2 minutes: Vanessa Carey


Taking down bad UX!

Vanessa Carey joined Caplin’s fast growing UX Design team in November 2010. With a background in both product design and graphic design, Vanessa is already making big contributions to successful user journeys within Caplin products.

Q: We all know what graphic design is, but tell us what product design is.

A: In product design, you observe people and your environment to identify issues and areas for improvement. Then you creatively solve those problems with tangible designs. You could design anything from a toothbrush to a gas station pump to a credit card, or even the emotional connection someone gets when interacting with an object.  My graduation project dealt with the issue of convenience vs. nutrition in food. I designed a rainbow-themed set of fresh meal kits with the idea of maximising colour in diet which leads to health (phytonutrients). It was quite cool. The main difference between product design and UX design is that PD is the phone you hold in your hand (physical) whereas UX is the interface on that phone (digital), but they both seek to make people’s lives easier through design.

Product Design isn't so different

Q: In five sentences, tell us what a typical day in the life of a UX designer at Caplin is like…..starting with your preferred breakfast in the Caplin kitchen.

Vanessa's brain being powered by blueberries

A: For breakfast, (as I aim to avoid grains in my diet –though I fail miserably with the Caplin bread/donut/croissant spread), I opt for yogurt, banana and blueberries (for brain power!) with a handful of nuts most mornings.  After I’ve packed in a nutritious breakfast, I prune my inbox and write a ‘To do’ list. The day could then include any of the following: meetings, design or user research, sketching, wireframing, presentations/demos, and normally lots of laughter and chatter from my end of the office. Sorry, guys!

Caplin is a great environment to work in, surrounded by brilliant minds who also know how to have a laugh; often by shooting Nerf guns at you while you innocently work at your desk…

Q: There are a lot of definitions out there used to describe UX design. What’s yours?

A: To me, UX design is this exciting, emerging field that is coming from the blend of product design, human computer interaction and graphic design. It’s tying an understanding of people, technology and design and pushing the boundaries of the digital world further. Most of all it is about realising what is intuitive to humans, and trying to achieve the most natural expression of the digital world so it becomes an extension of people; not a battle we fight to adapt to it. Call it UX or Interaction Design, but just don’t call it User Interface (UI) Design! This is way more than aesthetics!!

Q: How are you finding UX design for financial services applications to be different from projects you’ve worked on in the past?

A: As I’m fairly new to the realm of UX, I’m enjoying the challenge of jumping in the deep end designing possibly some of the most complicated interfaces I will ever have the opportunity to design. Working in financial UX pushes you to immerse yourself in the financial world and all its fancy jargon which can be very challenging, but also very stimulating!

Q: You’re from the States. What’s it like being an American in Britain?

A: Ha. Yes, I am American, but I have lived in the UK for over 10 years now. That’s gotta count for something! I moved to England when I was 3, then jetted back to the US (Philadelphia) when I was 7. After staying there for a while, at 17 moved to Sweden to be an exchange student, then Scotland to study at uni (Glasgow School of Art) for a year, then back to the US (several locations), then to London to study at uni (Central Saint Martins), then to US (Chicago), then back to London..and here we are! So England is much like a second home to me now and I will continue to assert that I do NOT sound “soooo American”. On the other hand, living in England I do miss the sun. It’s this round thing in the sky that radiates warm light. Brits aren’t too familiar with it :P

Q: Tell us about the objects that you take inspiration from for design.

Notcot.org: Mecca for designers

A: I tend to just like to keep updated on innovative ideas—so I check out design forums like Notcot.org or read a lot of blogs. I find it really cool to see how someone has taken a problem, or a theme and evolved that into a design rather than just designing something for the sake of designing something. For instance, one design I think is quite cool that came out years ago was a shirt that hugs you. You send hugs by hugging yourself on your own shirt and then the heart rate, heat and pressure are mimicked onto the receiver’s shirt; a design that came out of the longing for closeness and warmth even when you are far from your loved ones.  Design in all forms is heading towards experiences.

Q: Where is UX design headed?

A: It’s a field that is evolving rapidly. I think UX is going to become more about the emotional investment a user puts into a digital interface. By learning how to create emotionally-pleasing experiences for users, they will keep coming back naturally to the digital interface. We need to learn how to create emotions, stories and experiences that will entice people to want to continue to use technology to better their lives. I also think that we are in an era of information-overload and if we as UXers can alleviate the over-stimulation for people, we are morally headed in the right direction.

Q: Last gadget you bought?

A: For my birthday, I received a lovely little HD camcorder that I plan on recording cooking videos with…but have never got around to. I’m obsessed with all things food-related.

Q: Favourite UX design book/blog or resource?

Probably the best design book ...ever

A: This may sound quite bad, but my favourite resource is Twitter! There are many UXers and UX groups on there who post blog articles and relevant websites on an hourly basis. I can always find some real-time, updated UX news on there or connect with fellow UXers. It’s a great resource. On the other hand I love books (check out my Shelfari online bookcase) and my favourite design book is ‘Objects of Desire’ by Adrian Forty. It explains design’s hidden meanings throughout history (like why men’s and women’s razors are so different).

Q: If you could be anywhere right now (besides your desk at Caplin of course!) where would you be and what would you be doing?

A: Travelling around Southeast Asia. I’ve never been, but I’m a born traveller and really want to go. I’m very interested in the various Asian cultures and love Malaysian, Thai, Vietnamese and Japanese food! Plus Japan seems absolutely insane and what better an environment to spark creativity.

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