My family has been a great example to me. They are all quite respected and successful. It’s almost unbelievable. At some point one of my uncles told me: “Felipe, the market is a competition. Whoever works more hours wins. That’s it.” This advice changed my life.
Please give us a brief bio of yourself.
I started my career in Brazil where I led design in a small team at Globo.com, the largest media company in Latin America. We created some interesting things, including the most popular sports site in the country. I left when we achieved our goal to be the most visited sports site in the country. While at Globo, I wrote a book about User Experience that ended up becoming very popular with the local design community. It’s called “Design para a Internet: Projetando a Experiência Perfeita” and it still sells pretty well today, even though it was written in 2005. Then I moved to the United States to work at Huge as an Interaction Designer in 2007. I worked my way up and in 3 years I was made a Partner within the company. I’ve worked on the best projects of my career at Huge, including CNN.com, HBO GO and the Pepsi Refresh Project. At the end of 2010 we won an international pitch for a large Brazilian company and we opened the office in my hometown, Rio de Janeiro. Today, I live between New York City and Rio, but I spend most of my time in New York.
What do you do for inspiration?
I love product design and industrial design, and I love to learn from the work of old design masters. I’m currently experimenting with bikes. I’m buying parts on eBay as well as different stores and building very simple, elegant bikes. I’m learning a lot from my friend Francesco Bertelli, an Italian legend that works with us on the product design team at Huge.
Please list 3 of your favourite sites.
What do you regard as being your biggest achievement?
My book was a big deal for me and it completely changed my career. It ended up influencing a lot of young designers in Brazil and I’m very proud of that. Giving back, helping and training other people in my country to push the industry forward is one of my goals in life, and so far, that’s the closest I have come to doing just that. Huge Brazil is my next attempt, but in a more practical and exclusive way.
How many hours do you work each week?
Probably more than anyone you know. I strongly believe in hard work and I think talent is overrated.
How do you relax or unwind?
I play with my kid, play Call of Duty, and I both watch and play a lot of soccer – real pick up games or video games with my friends.
If you weren't working on the internet what would you be doing?
I would work with industrial design, designing non-digital products we use every day. That’s for sure. Outside of the design field, I would probably do something related to soccer. I actually have a plan to be involved with professional soccer management later in my life, working with Fluminense, of course.
What's your favourite part of your job? What's the hardest part of your job? What do you do when you get stuck?
My favorite part of the job is the craft. I love designing. The most grueling part is when we’re working on a new project which is when you really need to put in the time necessary to truly understand the client’s business and what really matters for them and their users. I don’t get stuck designing. I know it’s just a matter of time until I get it right. To me it’s a matter of putting more hours into the work and that’s it. I developed this confidence over the years and it helps me sleep better and be calmer. I might not be as good as I think I am, but because I’m delusional about my abilities I have the will of a giant.
What's the longest you've ever stayed up working on a project?
32 hours straight.
If there are any pivotal experiences/decisions you could point to that helped shape your career, what would they be?
My family has been a great example to me. They are all quite respected and successful. It’s almost unbelievable. At some point one of my uncles told me: “Felipe, the market is a competition. Whoever works more hours wins. That’s it.” This advice changed my life. Another very important piece of advice I got was from one of my teachers in Design School, Lula Rocha. He convinced me that usability was underrated and that nobody in the world was doing it right. He said, “Your work is pretty, but you don’t know shit about usability.” He showed me the window of opportunity we had back in 1998. I took his advice and that ended up shaping my career.
What software could you not live without?
I never worked in a particular one that I loved. The closest I could get to answer this question is actually to talk about Apple products. I just love working on an Apple computer, an apple phone and so forth. I hope they keep their standards now that Steve is gone.
In terms of software, is there anything new you have been playing with lately or that has impressed you?
In general I tend to hate them more then love them. I would love to redesign most of the software I use every day.
Of all the websites you/your company have produced, which one are you most proud of?
I’m still very proud of CNN.com. It’s the greatest news site in the world. Millions of people use it every day. It was a great honor to work with the Huge team and the CNN team to launch this project.
What are your views on design/graphic school. Do you think someone can get into the field without educational experience in a school environment?
Absolutely. I actually always tell my wife that if our son decides to be a designer he won’t go to college. I’ll train him myself from a very young age. To me, it’s all about mentorship and apprenticeship. It’s about hours of training and practicing. I strongly believe that it’s better to work in a great company with amazing people you can learn from than experiencing design school – where you will have contact with other students that know as little as you. The more you are be surrounded by people that are better than you, the better. Everything I am today is because of things I learned from people I worked with. I went to a great design school in Rio and I have a Masters degree, but that was necessary because at 17 I had no experience and I wasn’t good enough to find a job at a great design studio.
How difficult do you find employing the right people in a world where everyone calls themselves a web designer?
I think we’re fortunate to work in a field where there’s something called a portfolio. If you see someone’s portfolio you know how good he or she is. Then you match it with their years of experience and you have a pretty good idea of where the person is going to get. It’s much harder in fields where there is no such thing as a portfolio.
What country excites you the most in terms of innovation?
In digital? USA. By far. No contest.
What does the future hold for your company, or you as a person?
We’re on a mission. We’re constantly trying to assemble the most talented team in the world and do the best work in the industry - work that will push the world forward. We want to keep doing that on a larger scale to impact more people and hopefully make their lives better. I want to be a part of that. On a personal level, I eventually want to train young designers in the US and in Brazil. I want to push the Brazilian industry forward and give back as much as I can before I die.
What are you excited about learning next and is there a long term challenge you are considering tackling?
There are so many things I want to learn. I want to be a better coder, I want to do more consumer electronics UIs and I want to keep pushing my craft ahead. I also have this other important project, my son. I want him to be a very happy person and amazing in whatever he decides to do in his career. That’s my long-term challenge.
Any parting shots or pearls of wisdom?
Never stop designing. Never stop being hands on. They will always try to make you stop. Do not let it happen. And don’t be lazy. As soon as you are lazy, someone who is willing to work harder than you will take your place.