Freelance Product Designer. Interview with Ming-E Yip
An interview with myself. After reading interviews by InVision and Marvel with other fellow designers / creatives, I pondered my own answers and thought I’d get them down. If anyone does wanna interview me for real, I do have a somewhat interesting life. I swear.
When did you know you wanted to be a designer?
Whilst juggling art, media, graphic design and dance type subjects in high school — I knew I was a creative, I just couldn’t pin point what kind at 15 years old but I seemed to love all things art. No-one told me back then you could possess more than one creative obsession in life. It was about choosing a specific subject to ace and hoping it would evolve into a job for a bright future. I bagged myself an A* in my high school graphic design final — a branding project for a Japanese sushi restaurant with a foam board model prototype. Along with an A in Art and Maths, but still, what did this mean exactly?
A more defining moment was attempting a degree year in Photography. I spent the year pushing hard to impress my eccentric artsy tutor (who slept under a Richard Avedon photograph for his adorned love) and spent time wondering why I wasn’t mastering the art of documentary like the rest of my photography peers. (This wasn’t Instagram era either, it was 2008, it was uploads on Flickr — the photographer’s blog site). I also didn’t have my own DSLR at this point. It was questionable. I understood my passions didn’t lie here nor did I want to start my career with wedding photography (the known struggling graduate first job), so I changed my degree to Graphic Design and it was the best 19-year-old decision ever made.
How did you get to where you are now?
I landed my first graphic design job in my English hometown, Pontefract (impossible opportunities btw), as a junior designer creating posters and flyers for bars and nightclubs. Turns out you can do some cool stuff with light leaks. I freelanced on the side as well for my friend’s floristry business which was more experience too.
With one years experience down, I could actually matter to the creative industry. Hallelujah. I moved to London ASAP and got design work in media companies, ad agencies and an e-commerce startup by freelancing. My main goal was to max out learnings from every role and colleague around me, that curious junior asking questions upon questions — t’was I. Two years in speedy London where you age harder than anywhere else, the bump around commute wasn’t for me.
So next up, I nabbed a Digital Designer job in the creative marketing department at Zalando HQ in Berlin. Largest e-commerce retailer in Europe and the largest corporation I’d ever worked for (11k employees). It was pretty special working there, designing custom campaign pages with pools of talent, a whole blog post could go to this one but here’s a story about my first day.
Thereafter, two years in cold Berlin, I came to sunny Sydney, Australia. I’ve been freelancing for various agencies and in-house companies so far; designing an e-learning platform in edtech, UI pitch for Volkswagen and UX/UI for fintech products. Here I am, location of dreams and product designer.
What would you’ve done anything differently?
Nothing really, as I deem every experience a gain. Maybe looked into copy writing sooner, I really enjoy writing as a way of expression and creativity but it also really impacts user journeys whilst designing. If it was possible, I’d like to slow doooown time so I can work on the list of side projects I’ve got going on in my head. The Deep Work book may help — utilising time to maximise concentrated work.
What’s does your average day look like? What makes it a good day?
When working: I arrive at the new agency or in-house company — if I’ve been working there awhile, I’ll grab a cup of tea and get working. Depending on the workplace, atmospheres can vary; being a new freelance face I believe it’s important to be social for good impressions and collaboration. So conversations and building connections with your team mates makes a good working day —and more possibilities for company at lunch.
When not working: I have heaps of inspirations and creative/UX/trend articles bookmarked and backlogged to read. Design and processes are changing so much and quickly, it’s a must to stay intact. I attend talks, most recently by Academy Xi; Design Sprints, Design Thinking, UX Trends 2019 and Service Design.
What’s your setup?
Macbook Pro 13" usually hooked up to a Dell monitor (standard in most of my workplaces). Along with a Wacom Intuos tablet and my LaCie hard drive packed with Sketch plugins, material libraries and UI kits to get me going.
How do your space, tools, and habits benefit you? What about the things you think needs improvement?
Where I live in Waterloo is pretty easy to get to the city for new workplaces. The transport in general in Sydney isn’t as developed as London or Berlin, so agencies/companies are still pretty accessible as they’re mainly based in the city or Surry Hills which is a 15 minute walk. An improvement would be a desk space to work from home. My desk space usually consists of my bed with a pillow to rest my laptop on or the dining table where I usually eat and watch Netflix — both my time out places. Associations are vital here as it can be difficult, tho very comfortable, to focus.
A new makeshift desk I’m writing this piece from, is the fold out table on my 2x1m squared bedroom balcony. Morning time is great as it’s cool enough in the summer, but as it hits 2pm I’m now hiding under my UV blocking umbrella so my laptop and I don’t fry. I have an ideal work space of course, a desk in Bali or anything from Minimal Setups.
Tell us about a project you learnt the most from, and why?
A two week pitch at SapientRazorfish. With a team of CX, UX, service design, business analyst, architect engineers and myself— a UI Visual Designer, our job was to create a seamless CX and digitalise the car buying experience for Volkswagen. It was the first time working this agile with a ton of knowledge packed in a short amount of working time. The CX design director was incredible, she was definitely the type of director you want to work under and aim to be one day. The process was rushed but fluid, clear goals were set daily, the team was dedicated, we worked passionately late and it was the most jam packed two weeks of knowledge gained — fully enjoyable.
What are you most proud of?
My life in general is dependent on whether I’m happy with my current situation and if not, how can I change it up? I’m currently proud of making it to Sydney and working here as a freelancer. With just two weeks of arriving, I landed my first gig at a brand and communications agency. Work began from there. I’ve managed to skew my career from digital design for advertising to the tech world of designing for products with a CX focus.
What does your routine look like?
I love to cook my own food so when I’m home from work, it’s deserved to have a good dinner and catch something on Netflix. Sometimes I’ll attend a life drawing class, have dinner out and catch up with friends. When I’m off work, I like to still get up relatively early to not waste the day. As I’m in a new city, I aim to discover new places and enjoy where I’m living right now. From coastal walks to working on my laptop in a trendy café.
Who’s work do you follow and admire?
Daniel Korpai — a product designer who is blitzing all of his skills in design, writing and photography. It’s very impressive.