Please share a summary of yourself and your career "in a nutshell" to help introduce you to the community.
I'm Oriana Gaeta, a Digital Product Designer based in London. I create exciting designs at Roll Studio and experiment with photography in my free time. I'm a typography lover, passionate about colours. I also enjoy baking, am a tireless bookworm and crazy cat lady.
In The Beginning:
1. Can you remember who or what gave you the idea to begin a career in design?
It happened while I was still at the university. I was helping a few friends with album covers for their bands. Prior to this I was always making graphics, mainly following tutorials. When I was 10 yrs old I even helped my dad "build" his website (using front page for the sake of the nostalgic ones), but I never thought about it as a proper job. Where I am from, being a doctor or a lawyer is considerate as an actual job. Even now, becoming a designer is an harsh path to follow if you want to be taken seriously.
At one point during a conversation with a friend of mine, talking about the future, struggling to find something that I was really passionate about, he suggested that I should have signed up for a design course as I was already doing this kind of stuff in my spare time anyway. That conversation changed everything. It opened my eyes and showed me that I could have been myself without losing my soul.
2. What was the first website you were involved in designing and / or developing and how well did it go?
The first website I've ever designed and (sigh) developed, was an online music magazine. It happened right after I finished the school and I was in a very condensed-typeface-love period so I matched the most ugly, chubby, condensed typeface with black backgrounds and caribbean green buttons (before it became a popular colour, I have to say) plus my poor dev skills... and boom! My first ever site was online!
A new issue of the magazine was being published every month, so each time I had to manually update it because it had no backend. Luckily the project ended after 6 issues or so and the website is no longer online, so no public shame! Thinking about that now, I should have been pretty proud of myself for managing to deal with design, development, project management and maintenance all at the same time.
3. How would you describe your career thus far? Is it all going to plan or is there no plan?
I usually have short and long term plans for what I want to do and how far I want to get, and usually these plans get completely messed up. So many beautiful and unexpected things happen every day, connected to my newborn passions or to something that happens around my work sphere. The most intelligent thing I can do is to go with the flow and be ready with backup plans just in case. Right now I've got few goals I want to achieve and I'm doing everything I can do make them happen, but what happens in between will affect the time I'm going to spend getting there.
4. What career advice would you give to yourself if you could send yourself a "temporal text" 5-10 years into the past?
"Make what you're passionate about become your work". I wish I could go back in time and save myself years of indecision and trouble related to the choice of a career path and start to study design at least three years earlier.
1. What are your favorite aspects about working in design?
I love the challenge. I love to almost lose my mind to try finding a solution to a problem that has apparently no solution at all. I love that, in the process of finding the right solution, you need to fail many times to be able to get to the right path, and once you find it you can start being creative and experiment and make it not only functional but also beautiful. I love to pick colours, shapes, style directions. I love being inspired. I love that the most beautiful designs are the ones born thanks to the collaboration of many professionals that work together to create the best products. I love that every time I start a new project my first thought is that I can't do it, and I love that almost every time I find out that I was able to do it. I love that design is not only digital or print, but is a world of possibilities. I love that it's not easy at all.
2. If you could pick only one favorite project from your experience thus far, which would it be and why?
My favourite is definitely The Art of Ping Pong! Minimal design, creative freedom, terrific assets and charity purpose, I could't ask for anything better. I worked on this project for the first time in 2014, I had to do a very quick design as we had very little time, but the result was a super nice and simple layout that made everyone happy. As it is a yearly project, I worked on the 2015 edition again last year.
This time we took our time to bring to life a more complete and structured website, we even designed an app for the occasion using the beacons technology. The website was more colourful and dynamic, I kept the same look and feel of the year before but transformed it into a more "pop" version of it. I learnt a lot from this project, not only from a creative and design related perspective, but also from a management point of view. I learnt that even planning in advance things can go terribly wrong and there is no blaming but only learning from this kind of situation. We're currently working on the 2016 edition and it will be great.
3. What would be your favorite trend in web design and development from the last 5 years?
The rediscovery of minimal design. I think that this trend has never really been out of fashion, mostly because it is hard to consider as a trend something that, in my opinion, is the essence of design itself, but probably got adumbrated for a long-ish period. The good thing about design is that it does not need to follow trends to be effective, to create something timeless it "just" needs to be functional and beautiful at the same time.
