An Interview with Outcrowd Web Designers

Motivation, skills, difficulties, inspiration, predicting 2021 trends

Rick Mess       |       November 16, 2020

We asked Outcrowd web designers about their work, the necessary skills and motivation, the difficulties they encounter, and the trends for 2021. We hope their vision will inspire you and give you a new angle on web design. Each story is one of a kind, holding a unique key to success.

What’s special about this conversation is that the interviewees’ answers show how the scope of their work grows bigger as their careers take off, how their responsibilities multiply, how their idea of design and their approach to work change and evolve over time. There are also a lot of commonalities between them: after all, they’re all part of our team!

Lera Zhaldak, Project Department Web Designer

Q: Lera, what would you say is the most important thing about web design?

A: The most important thing is individuality. Every designer wants to be unique at what she does. Design isn’t just about pretty elements, it has to work. Design is functionality, idea, analysis, harmony. What kind of analysis? Every design has a story to be analyzed. You grow and change with every job you do. You need to keep your history, compile a sort of database to analyze the way you work, the way you grow, how your skills improve, how your own style develops.

Q: What’s the most difficult thing about design?

A: The limitations. The restrictions imposed by the project. I strive for a balance between restrictions and creativity, which is hard but a lot of fun. I try to express myself creatively while making sure the client is happy. A designer has to be somewhat of a psychologist to understand the client better and avoid misunderstandings. We usually offer a design in two versions, finding arguments in favor of each one to explain what’s going to work and what isn’t. These arguments help to stay on the right path going forward.

Q: How does the work process happen?

A: Pretty normally. First, we familiarize ourselves with the project, discuss the basics (on the call), then do market research. After that, it’s time to prepare a moodboard. This is the stage where we offer several different styles, followed by another call. Then begins the wireframe stage. It’s an important part of work where we offer ways of improving the project’s functionality. After the wireframe, we move on to the magic part — the actual design.

Q: Is this your favorite part?

A: I love all of them. Sure, I like the result, but I’m even more interested in the process itself: looking for and finding solutions for difficult problems. Design is a deep world that’s so absorbing it can be hard to stop sometimes!

Q: What skills do you think a designer needs to have?

A: The ability to think out of the box, critical thinking skills. Sure, a designer must be good at Figma and Sketch, but what’s even more crucial is being able to change, to learn new things, since IT is developing very rapidly. Another important thing for a designer is visual experience. So when you wake up in the morning and you go on Instagram, go to designnotes and check out the portfolio works, read, be inspired to stay tuned in. And one more thing. There are soft skills and there are hard skills. The soft ones are very important for a designer: sociability, openness, being able to hear other people’s opinions and accept criticism. If you can’t get along with your team, with your clients, then you can’t be a good designer, even if you’re a genius. Design includes working with people, talking, discussing, brainstorming.

Q: What inspires you?

A: Traveling and people most of all. I get so many fresh ideas in my head after a journey, even new color palettes! I’ve been very lucky to be surrounded by talented people in my life, and they’re a huge inspiration to me.

Q: What trends in web design do you foresee for 2021?

A: I don’t think they will be very different. This year’s trends will continue: the 3D era, 3D illustrations, animations. Just like this year, it will be all about the dark theme with bright accents, smooth shapes, playing with shadows. We will move on from cartoon illustrations, things will be more abstract, all DIY lines and elements. Typography and color combinations will become bolder. I think 2021 will be a year of bolder designs.

Q: What’s your advice for novice designers?

A: You have to work on self-improvement, read and watch a lot, follow YouTube tutorials, develop your designer sense. Don’t be afraid of doing a lot of unpaid work. Find yourself a guru, a mentor, people who will support you, and give feedback. It’s hard to judge your own progress. In other words, the most important thing to do is work!

Anastasia Diukareva, Lead Designer, Head of Project Department

Q: Anastasia, what’s the most important thing about web design for you?

A: To me it’s productivity and results. Seeing that all my effort wasn’t wasted. Creating things that are at once beautiful, handy, and useful.

Q: What’s the most difficult thing about design?

A: I enjoy difficult tasks. They help us learn. The more new, difficult tasks, the bigger the opportunities for growth. You have to know how to present your project, defend your work, explain and argue for why it has to be done exactly this way.

Q: What does the work process look like?

A: Work on a project starts with reading the brief or the TT. We review the market research findings to understand the goals and tasks, the product and its audience, the needs of the audience. We have to take the client’s wishes and preferences into account and decide how their product is going to work. We try to get on the same wavelength with the client, show them our work process, make decisions together on where we’re going to go next. The client sees the result they’re going to get. Once that’s settled, we work on the user flow, the moodboard, the wireframes, the design, and so on. Everyone’s involved, and everyone contributes.

Q: Do you work on the projects directly?

A: As the lead designer, I communicate with the entire team and work on strategic tasks. I’m responsible for the general processes and their optimization, for the development plans. It’s management, the introduction of new processes. I do take part in the projects, but I’m responsible for the work done by my whole team. It was hard at first. You have to quickly switch between tasks, help people out, review and check things. It’s all about proper organization and time management.

Q: How many people normally take part in a project?

A: Depends on the project. Typically it’s a project manager, a designer, a graphic designer, an illustrator, and a motion designer, then they’re joined by developers.

Q: What strategic tasks do you solve?

