Product Designer at Acadeum
Jorge
Baca

Jorge is a Mexican designer based in Austin. As the Visual Design Lead for Acadeum, he focuses on problem solving and communication through design.

Austin, USA • January 1, 2021

What led you into design?

My first creative input came from my mom. She attended school for interior design and she opened a home decor store in our small town. I would see her thinking about layouts, picking furniture, and choosing paint colors and decorations. I’ve always had a curious mind, so I would ask a lot of questions and she would teach me some of the things she learned.

As I grew up I always liked art and humanity classes. I remember at very young age having a fascination for ads, specifically from TV and magazines. I loved going through magazines, skipping the articles and just looking at the ads and I would not mind commercials on TV, they were amusing to me.

My academic background is in Advertising. I wanted to be in charge of the creative direction and I supplemented that with a specialization in graphic design to be able to produce my concepts. This gave me an advantage later on as I became a designer with a foundation in communication and consumer psychology. I only pivoted fully into becoming a designer when I learned about User Experience, it allowed me to be creative outside of a visual realm, just like creative direction.

What does a typical day look like?

9:00 to 10:30 a.m.
I wake up and start getting ready. I usually bike or walk to work (15-20 min commute).

10:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
I arrive at the office and start my day by checking Slack, emails, and Trello. I get my first cup of coffee of the day. Normally, our general meetings happen in this time frame.

12:00 to 1:30 p.m.
I go to lunch with co-workers or members of the coworking space. We go to any of the nearby restaurants; there's a great variety from Ethiopian to Mediterranean (Austin’s gastronomy is amazing).

1:30 to 5: 30 p.m.
I get back to the office and drink my second cup of coffee to start production work. If there are any project-specific meetings, they usually happen in this time frame.

In general
I work with different teams at my company in the following order, Product team (45%), Tech/Development team (30%), Marketing team (20%), and even a few times with the Sales team (5%).

What’s your workstation setup?

Acadeum is located in a WeWork coworking space, so I have multiple options depending on my mood.

I tend to prefer to work in the common spaces. I like to have that open space and be open to the environment and the people, because one never knows where inspiration can come from:

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Meetings happen in conference rooms, depending on the type of meeting, brainstorming sessions, weekly meetings, or one-on-one meetings, for example:

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If I’m feeling a little less social, I will work in a booth, my private office station, or if I’m feeling super introverted, one of WeWork’s phone booths:

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The best part is always the great view:

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Here are some of the tools I use:

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Where do you go to get inspired?

Austin provides a multitude of art and cultural events which I love to attend. Pop-up art galleries, festivals, and social gatherings are abundant.

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Design organizations like AIGA Austin and events like Austin Design Week are also a great way to see what the local industry is up to.

On the web, I get inspired by tech product news, browsing websites like 9To5 Mac/Google, or Youtube channels like This is Tech Today or Unbox Therapy to name a few.

I love to find design-related articles on Medium. I started to see a trend where companies’ design departments take on their own identity and publish interesting articles about their design approach, some examples are Gusto and Wayfair. It’s interesting to see their unique experience compared to design studios.

Adweek and AdAge, of course (I still love ads).

TED Talks are a great way to find inspiration, and I especially like their TED-Ed Videos.

And finally, for social media, I like to follow the design and advertising agencies that I admire. A few examples are: Pentagram, R/GA, FrogDesign, Wieden+Kennedy, Grey, and Google Design.

What product have you recently seen that made you think this is great design?

Adobe’s latest version of the Creative Cloud desktop app released on October 10, 2019. I think this new dashboard approach seems like a natural next step, that this will centralize and make all of the great resources Adobe offers more accessible. Some of the best features include Creative Cloud library management, access to tutorials, and asset and font search, all in one platform.

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Creative Cloud on Your Desktop: A Portal To Your Creative World | Adobe Creative Cloud:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=146&v=8uXZbwMdTS8

What pieces of work are you most proud of?

I have been working on the redesign of Acadeum’s branding (formerly College Consortium) and our core platforms, improving the user experience and user interface. It has been one of the biggest projects I have been a part of, and I’ve had the pleasure of working with a talented team.

Unfortunately, I cannot show the majority of these projects yet as they will be released next year, but follow me on social media if you’d like to be kept in the loop. Here’s a preview of the new branding of the company which we just released:

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I plan to release a case study once the entire project is complete.

Earlier this year, I was contacted by the Director of the Adobe Creative Cloud Community. I was personally invited to apply to their Creative Residency. Even though I did not end up being selected, I made it to the second phase of interviews, being part of a small selection pool from more than 1600 applications from all over the world.

While developing this project, I learned a lot about myself and my capabilities as I had to push my limits to the next level, producing a full congruent project proposal in two weeks. My project was a branded, visual, and interactive campaign that would tackle the stigma against people who live with depression and a digital platform designed to aid them in their self-care and self-discovery through mood tracking and mapping.

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World-renowned cinematographer Roger Deakins has a forum and information database for film enthusiasts where one can interact with him, ask questions on various topics, get access to exclusive blogs with detailed lighting plans from specific scenes of his films, and other features.

A film colleague of mine who was in contact with Roger asked me to do a revamp of it as an exercise and he would pass it along to him, so I developed a new branding and interface, we are still in talks to produce it, but the reason I like this project is because it opened new opportunities for me in UI/UX field.

What design challenges do you face at your company?

To give some background, Acadeum is a tech-ed company that unlocks underutilized online resources across higher education. I am in charge of creative direction, user experience, user interface, and production of marketing tactics. I work closely with key partners and suppliers to ensure quality output and I collaborate with key stakeholders to understand our company’s needs.

A big part of my job is to aid in the development and improvement of technology products that facilitate the process of online course sharing between universities across the country. Our users consist mainly of university faculty and students.

It is a big challenge to create a product that caters to the needs of many different institutions, as they come in diverse sizes, varied demographics, and different needs. But we work constantly to produce the best interface to aid all.

Another great challenge that I have been very grateful to have is that because we work in the realm of higher education, anything we produce has to have the highest standards in accessibility. This makes design more challenging, but an incredible learning experience. I am happy to say that our products meet the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Standards and Guidelines, and we have VPAT (Voluntary Product Accessibility Template) compliance.

What music do you listen to whilst designing?

Any advice for ambitious designers?

A couple of things:

Seek inspiration outside of your comfort zone
I have found that many times the answers to design problems are outside of the computer. Be open to different experiences and learning from other fields. Design solutions are implemented everywhere you just have to pay attention.

Always be open to feedback
Stay open-minded about how others approach things, always question yourself and commit to proving your ideas/conclusions.

Ask for what you want
It might seem simple, but truly sometimes you can get whatever you want just by asking. It is true when they say fortune favors the bold.

Anything you want to promote or plug?

I just released new social media outlets to share my creative endeavors, if you’d like to be updated follow me on Twitter and Instagram.