A Graphic Designer turned UX designer

I arrived at Caje, a popular local cafe in the bustling college town of Isla Vista, 10 minutes early to get situated in the crowded joint. As I set up my computer, I jokingly thought to myself, “Matt truly is a creative problem solver.” A few minutes prior to snagging a great spot at the Caje, I bumped into Matt at Starbucks and frantically admitted that Caje might not have seating as students crowded the door. Calmly and collectively, he suggested that we try checking again and if its still too crowded then we should change the location to Spudnuts Donuts next door. As a wave of relief hit me, I realized that this was the simple solution that I always neglect in a state of panic. “You’re right, why didn’t I think of that?” I laughed, “I’ll see you in five.”

Matt and I are co-worker graphic designers for Associated Students UCSB and this exchange is a great example of our dynamic. While I scurry towards deadlines and quickly move through graphic design requests, Matt thinks through the utility and practical uses of his designs. Interestingly enough, I recruited Matt as my co-worker after being an admirer of his illustrations posted on my friend’s SnapChat. I noticed his illustration style was vector-based art that was fun, cute and used variations of pastel colors–all characteristics of a style I wanted to learn and perfect. It had an energy and livelihood that immediately drew in my attention. When the spot opened for Associated Students graphic designer, I recommended him to apply and shortly after, he was hired as my co-worker.

Who is Matt?

Matt Lim is currently a fourth year Communication major attending UC Santa Barbara, who will be working as a user experience design associate at Appfolio upon graduation. He has worked on personal projects such as creating an iOS sticker pack named “Boba Friends”, a series of boba characters that express cute and playful conversational expressions on his free time. The idea was born after he noticed the immense growth of Facebook group, “Subtle Asian Traits” and its humor geared towards the boba-loving community. Since March 2019, he has designed physical stickers, wallpapers and three different boba characters for the Instagram page “Bobafriendsofficial” which currently has an increasing following of 268 people.

The boba characters, Nika(Pink/rose milk tea) , Mako(orange/thai milk tea) and Tapi(brown/original milk tea) were all inspired by the different popular boba tea flavors.

Why Matt?

I knew–after having long talks about how our designs can better promote the UCSB marketing campaigns–that Matt was an ideal creative to interview. We have worked on a collaborative, year-long project together called UCSB AS Sticker pack which became a huge hit at UCSB. Though I did take some of the credit for the project, I believe he was the one that spearheaded the style and brand for the sticker pack.

The Conversation

Beginning of our Coffee Conversation: A group conversation between Jose Camacho and Jordon Long. To preface this conversation, I had invited two other creatives to join our conversation as I found that they had much in common in terms of their life philosophy and career goals. I will be writing separate blog posts on each individual, but for now, I will focus on important elements of the conversation they each contributed to the entire discussion.

I began the conversation by asking each person to tell their “origin” story.

The beginning of Matt’s creative career started with a very cute origin story dating back to elementary school, when he was diagnosed with ADHD. He always found an escape through doodling in his notebook during class, but at the expense of getting scolded by teachers. Though it was a distraction, it did not stop him from fulfilling his need to create. In his free time, he also had a mini business of selling duck taped wallets for four dollars, so it’s no surprise that his creative ways eventually manifested in graphic design upon entering high school. Through silk screening and graphic design class, he helped design t-shirts and eventually found a fascination with design.

As an engaging conversation began to unfurl between the three creatives, Matt brought up the memorable point in the conversation: “Is it not design if it is not visual?” This point was referencing user experience design and how design is not all visual. Rather, there should always be a ‘why’ that is addressed before a design is considered. Despite being highly talented in illustration and graphic design, Matt had decided to pursue user experience design, a profession I found very fitting for a thinker like himself. The rhetorical question quickly prompted a discussion on how professional designers nowadays must understand the marketing and strategy behind every design. Important questions like: how will the consumer interact with the piece/device from start to finish or what happens when I design this button to be placed in the right corner instead of the left, are questions a user experience designer must be accustomed to asking. When I asked what resources he used to learn about this side of design, he recommended podcasts and books, to which the other two creatives responded enthusiastically to.

As I sat with this enthusiastic group of student user experience and product designers, I could feel the passion in their words and urgency to learn. Being the only person in the table who will be working with brands as clients, I was so fascinated by the conversations of consumer research and genuine curiosity to do things off the status quo. I remember admiring their thought process and thinking to myself, “wow, they are self-starters with entrepreneurial spirit.”

It was hard to believe how knowledgeable my 22-year-old peers were of networking, professional advice and career focus. Sitting at the same table, however, was an even younger entrepreneur, Jordon Long, who was only turning 21 the next day.

Read the next blog post about Jordon Long: “Good artists copy, great artists steal.”

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