‘If your design does not carry any functions, it’s either art or garbage’ MUSE interview with Valentina Sulima, Zgraya’s Head of Design
What makes a ‘good’ design, how not to stuck with designing for the sake of designing, and where to draw inspiration from. Recollecting the best parts of MUSE’s interview with Valya Sulima, our Head of Design and quite a master designer herself.
‘Design is good when it solves a problem or task in a way that is as simple and convenient to the user as possible. If your design does not carry any functions, it’s either art or garbage.’
Previously, we’ve republished the interview with Zgraya’s CEO Valentin Ilchuk and art director Michael Babenko after getting gold & platinum at MUSE & NYX and becoming the winner of the 2020 Vega Awards.
If you missed the talk, check it here.
Now, we’re sharing the second piece from another point of view, a word from our Head of Design. Less about the inspirational part — and more of a practice, functionality, and task-solving.
Please give us a brief bio of yourself and your background.
My name is Valentyna, I’ve been working in UI/UX design for many years and now I am Head of Design at Zgraya. I have an abandoned education in psychology and art school, and a lot of self-education. I did a huge number of courses in UI, UX, front end, art direction and so on. I like to choose what to learn by myself and reject the stuff that just clogs your memory.
What made you become/why did you choose to become a digital designer/artist?
Imperfection of this world.
What’s your favorite kind of digital design and why?
My favourite is UI design. I like its universality because you can use it with any new technology and possibilities in any direction, from 3D modelling to AI, and this is amazing, not being stuck with just one thing or style.
To you, what makes a “good” design?
Its functionality. Design is good when it solves a problem or task in a way that is as simple and convenient to the user as possible. If your design does not carry any functions, it’s either art or garbage.
Describe your design style and its main characteristics.
The visual style varies from project to project, because first of all I work with the needs of the client and their target audience. If we speak of design style as an approach, I would define it as a UX approach, because the final goal is to create something that will satisfy our user and make their life easier, even if that means to save them 10 minutes.
‘We should take inspiration from the surrounding world, from the streets, from similar professions and other completely different things, this gives one an additional or different point of view.’
Tell us about your design process.
I think that for most UI/UX designers the main steps of the design process will be the same, it’s a kind of a formula that’s hard to depart from. Analysis –> research –> moodboard –> hundreds of edits –> design. And it’s quite possible that more than one cycle will be needed.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
Everywhere. From Bosch to the position of players on a football field. We should take inspiration from the surrounding world, from the streets, from similar professions and other completely different things, this gives one an additional or different point of view.
What current trends in digital design (or really anything digital related) are you most excited about?
I don’t like trends, in fact, the way trends are used nowadays. In most cases, they make all projects so similar that at least the individuality and recognizability is lost, and in the worst cases the brand positioning suffers too.
Congratulations! As the winner of the 2020 Vega Awards, what does it mean to you and your company and team to receive this award distinction?
It means a world, really. It means that we do things right. It means that our designs are able to reach out to people out there while delivering the results to our clients. It means that we have a crazy good team. And getting this international approval actually drives us to create evermore.
Can you explain a bit about the winning work you entered into the 2020 Vega Awards, and why you chose to enter this project?
Arkade games is a single-brand eCommerce website that aims to present and to sell to the world a grand gaming invention — Arkade Blaster. It’s a gaming controller that connects to your mobile device and its motion detectors and allows you to have a unique immersive 3D gaming experience. The product itself was so cool that we decided to go all out and came up with an interactive 3D centerpiece that is surrounded by all the traditional elements and styling of the gaming world.
What was the biggest challenge with this project?
For me personally, the hardest thing was to get a feel for the gaming vibe, because I’m not a gamer and my maximum is to play bubbles on the phone. But, luckily, we worked on the project as a team and now I’m a more developed character. Speaking of the team in general, the hardest thing was to optimize the 3D model to improve website performance. WebGL is a pretty demanding technology, and the rules of modern web and progressive users aren’t prepared to wait 10 seconds for anything to load on the web, but we managed to pull it off.
What are your top three (3) favorite things about the digital industry?
Solving problems with methods that are not expected. Turning ideas into reality. The ability to dream, to be disappointed in your ideas and after all this to realize that this was the path to something better.
‘Could I have predicted 10 years ago that I would be able to control my kettle from an app on my mobile phone? Of course not. No matter what.’
What makes your country specifically unique in the digital industry?
It’s simple — fresh, bold creativity and a lot of very skilled people in pretty much every field, combined with great prices.
Where do you see the evolution of digital industry going over the next 5-10 years?
Could I have predicted 10 years ago that I would be able to control my kettle from an app on my mobile phone? Of course not. No matter what we predict now, things can go in a completely different direction as soon as some new technology comes along.
If you were a student entering this industry or an aspiring Vega Award submitter, what advice would you give them?
Look carefully. Don’t do creativity for creativity’s sake and design for design’s sake, solve the problems your customers have — this is the key to successful products.
What resources would you recommend to someone who wants to improve their skills in the design industry?
Nowadays there is an incredible number of all kinds of resources online and offline, both free and paid, in any format — text, video, audio. Most of them let you improve yourself and take away something new. The main thing is desire and self-organization. Just do it.
Tell us something you have never told anyone else.
Design and coffee are overrated.
Who has inspired you in your life and why?
Every day I meet people that inspire me in one way or another. The main thing is to want to be inspired and you’ll see how many interesting people are around you and how a random phrase can push you towards something completely new for you.
What is your key to success? Any parting words of wisdom?
I haven’t found my key to success yet, but in order to achieve something you need to not stay in one place. It’s very trendy these days to talk about visualization of your goals as a way to success, but this doesn’t work until you get up from the sofa and do something.