I have a feeling that my friends and family think all I do at work is drink beer and make apps with outdated stock photos of stilted business people. OK, I’ll admit, the beer exists thanks to our free stock of kegged brews. But my role as an interface designer (within the context of the niche eLearning industry) is less about finding the perfect stock photo and more about solving problems. I need to figure out which challenges a user faces and solve those problems by creating a useful set of tools that will help a user learn content. This can be done in myriad ways: through interesting interactions, custom branding, animations, graphics, and even posters. A day at NogginLabs means gathering ideas and inspiration, while solving problems through the lens of design.
8:10 AM: Empathy Means Taking Action
As I am about to head out the door, I find a pin in my purse that I received while I was busy being an activist for families at the U.S. border. Empathy is a driving force in my life, and so it makes sense that it is also an important part of my career as a designer. Having empathy as a designer helps me picture the user as a person with struggles that matter. If I can understand those struggles, then I can make tools that allow the user to overcome those challenges and change their behavior.
9:13 AM: Cold Brew Crew
I pick up a quick bite at my local French patisserie on the way in, hoping that I didn’t choose the wrong day to grab my own breakfast (often, coworkers will bring in donuts, but I chose right because that’s not the case today). I meet some of my coworkers in the kitchen and grab some cold brew coffee on tap before heading to my desk.
9:30 AM: Desk Inspo
In my role as a Senior Designer, I am constantly on my artistic game. While I’m absolutely charmed to be doing what I do, it can be exhausting and it means that I need lots of things around me to cheerlead me into a creative mindset. Earlier this year, I created a gallery wall of poems, quotes, and artistic pieces that keep me focused. The mood lighting doesn’t hurt either!
9:45 AM: Ideas On Paper
Our project is about finding a way to streamline the college selection process for students. So, I’m spending some time with pencils and paper to wireframe some ideas for a sleek and intuitive platform. Yes, Mom, I still do draw for my job. 🙂 Starting with paper deliberately instead of going directly to the computer right away helps me quickly get all of the ideas out of my head and into a tangible form so I can parse through the best ones.
10:30 AM: Tricks Up My Sleeve
I’ve spent the past few months leading an effort with our design team to organize and centralize our internal resources and documentation. So, I take a break from wireframes and dive into some interesting articles and inspirational pieces listed here to help me visualize layouts that I can apply to our product.
11:30 AM: Moodboard Magic
I spend some time reading the brand standards that the client provided to learn how to style our project. Based on the inspirational pieces I’ve researched, past discussions with my team about the client’s needs, and the branding guidelines, I create a moodboard with colors, font choices, small interactions examples like selecting buttons or hover states, and basic layout examples. This is one of my favorite parts of the process!
12:30 PM: Ladies Who Lunch & Learn
Some of my lady-coworkers and I decide to eat our lunch out in the courtyard. Simran, one of our programmers, decides to give us all a fun lesson in culture by teaching us how to create henna tattoo designs. We talk about the differences between Arabic and Indian henna designs — mine is a hybrid of both styles. I inevitably mess mine up, but Simran comes to the rescue to finish it and make it pretty for me.
2:00 PM: Senior Session
I meet with the other Senior Designers to discuss how we can streamline our animation systems and make our Quality Assurance processes more efficient. We brainstorm ideas for a company project we’ll be taking on in the coming weeks, and do a post-mortem discussion about an internal tool that we’ve put on hold for now.
3:30 PM: Mockup Mania
Finally, I’m ready to take my layout ideas to the computer. In collaboration with the Content Producers and Instructional Designers on my team who’ve written a course outline, I create some static mockups that will help walk the client through the user interactions. Later in the process, I’ll work with the other designers on my team to build these mockups into the fully functional final product using CSS code (among other coding languages that our genius programmers know!).
6:00 PM: Summertime Sadness
It’s 6 PM. The office has mostly cleared out and I’m alone. I’m working late today because I am hoping to be able to take advantage of our Summer Hours program this Friday.
6:45 PM: Art After Hours
Part of what keeps me creative in my job is staying creative outside of my job, too. I hit up the local thrift store and find these awesome canvases at a great discount. I can’t wait to start planning my next paintings.
7:00 PM: Farmer’s Market Fun
NogginLabs’ offices are in Ravenswood, Chicago — an historic corridor of the city where families can come together at Farmer’s Markets like this. The fun-loving spirit of Ravenswood really thrives in all the diverse street food, local produce, and neighborhood vendors. Last year, I had a booth where I was a vendor as a guest artist, but this year I’m just here for the view.
7:30 PM: Design Makes Everything Possible
I end my day helping my community garden do some weeding. It’s not glamorous work, but it’s meditative and allows me to reflect (and get in a surprising workout!). We are clearing this area so we can build more raised bed vegetable plots for newcomers next year. To me, gardening is just another example of how design and problem-solving (whether through interaction, architecture, landscaping, or other means) makes our world organized, efficient, and meaningful.