Freelance Creative Director
Mariana
Luna

Mariana is a Mexican designer who is passionate about new technologies that enrich the way humans experience the world. She is working as a freelance product and web designer for international startups.

• January 25, 2021

What led you into design?

Growing up, I was what you could call "artsy," but I wasn’t amazing at drawing or art in general. I was never driven by an instinct to express what I felt inside, but I felt the need to make things work and make them look nice. So I thought I wanted to be an artist, but in reality what I liked was making people happy with whatever was going around. When I cooked, I enjoyed making the dishes pretty, so people would enjoy their meals. In middle school, I used to draw “tattoos” with colored pens on people’s arms with things they liked, stuff like that. I figured that connecting my love for art and my predisposition to make people enjoy things had something to do with design.

What does a typical day look like?

I wake up around 7:00 AM and after rolling around in bed for an hour or so, then I prepare breakfast - I cannot function without a nice cup of coffee! I’ve been working remote and usually from home for the past 5 years, so it's important for me to have some sort of routine, because it allows me to focus on everyday tasks instead of just laying around in bed.

I start working around 9:00 AM by catching up with the team, which is spread mostly in North America, so when I wake up I already have tasks to do and things to review.

I structure my days in blocks of time for each of my projects and assign some time to review details with the engineering team. All of this is done whilst listening to music.

I work for startups and tech companies, so the workflow is quick and my response time has to be efficient. I work at a very fast and steady pace in the mornings, and give myself a bit of a break around 2:00 PM to prepare lunch. I find cooking relaxing, and it feels great to have homemade food.

Currently I’m working on a full time project 2 days per week. Those days are usually spent to find new solutions to a specific design problem that demands the attention of several people, so I collaborate with the team remotely. The other days of the week are normally for quick fixes on the product or checking details with the engineers, besides working on my other freelance projects.

Around 7:00 PM I usually stop working. Pre-COVID, I’d go out to the gym for a swim or for a nice dinner with friends but, with the current situation, I go for bike rides with my partner, take care of my little garden or just watch some anime and enjoy being in our home.

I never work on weekends. Ever!

What’s your workstation setup?

I’m working with a MacBook Pro Retina 15” and I use my mouse for UX-UI design, but use the Wacom Intuos Pro for illustrations and photo editing. Lots of recycled paper and colored pens.

My office is usually my home, sometimes I go to coffee shops or I work in hotels if I’m traveling.

Here are some photos of my current space:

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Where do you go to get inspired?

Honestly, Instagram. I get lots of inspiration from the people I follow, which is a mix of design studios, individual designers, illustrators, pop culture references, memes, architecture and furniture blogs, photography, travel blogs, fashion, art galleries, crafts in general and of course… puppies! I see Instagram as my own curated design blog and I tend to scroll through it a lot.

Obviously I use Dribbble, Behance, Design Milk, Dezeen, etc. for something more specific. I also like to scroll through Are.na when I want to check random cool stuff. Recently I’ve been watching videos of artisans and designers from around the world, in which they show in a very dreamy way, how they design or build their crafts.

I travel as much as possible, so that’s a great source of inspiration for me too. I have tons of photos from my travels that serve as inspiration and as a reminder of how different one country can be from another, in things like color palettes, printed materials or just landscapes.

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

I recently went to Japan and I was shocked and impressed by the Photo Booth culture called “Purikura”.

You can find these photo booths in the huge arcade centers. The main idea is to go with your friends and get all dressed up, use some props like Kawai plush toys, go inside this booth that takes and prints 8 tiny photos of you and it automatically distorts them to make you look like an anime character. You can after edit the photos to make your eyes even bigger, change the color of your lips and add random cute things like hearts, cartoons, phrases and illustrations.

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The reason I think this product is impressively designed is because the whole experience is just so much fun! Its user interface, even though it was in Japanese which none of us understood, was intuitive and we were able to decipher how to use it properly.

The whole interaction between you and the camera is great! The technology is impeccable and the editing screen was super easy to use. Overall it’s just weird, cute and… awesome.

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What pieces of work are you most proud of?

I’m currently freelancing at FORM, a San Francisco based company that’s, in my opinion, going to change the way people think about remodeling their homes.

FORM is a new platform that allows you to remodel your kitchen with top quality cabinetry, matching you with an experienced designer to build the perfect kitchen for your space, everything is done purely online. I’ve been working with them for a bit more than a year. I’m quite proud of this project because I designed the first version of the product for its launch, and in the past months we’ve been doing iterations and improving it.

The company has grown so much both in customers and internally, making me feel that we are doing something revolutionary and impactful. Since I’ve been the sole product designer of the team, I’ve been able to fully dedicate my thoughts and energy on making the product innovative and functional. I deeply enjoy collaborating with the engineers so everything works and looks as it should. Thanks to our current users and the kitchen designers feedback, we make fixes and iterations on the digital product to improve its functionality constantly.

Here is a taste of how it looks:

What design challenges do you face at your company?

Our biggest challenge at the moment, it’s making the App work perfectly on mobile, we didn’t think people would be making design changes, kitchen plan approvals and big payments on mobile, but apparently our users are keen to do everything with their phones, so we are changing some of the functionality and creating new paradigms for the product.

I’ve also been working on the “admin side” of the product which is a platform/CMS that allows the kitchen designers to work on the customer’s projects. This is a huge challenge, mainly because the objective of the platform is not necessarily to be “beautiful” but to be logical and functional, so a bunch of people can use it seamlessly.

What music do you listen to whilst designing?

Any advice for ambitious designers?

Work is not everything in life, when you find joy in other things, creativity and motivation comes easily. Your opinion matters, even if you are just starting your career, speaking your mind is valuable and it usually leads to discussions where everyone learns.

Be patient and don’t over stress - create things with passion and don’t be afraid of change! Iteration is a good thing - usually the first take on a project is not the best one. It’s through iteration that you can find better solutions to design problems.

Anything you want to promote or plug?

You can follow me on Instagram where we can share and talk about cool stuff or things that inspire you. I'm always eager to connect with people interested in design.

But mainly – I hope you enjoyed reading this :)