Wonder what it’s like to be a designer at a tech company that truly values design? We invite you to take a peek into one of our Bridge partners, Path, through the eyes of Design Director Jenny Ji.
If you’re looking for the chance to ship great products and be part of a learning community with exceptional designers, consider applying to our Bridge Fall session by this Sunday, July 14.
Meet Jenny Ji, Design Director at Path.
Jenny manages day-to-day operations of the Path design team (both product and graphic). She’s responsible for resourcing all of their design needs, as well as sequencing the order of projects based on priorities and then communicating these decisions out to the greater team. She’s also responsible for the art direction of the work they do with outside vendors. From time to time, she still jumps in and gets her hands dirty, whether it be helping to cut assets or working on sketches for new pages on the website.
Join us as we walk through a day in the life of Jenny Ji.
Jenny makes a cup of coffee at her apartment before heading to work. On the left is her beloved vintage plycraft chair and ottoman, passed down to her from a friend/former professor. “It’s shabby, beat up and covered in oil paint. I love sitting in it when I work from home or on the weekend with a good book. It reminds me of that professor who was a little bit kooky, very much a fine artist at heart, and pushed all of us students outside of our structured graphic design mentalities.”
What are your mornings like?
“I’m not much of a morning person, so no real pre-work ritual. I’m usually running around my house trying to make sure I grab everything before I rush out the door. The most meaningful part of my day is usually my first half hour in the office in the mornings since it’s still really quiet. I use that time to power through emails, organize my to do list for the day, and prep for the day’s meetings. I’m a complete night owl. If there was any way to make it work, I would work from 2pm – 6pm then 10pm – 2am.”
Where do you get your inspiration from?
“I think that living in an amazing city with a such vibrant design/fine art/music scene makes it really hard to pinpoint any one thing, so I would have to say that my day-to-day surroundings are my inspiration. I live in the central Richmond district which means I traverse quite a bit of the city each day during my commute and it never ceases to amaze me how quickly the city transitions from block to block; that juxtaposition has definitely influenced my work in a subconscious way.”
Jenny heads out to work from her apartment in the Inner Richmond.
Interior design company Germia helped create Path’s office space. The chalkboard room, pictured above, is Jenny’s favorite office spot. “It’s tucked away in the corner and I’ll go in there to work if I really need to focus or if it’s late and I just want to kick back and slouch like I would at home.”
Talk about what it’s like to design at Path.
“Path is a great place for a designer because everyone from the top down believes in the value of design. That means we never have to resort to begging anyone to spend the time to get it “right”. Our engineers are our best collaborators; they will tell us if something won’t work, but will go above and beyond to help us figure out an equally lovely and sometimes more brilliant way to achieve the goal. We also aren’t afraid to hold ourselves to a high standard internally, we went through multiple iterations of Path 3 and completely scrapped the design quite a few times before the March launch. That commitment to quality is definitely my favorite thing about Path.”
What are you working on right now?
“We are always working on how to bring the people that matter the most to you, closer. Two of my dearest friends live overseas (in Munich and Cape Town) so it’s very important to me that we create togetherness, even when separated by miles or continents. It’s exciting to be challenged with communicating the little things that happen in person (hand on your arm, a warm hug, a scrunched nose) through a mobile app. We believe in depth and quality rather than breadth and quantity and we’re working on explaining that product philosophy to the world through our communications/marketing efforts.”
Every Monday, Dave Morin leads an All Hands meeting during lunch. They have catered food every day. Outside of eating at the office, Heyday has become a pretty regular lunch spot for the entire design team.
Everyone gets together for their design team meeting. The design team sits together in one room, with a door that they can close. Instead of moving the whole team to a conference room, they just move from their desks to stand by a foam board or hover over someone’s desk.
How do you structure design meetings?
“I try to keep formal meetings to a minimum. I’m constantly tweaking our meeting routine and schedule but I generally prefer that our meetings/crits be casual pop up conversations. We’re lucky that we’re still a fairly small team and we all fit in one room so it’s pretty easy to have impromptu standups and design crits. Our only real meeting on the calendar is the design team meeting on Mondays and that’s a mix of team updates, crits, and resourcing.”
