We begin this year’s #WeAreModex series of interviews with Vlad Luca, Modex’s Head of Product. Passionate about computers and meaningful design, about services with an innovative touch, Vlad shares his thoughts on what makes a good design stand out, how important the “less is more” philosophy should be when launching new products, as well as other interesting topics.
Good design should be useful and user-oriented
Our pleasant chat with Vlad starts with one of his favourite topics: design. More precisely, we’ve asked Vlad to tell us which are the ingredients to achieve a good design. “This seems like an easy question to answer, but design has so many layers that we could easily get lost in the semantics. Good design is mostly viewed from the angle of aesthetic beauty which – in my recent years of practice – tends to find itself lower on the list. For me, good design is user-oriented and guarantees that your product will be warmly welcomed by your end consumers. We tend to put visual beauty on a pedestal and that might work with showcase pieces, but real-life products tend to give the mic to honest, useful, user-oriented design.”
Achieving balance when creating a new product
Lately, whether it’s in the automotive industry, architecture, IT or consumer products, an increasing number of designers focus on the minimalism movement approach. How effective is the “less is more” philosophy when it comes to creating an appealing design? Vlad elaborates: “It might seem straightforward to create a simple, yet effective design, but there’s so much more behind the scenes. Achieving balance, understanding the negative space or establishing hierarchy can be daunting at first, but when mastered, your product will definitely be more effective. Making a simple design means concentrating on the minimal amount of tasks that will deliver your desired result and making it as easy as possible to achieve that goal. To summarize my answer: yes, less is more!”
Form follows function or vice versa?
In many cases, an eye-catching design – meant to capture the eyes and the hearts and to WOW the public – proves to be more important than a functional design. Since we are in the tech field, we wanted to know if “form follows function” also applies when designing a website or an app. “As previously mentioned, it always depends on what your goals are. If you want to showcase your ability to rock the stage with out-of-this-world designs, you must put form before function and deliver on that. However, if you’re building a real-life product, you must focus on the user. The user will certainly care about design, but will be frustrated if you put design ahead of his or her needs. You must anticipate the user’s expectations and avoid introducing unnecessary steps or design gimmicks just to make yourself look better, as a designer.”
Can design convey the idea of a well-thought and executed product?
“Good design is honest”, believes Modex’s Head of Product. “Your product must deliver on its promises. Honesty develops trust, and trust builds brands. Good design must be accompanied by good software development and good product flows. Design on its own can only help you so much. It’s good to have a nicely designed, well-thought app, but if that app will crash after the first tap it will not help the user at all.”
Vlad adds that the design of a website or an application is very important in offering a friendly user interface. “UI and UX Design are crucial in delivering easiness for the user. As part of the previously mentioned recipe, we must understand that the symbiotic relationship between all the departments involved in the process is needed when building a product.”
We’ve also asked our colleague to name three websites which inspire him, from the design point of view, apart from those he created or those he’s working on at the moment. “I like Stripe’s website. I also love Plink’s website, it has an amazing experience behind it. Cappen has an amazing website, too.”
Not all animations are good design
How far should the designer of a website go with using the latest animated technologies to make the product look good (short intro movies on the homepage, eye-catching slider, etc) while also keeping in mind that not everyone out there has performance laptops which can load that website fast and without glitches? “Animations can be efficient from a performance standpoint if done correctly, so I’ll take that out of the equation. The first question you must ask yourself is if you really need the animations and to what degree do you need them? Animations can enhance your product or they can make it frustrating. If you need fast-paced actions and you over flood the user with animations, you will only bring him further away from his goal. And do you remember how good design helps the user in achieving his goal? This is to show that not all animations are good design.”
How it all started: the passion for expressive design
Curious to find out when and how did Vlad’s passion for design start? “This is funny, actually. My interest for creative arts comes from my mother. I first started when I was about 7 or 8 years old, when my dad showed me PowerPoint. I’ve seen that I could change the colours, I was able to choose different fonts, and – oh, my God! – that WordArt was just nuts! I started taking an interest in this and by the time I was 11 I was working with Photoshop and doing photo manipulation. I won a few photo manipulation competitions when I was 12, then went on to do branding when I was 13”.
Vlad continues: “Those were bad designs. Really bad designs at that time. But that’s how you learn, isn’t it? I’ve learned design in practice. I got my hopes handed back to me lots of times, I read and studied a lot, I practiced night and day and kept on trying to progress. I still enjoy every moment I’m doing design and it remains my main hobby. In a continuous effort to perfect my craft, I’m always searching for new ideas, new inspiration.”
Modex’s Head of Product didn’t study any design-related classes at University. “When I first started to learn how to use Photoshop, Illustrator and the likes there weren’t many sources. Nowadays you have free video tutorials, courses and so much more that can teach you how to put your ideas and vision into practice. Back in 2005 I was selling tutorials and that was actually how I started making money with design. My first tutorial (which I still can’t find) was about how you could make a guitar using Photoshop. I strongly believe that you must polish your knowledge and skills every day in order to be a good designer, therefore I keep on learning every day.”
Refining his skills at Ingenium Media, Moneymailme and Modex
“I started working with Ingenium Media before I had a valid ID”, recalls Vlad. “We were doing branding and website design and things started to evolve each year, with bigger projects and more ambitious goals. If you’re asking me which project – of the many done so far – is the closest to my heart, then it has to be Moneymailme. I’ve spent countless hours on refining user flows and solved challenges alongside the amazing team that I am proud to be a part of. When we first started with Moneymailme, the concept blew my mind and it made me want to push myself to be able to handle the level of innovation it required. It was definitely challenging and it will always remain close to my heart.”
During our chat with Vlad we’ve also touched upon the most interesting projects he’s done so far, the biggest challenges faced in his job and how he managed to overcome them. “I’ve had many interesting projects along the way, but most challenges came in the past few years, while working on the product side with Modex. We’ve been developing cutting edge technologies since day one, which also meant dealing with many hard times where you had no book to find the right answers. Moneymailme and Modex have played a big role in the way I think about user experience and what it takes to deliver optimal products.”
Being part of the Modex family
Speaking about the working environment and the career opportunities at Modex, our talented young designer states: “I love our team, and our dynamism. I am really proud to be able to work with people who are passionate about what they do and enjoy the products they are developing. We’ve been over many challenges on the way here and how we solved them defines us as a team. When everyone is pushing in the same direction, you can move mountains. The way that we have handled the rapid expansion over the years is proof that we have bonded further than being just colleagues. I’m happy to be part of the Modex family! Moreover, at Modex I had the chance to improve my skills, to learn more, to grow professionally. The company provides many opportunities for its employees, old or new, to evolve in so many ways.”
Advice for those who want to start a career in product design
“Product design, web design and so on requires a deep understanding of the way that humans think and perceive things. I believe there isn’t a certain path to be followed by everybody, but I will say that practice makes perfect. If I were to start again, I would start by doing as many projects (free or not) as possible to see what clients and users want and start mitigating that relationship”.
All-time favourite cars, design-wise
Our Head of Product is also a massive car lover, so we had to ask him which are his all-time favourite cars when it comes to their design. “I am a car enthusiast, indeed! My all-time favourite car is the Porsche 911 Turbo, in the form of the 964. From the moment I saw that car in “Bad Boys” it stuck with me until today. I still don’t get why I was attracted to the 964 instead of regular poster cars like Lamborghini Diablo or Ferrari F40, but that’s just me. I hope to be able to own a black 964 Turbo one day!”