Tommie Scheijbeler's is travelling the world to share and gain mobile UX and interface design experience. We caught up with Tommie to see what life is like at DigitasLBi Hong Kong as a Mobile UX Designer.
When did design become something you wanted to pursue in life?
I was always interested in computers and technology. Strangely it took me quite a while to figure out that this was something I should pursue as a career. In my late teens I began experimenting with HTML code in Notepad. It was the early years of internet access for the average consumer and I remember the dial-up connection and that I only had half an hour internet access per day. I used to visit some websites and print the pages out in grayscale. I was obsessed with video games, music and comics.
I visited the Internet Archive Way Back Machine to see if I can find some remains of my first websites. Unfortunately I only found some small bits. Not the complete websites. One was a comic website named “Comic Cave”, another website was for my Unreal Tournament Clan named AMF Clan, another small trace I found was a midi file I used as background music for one of my websites.
So I started creating buttons and designs for my first websites in Photoshop. I was also interested in “game modding” and 3D design, like creating my own levels for Quake and basic 3D animations.
“It’s important for every designer to have a basic understanding of graphic design.”
After struggling with my education (I really did not know what I wanted) I finally went to a Graphic Design Academy in the city of Rotterdam. This was after I tried pre-military Academy, Maritime Academy and Art Academy. I graduated about two years ago with a Bachelor’s degree in Design and Communication.
In your opinion, what design has most improved our lives that’s enhanced our lives?
Desktop interfaces/metaphor that started out with a design by Alan Kay at Xerox PARC. I’m always fascinated by this design metaphor and also the fact when and if there will ever be a replacement for this. An operating system that is not just based on opening and closing of windows. This step was a vast improvement over the traditional command line “interfaces” of computers and made usage of personal computers more accessible to a broader audience.
I keep a close eye on the development of wearables like smart watches and Google Glass. It will definitely take a while for these devices to become accepted and used by not just tech geeks. Smart Watches have the potential to become more than just a “wrist based” extension of the Smartphone.
Touch screens is another good example, we cannot imagine how it is living without our Smartphones. Interestingly this technology was developed in the early 1970’s.
What does your day-to-day job as a UX Designer involve?
We're working in a Agile Workflow for this project (of course, who doesn’t nowadays) so everyday we start with our with a daily stand-up. This is where every team member shares his tasks and responsibilities of that day and possibly highlights what’s stopping them from reaching their goals.
After the stand-up I start working on the use case stories that have been assigned to me. A use case is generally a small piece of functionality. e.g. “As a user I want to book a flight” (I’m currently working on a mobile application for an major Chinese airline company). I start sketching/ brainstorming about the possible solution for this story and create wireframes and clickable prototypes.
“Never just stick to the software or tools that you are familiar with.”
I also have meetings (almost everyday) with business analysts, product owners and developers.
We work with different teams across two continents so we have Google Hangout meetings everyday to share and discuss work. It makes everything a bit harder because sometimes you feel like it’s more about communicating then doing actual work, but the interesting part is that we work in a very diverse multicultural team. To me this is an important part of why I love my work, working alongside people from all over the world.
Where’s the best place for someone to get into design?
I think it’s important for every designer to have a basic understanding of graphic design (e.g. how to design for print) even if you only work on websites or mobile applications. Understanding how typography works, Golden Ratio and colour studies. If you see any designs, like websites or apps, try to understand why it works and what you like about it, and maybe even try to recreate or improve it.
What book would you suggest a junior designer pick up?
I almost never read design (or work) related literature, I prefer online media, websites etc. Books tend to become outdated rapidly. So I would recommend websites like Fast Company, The Verge, Springwise and Mashable.
How did you land your job at DigitasLBi Hong Kong?
When I moved to London I was already planning the next step in my career and since then my eyes were set on South East Asia. About half a year ago I started to expand my network with recruiters and other people that are working in this region, mostly via LinkedIn (tip for graduates and junior designers: be more active on LinkedIn, build your network and join groups).
“Design and UX experienced people are hard to find in Asia, so the demand is very high.”
Finally I found some very good recruiters out here that helped me to get this job. Design and UX experienced people are hard to find in Asia, so the demand is very high.
What tools for the design do you use?
I prefer Axure over Omnigraffle as my main wire framing tool. I still love to use Illustrator because I think that the multiple art boards feature is still an easy and very nice way to show your application in a flow and screens in different states. And of course I use Photoshop every now and then.
So far, what’s been the standout moment in your career?
My time in London. If you live or work there you must feel blessed and understand that you are in a unique position there as an UI/UX designer. It really is THE place to be in Europe for technology startups and other exciting things that are related to visual design and technology. So make the most of it. The projects I worked on and the knowledge I gained in London during my 2 years I spent there is incomparable to the things I learned in Amsterdam and other places.
Is there any projects you want to explore in the future?
Starting my own mobile app business, preferably something that has an social impact and could improve people’s lives. I’m not limiting myself to mobile applications but in someway it must be related to mobile devices.
What books, films and music keep you going?
I recently watched Patema Inverted, a wonderful Japanese animation film and “Her”. Her is absolutely a must watch for everyone that is involved in Visual Design or UX. I almost never read work related books, if I read something it’s mostly via an app named Pocket. That’s where I save all my online articles and interesting bookmarks.
If you had an extra hour each week what would you do with that time?
I would spend that time on convincing others how wonderful the industry we work in is :)
What advice would you give to someone who is starting out in design?
Spend most of the time learning your tools. You can have great and wonderful ideas but they are nothing until you've designed or created them.
“You can have great and wonderful ideas but they are nothing until you've designed or created them.”
Your Photoshop/Illustrator/Indesign skills are essential and just because I name these three does not mean that you do not always have to evolve. Never just stick to the software or tools that you are familiar with, but always try to learn new techniques.
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