Design Chats

Inside the Design Team at BuzzFeed

4 min read
Conor O'Driscoll  •  Nov 11, 2014
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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 Allison Chefec, web designer at BuzzFeed, an online media company. We chatted with Allison about why you are not your work, her process of creating new features at BuzzFeed, and what challenge has her design team most focused.

Hey Allison! Thanks for taking the time to chat with us. Tell us a little about BuzzFeed and your role there.

BuzzFeed is a social news and entertainment company. Essentially, we do a lot of everything: news, entertainment, video, long-form journalism. In broad terms, we’re a media company, but we’re continuing to explore what that means in this day and age. It’s an incredibly exciting time to be at BuzzFeed, as we’re growing in so many ways right now. We’re expanding our international presence, building out different areas of our organization, as well as constantly experimenting with new formats for our readers to love.

I’m a web designer on the Product Team here at BuzzFeed. I work on a wide variety of projects that span both desktop and mobile web. I design a lot of the user-facing elements and products on the site, as well as help flesh out and design new features for our CMS.

InVision makes it so easy to update mocks on the fly. If you look at my dashboard of stats, I have an insane amount of revisions!

You studied Communication Design at University at Buffalo. How important, do you feel, is a formal education in design?

I don’t think that a design degree is necessary, really, but I’m so grateful for my education. College prepares you to think, learn, and grow as an adult in the working world. It’s an incredible experience. Design school helps you talk about your work, helps you learn how to give & receive feedback.Twitter Logo You learn not to take things personally. As a young designer, you may think that a criticism of your work is a criticism of you. It’s not.Twitter Logo Your work may have come from you, and it’s inherently connected to you, but it’s not you.Twitter Logo No one’s saying, “Hey, you suck!” They’re saying, “Hey, maybe this could be a little better.” If you keep an open mind, you might find that others have valuable points to make.

Walk us through the process of crafting new features at BuzzFeed, and how InVision fits into that.

Usually we’ll have some sort of kick-off meeting or quick conversation. I’ll try to get as much background on the project as possible. Context is extremely important when crafting a new feature. Then, I’ll open Sketch, and it’s time to design!

After I’ve completed the first round of the design, I’ll throw the mocks into InVision, which really helps me see how it’s going to feel in real life, whether that’s on desktop or mobile. We’ll then use InVision to comment back and forth on the project. InVision makes it so easy to update mocks on the fly. If you look at my dashboard of stats, I have an insane amount of revisions!

When it comes to new technologies, we have to embrace how people are consuming content and adapt. We can’t ignore it.

We’re really big fans of InVision at BuzzFeed. Before we started using it, I could have listed out all the features I wanted in a product like this, and I feel InVision has hit them all, as well as taken care of things I never would have thought of. To be honest, I just really love using it!

Is there a challenge in design at the moment that you’re particularly interested in?

Our team as a whole is very focused on the experience of our mobile readers. Mobile devices are so ingrained in our lives today, and much of web design is still catching up.Twitter Logo There are new devices coming out all the time, and we have to keep up with them all and make sure our content is consumable across all platforms. When it comes to new technologies, we have to embrace how people are consuming content & adapt.Twitter Logo We can’t ignore it. It’s an exciting challenge!

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

To me, success is knowing what you want and pushing yourself to get it.Twitter Logo While I’m still in the early stages of my career, I do consider myself successful. But I don’t think I’m done learning or done growing by any means at all. I’m always looking up, always trying to raise the bar higher and higher for myself.Twitter Logo I think a lot of people in this world are scared to push themselves, because they’re scared of failing.Twitter Logo And yet, if you don’t try, you’re never going to get to that next level. Every step you make in your career is about learning.Twitter Logo Nobody’s ever faulted anyone for trying something and not being good at it.Twitter Logo

If you’re young or at a new job, be the first one in the office and the last one out.

What traits or habits do you believe have contributed most to your success?

Above all, passion. You have to love what you do, or else you won’t get up every day and do it.Twitter Logo I’ve always known I’ve wanted to be a designer, and when you love what you do, you put everything into it.Twitter Logo People definitely appreciate that.

Curiosity is also vital. I was always curious, even as a kid. Apparently, when I was little, I used to say to my dad, “Dad, do I ask you too many questions?” I’d always be asking questions about everything, and to be honest, I still do.

To what extent do you believe that design can affect this world?

I think all designers are trying to make a difference in this world every day.Twitter Logo We’re designing experiences that affect how people live their everyday lives, so in that respect, we can have a huge impact. Great design can potentially have a positive impact on the world, but at the same time, poor design can definitely create bad experiences and negative results. Designers shape how people learn, how they’re entertained, how they connect with othersTwitter Logo. That’s a huge responsibility and a powerful position for us to be in. Design’s at its most powerful when it’s forming connections that otherwise would’ve never existedTwitter Logo, or when it creates an experience that makes our lives easier.

And finally, what advice would you give to young designers starting out today?

Keep an open mind. Don’t say no to an idea until you’ve fleshed it outTwitter Logo on a screen or on paper. It’s easy to be stubborn and to believe your approach is the right approach, but it may not always be.

Change is good. It keeps you on your toes, and it keeps you growing.Twitter Logo Change can be scary too, because staying in a place that’s comfortable is easy, but comfort can keep you from achieving what you want in life.

If you’re young or at a new job, be the first one in the office and the last one out.Twitter Logo Take on as much responsibility as you can. Show your employer that you’re willing to do anything and want to learn everything. Talk to everyone, and find out as much as you can from them. Any piece of knowledge, however small, is worth knowing.Twitter Logo

“Your work may be inherently connected to you, but it’s not you.”
Twitter Logo

“Embrace how people are consuming content and adapt.”
Twitter Logo

“Curiosity is vital.”
Twitter Logo

“Designers shape how people learn, how they’re entertained, how they connect with others.”
Twitter Logo

“Comfort can keep you from achieving what you want in life.”
Twitter Logo