This week we spoke with brilliant Philip Amour, a Product Designer that has created the design of a variety great apps and brand icons over the past few years. His most well-known work includes the Snupps, Chess.com and Kakaxi (a platform helping to connect farmers and consumers). Philip will share his professional views and insights about his work and career.
Hi Philip, thanks for meeting with us today for this interview. To get started, please give us the “elevator pitch” on your company and your role.
PA: I work for Snupps as a Product Designer. We are a social network for people that love to showcase, discover and socialize around stuff. We also have many communities that are growing around a specific interest – Sneakers, Women’s Fashion and Make-up to name a few.
What does your average day look like?
PA: We start our day early with a brief standup meeting where every single individual working for the company gives a quick gist of what were they working on the previous day, what’s their plan for today and they are also encouraged to express wherever there are any roadblocks they are encouraging to receive help from rest of the team. After our company-wide standup, I have a mini-standup with the rest of the Product Design team to go into more depth on what problems and challenges are we currently facing and provide guidance on solving them.
The rest of my day depends on our current workload. We think through, prototype and test everything and all of our decisions are based on extensive research and backed up by data. I have found myself getting more into micro-interaction prototyping lately. It’s amazing how delightful and to-the-point transitions can enhance overall user experience.
At the end of my day, I like to analyze the progress that we’ve made and plan priorities for the days ahead.
Did you always want to work in UX design? If not, what did you want to do?
PA: When I was growing up, I used to tinker with electronics and later with computers. I was fascinated with technology and wanted to figure out how things worked. In my early teens, my father got a Windows PC and let me use it. I was not happy with the interface and its performance and had to customize and optimize the OS to my liking, but it still didn’t feel right.
A couple of years later, I saved up money to buy a Pocket PC device I was craving for since I saw one of my classmates using one of those touchscreen cellphones. It fascinated me how one could make a PC that would fit into a pocket — there were endless possibilities for how could such a device enhance lives of many if those devices were affordable and available to masses (I was not too far with my thinking; however, I didn’t expect people to end up using those devices to entertain themselves by taking pictures of themselves, sharing gifs, watching cat videos on the internet and play Flappy Bird.)
My first Pocket PC was a HP iPAQ H2210 rocking Windows Mobile 2003. I was really excited about it but not fully satisfied – my urge to customize and optimize led me to online forums websites such as DeviantArt where I searched for the perfect UI and icon theme. I kept ending up customizing the themes I found and eventually decided to learn how to design in order to create one myself. I went through multiple devices unsatisfied until the first iPhone came out. The out-of-the-box experience was much better than any of those devices I have previously owned and customization was much more powerful and surprisingly intuitive.
When the App Store opened up and first official third-party Apps started coming out, I knew this was it. There was a single universal source of Apps that anybody could easily download and install. I was amazed. My passion for icon design and UI design evolved as I strived for more – I didn’t want to keep just designing pretty themes and icons. I needed to take my passion to another level and I started to figure out how to design apps from scratch – to design not just how they look, but how they work and feel.
Why did you choose a career in UX design?
PA: Essentially, I haven’t chosen a career in the UX Design, I have chosen to become a Product Designer. I love to design every part of a product – from how it looks through how it feels and to how is the end-user going to interact with it. Ultimately I strive to solve the users’ problems, relate to their pains and design a product that they are going to be delighted with and use on their daily basis.
In your opinion where does the industry look like it’s heading?
PA: We are currently in a digital age of innovation and disruption. There’s a copious amount of mediums available to our disposal – personal computers, mobile devices, the web. They sometimes link to real life services, but all of them have the same thing in common – the user has to use their hands (or occasionally voice) to interact with a software on a screen. I personally think that this barrier may open up more and extend beyond the screen. We may experience products in a near future that integrate more tightly to our daily lives. In the end, it’s about solving the problem for the people and making things more convenient for them to enhance their lives.
Do you believe it’s better to work within a company or to go freelance on your own in the design industry?
PA: There’s not a straight answer for that. It really depends on the individual. Each one has its own pros and cons and the final decision is for the individual to take. In my opinion, taking full-time roles is more stable and consistent, where freelance can be diverse and rewarding as long as the individual can run the business manage their time well. I have experienced and enjoyed both freelance and permanent.
Tell us about your work with iOS 9 templates?
PA: I love the design community as it’s one of very few communities where members are eager to push the boundaries, learn, help each other and contribute. There are great resources published daily – from Sketch files of icons, through UI kits all the way over to interactive prototypes. All available for free to the others to learn from and use in their projects – which can be a great timesaver at times.
As a member of such community, I naturally want to make other designer’s lives easier and help them learn – so I attempt to craft the resources I share up to the standards I give myself when designing any other product. If you are into iOS App design, feel free to get my template at Dribbble.
How important do you feel photos are to your work and what are your philosophies on using photos in your work?
PA: In a lot of the cases when I designing digital products, pictures are the primary content. Internally, we try how the interface is going to look and feel like with both – pictures of our user’s stuff that they have shared on the platform -AND- professional product photos. We choose only the highest-quality photos that are not from your typical stock photo websites in order to maintain our standards and the final product look realistic. Great photos can also enhance the interface itself and make it more friendly and approachable to other users.
What’s your opinion on social media photography and do you use social media photography in any of your work?
PA: Unfortunately, not every user is a good photographer, so the quality of the content produced by most of the users may be low in the eye of a professional photographer. Post processing, smart filters, and editing tools definitively help to make the user’s photos look much better; however, that’s not something that’s going to change composition and content of the photos. Fortunately, most of the content created is not meant to be viewed, examined and judged by a jury of experienced and nit picky photographers.
People share their moments captured by the lens of a smartphone camera mostly with their friends or users alike. In that case, the focus is not on the picture itself but on the content of the picture. Users who are sharing their photos with an audience beyond their friends usually educate themselves in photography and share a better quality content.
We do use photos that have been taken and shared by our users for both internal and marketing purposes.
A big thanks to Philip for his time!
Follow him on Twitter at: @philipamour
If you want to check out more great articles like this, check out our interview with Marc Gubreti, a digital marketing expert and young entrepreneur. Read about his journey into the world of blogging.
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