A Year in My Life, Making the Switch from Design Agency to Product Company.

It’s January 1st, 2018 and I’m in London. There’s so much of design about this city, it’s the nation of studios such as Made Though, Spin, Sawdust, and ManvsMachine to name a few. I arrived in the evening of December 31st (2017) after a very shaky flight from Lisbon to London City. The underground was chaotic and I had to take a train from the airport to Shoreditch, take a shower and meet a friend in Blackfriars that was expecting me for the new years eve, it was stressful. I had a lot to do in one hour and half, and the main underground stations I had to go through were closed due to the holiday, despite it all, everything went fine and I met my friend in time for us to drop a few beers in a pub near the Airbnb apartment after midnight. I wake up the next day, put in my winter coat, grab a coffee at the Ace Shoreditch and embarked into a lonely walk from Shoreditch High Street to London Bridge, during the walk it suddenly struck me. It’s a new cycle and there’s much I wanted do.

A lot happened in my career in 2016, I ran a small design studio which eventually got commissioned to lead a UX research for a product for Toyota in partnership with Sapient, what started being a 30-day project, became a 60-day project and as soon as I realized 1 year had passed and I was leading design projects for another client, Bradesco. First we worked on a new desktop banking app for enterprise customers, and then designed and launch a social network for entrepenuaers and venture capitals to do business, all embraced by Bradesco. It was a roller-coaster of emotions and I’ll have admit , I was already tired of it. So as soon as I came back from my trip to London I knew what I had to do. I quit my 9to5 job at Sapient and went back to the wild.

Working with real-time data allows to do quick experiments and test with our users, if it’s not working you can throw it away and look for another solution, it’s a very haptic way to design.

I always had a strong relationship with my friends at 55/Brands, for collaborating in a number of projects and nonetheless for a shared vision, to work globally and have no physical offices. 55/ has always been known for their top-notch offline work, so after some talks I joined my small digital design studio into last piece of puzzle that they needed, the Digital Design department. During our first few months working together we launched among other things a purpose lead brand for an amazing entrepreneur from Kurdistan which I’m very proud of. She has an outstanding vision to bringing awareness for the things that are happening in her hometown with the new brand.

In May I was invited to join Toptal design team. It was a dream come true, I got introduced to this company two years before and got in love with their culture, a global distributed team working remote, connecting a global workforce of freelancers to the tech industry, in a very tailored manner, caring for both sides of the equation. At a glance Toptal values matched seamlessly with mine.

I feel Toptal is the first real product experience I ever had, despite working with product teams in enterprise companies, such as Toyota and Bradesco, they were clients. With Toptal it’s a totally different game, My KPIs are the same as the company and not an agency working for a client. It’s different because when you’re working for a client you have your own business interests that comes before them.

It’s different because when you’re working for a client you have your own business interests that comes before them.

In Toptal I work in the branding side of the business, using data insights to improve our conversion rates. Working with real-time data allows to do quick experiments and test with our users, if it’s not working you can throw it away and look for another solution, it’s a very haptic way to design.

Rams (2018) A film documentary by Gary Hustwit.

In the night of September 10th I was in an American Airlines flight to JFK, to attend at the premiere of the new feature-documentary from Gary Hustwit about the life and achievements of one of the most prominent names to carry Bauhaus principles to product design at scale, Dieter Rams.

New York is a city that seems to exhales inspiration in every corner, as Simone de Beauvoir once said “There is something in the New York air that makes sleep useless”. That applies for design aficionados like myself, from Massimo Vignelli subway signage and landmarks from Bauhaus influential architects as Walter Gropius himself, Marcel Breuer, Mies van Der Rohe and other modernists such as Frank Lloyd Wright and Le Corbusier, all had in some point adventured themselves in into this effervescent American territory during the modernist era in early 20th century.

“There is something in the New York air that makes sleep useless” — Simone de Beauvoir.

The first thing that every designer should do at least once is spend an afternoon at (Sarah) McNally Jackson, if you don’t know it, it’s a two floor bookshop with over 55,000 volumes and a huge collection of design books.

Another two interesting bookshops to go if you’re in town is 192 Books and Dashwood Books, both have an astonishing art and design collection. However, if you’re looking for a hidden gem, you love print, and you’re in New York right now, go to 186 Prince St. You’re not going to regret it.

A quite unexpected thing that I did this time in the city was scheduling a guided tour at the 101 Spring Street, it’s a building purchased by Donald Judd in 1968, a five story cast-iron structure that is located at the corner of Spring Street and Mercer Street. This was the first building that Judd owned and it has served as his residence and studio, and it’s considered to be where he first developed the concept of permanent installation, it’s centered in the belief that the placement of a work of art is critical to understand the work itself. As you tour it, you will end up thinking about the state in which we design our digital experiences today and how we expect people to use it, it’s pretty thoughtful.

To finalize my year I went back to London in which paradoxically it started. This time I wasn’t alone. The flight was a breeze, the city wasn’t that chaotic, and the subway stations weren’t out of service.

In Janury 1st, 2019 I had breakfast with my now fiancé — which I had proposed to 2 nights before, we left the hotel at Leman St, and went out strolling with no destination while talking about our lives and how organic and constantly mutating it is.

It’s really hard to make plans, a lot can happen in a year. You can quit your job, you can start your own business, you can live through so many experiences, that changes you constantly in a good way, it’s life. I say that because a new year is starting and we usually set up so many things in which we cannot attain. So here is my suggestion: just let it flow, make the decisions when they come, have a broad goal and try to adjust your decisions to accomplish it. I hope this journey inspired you and you could learn a couple new things with it. Have a great year, and I’’ll see you around. 👋

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