In this edition, Chani Milezky talks with us about her unconventional route into the professional design world and shares her expertise and advice for aspiring designers.
Tell us about your work: what is your current position?
I’m a product designer in the “Content on stage” team. Our team is responsible for designing and defining all on-stage apps built by Wix. I’m part of what’s known as the “hive”, which means I join a variety of different projects as a product designer. It can be strategicprojects, design concepts we want to push forward or projects that need to be assembled for a specific goal for a period of time.
What was your graduation project and how did it affect your career?
My graduation project was a campaign for at-risk youth. That’s when I really started to comprehend the power of design and how it can change awareness and make the world a better place. I take this understanding with me in every career move I make—my decisions are consequential and significant. They can take a complex product and turn it into an engaging and user friendly experience. Every time I hear how a user went from having difficulty using a cumbersome product to being able to engage in a much simpler, more user-friendly manner (and even potentially increase their revenue as a result), all because of something I worked on, it deepens my understanding of how powerful design can be to enhance and promote. To me, there is no feeling more rewarding than that.
What skills/assets did you learn in college that you felt ended up rewarding you the most in finding your first position?
Beyond theoretical or practical knowledge, the most rewarding tools I took from college are those that helped me hone my intuitive skills. These studies greatly sharpened my productive and creative side, particularly in learning how to narrow down my ideas and customize innovative solutions. Even today I use a lot of techniques from school to get me outside the box and adopt a more multidimensional way of thinking.
When you got into the “real world” what did you look back on in your education and find lacking?
My journey is an unusual one. I did not go to a "conventional” school, nor do I have a degree. I went to a small college that gave me excellent basic tools, but from then on I had to work hard to make my way into the big world. When I made the transition from print to web I was thrown into a startup (which is very successful today) which was then in its infancy. I think that's where my real school journey began and I am grateful for every stepping stone and obstacle that strengthened and shaped me into what I am today.
The portfolio interview is a daunting moment—any general tips around etiquette for before, during and after? (secret things that people wished were done but maybe usually go unsaid?)
My best tip is to prepare yourself as well as possible. Try to remember all the decisions you made in the project at the detail level so that you are ready for any minor question, trivial as it may be. Another tip: Many times during our experience as designers we also tend to remember negative aspects that we experienced during the project—the shortcomings, disappointments and frustrations. While presenting the project put all that aggravation aside and focus only on its awesome parts with passion and enthusiasm.
And what’s the most important thing to have/show in a portfolio?
Understand and specify the type of position you are applying for as well as the workplace you are going to be interviewed at. Clarify and refine the jobs you present accordingly in the portfolio to specifically address the relevant requirements. This will increase exponentially your chances of being accepted to that job.
How do you usually start working on a project?
First we gather for a kickoff meeting to understand the purpose of the project and its scope. From there I do in-depth research on the product that includes KPI, competitors, strategy, data, visual research and more. After I have a clear picture, I move on to the sketch design phase, and then finalize the design. At every step the PM, ux designer, design system and developers are also involved. The last step is the hand off to dev. Once the product is developed I do the QA design. The critical step, of course, is getting user feedback and gathering real data on how they use the product. There is no one process for everything—it changes between product types. In some products we will get feedback from relevant company people in the middle of the process. We like to check our work with relevant partners as well—design peers, internal usability tests with Wix employees along with other relevant stakeholders.
How do you use trends in your work?
I really like trends (sometimes too much) and always strive to bring each product in its most updated state. In my past as a template designer, I could execute my love for trends. Today as a product designer I’ve learned that trends are not necessarily a priority for every product. User experience, usability and accessibility, for example, are typically more valuable than trends. There are also more traditional products where trends may only impair or interfere. Although our products are subject to the design system, the trends are still an integral part of the product design world. The trends that I consume in the research process will be reflected in the user side as customization capabilities that I will take into consideration so the user or the designer can achieve it.
Professional expertise is something that you know you’re just naturally great at. It isn’t necessarily what you love but what you’re good at. How did you find your own professional expertise?
I think over time as a template designer I have noticed that I look at inspirations with a slightly different eye. I think most of us know how to choose between the good references and the lesser ones, but the challenge is to know how to take the unique characteristics from the different parts and assemble an entire product. In product design I find myself putting together a mix of several different references from which I will take the features / behavior / design that will serve my product in the best way.
The first year after school can be a confusing time. What was it like for you?
I started my first job as a junior designer in a massive newspaper publishing house, determined to succeed and advance. I soon realized that there is a significant gap between pixel perfect designs and an ad that needs to be designed in five minutes in the wee hours of the night when the newspaper is about to go to print and the CEO is breathing down your back. It was hard, but I do not regret this grueling year. I learned a lot, especially about working under pressure, which has helped me a lot in future jobs.
What's the best advice you've received (and from whom)?
One of my teachers once said to us: "The thing that will help you most in life will be you in the best version of yourself." You do not need noise and bells to make a name for yourself at work. If you give your best, persevere and invest, your good work will speak for itself.
What are you working on now?
I am working on several projects in parallel. One of them is a dashboard that allows the printing of restaurant menus that exist on the user site. Users can choose a template for the menu, design it and customize it, download it as a pdf file and then print it on a home printer and display it in their restaurant. Another project is an additional layout design for the Google Calendar app—an app that migrates with users’ Google Calendar and displays it on their Wix site. Today we have two layous to the app and I’m designing the third—a weekly layout—and aligning it with the others. Another project is a "cookie banner"—a cookie consent banner that is shown on millions of websites for regulatory reasons. Until today these had very limited design customization so this will allow users extensive and cool custom capabilities.
What do you find most useful in your work (research, visuals, softwares, etc.)
The passion for learning and humility. I think a good designer can never say, “I'm done.” There are always other areas where you can learn and develop, especially in a dynamic field like design. So surround yourself with good and talented people and rejoice in any criticism—it will only improve your skills.