was very fast. The next was the freedom within the role, I was encouraged from the start to work transparently and have never been pushed in a certain direction without firstly having input, which is great!

What’s the main difference between academic and real-life design?

Academic design can be very paper thin, and often the work delivered in university wouldn’t stand up in real life. Real life design is more rewarding, too. Seeing users engage positively with a real product you have designed is a nice feeling. I would say overall, in real-life design, there is less time for ‘head in the clouds’ thinking. That’s not to say it doesn’t get done (or demean its value), but deadlines are often tighter and projects have real clients, which is a step up from University.

What’s the most exciting aspect of working in UX for you?

UX can be applied to anything. People often think of the UX designer as somebody who designs app or web interfaces, however, it can be so much more and the creative side of this combined with a range of different projects which come through the door keeps me engaged. Personally, the fact I can apply beautiful design to great tech for a good cause is something I’m really proud to tell people I do.

What’s the biggest challenge?

Patience. Design is all about expression and creativity, which I believe are two things which you can be hot and cold with. The days when you are not feeling as creative are challenging, so when a great project comes in and the creative flow isn’t quite there, patience is required.

Do you have any words of advice for recent graduates?

Don’t be afraid to ask. Our office is very open and I know personally when I first started this can come across as quite intimidating. Nobody is perfect coming out of uni, and the only way to learn and grow is to communicate with people who have the right experience. People will respect this quality a lot more, and you will see progression in your work by doing so. I would say though this comes with a balance of independence, the ability to take decisions into your own hands when needed is also key.

I would also say it is vital for new starters to follow strictly a design process in projects. At Damibu we tend to follow the double diamond.

What have you learned so far, during your time at Damibu?

I could go into lots and lots of specific details about the wealth of knowledge I have gained, but the list would be too long! I would say, to sum it up – the industry is always changing, so keeping engaged and a finger on the pulse daily to always be learning within my role is vital. As the industry is always moving, so must I.

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