On design, responsibility, and intention in tech today
Words by As Promised Editorial Staff
A decade ago, a new catchphrase surfaced, describing what would soon become an essential component in making product-focused companies successful: Design-First.
It became clear that design driven companies were more innovative and successful. Designers became key figures in the success of products; attracting users, increasing revenue and eventually procuring investments and acquisitions.
Yet design, and design in tech in particular, maintains its loyalty to the practice as it remains surprisingly rooted within its traditional origins. The ecosystem embraced its creative prism and nurtured its ground. The studio, as a space committed to experimentation and creativity. In many ways, the design studio maintains conventional elements in its current techy-version but re-imagines the definition of studio practice. Even in big studios with large design teams, time-honored habits are kept, only to be introduced with new platforms and tools.
One such place is the Wix Design studio. Walking into the tinted space gives a vibe that mixes classic and contemporary. Posters, craft tools, printers, piles of design books, magazines are artfully displayed. A tech-oriented team works in an environment that harnesses tangibility and experiment.
The team of 500 designers spans more than 10 design-focused professions including visual, UX, motion, product, technical design, and illustration, and work alongside non-design professionals in content strategy, visual content, and design-operations.
As Promised sat down with five creatives from the Wix Design teams in Tel Aviv, New York and Kyiv and asked the experts one question: What is the impact design has on the world we live in?
Design Development’s Brand Strategist Yaara Schattner, confessed that my question was a complicated one and then apologized for free associating once she paused to catch her breath. The fast pace nature of her speech, how she connected podcasts like Your Undivided Attention to lectures by thought leaders like David Rudnick proved to me that what she was doing was far from free associating. She was answering my question without even realizing it. For Schattner, design is a constant. A fast moving train that connects the many points of our lives. “In short,” she said, “my purpose at Wix Design, is to understand trends and then decide which ones to engage with.”
Yaara Schattner: That’s a tough one! There are two ways I can answer that question. A person can think about design as architecture which is primarily digital and as a visual world which designers have a huge role in creating. Both ways make design more central to our daily experiences. David Rudnick, a visual designer reminds us of the impact design has on the world. It’s crucial to understand that this power comes with responsibility. It’s also important to note that designers aren’t the only ones creating visuals with impact. Today, everyone creates stories using visuals, sometimes multiple times per day.
Another field I am very interested in is digital humanism, which is the study of humanity through technology. Founded by people who worked for Google, Facebook, and Instagram, digital humanism attempts to understand the impact design has on people. When I combine these ideas, the result is clear, it highlights the impact design has on the world. I constantly remind myself that the relevant artist today is creating a design system for someone else.
Schattner highlights the importance of digital humanism as it reveals the impact of digital experiences on the human and how a great responsibility falls on a product designer. Through her work, she is always trying to connect the conversations happening outside of the tech sphere with a studio setting.
“I was so happy to see how As Promised connects with digital design. I love how there is a craft oriented focus on Mediterranean design. This sub-sector of the industry which connects classical work and new design is becoming more and more powerful, today.”
On the other side of the globe, Ivan Sokolyanskiy, a Visual Designer based in Kyiv, specializes in Branding and is part of the Design Development team. His work includes designing visual systems that support the company’s employer brand efforts, which he later translates into everything large and small: websites, events, conferences, packaging, even “get well” cards (which he finds particularly heartwarming). Like many branding designers, he works across mediums - print, digital, web, merchandise and animation - choosing in accordance with the projects at hand.
“One thing I’ve learned during my career is that a bad idea is better than no idea at all. Just treat bad ideas as a great starting point. Having no idea means there is not enough information to start with, so it’s just a matter of asking questions and doing research,” he shares.
