.

Excitingly, nothing is here to stay, is it? Not even HTML. Not even browsers and the internet as we know it today. The hyperspeed at which technology accelerates in today's world is absolutely fascinating and not something anyone should feel nostalgic about. I want the future, now. I'm ready for what's next.

question Please give us a brief bio of yourself.

I am the Peruvian-born, Amsterdam-raised, and New York-based Global Director of UX and Strategy at Fantasy Interactive, which basically means that I am responsible for translating business requirements into intuitive interactive solutions as well as guiding the UX team (across all Fi offices) to develop detailed wireframes that incorporate all technical, editorial, and usability specifications of the project while constantly advocating for the end-user. I am also a Scandinavian sweater, Soviet Sci-Fi, HCI and mid-century furniture enthusiast, and I commute by bike to work everyday. And I love cats, a lot.

Please list 3 of your favourite sites.

Wikipedia, Reddit, TED.com

How many hours do you work each week?

Depends on what you consider work... Since work is play and play is work it's sometimes hard to see where work stops and life takes over. I am almost always "on call", and check emails frequently outside office hours. I'm a bit of a workaholic though so I get satisfaction out of working hard and feeling engaged, for better or worse. It's hard to put an actual number on it.

How do you relax or unwind?

I sleep at least 8 hours a day, I get massaged once a week, and I bike to and from work. When I come home I usually cook, which is a great way for my mind to continue being creative, but in a relaxing yet process oriented way. I also take 2 vacations a year where I completely go off the grid, unplug, strap on a backpack and wander through completely foreign lands with no connection to the world back home. Dinner with friends and stimulating conversation is also great. Karaoke or dancing the night away every once in a while helps too.

If you weren't working on the internet what would you be doing?

I would love to be a writer, I probably would not be very good at it or be able to make a living out of it (wanting to be a writer is a bit like wanting to be a film director I suppose), but I enjoy writing tremendously, and have ever since I was a little kid. 

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 moment where I have synthesized the experience, content and interactions down to what I feel is the most optimal path, the straightest line from A to B (and this is a very subjective feeling you have to know to listen to). My brain literally will not stop going through ways to simplify and simplify and simplify further and further, until it hits this moment of rest (I even dream about architectural UX problems during this time in the project). I love this phase as this is where my brain can literally surprise me.

The hardest part of the job for me is balancing being a manager of a team of talented UX designers (which requires very different skills), and having enough time and space to still be creative and come up with solutions myself. Everyday however, I am learning ways to make this switch smoother so that neither suffers.

And as far as for getting stuck... Well, that luckily doesn't happen often anymore. Once you've been doing this for a while, you learn ways to quickly get "unstuck". For me that is pushing pushing pushing and pushing through until I have the time and freedom to let go a little bit and not think about it at all for a couple of hours or day or two. Focusing on a different task gives my head the space it needs to get over previous hurdles later on.

What's the longest you've ever stayed up working on a project?

I've never pulled an all-night-er. There comes a point where staying awake just does not work for me and my mind shuts off completely. Focused, concentrated bursts of hard work throughout the day are much more effective for me, and luckily I can plan my time well. 

Who is your target audience?

I would say "what is my target audience", and the answer to that is "common sense". In my field there is quite a lot of pseudo-science regarding personas and target audiences and consumer research which to be frank I have very little patience for. I want to make things that are easy to use and appear effortless, and therefore have a universal component which is very human at its center. One of my all-time favorite quotes regarding this topic is by one of my all-time favorite designers, Dieter Rams. When he was asked about doing consumer research during his time at Braun, he simply said, “Never. We wanted to change the world.” I bring up this quote in meetings with clients quite a lot. It takes a certain amount of fearlessness to not allow projects to get defined by this kind of old school marketing-y type of thinking.

Has winning FWA awards helped you in any way?

Winning an FWA is a great honor, and winning my first one really boosted my confidence as a UX designer. Nowadays I see it more from a business perspective and understand that clients would obviously rather give work (and especially innovative work) to agencies who have proven themselves to be innovative in the past.

What did your very first site look like? Is it still online?

My very first site was made in Dreamweaver back in 1999, it had a ton of tacky roll-over animations and pictures of me and my friends snowboarding. It made absolutely no sense and 80% of the code was stolen from other sites, as I was completely clueless and drunk on the ready availability of other people's hard labor. It was a total embarrassment!

Have you written any books, if not do you plan to?

I have not written any books, but I would love to. It would be interesting to write a memoir about my career that exposes the truth in a racy exposé sort of way, and write about the naked truth of all the work I've been part of when I am old and all the NDAs have run out. Besides that, I would also love to write a book about my unusual childhood, and perhaps even a biography on Alexandra Kollontai (one of the first female members of the Russian Soviet party), though both of those would be completely unrelated to this industry, and people here at the FWA would not care to read probably, haha! 

Are there things you do OUTSIDE of work to ensure that you are in the right mindset to be creative and/or successful in whatever you are doing?

Luckily stress has never really affected me, and I don't take a walk in the forest or go to museums in order to get inspired or anything. However, a key part in order for me to get into the right mindset and allow creativity to dominate my brain, is making sure that my home life and my work space is completely organized and clutter-free. This my sound very strange, but if things are not neat, I cannot get my brain to calm down. So, for example, my emails are ordered in priority, I have a checklist of things I need to accomplish that day by certain times, my home is immaculate, my affairs are always in order, things like that. Staying focused and being in the right mindset is really a lifestyle for me and everything I do in and out of work is helping me to enhance and optimize that.

What was the last digital effort you saw (or were a part of) that used social media in a way that really made sense. Why?

