What led you into design?
The internet, Neopets and Geocities! I’ve been making things since I was little, from zines for fellow cat owners in the neighborhood and meticulous scrapbooking to personal websites and Neopets Guild themes. I taught myself how to code with sites like Lissa Explains It All and was obsessed with pixel art and dollz and sites like All Things Kawaii (R.I.P.) My first design tools were Microsoft Publisher, Paint, and CSS.
In high school, I joined yearbook and got started with InDesign, Photoshop, and Illustrator. I loved interviewing people, taking photos and sharing their stories — communicating and collaborating, something I still love and am lucky enough to do every day.
I went on to study at Graphic Design and Japanese at Northeastern University in Boston. I chose Northeastern for their co-op program, which gets students career-ready and requires two six-month long paid internships to graduate.
My career started in Santiago, Chile, where I worked at a small agency as a designer and front-end developer. I didn't speak Spanish before living there and my boss only spoke Spanish, so quickly getting fluent enough to work in another language was a fun learning experience. I also worked with early-stage startups at the accelerator Start-Up Chile which opened my eyes to the world of entrepreneurs and digital nomads. How I ended up in Chile was a bit random, but it seemed like a cool city and I was excited to travel.
I've always wanted to live in New York City so it wasn't hard to decide where I wanted to go after Chile. I went on to work as a digital designer at Ronik Design in Brooklyn, working mainly on products, websites, and brands. I couldn't have asked for a better team at Ronik and grew so much during my almost three years there. I was able to mentor a few rounds of co-ops too which was a really rewarding experience.
What does a typical day look like?
We’re a remote team of five based out of NYC, London, Toronto and Dundee, Scotland. SuperHi’s founder Rik and I are in based in NYC and work out of Soho so I’m either at our office there, at a coffee shop or in a foreign country! I’m also a member of The Wing, so I sometimes work out of their Soho or DUMBO locations. Having flexibility in where I work has been a game changer when it comes to creativity, productivity, and work-life balance.
I usually get started around 9–11 am. Coffee is a must. I live in Crown Heights, Brooklyn so if I’m working from home I hit up the best thing in my neighborhood: Frenchy’s food truck owned by David from Paris. I’m pretty sure he’s everyone’s favorite person in the neighborhood. His croissants are amazing, and his coffee is stronger than Blue Bottle’s cold brew (which is objectively strong af lol). There is no shortage of coffee shops in Soho, but I like Saturdays on Crosby Street which has a nice backyard area to chill in when it’s warm out.
What I’m working on day-to-day varies greatly. I work on the end-to-end learning experience for students and potential students and my design efforts are split into three main categories: brand, product, and marketing. Design at SuperHi is currently a dream team of two: Kristen Altomare-Ciallella and myself (AC Milan!)
In the past year, I’ve worked on evolving our brand, revamping our marketing site, a new checkout flow, improving our student dashboard and learning experience, SuperHi editor, planning and designing courses and their projects, brand photography, hiring, designing our physical book, stickers and welcome package we mail out to new students… the list goes on! No two days are the same.
I also mentor students and run monthly Design Thursdays. Every first Thursday of the month we hold an open call for help and design feedback on anything students are working on, whether it be applying for a new job or a side project.
Our student community is what makes SuperHi unique, and we talk to our students directly every day. We have a few thousand students from over 80 countries across the world, and around 50% are women. Getting to interact with people from so many different backgrounds and places in the world is one of my favorite parts of my job.
What’s your setup?
My 15” MacBook Pro, external monitor, Wacom tablet and a notebook.
The tools I work with daily are Slack, Notion, Figma, Google Hangouts, Google Calendar and Chrome DevTools. Notion is a big one for us, which serves as our company intranet where we document everything, collaborate and take notes.
Some browser extensions I use every day:
- Fontanello and FontFace Ninja for quick font identification
- ColorZilla to grab color from websites
- Window Resizer to adjust viewport
- FireShot to take full viewport and full-length screenshots
Where do you go to get inspired?
I’m definitely a resource hoarder! I’ve tried lots of bookmarking tools out there, but I recently put all my design, code and career resources into a Google Doc here until I build out a website or something. I would love to create a platform/community around sharing resources and knowledge.
Sites I frequently visit are SiteInspire, Typewolf, It’s Nice That, Hoverstat.es, Are.na, Medium articles and blogs like InVision Inside Design. I love reading about process and learnings from design teams at companies and people I admire – Intercom, Ueno, uxdesign.cc, Etsy Design, GV, Dropbox, Creative Market, The UX Book Club, Shopify, Facebook’s Julie Zhuo.
For general inspiration, I use Instagram often. I have lots of collections for color, design, photography, etc.
What product have you recently seen that made you think this is great design?
Unroll.me is a lifesaver when it comes to managing all your newsletters (aka unsubscribing after I get too excited and sign up for every interesting newsletter I come across) It helps you review, organize and unsubscribe in one place.
What pieces of work are you most proud of?
I was the first designer at SuperHi, and building out our brand is something I’m really proud and happy to be a part of. It’s come a long way from when I first joined the team a year and a half ago. Students say it’s what drew them to SuperHi and taking courses all the time, so that’s always nice to hear.
I produced and creative directed a photoshoot with an amazing team (hi Celine Guiout and Tobi Rose!) in London for SuperHi’s photography, which you can see all over our website. The goal was to create colorful, fun visual representations of code and learning beyond stock photos of startup dudes at laptops and whiteboards. The theme of the shoot was “code as a creative tool”.
We did so much this year, but a highlight for me was planning and teaching SuperHi’s first design course, Intro to User Experience Design. It was my first time teaching and I felt lucky to have the team and one of the best teachers I know on my side. I learned a ton and it was so rewarding to launch it and get positive feedback from our students.
What design challenges do you face at your company?
The positives of being a small team and getting to work on so many different things come to the flip side of not having the time or resources to work on all the ideas we have. We have so many! Right now it’s a balance of priorities and setting realistic goals.
As much as I advocate for remote working, it has its challenges. When you’re all in the same office every day, you can take simple things like getting lunch with the team or just being able to hang out and brainstorm together for granted. We have to make a point to communicate clearly and often, and intentionally create space for things like getting to know our team.
One thing we’re going to do this year that I’m super excited about is our first IRL team meetup! #iceland2019 I believe remote is the future of work, and as more and more people and companies start working remotely these opportunities to get to know each other and spend quality time together in person are important.
What music do you listen to whilst designing?
Any advice for ambitious designers?
Never stop learning. Share your knowledge and process, because you never know how much it could help someone.
Find and surround yourself with people that inspire you and help you grow as a person and in your career.
Ask lots of questions and be a good listener. An important part of being a designer is understanding others, especially those with different experiences than your own. Ask people how you can improve and be open to feedback.
ASK FOR MORE MONEY! Especially if you’re a woman. I wrote an article on everything I learned about negotiating here. At its core, negotiation is just creative problem solving — something we do every day. Everything can be negotiated, from work-related situations to day-to-day life with friends and partners.
And never work without a contract. Watch out for scope creep.
Anything you want to promote or plug?
Say hi on Twitter or Instagram, and feel free to reach out with any questions or if you’re interested in SuperHi!
You can also check out my side project Type Party, a resource for web design inspiration using free and open source typography.