A: We work on the presentation, look for ways of boosting productivity. I’m responsible for setting tasks and the professional growth of every team member. Every week we make a backlog presentation, where we exchange experiences, learn to properly showcase our projects, looking at each one in detail. Every day we have standup meetings, where everyone describes their tasks for the day. This is important for optimizing and synchronizing processes. Every week we have one-to-one meetings, where each team member talks about how their week was, what difficulties they encountered. Together we identify problems and look for solutions. If necessary, we can gather the whole team and have a brainstorm. I’m responsible for the team and the result.

Q: Anastasia, you have plenty of experience. What skills does a designer need?

A: A designer has to be open-minded and receptive to new information. To look for new things to learn, to read, to know. Those who don’t know English should consider learning it. The most interesting articles, courses, classes are in English. It’s important to be able to defend your project. You also have to constantly ask for feedback, analyze your successes and failures. Don’t look for praise to bask in it and get stuck in one place. It’s crucial not only to accept criticism but also learn from it. A good idea is to create various projects or concepts for yourself, to test them.

Q: What’s your advice on how to improve your design skills?

A: Make a daily habit — like drinking coffee — of picking five websites and describing what you like about them. Analyze these projects and try to understand what makes them what they are. You have to develop your creative thinking, look for interesting subjects, build up your portfolio.

Q: What inspires you?

A: I’m inspired and motivated by the future result. In my mind, I picture the finished product, how cool and functional it will be. Experience helps you foresee the final outcome.

Q: What web design trends do you expect to see in 2021?

A: The best trend is toward minimalism, and it will go on. Brutalism, kinetic typography, blocky website design. Playing with colors, accents, all kinds of abstractions. To me, it’s not the trend itself that’s important, it’s the quality and usability of the design.

Q: Can you give some advice to novice designers?

A: Think hard: are you sure you want to go into design? (laughs) Seriously, the market is overflowing with designers right now. Many people don’t fully understand what they need it for and what design actually is. They don’t want to grow. If you’ve chosen design, you must read and watch a lot of stuff, improve your skills, attend courses if necessary. Develop your creative thinking, create your own concepts. Above all, you must enjoy it and know exactly what you want to achieve.

Daria Lyamceva, Lead Designer & Head of Research & Development Department

Q: Daria, what would you say is the most important thing about design?

A: It’s important for me to let every member of the team express themselves. So that we can all clearly see where we’re headed, so that we have mutual understanding, motivation, a good psychological atmosphere, cooperation between all team members. If there’s no understanding, this will affect the result. My priority is no longer the technical aspect of project development since we have a strong team. Now it’s making sure everyone works in sync and is responsible for the common result. It’s everyone’s personal growth along with the collective growth of the team and the studio.

Q: What’s the most difficult thing about your work?

A: Something you haven’t encountered before. It’s always worrying, it makes you step outside your zone. New things are both difficult and exciting. It’s like feeling your way through a dark room. Gradually your eyes get used to the dark, you start making things out. Then you move on to the next room and everything starts again. This is the only way to grow and make progress. These difficulties are necessary and surmountable. You can learn anything and acquire new skills.

Q: How does the work process happen? What exactly is your job?

A: Organizing work processes, mainly, both external and internal. These processes move from the general to the specific. First, we have a strategic session for the whole studio, where we establish our goals and decide what we want to achieve. Then we compile general projects and a task list. The projects are distributed among the departments, people in charge are appointed to prioritize tasks and distribute them among team members. Proper organization and task description determine the quality of the project at the outcome, the time and effort needed. It’s much easier to work when everyone knows exactly what to do and how to do it, who to communicate with, what steps his or her job requires, what the deadlines are. The R&D department communicates closely with marketing. We work on tasks that have to do with our studio’s positioning, such as its visual presence in the marketplace — presentations, advertising campaigns, mailing lists, Medium, Dribbble, Behance, social media content — all points of visual contact with the studio.

Q: In your experience, what skills does a designer need to have?

A: Designers must not forget that they are designers, that they don’t work for themselves, or for the sake of art. Web design exists to be useful, to make someone’s life easier and better. It’s important to be able to let go of your wishes, to think about the good of the users above all. This is the key.

Q: Daria, what do you aim to achieve in your work?

A: My work encompasses the whole team. These days I’m not so much concerned with the design as with the team. How to realize everyone’s potential, how to create a comfortable working and social environment, how to organize everything. If a new person joins us, we aim to make them feel a part of the family. I strive to create an atmosphere of trust so that no one is afraid to speak up if they have any problems, so that everyone is receptive to criticism because we’re all working toward one common goal. I’m always happy when everyone’s comfortable and everything is going well. I like it when we miss each other and care about one another.

Q: What trends in web design do you foresee for 2021?

A: Good design with strong, emotional visuals, attention to detail. In today’s market, the technical aspect is important, you have to follow new developments and not get left behind. As technologies improve, better design quality is demanded. The level of 3D is already pretty high, and it will only get higher. Design will be more emotional since it affects not only usability but the whole person. It’s no longer about graphics anymore, it’s a comprehensive approach.

Q: Can you give some advice to novice designers?

A: The competition today is fierce. While you’re learning to use one tool, someone else has already mastered two or more. You need to constantly read, watch, grow. There are plenty of excellent video courses, lectures, classes. There are a lot of web designers, and their numbers are growing. However, only a few are real professionals. Novice designers may have different motives for choosing this field. If you’ve chosen web design, you must strive to be the best, fully devote yourself to the job. Give it your 100 percent. Then you will succeed.

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As you see, a web designer’s work in a studio is more than just design. With more experience come changes in thinking, the area of responsibility grows bigger, the approach to work becomes more systematic and comprehensive. You’re no longer responsible only for your own little piece of work, but for the common result, for the professionalism and image of the entire team.