What makes a great Path designer?
“We all spend so much time together that personality and communication skills go a long way. I look for someone who is smart, well-spoken, has a good sense of humor and very little ego about them. From a skills standpoint, I really value strong foundations in typography, layout, and color; things that can’t be masked with shine and gloss and bells and whistles. All Path designers are really good thinkers. We don’t make distinctions between IA/UI/UX — our product designers are responsible for every facet of the process so it’s really important that the designer can evolve and build upon a kernel of an idea, and then see it through from beginning to end.”
What do you enjoy about designing products?
“There’s much more interaction with the end user. With traditional graphic design, you’re creating something that’s aesthetically pleasing and communicates the important information in the form of a poster or a package. When you think about product, there’s so much more to consider. The user is no longer just viewing your work, they’re manipulating it and interacting with it in a way that you can’t strictly control. The thought process is no longer just a question about, “is the most import piece of information coming across?” Now we ask, “is this action intuitive, does the animation feel ‘right’?”
Here’s a little bit about four members of the design team.
1. Leigh Lucas is a copywriter and creative content producer at Path. She is a graduate of Stanford University’s English-Creative Writing program with a focus in fiction. Before heading west, Leigh lived in Pretoria, South Africa; Brussels, Belgium; Manila, Philippines; Vers-Pont-du-Gard, France; and Washington D.C. Her nomadic lifestyle has provided fuel for storytelling, and since childhood has maintained a romance with the written word.
2. Ed Kim is a product designer at Path. His design is guided by a belief that simplification is truly additive. Before Path, Ed was the lead product designer at Stamped and worked at Google Creative Lab, Apple, and R/GA as part of the core visual design team that launched the original nikeplus.com. Ed is a graduate of the Digital Media Design program at University of Pennsylvania. He once maintained a blog called Wear Today where he posted an illustration of his outfit everyday.
3. Erik Gomez is a graphic designer at Path. Originally from South Texas, Erik has lived in cities across the US as varied as Houston, Atlanta, and Kailua – an adventure that continues to shape his outlook on design and life. He has a BFA in Graphic Design from Academy of Art University, and he has worked with Chen Design, FontShop, Tomorrow Partners, IDEO, and Landor Associates. His hair is his signature style.
4. Dustin Mierau is co-founder and Chief Designer at Path. He leads the creative team with a passion for thoughtful pixel placement and a vision of how great design and elegant engineering can change the world. Dustin believes that an application without utility is like a story without a plot and an application without design is like a good story printed on a dot matrix printer. Before Path, Dustin co-founded Macster, which eventually became Napster for Mac.
“Sometimes it’s nice to get outside and stretch our legs.” The team heads to the Ferry Building for an afternoon coffee. Jenny is also a big fan of 4 o’clock froyo runs to Yoppi.
Do you have any hobbies outside of work?
“I was a ballerina from age 5-17, and I didn’t pick it back up until about three years ago. I find that channeling my creative energies through dance (whether ballet, hip hop, salsa, contemporary or anything in between) clears my head and makes me a better and more focused designer.”
What would you be doing if you weren’t a designer?
“I’d be a pastry chef. I love to bake and I would love to have some formal training in the field. I don’t know if I would ever want to pursue it as a career though, that might take all the fun out of it.”
What do you wish you knew as a designer early on?
“I wish I had explored more mediums/disciplines. I was so focused on being a traditional print designer, that I never seriously considered pursuing other skill sets. When I made the jump to interactive, I learned how to code pretty quickly and having that knowledge in my back pocket has been immensely helpful in my career. I think that dabbling in motion/copy writing/video editing would have expanded my “creative toolbox” even further and I really wish I had taken the time to pursue those disciplines earlier in my career.”
What advice do you have for other designers?
“I’m a big believer in faking it until you make it, and by that I mean having the confidence to take risks and pursue opportunities that might be outside of your comfort zone. If you don’t believe that you can adapt and learn and grow, no one else will either. On top of that, if you always play it safe and rely on what you already know you aren’t pushing yourself to get better. Try new things, challenge yourself, and don’t be afraid to fail!”