"Build connections in the industry and stay open."
Mélissa Hernandez isn't your ordinary user experience designer. A creative from a dual information science and literature background, she's successfully collaborated on little campaigns like YouTube AdBlitz and with tiny companies like Coca-Cola.
As an expert in the design industry, she sat down with DesignRush to share where she thinks UX is headed in 2018, how emerging technologies will influence it, and how you too can grow in your career.
DesignRush: What inspired you to go into design?
Melissa Hernandez: I’ve been really interested in user experience design and creative technology for a few years now. In 2012, I visited an exhibition, “Multiversités Créatives,” at Centre Pompidou in Paris. That was the first time I was exposed to the world of interactive design and media arts, and I’ve been captured by it ever since.
DR: You have a background in information science and literature. How does that translate into your work as a UX designer?
MH: Prior to becoming a UX designer, I was working with music data in a library. That experience really shaped the way I organize information and think about content. I’m constantly searching for references and I’m very meticulous with my bookmarks.
My background in literature has helped me better appreciate storytelling in digital experiences and allows me to quickly get to the root of what an experience should portray. I often find myself trying to bring poetic elements into my brainstorms and projects.
DR: Is there anywhere you look to find inspiration?
MH: Like many others in the industry, I go on websites like the FWA, Awwwards and Behance, and I look at the latest work within the industry. I also follow artists, designers and creative coders on Twitter and Instagram. Mostly, I’m inspired by my environment: the people I meet, my travels, books and music.
DR: As a UX designer, it can be tricky balancing a client's needs with a beautiful design. What is your advice for achieving that?
MH: I start by defining the actual needs with the client and the experience design team. I also collaborate very early with the designers and the developers via some sketches and blueprints. It creates a nice environment that allows the team to quickly iterate to provide the best solution.
DR: You currently work out of the Jam3 design and experience shop. What projects have you been designing?
MH: Jam3 is known for crafting beautiful and engaging interactive experiences, like Dunkirk VR, the interactive documentary Bear 71, or the AR experiment Invisible Highway.
As a UX designer, I work towards creating meaningful and delightful products. My workflow encompasses making user research and looking for references, organizing and structuring the content as well as defining the flows and the interactions. I build documentation such as blueprints and wireframes to shape the experience and inform the project. I make sure that these deliverables are clearly communicated to my team and the client.
DR: Those VR and AR designs are incredible. We all know that tech has a huge influence in the design industry. What technological advances do you see web design and user experience making in the next few years?
MH: I'm excited to see more AR & VR experiences. The latest augmented reality experiment of Jam3, Invisible Highway, is a good example of the possibilities of this new technology. Combined with a bit of robotics, it shows a great potential to tell stories in a different way.
I also believe in the capacity of AI and neural nets to push the boundaries of our imagination. I’ve been fascinated by the recent explorations of Google using machine learning or by projects such as the Next Rembrandt.
DR: Going off of that, what web design trends do you think will be huge in 2018?
MH: I really like seeing more installations that blend the digital with the physical. I've found some of these experiences very poetic and moving, and I love how they can enhance our relationship to architecture and nature. For example, Iceland's Harpa Music Hall experience.
I think accessibility is going to have a greater influence on the way we think and build experiences. Making usable and simple products while maintaining their beauty and delight is a challenge we are seeing very often in creative agencies.
DR: Tell us a little more about you. What are some of your favorite projects that you've worked on?
MH: One of my favorite projects I’ve worked on at Jam3 is the website Build Your Best Day, for parents and their children. We managed to create a story-driven and seamless experience that is both playful and informative.
Another project would be a small interactive piece I recently created with Matt DesLauriers for the Christmas Experiments, “Taiga.” I really enjoyed our collaboration, and we spent a lot of time working on the atmosphere, interactions, 3D modeling and creative direction.
DR: What can we find you doing on your day off?
MH: I love discovering new places and hiking in nature so I travel as much as I can. On the weekend, I like walking around Toronto and going to little coffee shops. If I’m inspired, I can spend some time sketching and brainstorming on personal projects.
DR: Are there any brands or designers that inspire you?
MH: I’m inspired by the innovative work of creative coders and visual artists I follow on Twitter and Instagram like Joanie Lemercier or Sougwen Chung. They stimulate my imagination and motivate me to create better experiences.
I’m also influenced by the people and designers I work with at Jam3.
DR: In addition to Jam3, you've worked for incredible brands such as YouTube and Coca-Cola. How did you get to where you're at, and what advice do you have for young designers who are hoping to grow in their career?
MH: After studying information architecture and user experience design, I worked in different studios in Paris and Stockholm and did a bit of freelance. During this time, I started to understand what type of work and environment I like the best.
As far as landing these positions, it’s important to build connections in the industry and to stay open. You might be surprised where your next opportunity comes from!
DR: Any final thoughts, comments, or words of wisdom you’d like to share with someone in the industry?
MH: I would say travel as much as you can, challenge yourself to learn new things and collaborate with people on projects you love!
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