Faces of Frantic - Jukka

Indiana Jones of the mobile era

Refreshed from the summer rain, the Faces of Frantic is back in biz with one of our newer talents: jovial Senior Designer Jukka Yrjönen, an almighty generalist and a literal jack of all trades.

Moi Jukka, how’s it going?

Really well, thanks! I’ve only been here for three months but Frantic is a cosy place and it’s been fun. I’ve recently worked on user research for a big, future-shaping project, UX design for an NGO, corporate stuff for a few companies and even a couple of blog posts for the Frantic blog. Instead of three months I feel like I’ve been here for three years, but on the other hand, I’m used to jumping into the deep end – it’s not like this is my first rodeo.

It’s been particularly nice to notice that in addition to client work, we are encouraged to spend time on competence development. Daring to take time to read articles, listen to podcasts and write your own blog posts is the best way to spark creativity.

What was your dream job growing up?

I wanted to be Indiana Jones. The teaching part seemed kind of boring but I was in it for the adventures.

How did you become a designer?

I’ve been calculating that my life as a designer started around the same time that Frantic was founded in 1997. On the fifth and sixth grade of elementary school we had a class in ADP, in which we studied stuff like photo editing in PaintShop Pro. After that I made some rough HTML websites during my middle school and high school placements. I ended up studying math and computer science in the University of Helsinki, but even though I can write code and I even managed to build a functioning web store as my diploma work, I’ve always hated programming. I like that it’s based on logic, which takes away the need to memorize anything, but somehow I just don’t like it.

After graduation I had a bit of a math burnout and started wondering what to do with my degree. I wasn’t interested in research or teaching so I started studying digital communications at Haaga Helia. My goal was to get the diploma and do a bit of networking. On the side, I worked in Metropolia Valo, first as a graphic designer and later on as a project manager. I wrote my thesis on typography and moved on to a Real Estate company for which I designed print media and brand assets. I walked out of there with a ton of physical stuff that I could use in my portfolio.

A couple years after graduating Metropolia, I got a job at DNA and I had probably been there for two weeks, when the manager of a new online department asked me to join. At first, we did web advertising: social media, digital billboards, automated display and some campaigns. We were probably the third company in Finland to start doing retargeted ads – I’m pretty sure only Zalando and Ikea were doing it before us. Designing those was really interesting, because I never wanted to spam people. Around the same time, the UX trend was starting to bubble under and it matched my design philosophy perfectly.

At DNA I was appointed the lead designer of the digital brand renewal and my job was to introduce the new brand to five different systems within six months. At DNA, I also worked a lot on mobile and that swept me away for a while: I moved to HiQ to do native mobile apps, service design and facilitation. Over the years, things have changed towards a more user-centered approach and I’ve worked with so many companies that I’ve gotten pretty good at assessing how different companies’ design processes work. These days it’s the norm to balance business goals with user needs, and it’s important for me that the companies I work for aren’t just looking for quick wins but actually do good.

What made you decide to join Frantic?

I was looking for a certain kind of culture – an atmosphere where designers are interested in doing good but also a place where the internal employee experience is maintained so well that it’s a pleasure to share it with the world outside. Things weren’t bad at my previous jobs either, but coming here felt like the right move at the time.

What makes a good designer?

Andrea Picchi from the UX STRAT conference said it well: design is a human-centric discipline and everyone who creates value for other people is a designer. Whether you’re a generalist like myself, a visual designer or developer, if you’re creating value for someone else, you’re a designer. Empathy and an understanding of behavioural psychology are also important.

A good designer is never finished: they can decide when a product or service can be launched but they also have plenty of development ideas up their sleeve. On the other hand, having a researcher’s mindset is also useful: we need to know which conventions to use, how to validate our designs, try not to fall in love with our own ideas and be open to better ones. Designers are allowed to have favorite projects but that doesn’t mean that they can’t be improved.

What has been your favorite project so far?

Simo, the payroll calculation app we built for Silta at my previous job. It’s not the most innovative app but we made it as an MVP and expanded from there. For instance, we had resources to build native conventions for Android and iOS, instead of having to make a poor hybrid.

On the other hand, the large research project that I mentioned earlier is also really cool, because it’s an opportunity to improve the daily lives of thousands of people. It simply has huge potential.

What would your dream project be like?

Right now I’d like to do something for the mobile, like an app – the industry or idea could be anything. But I’d like it to be a simple and functional app that works beautifully. On the other hand, I think it’s awesome that we have so many NGOs and other non-profit organizations as clients. But regardless of the client, my aim as a designer is to do good.

If I were to jump on the hype bandwagon, Indiana Jones style, I’d say that VR would be cool in the sense that there aren’t many conventions, which means that I could make them up. On the other hand, trends have a tendency to annoy me because design should be timeless. Being a forerunner is great and trying new things is fun, but it’s more important to keep track of the trends that stick around and that can be taken further. Design is always iterative and so it never ends. VR is currently big in the game world, but I’m more interested in AR and its applications in medicine. Trends are often driven by the entertainment industry or the weapon industry, but actually it’s much more interesting to explore their use elsewhere.

What adjectives would you use to describe yourself?

I don’t like labels but… [thinks for a while] Contemplative, jovial – not a Joker-like character but someone with a twisted sense of humor… And the third one would probably be determined but that might be too harsh. I mean that I have a lot of experience and I’ve seen a lot of different kinds of situations. Maybe “sure” is a good word. As a Finn I’m not allowed to say that I’m sure of myself, but maybe “reliable” will do.

What would you do if you didn’t have to work to support yourself financially?

I would climb, do yoga and become a beach bum – sometimes at Goa, sometimes at the Caribbean and sometimes in Thailand. The summers in Finland are okay, I could come here to go to sauna and swim.

What if you couldn’t work as a designer but you’d still have to work?

I’ve tried working as a personal trainer and I can tell you that that wouldn’t be the thing. I’d be some kind of a generic management consultant who just goes in and points out everything that’s wrong.

What’s the best thing about your job?

Versatility and the ability to influence. I’ve never focused on one specific area of design, but written code, worked on visual design, facilitated workshops and so on. That means that my role in each project is slightly different. The coolest thing is to work on a more strategic level and contribute to the service design of a larger entity. Being a chameleon is useful in those situations, because I can adapt and work several different jobs.

What’s the most challenging thing about your job?

Sometimes it’s hard to get to the core of the problem and that can be frustrating. We are often asked for band aids instead of the cure. It’s kind of like doctors always just prescribing a painkiller instead of trying to solve where the pain comes from. This is actually another way to distinguish a good designer: we need to be able to look behind the brief and find out why the client is asking for a specific product or service. We need to find out which problem we’re solving and whether the service that was briefed to us will solve that problem. Often we can redefine the brief but when a client refuses to do that, it can be hard to accept. I need to accept that even though I am a design god – put a winky emoji there! – even I don’t have all the answers.

If you got to be anyone from Frantic for a day, who would you be and why?

This is hard because Stanley [the office dog] has already been called… This is awful. I was thinking about Sami, but I can’t really explain why. Because why not. I’ve seen CEOs who are much less hands on, and think it’s awesome that Sami still works on client project. It would also be great to understand where all the ideas come from.

Finally, please give us an elevator pitch for anyone who is considering working at Frantic.

We’ve got smart and kind people, great culture and versatile projects. Come join us.

Thanks, Jukka!

 

If you’re interested in joining this smart and kind posse, right now is your chance! We’ve got several open positions just waiting to be filled. Get applying!