4. Are there any favorite trends you would like to see more of in 2016?
I would like to see less trends probably. We all are losing a little bit of creativity every day because we tend to follow a path that is appealing and already there. We bombard ourselves with other people's good work (which is good, because we need to be inspired and to know what's outside) and the first thought we have after something that we really like probably is "I want to do something like that". Just because we designers are a crew of beauty lovers and when we see something beautiful that works we want to see it as much as possible. This means that we have slightly different websites for a period of time but each one with the same characteristics.
1. Did you always want to work in the creative industries or did you consider any other career options?
I wanted to be a ballerina when I was four, then I wanted to be a spy (I read a book about being a child spy), then a journalist (because the spy thing frightened my mum). For a long-ish period I wanted to work in my parents office, then, once I grew up a little bit, I wanted to be a writer (I still have few notebooks filled with fantasy stories). Later I wanted to become a researcher against cancer, after that came book editor and this brought me to literature via university which I did.
In the meantime I had hundreds of little jobs to pay for my things and not be a burden on my mother's shoulders. But with each of these options I never felt comfortable, I never thought that could have been the right way to follow, I felt that I wasn't born to do these things. That's why I really know that being a designer is what I was meant to be, because since I started, I felt like myself and I finally felt complete for the first time (even though I could have been a not too bad spy I think).
2. Do you have a good work and life balance or is it a work in progress? Any tips?
Let's say that I'm working on it. Sometimes I work too much, other times I just need a break. It can be deeply stressful work sometimes but it gives you lots of satisfaction and you learn a lot, so it's always worth it. This is one of those periods when I can barely sleep at night as there are so many things going on and I struggle to let them go away and let my brain rest. It's great though so it's a good thing, but it implies that I'm often too reactive.
Having a partner that does the same job as I do helps a lot. He knows how to deal with me when I've got the "I'm not good enough" crisis (we all do have them let's be honest) and how to support me when I've got a new idea or I've achieved something, so this situation helps a lot. I'll need more time to get more balanced I think, but I'm working on it.
3. What advice would you give to younger professionals wanting to find success in design?
I would probably tell them not to try being famous or well known, but try to be the best designer and human being as possible and to be willing to learn always and be humble. There is never a good result or high achievement without hard, hard work and that's the key, never try to get where more experienced people are without working hard, as they did, to get there. Be inspired by others but try not to be the others, be the best yourself you can.
4. If you had all the money you would ever need, what would you do with your life?
I was talking about that the other day with some friends... If I had all the money I would ever need in my life I would always be a designer because it is not what I do, it is what I am. I would do what I'm doing now but without the urgency of paying the bills or anything, I would do only what I really like, probably I would choose more carefully my clients and get involved only in projects I truly believe in. I would definitely move closer to my mum. Oh and on the predictable side, I would travel a lot more!
1. What type of projects and what industries do you prefer to work in?
I really like to vary, I don't have any favourites. Probably the projects I enjoy the most are the experimental ones and the design related ones. Definitely the digital sphere of design is the one I feel closer to my heart though.
2. What memorable challenges or highlights have you experienced from the projects you have worked on?
Every project is a challenge in a way, but I can remember one of my favourite ones (challenges, not projects), was trying to make a hero image work that involved putting a roll of toilet paper next to a faceless politician, following a pretty mandatory client's request. In terms of highlights, another favourite was JK Rowling retweeting our Mix The City website. Being a huge Potterhead I was basically dying. It was a moment that marked the end of my ability to work rationally.
3. What are your, or your company's, greatest strengths?
Perseverance, passion and hunger for knowledge. Oh and I'm a superhero, but that's a secret.
4. What is the latest project you worked on or what are you working on right now?
At Roll I'm working on a project for a broadcasting company at the moment, but it's an ongoing one so I can't show anything yet. I'm also working on a personal project that will be out in the next few months. The latest project I did that's out there is probably my own website.
Thank you for sharing an insight into your world. Any last words?
Thank you, CSS Design Awards, for the great opportunity of sharing this interview and for the amazing work you do everyday with this platform. Girls (in tech) Power!
Oriana is a digital product designer based in London. She creates exciting new designs at Roll Studio and experiment with photography in her free time. She is a typography lover, passionate about colours, and the kind of design that creates beautiful, working things.