What led you into design?
I think it all started around middle school. I remember asking my sister to help me set up an Angelfire account. I had this skateboard blog that I hastily put together with copy/pasted HTML code. Around the time I was in high school, MySpace had launched. I remember getting an account and trying to make my profile the coolest with GIFs, cursor effects, and music playing in the background (that sounds so horrible now).
I had a web design class in high school where I learned that I could actually get paid for building websites. I started to look into design as a career, and ended up going to college for a degree in graphic design. It was the closest degree I could get to building websites at the time.
I studied Graphic Design at California State University Northridge, which is the local college in San Fernando Valley where I grew up. I became pretty accustomed to print design during my years there. At the time, web design was not as prevalent as it is now. It wasn't until I graduated when I began to design and build actual websites. I learned a lot from Steve Krug's Don't Make Me Think at the beginning. I was basically self-taught as a web designer, and this book was my bible.
A few years into my career, my family started growing, which prompted me to move on to greener pastures. I eventually found my way to Princess Cruises where I spent the next five years. Eventually, the pandemic started which really hurt the cruise industry. I was let go with a bunch of my coworkers from the Santa Clarita offices–one of the saddest and most stressful times of my life.
This caused me to dive full-time into freelancing. I spent some time on a couple of projects here and there. I invested more hours into my part-time job for Thinkful where I worked as a design mentor. Eventually, I started working with UX Cabin towards the end of 2020, and loved working with the team over there. I eventually came on full-time for them at the beginning of the next year in 2021.
What does a typical day look like?
On my work days, I typically get up at 4am to start my routine. I admit this is probably way too early for anyone to be awake but I love the peace and quiet that I am able to begin my day with. I’ve recently got into the habit of practicing yoga three times a week and meditating everyday. It’s still a process for me but I feel this gets my day started off on the right foot and betters my mood for what’s to come.
I work remotely so there’s zero commute for me. I check my email and go over my calendar. I like to make to-do lists of everything I have to do for that day and what's coming down later in the week that I have to prepare for. I feel like I can't be productive without a good to-do list. I also keep a notebook where I do my bullet journaling and organize almost everything.
From there my day can vary depending on the project and/or client I'm working with and what stage it's in. I could be going over user research, sketches, wireframes, designs, or prototypes.
I try to clock out around 5pm everyday. It’s really hard to turn my brain off when your “office” is always with you. When I do clock out, it’s nice to be able to spend that extra time with my family instead of dealing with 1 hour commutes.
What’s your workstation setup?
Where do you go to get inspired?
I love traveling, exploring cities, and visiting museums which has been especially hard to do during this past year. Cities especially can have such nice typography. The Grand Central Market in LA is a dream.
As for the internet, I like to follow along on:
Instagram, Dribbble, Medium, Twitter, Nielsen Norman Group, Baymard Institute, Creative Mornings, YouTube.
I did say I listen to a lot of podcasts:
- Design Details
- Design Matters by Debbie Millman
- Drunk on Lettering
- What is Wrong with UX
- Design Life
- Voice of Design
- Passion Behind the Art Show
I don't get to go to many conferences but I always feel so empowered when I do. The two recent ones I've been to are Dribbble HangTime and Adobe MAX.
What product have you recently seen that made you think this is great design?
I've been using Duolingo daily to learn Spanish. I love how easy it is to get started. The gamification is well thought out too. The animations and small interactions throughout are some of the best I’ve seen in an app. I love that little owl.
I was amazed when the Xbox Adaptive Controller came out. I think it's a really big deal that Microsoft is thinking about making gaming more accessible and I hope they keep this up.
What pieces of work are you most proud of?
I helped launch two projects recently before my time ended at Princess Cruises; Cruise Search Results and Online Spa Reservation.
I'm most proud of these because they were redesigned from top to bottom. Our team put a lot of research and effort into these. I'm proud of what we accomplished and the results were tremendous at launch. The online spa reservation itself brought in over $170k the first couple of days after launch.
I'm also proud of the pieces from my 100 day project. I am excited by the progress I have been making so far.
What design challenges do you face at your company?
Right now, it's organization and process. I feel like I am still getting used to design agency life. Working with different clients and projects at the same time is pretty new to me. It is definitely exciting to be able to work on multiple projects at once but can get overwhelming when I do not feel prepared. I found it's important to document as much as you can.
The team at UX Cabin has documentation for every project we are working on. This helps us detail the background, research, the why, requirements, and eventually the how (the designs). A lot of design is communication and to keep everyone on the same page so you can make the best decisions.
What music do you listen to whilst designing?
Any advice for ambitious designers?
Since you're already ambitious, here's some advice to take it easy every once in a while. Taking breaks and enjoying life is so important. Burnout can happen quickly before you know it. You’ll feel bad about yourself because you aren't able to keep up as much as you could before–when it's really just your body telling you to ease up.
This becomes so much more important if you have a family. It's not just about you anymore. Family comes first while everything else should come second.
And never compare yourself to others–that can get toxic fast.
Anything you want to promote or plug?
I have been doing a 100 days of hand lettering project (inspired from Elle Luna's 100 day project) on my Instagram that I try to keep up with as much as I can.
If you want to be in touch, I am on Twitter and Dribbble. I am currently rebuilding my portfolio website (who isn't nowadays) here:josephespana.com