Inside Design

Inside the Design Team at Huge

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We’re tracking down InVision users inside the world’s most amazing companies to discover their favorite tools, inspirations, workspace must-haves, and the philosophy behind what makes them so awesome. Today, we’re talking to Karelia Jo Moore, Experience Lead at Huge, a digital agency working with companies like Google, TED and Gucci. We chatted to Karelia about finding success, getting a formal education in design, and what her design process looks like.

Hey Karelia, thanks for taking the time to talk with us! Tell us a little bit about Huge and your role there.

Huge is a full-service agency founded in 1999. We were born digital and have stayed that way ever since. Our name used to be ironic, because there were only a few people on the team when it was founded, but now we have more than 900 people in nine offices around the world. I started out in the Brooklyn office and moved to DC when we opened our doors here in late 2012. I was the fourth employee in the DC office, and we’re now at almost 50.

[With InVision] I’ve updated a prototype literally 10 minutes before a client meeting because I know that all I have to do is resave a PNG and go.

As an Experience Lead at Huge, I’m responsible for the overall UX vision on everything from new business pitches to full-scale site redesigns. Working at the DC office practically since it opened has been nice. We were in startup mode when I first got here – everyone was pitching in. I even played interim office manager for a while. The best part about it, though, was having the chance to touch every part of a project life cycle. I learned a ton about dealing with clients and selling designs. At the end of the day, the best design means nothing if you can’t sell it to the client.

Huge

What do you think makes a designer a great fit for Huge?

You definitely have to be thick-skinned around here. Be ready to be challenged by your peers. People at Huge have to learn not to be defensive about their work: you're going to be wrong a lot along the way to making something great. If an idea doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. While your design might be beautiful, if it’s not functional, it has to go.

Also, a great user experience is about far more than just design, so you have to be willing to learn about and do things outside of your job description.

Huge

What does your design process at Huge look like?

Whether it’s a small project that will take a couple of weeks or a large-scale one that will go on for months, our process always starts with user research, which unveils the real problem that we need to solve. We aim to get a sense of users' needs and wants very early on in order to build the best possible experience. Analytics can tell you what the user is doing, but you need user research to tell you why.

Then we start designing. Rather than dividing everyone's energy over several different projects, we have small teams dedicated to one project at a time. Granted, it can be challenging to pull off, but that setup is really nice because it gives the creative team an opportunity to focus on the problem and generate a lot of ideas. If it doesn’t work, kill it and do it again. And again. And again. We really push each other to make sure that we’re trying everything from every angle. We invite clients to join the design team and get their hands dirty in the process as well. Great ideas can come from anywhere and anyone, so the entire project team is expected to contribute their opinions and input.

There’s only so much you can say about how you solve problems. At some point, you have to get it out on paper.

Huge

And how does InVision fit into that process?

InVision has really helped us bring our designs into reality quicker. Everything feels different in its actual context. Something might look great on paper, but once you get to navigating through it, or trying to see it on your phone, that's when you realize how it will actually work. From there, you can go back and finesse the design in terms of the context it will actually be seen.

We’ve also used InVision a lot to present work to clients. We used to use a PDF deck, but I think everybody prefers something more clickable – more real – so InVision helps us get to that stage faster. I’ve updated a prototype literally 10 minutes before a client meeting because I know that all I have to do is resave a PNG and go.

Huge

You studied Visual Design & Communication at the University of Arizona. How important is it, do you feel, for designers to get a formal education in design?

I feel like a formal education for designers is more of a personal decision. I loved college. It was a great experience; but ultimately, all you need is a portfolio that shows how great you are at solving problems. However you get there is secondary. I doubt a recruiter would ever look at an excellent portfolio of work and say, "Oh, but they didn't go to college!"

Huge

What advice would you give to young designers starting out?

I always recommend new designers to take an experience that frustrates you and try to fix it. Rip it apart, and redesign it to be more functional and user-friendly. That’s what I did on my own time, with guidance from a great mentor, when I was still working as a visual designer. It was a little overwhelming when I first started, but it was an invaluable experience that taught me what user experience was all about. It also got me my job at Huge.

I haven't really thought about my legacy. I just want to design things that improve people’s lives in some way.

I guess the moral of that story is, the more you design, the better you’re going to be. There’s only so much you can say about how you solve problems. At some point, you have to get it out on paper. And the work you produce will be more telling of how you think as a designer than anything you say you can do. So show, don’t tell, and do all the work you can.

Huge

How would you define success? And do you think you’ve found it yet?

I think success is an ongoing thing. It’s like when you build a website. You’ll launch it, and it does great, but you’re never going to say, “Okay, we’re done!” You have to keep evolving it based on what you learn from people interacting with it and reacting to it while it’s live.

So in that way, I’ve had a lot of successes that I’m really proud of, and I’m looking forward to accomplishing a lot more based on what I’ve learned so far.

Huge

And finally, what kind of legacy do you want to leave behind for the design world?

I haven't really thought about my legacy. I just want to design things that improve people’s lives in some way. I want to design the thing that enables somebody to pay a bill without getting frustrated or design an online DMV experience that doesn't make you want to curse the government out. Basically, the things that people can forget about because they just worked. Maybe it surprised or delighted them in some way, but above all, it just worked. That’s the kind of work that I want to do.

Huge "The best design means nothing if you can’t sell it to the client."
Huge "Be willing to learn about and do things outside of your job description."
Huge "User research unveils the real problem that we need to solve."
Huge "Have small, nimble teams dedicated to one project at a time. "
Huge "Formal education for designers is a personal decision."
Huge "Rip it apart, and redesign it to be more functional and user-friendly."
Huge "Show, don’t tell, and do all the work you can."
Huge
Author

Conor O'Driscoll
Interviewer for InVision, designer for lack of a better word. Has more questions than answers.

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