I'm probably the worst person to ask. I'm quite allergic to "social media" and have only recently ventured out into the social space by joining Instagram, which I am still not convinced is really adding any real value to my life. I am not on Facebook or Twitter or anything else either, and am an anonymous contributor on Reddit. But of course from a completely objective and anthropological perspective these are very interesting times, and I am quite looking forward to seeing how we will be viewing this time in history, say 50 years from now. How will we look back? How will social media have evolved? Will it prove to be a positive or negative thing? Will it only have been a brief fad? Will it have alienated people more than have brought people together? 

Of all the websites you/your company have produced, which one are you most proud of?

I am very proud of the Civil War site we did for the History Channel, which was an interactive infographic of all the obscure and not so obscure facts of the American Civil War. Making boring and dry numbers that were literally delivered to us via a spreadsheet engaging and interactive was a very interesting challenge, and the visual design is also extremely beautiful.

I am also extremely proud of the work we have done for USAToday.com – that project was a monumentally huge undertaking, and I am proud of that project because the UX framework of that site is so incredibly bare-bones and simple, and logical. It's literally the best work I have ever done.

Do you think Flash is here to stay?

Excitingly, nothing is here to stay, is it? Not even HTML. Not even browsers and the internet as we know it today. The hyperspeed at which technology accelerates in today's world is absolutely fascinating and not something anyone should feel nostalgic about. I want the future, now. I'm ready for what's next.

What are your views on design/graphic school. Do you think someone can get into the field without educational experience in a school environment?

Most people I know who are successful in this field are not classically trained and did not study anything related to web design. I chose to study Graphic Design during my undergrad because I had a life-long love affair with design and I figured I'd probably end up in advertising or something like that. Once I got a grip on what working in advertising really meant however, I realized that it was not for me at all and I decided to study Communications Design for my Masters at Pratt, which allowed me to make a lateral move into UX design and HCI (at least from a theoretical perspective). But, with that being said, I do not know if I would recommend that to anyone now to be honest. American design schools are so incredibly expensive, and I am not sure it's worth the investment. Just a couple of years ago I payed off my last bit of student loans, and when I signed that final check I thought, well... I guess for me it was worth it, but would I do this all over again? Probably not.

What would be your ultimate vehicle to travel in?

Teleportation, of course! Forget vehicles. I'm a big fan of sci-fi and popular futuristic science stuff so I really want to travel this way before I die! 

How do you keep your finger on the pulse of the latest web trends?

I don't always, and that's actually a good thing.  Sometimes getting too wrapped up in what everyone else is doing is actually harmful to your own creative process and can hinder you in being innovative yourself. It's like how birds are able to fly in formation, they can fly in formation because they are not looking forward, but they are looking at each other. I quite honestly hate faddy-trendy web design because it's not always interesting, and it's not always the appropriate or best solution. In order to be forward-thinking you have to let go of the status quo, what is happening today and what everyone else is doing and you have to rephrase the problem in order to come up with something innovative. If you are for example redesigning a toothbrush, the brief shouldn't be "redesign the toothbrush",  as that will most likely almost always result in something that still looks like a toothbrush, the brief should be "redesign a way to clean your mouth", since that opens up the problem and allows you to come up with a completely different solution, and maybe even come up with something better than a toothbrush. 

What country excites you the most in terms of innovation?

Everyone of course says Japan, but I have my bets on Brazil. I was there last year and you just feel that something creative is in the air there. Something is about to happen, they're itching to get moving and it's exciting times. 

There must be a project that you have always dreamed of doing, what is it?

I love traveling, and when I travel I always travel with a Lonely Planet. The books are great and affordable and you don't mind getting them scuffed up or bringing them to the beach or river trip or whatever.  However, I usually don't need the entire Lonely Planet book, so I tend to tear out the chapters that I need, and then toss them when I have traveled through the place. But when I travel I also have my iPhone and Kindle with me, and sometimes even my iPad, and the large heavy Lonely Planet book can sometimes be a burden. 

I would love love love to get a chance to look at the entire Lonely Planet eco-system (from book to website to app) and design the information around the form-factor in a way that is most appropriate. There are so many things to consider.

Why can't I for example make micro-payments of certain chapters only and access that on the device I have with me? I have a camera on my phone, so why can't I share my photos with others, and choose to follow the advice of some interesting travelers who have their own tips and contributions? Why can't I create a digital scrapbook of my trip and share it with my friends, or even print it out as a book as a keepsake once I am home from the trip? The opportunities to create a robust digital eco-system for the Lonely Planet books are literally endless. It would be my dream to dive into that and create something that I would personally love to use.

What is the most expensive thing you have bought in the last week?

Euhm... Plane tickets? I'm not a very big ticket item spender. I spend pretty much all my money on dinners and vacations.

Any parting shots or pearls of wisdom?

How about a pep talk? So... Of course there are going to be days when you are not in the mood, or you feel mentally stuck, or the project is not going smoothly, or the client is annoying, or whatever – but even in those moments, try to stop and remember that there are a lot of people out there who are unemployed, or have much harder and more boring jobs. Even though we are not driving ambulances or saving lives, it's important to always try to find meaning in whatever it is that you do. Take things seriously. Keep your perspective. Take responsibility and accountability for your successes and failures. Challenge yourself, and always always always look at a problem from all angles before coming to a conclusion. Enjoy the ride while it lasts.

It has been a privilege, thanks very much

I am the one who is privileged! Being interviewed by the FWA is a great great honor and I am humbled to be part of such an awesome roster of creatives who have been interviewed before me. Thanks!


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