Designers are a specific breed. While they’re human like the rest of us, I’ve found that they often have interesting side projects. One of the designers in our office likes fishing for sea bass, while another uses his weekends to work on a mood journaling app. Last month, we welcomed another designer to our team: Romi.
Would Romi, like our other designers, have any noteworthy hobbies? I decided to ask. During our conversation, Romi told me about the earliest signs of her knack for design, her view of user experience, and the in and outs of her record collection.
Romi, you joined aFrogleap as a UX designer a little over a month ago. Can you tell me about your way into design?
Maybe it’s fun to share that I started making websites when I was 14. At first, I used to copy and paste screenshots of websites in Microsoft Paint. After that, I began using HTML and Photoshop. To me, the idea that I could make something that worked in a browser was bizarre. I loved it.
Do you remember your first website?
I remember it very well. It had music videos and lyrics from artists like Christina Aguilera, K3, and whoever else was hip when I was 14. You could choose whether you wanted to see videos for cable or dial-up connection.
The website’s background was bright pink, and the text was neon green. It also had my name in letters with gradients of different colors. I last saw the thing a couple of years ago, but it’s no longer online.
At 14, did you already know you wanted to keep designing things?
After high school, I first studied journalism. Moving back to design was a bit of a switch. But with a small detour, I ended up doing the same things as I did back then. Although I now design my websites in Sketch.
I also like coding websites, but I wouldn’t be able to do that full-time. I love taking a long time, so I’m not an efficient developer. I do still like building simple websites for myself.
As a designer, what are some products you admire?
The first thing that comes to my mind is Ticketswap. It’s a great concept because it matches ticket supply and demand. For both sellers and buyers, they put user needs central.
Design is not just what you see — it’s the entire experience. Like when you receive a text when you buy your tickets, or when the app sends you a notification when there are tickets for sale. The entire thing is just very well thought out.
Speaking of experience, how do you feel about your first weeks at aFrogleap? Any first impressions?
I like the informal atmosphere. There are quite a lot of people my age here, and they’re great. I’m happy that I’ll get to learn a lot here in the time ahead.
What do you do when you’re not working? Do you have any peculiar interests?
I collect vinyl. I have about 300 records now. That may sound like a lot, but I only collected about a hundred of those myself. The rest came with my turntables. I haven’t even listened to all of the records yet. A lot of it is pop, and there’s a handful of Italo Disco in there.
I also play techno sets in my spare time. At home, I DJ almost every week. As I tend to forget all time while I’m doing that, I try not to do it too often. Oh, my poor housemates… [laughs]
What’s your favorite record in the collection?
‘Love Triangles’ by Bookworms. It’s techno — housey techno. Danceable. I can’t really describe it. I’m not sure it’s on Spotify.
When I think about music and design, album covers are the first thing to pop up. Are there any eye-catching artworks in your collection?
Not really. In fact, most of my records come without an album sleeve. I store those records in generic sleeves I buy in bulk.
Why did you start collecting vinyl?
Before I started DJing, I didn’t collect any music. It was only after I started that I realized I wanted to build my own collection. I now own a lot of EPs, which have no more than four tracks. When I feel like I need new music, I start listening to B-sides of records I already own. That’s why I know most of my EPs inside out.
What does it take to be a good DJ?
Playing a good set is all about picking the right records. For every particular crowd, you need to be able to sense what they need. And you need to build tension.
The other day, I found myself in a store with CDs and vinyl. I realized how much I miss music being a thing you can hold in your hands. Do you often browse record stores to grow your collection?
When I’m in a record store, I have no idea where to start. If I recognize a label, I’ll think: hey, this might be worth a listen. But it’s just not very convenient. I prefer online previews because they allow me to skip through tracks quickly. After a while, you get better at judging a record quickly, especially when it’s techno.
Do you have a dream you’d one day like to achieve?
I usually don’t plan things too far ahead. Taking my first steps in UX design and turning it into a job was already a short-term dream. I previously had a job in the same role, but I was freelancing in a place where I couldn’t learn much. Here, I’m super happy with my four designer colleagues.
Regardless of whether I ask the other designers a specific question or not, they’re always trying to teach me things. That’s really cool, although not necessarily convenient when you’re trying to meet a deadline… [laughs]
This is a great environment for me. I guess my dream was to be able to do what I’m doing now. And when it comes to DJing, I’m happy that I get to play sets every once in a while, but it’s not my ambition to get famous. I just like doing it. As long as I get to keep doing what I like, I’ll be satisfied.