His skills just recently proved incredibly useful in promoting a cause he believes in. “This week has been very difficult,” he starts. “I became very disconnected from what I was doing until I heard about someone from Wix working on the Come Back Alive website. The organization started in 2014 in order to provide support to the Ukrainian Armed Forces. It has since become the largest organization of its kind, providing assistance to combat units in the Ukrainian army and civilians who have been affected by the Russian invasion. The site provides easy to understand information in real time. It is a way to unify the nation and others who wish to help. “Even though, my involvement with Come Back Alive wasn’t design-focused, I immediately got involved and separated myself from aesthetic-focused work and wanted to just help how I could. That in itself is a conscious design decision. Sometimes you need to turn off your design ego, and make things work as fast as you can. Design exists in context.״
One field that grew from the human-centered design perspective is User Experience. By highlighting the questions and underlying motivations UX designers are shaping the field as they work. One such designer is Kfir Nagari, a Senior UX/Product Designer at Wix Promote. Based in Tel Aviv, he designs a suite of tools to help Wix users market their businesses online, drive traffic to their websites, and grow their commerce. An expert in the psychology and experience that makes a product succeed or fail, he gained an understanding that technology should make life more efficient and easier, not more complicated.
“Usually, when I help my parents with technology - weirdly enough, I get inspired when I bump into a very bad user experience that my parents can’t handle or understand,” he says. “It immediately triggers my creative brain to try and think ‘how can it work better?’ or ‘How can it be easier?,’ and I think how products can be further reimagined to ease our lives, not further complicate them.”
Kfir Nagari: Design plays a crucial role in both my personal and professional life. From the way I shape my day-to-day systems to best support and track habits to help me reach personal goals, to the way I optimize processes in the workplace to encourage creative thinking and better communication. At Wix, the UX process is present in the entire lifecycle of the product, from the first idea and its analysis to the launch and post-launch activities. Because I collaborate with people from different fields, I get to know everyone’s individual motivations, needs, desires and intentions, which makes coming to a decision we all agree on, much easier. We always consider the main intention of the problem we’re trying to solve, so we can decide how to prioritize tasks, as well as choose what should and shouldn’t be launched. The final product we put forward needs to be as precise as possible and able to meet the initial need.
Nitzan Dadon, a Product Designer with Wix’s Rich Content Team, works at the crossroads of various disciplines and work processes. “I love the fact that graphic design overlaps with art, technology, architecture, language and culture. It’s a dynamic and exciting place to be, with visual design an integral part of the contemporary everyday life.”
As a fan of large archives, from time to time she chooses an esoteric topic such as figurines or vintage silver and gets lost in online collections from The Tate Museum in London, to the depths of eBay. The Tel Aviv-based designer lives next to Jaffa’s flea market, where visual inspiration and stimulation abound amidst the market’s antiques and tchotchkes.
Nitzan Dadon: I relate everything I do to design, consciously. Whether it is strolling down the street, watching documentaries, or having conversations with friends. Using the design semantics in day-to-day experiences allows for a non-linear process and unexpected connections.
Someone who doesn’t consider him or herself a designer doesn’t necessarily have to be conscious that design is at the forefront of their lives. On the other hand, encounters with bad design decisions can be quite frustrating and confusing. As a product designer, I have the opportunity to have a continuous dialogue with those who interact with my work on a daily basis. I appreciate design for humans (by humans) and making decisions based on functionality.
Sivan Fiterman, a Tel Aviv-based Senior Designer and Art Director at the Wix Broadcast Team, starts every project in search of new visual solutions for the company’s marketing collateral. Following the marketing pitch meeting, Sivan creates the storyboard and style frames, outlining the narrative structure and visual language. Once all frames are designed her role focuses on directing a team of animators and 3D artists to bring the vision to life. Each project within the team uses the talents of employees across a multitude of roles, from producers, to designers, editors, animators and compositors.
Sivan Fiterman: My design work at Wix is for marketing purposes, so my creations affect the decision making of potential customers through our visual messaging rather than through hands-on experience with the products. The purpose of the design on our projects isn’t to blindly sell anything to anyone, but to deliver the right message to the right customers, to introduce the right product to the right people. Basically, even before the viewers get to interact with the product, they are already making subconscious insights based on the visual design and the brand identity.
I go about my creative process slightly differently with every new project. I go back and forth between searching for inspiration online, sketching on paper and consulting with other creatives. What worked for one project doesn’t always work for others. I get bored designing similar looking work, so exploring new visual skills always pushes me to try new mediums. In my private work, the process is completely arbitrary with whatever works for me at that moment, which usually starts with a sudden creative urge at 2 AM.