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AsKin Questions to Verena Hillmann, UX Design Analyst

AsKinQuestions Background

Our name is intentional. “Kin” refers to family and “Carta” refers to maps. When together, we’re Kin + Carta — a group of connected makers, builders and creators, who come together every day to help our clients build experiences and plot a clear path forward in today’s digital world. Carta is what we do, Kin is who we are.

AsKin Questions is a series that brings the day-to-day experiences of working at Kin + Carta to light, all through the eyes of our Kin. And today, we’re speaking with Verena Hillmann, UX Design Analyst.

AsKinQuestions Background

Can you share a fun fact about yourself?

I am newly into roller skating. I started earlier last year and just did a 12km race. It was really fun!

What’s your role at Kin + Carta?

I’m a UX designer. Generally, what this means to me is that I am always thinking about the voice and the experience of the users. My responsibilities include staying tightly aligned with project researchers and using insights to create designs for digital products that best serve our users. I work with all parts of the team — stakeholders, product owners, and developers — to reach a consensus that matches our client’s end goals as well as the wants and needs of the users.

How did you get into UX?

I’ve always liked to communicate ideas visually. From a young age I would often draw and paint in my free time, and this is what led me to begin my studies in architecture. But that didn’t last too long, as I began to want a more expressive medium! I moved over to the visual arts and I think that's why I didn't go into graphic design like most UX designers. Once I moved forward with visual arts, I dabbled a little bit around art and technology and felt like the expression wasn’t enough for me. I wanted to create solutions for people and work to improve the ways we live. This is when I first learned about the practice of UX and immediately fell in love!

How do you integrate creativity with the development process?

I think that as UX designers, we have a responsibility to design things that match the time and workload that developers have available. Because it's not only users we are supporting. We need to make sure that everyone in the team is involved. If we design something groundbreaking, but it's not feasible, then it's no use! I think part of the creativity has to do with finding the middle ground for everyone. Sometimes, people confuse creativity with being visually skilled, but I think you have to create something that works for everyone.

What projects are you currently working on?

Right now, I'm working on a project for a client in the healthcare industry. I’ve never worked in this area before and I have so far learned so much. It’s a great challenge for me. For the project, I’m in charge of a specific domain, and together we are improving the way of showing information on clinical trials (among other things) to help our client have a complete overview of lots of information all at the same time. Since clinical trials involve real patients, there are very strict protocols to follow and our users need to be aware of everything that's happening to ensure the best for their patients.

What roles do you work with?

I work closely with the product owners of each domain from the client’s team. That's been a really positive experience as these individuals are specialists in the pharmaceutical industry. I learn a lot from them. Our design team also works closely with the engineering and QA teams. Together we have regular planning sessions to keep everyone in the loop with what's going on across design and our respective domains.

What’s the best part of your role?

I like when an approach I took for a design proposal works. It’s so fulfilling to me when users find my designs useful. I also love collaborating with research and solving real user problems. For our current project, that means finding ways for clinical trial processes to move faster so that patients might get the medication they need more quickly. I’m always really happy to be a part of solutioning and improving processes.

What do people get wrong about UX design?

One thing that's usually misunderstood is that UX is only about visuals. While most of our work does depend on visual skills, it's much more than that. Every designer has their own process. And until we reach the point of having something visual to give to our clients or the development team, we are actively thinking about the whole structure: about the user flows, what they would like to see, what problem they want to solve, how we can make them reach the thing they're looking for faster. Previously in my career, I had the chance to work with conversational bots, and that involved user flows and solving specific problems that had nothing to do with visuals. There are so many other layers to the impacts of UX design that often people forget to consider.

What advice would you give someone wanting to start a career in UX?

I would say don’t be afraid to not have a technical background. Everything can be learned. I started experimenting with technology and art in university and it led me to everything I know now. Don't be overwhelmed by it. Just take it one step at a time and enjoy the process.

What’s your favorite part of working at Kin + Carta?

It's the people. I've made really good friends here. As I mentioned before, I recently started roller skating, and I've made a group of friends at Kin + Carta that likes to join me in skating. Through this, I’ve met great people, not only from UX or from the area I currently live in, but also product owners, quality assurance consultants, and developers from all across the country. It’s been really amazing to get to know all these great people.

What inspires you?

As a UX designer, I feel that I get to be part of building a better world for everyone. Even if it seems very little, everything adds up!

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