Senior UX Architect Victor Elliott shares his approach to good design systems and delivery, how he became a designer and what he’s working on now.
We recently sat down with Victor Elliott from Centric Consulting to discuss his approach to design. Victor has been hard at work setting up a design system to help our team accelerate our design delivery using a consistent, repeatable process.
How did you come to be a designer?
Victor: I fell in love with art as a small child. I remember riding in the car with my mother in Colorado Springs when I was 8, and I found myself mesmerized by the paintings in the window of a car dealership.
I asked my mother what they were for, and she told me they were to attract new customers. I thought they were fascinating and beautiful. I decided then and there that that was what I wanted to do when I grew up.
In high school, I was recruited to play football for Stanford and Wyoming. Stanford, at that time, did not have a strong, forward-thinking program for aspiring designers. I chose Wyoming because of their rigorous design program.
After completing my undergraduate degree in art and graduate degree in marketing, the explosion of the web and digital media really set me up to pivot neatly into emerging technologies and digital design.
Everyone is talking about Customer Experience, Design Thinking, Experience Design, UX and UI – are we splitting hairs to an extent with these labels?
Victor: I’ve been a UX designer for more than 20 years, and my perspective is that we, as designers, cannot do our job appropriately if we cling to a label. As designers, we need to stay curious, flexible and be willing to challenge ourselves. I believe the label is less important than the skills required to do a certain job.
Labels are representative of the tools and skillset needed to do a specific job within the realm of design.
For example, you hire a carpenter to build a garage. A carpenter can build many things: for this project, he is asked to build a garage and one of the tools he brings is a hammer. You don’t hire the hammer. You hired the expert who understands how to use the hammer to build things.
As an expert, the carpenter chooses the right tools for the job. To me, hiring a label is equivalent to hiring the hammer.
It’s also like hiring a contractor to remodel your house. He needs to see how your house is built, before you actually see something visually appealing.
It is the same with User Experience. For UX experts, you don’t get the end result, until we can see how your house is built and what we need to fix behind the walls before we can put on the paint or decorative tile.
What projects excite you the most?
Victor: The projects I get most excited about are generally things that people find mundane and boring. I like to make the boring stuff more interesting. For me, design is not about colors and pixels, but rather about making confusing experiences more pleasurable, and the complicated stuff more intuitive.
I enjoy challenging the notion that some kinds of work are inherently uninteresting as well as getting people excited about the project with me. When it works, I can actually feel the room “recharge.” That makes me excited.
That is not to say I only want to work on “dry” projects; but I appreciate taking on challenges that seem like a dud and help turn them into an experience that has longer-term meaning for the people involved. We all want a little more meaning in our lives. Less superficiality.
To you, what’s important about the internet and technology?
Victor: The people. There are no more 1-dimensional experiences. Companies are no longer “talking at their customers.”
It is no longer enough to spend $1 million dollars on a super bowl ad.
Successful brands are developing and nurturing personalized relationships that take into consideration who the customer is and what motivates them. Brands are compelled to connect with the human at the other end of the transaction.
Can you say little more about the design system project you’ve been working on?
Victor: I think of design systems as a “living style guide” that provides design teams with a fast, efficient and scalable environment that is also a source of truth for all principles and rules regarding the overall brand and its offerings.
Design systems are the connective tissue that binds cross-functional teams of designers and developers. For designers, a design system provides brand assets, iconography, fonts, branding and templates to quickly build digital properties.
For developers, a design system provides working source code that can easily be dropped into new projects, and prevents the same thing from being built over and over again. Design systems evolve with the team.
As a result, they increase efficiency, reduce duplicity and help us design, engineer and deploy more consistent user experiences across websites, mobile apps, portals and other digital channels.
What can people expect in working with you?
Victor: The most important tools I use are listening with empathy, a deep appreciation of the client’s business objectives and surfacing the customers’ needs, fears and desires in relation to the client.
The biggest assets I bring to the table are lack of ego, speed of delivery, 20 years of experience and a friendly disposition.