Daniela leaning to a bridge

Designer, do yourself a favor and collaborate

Faces of Frantic is back with a dose of our own Daniela Oria, who never loses her gloves when it comes to service and UX design. How did Daniela wound up from language studies to designing better user experiences? Read on to find out!

Hi Daniela, how’s it going?

It’s going well, thanks for asking. I have a lot to do but there’s interesting stuff going on, so I don’t mind being busy. It’s been a good year and a relaxing summer so far.

What do you do at Frantic?

I’m a senior Service/UX designer and I work for our Finnair account. Out of the many projects Frantic is doing for Finnair, I’m dedicated to few of them, but then I of course help out in other projects as well if needed. I also work closely with Finnair’s in-house design team and other consultants.

What I do depends on the phase of the project, but I do contribute from beginning to end. I’m mostly involved with the concept and interaction design, detailed UX and service design. Graphic and content design are basically the only parts of design I don’t produce myself. On top of that, I do much planning with other designers and project owners on how to organize design work in our projects.

How did you become a designer?

I never studied to become one. I used to study languages and linguistics and after my graduation my professor was working on a project with Telecom Italia and she asked me to join the team. The project was about developing a voice UI, and in this type of work it’s beneficial if you’re familiar with languages or have a background in linguistics. That was in 1989, so the technology was quite limited and different from what we talk about now with voice UIs. Later on, when I moved to Finland in 2000, I continued working with voice UI’s and did research for voice UI dialogue strategies at Nokia. Only after that I’ve gradually moved towards more traditional UX and interaction design.

What’s the most challenging part of your job?

Maybe the fact that quite often you’re so into what you’re designing, that it gets difficult to not lose perspective (get caught up in details). You should always remember to step back and take a look at the problem as a whole every once in a while.

Another thing is keeping the balance between the needs of users, stakeholders, business, and technologies. Of course you always try to keep in mind to whom you’re designing, but you can’t avoid situations with conflicting interests. For example, sometimes a certain feature can be really important for the business, but designing with only that goal in mind can result in a confusing experience for the user. A happy user might not lead into direct conversion, but keeping the users happy and the service easy to use is likely to be worth it in the long run.

What’s the favorite thing about your job?

I like problem-solving and challenges, and working in collaboration with other people. At the moment I get to work with other designers here at Frantic as well as designers at Finnair and other agencies.

Another favorite thing is when I get to test something I’ve planned and designed with real people. You’ve spent so much time making decisions, discussing and debating for best solutions, adding something and taking something out, but the moment people actually get to use things you have done it becomes real.

What makes a good designer?

Difficult question! An open and curious mind helps. This kind of curious attitude, not being afraid of asking questions. Trying to understand what you are designing and what you are designing against.

A good designer also understands that you cannot solve it all by yourself, and is able to work with others and ask for help and feedback. It’s also important to understand what you should include and what you need to leave out.

What’s good about being a designer at Frantic?

We have an open culture, freedom and trust on what you’re doing and that you know what you are doing. There’s not much micromanagement, and things run smoothly and non-bureaucratically.

I think Frantic is a good environment to work at in general, as we’re open and supportive. And I think we have a lot of interesting client projects that we are doing. Our management are design advocates, and design is seen as a fundamental and needed part in what we’re doing. Here you don’t have to fight for the importance of design.

We also have a diverse group of professionals, and that’s good for sparring and learning. We have a good mix of people coming from different backgrounds.

What’s the best part of having been able to work with one client for so long and develop their services on a wider perspective?

I think it’s a personal thing. I like the continuity and the possibility to get to know the client and organisations deeply. We have so many and diverse projects that I don’t get bored even though I’m working for one client only. When you work longer with certain people you know them well and there is already mutual trust, so you don’t have to prove yourself all the time. It also saves time and allows you to focus on the project since you don’t have to build the relationship from scratch all over again.

I’ve heard that you do hypothesis-based design at Finnair. Tell more about that.

Ah yes! For Finnair it is important that customer flows are validated and tested with real users, instead of basing the solutions to only the competence and experience of the designers. So, we get to spend a bit more time in concepting and do real user testing with the test groups assembled by Finnair.

You’re Italian and also the team at Finnair (and here at Frantic) comes from different cultures and backgrounds. What is it like to work in a multicultural team and how does it affect the services you do?

I like to be part of diverse teams, that’s what I’ve had for most of my work life. Different backgrounds, viewpoints, personalities, everything is a plus. It makes for a better team spirit if you have different kind of personalities in the team. And I think that people who have moved abroad, irrespective of where they come from, are similar in a way. They are curious and easy to get along with.

Also, Finnair is a global company with a global target audience, so it also helps to have a multicultural team to make better global services. Of course no one can represent the whole country on their own, but it certainly helps to have people from different places and different backgrounds.

Finnair’s services touch thousands of people. What does it mean to you as a designer?

I only see it as a positive thing. Actually I never think about it so much when I design stuff. Of course, if you fail you can fail big, but also rewards are high.

What makes it challenging is that you don’t have just one type of users. There are of course target customers, but you’re still designing for many different target groups. In all the decisions that you make, you need to think about all the different groups to understand what would work and what wouldn’t.

Also, it’s interesting and challenging that we’re so used to designing for the western world. We’ve got interesting feedback for example from people in Asia who view the sites from a different cultural perspective compared to the Northern European users.

If you could be anyone at Frantic for one day, who would you choose?

Hmm, this is an interesting one. Well, there are two people. One is Okko, because he usually finds a solution, even though it might be a hack of a solution. And he always has an answer, even though it might not be THE answer you were looking for. Also, Okko never panics. He has this positive, calm attitude. Don’t know if he panics inside, but he never shows it.

And the other one is Liisa, she’s so energetic and charismatic, and is always full of initiative and bubbling with ideas. And on top of that, she has a great sense of humor.