Maureen Herben is a Product Designer living in Berlin. She works at Zalando where she does B2B design for their partner marketplace. Outside of work, she likes hosting dinner parties, cooking, going out to clubs, and working on personal design projects.
You’re very involved in the online design community. How has that helped you become a better designer?
Being exposed to the perspectives of other designers across the world and learn from their experiences as well. It has helped me become a better designer because I can exchange ideas and challenges and get many different perspectives on it instead of the feedback being limited to my direct colleagues.
Even though I don’t discuss specific design challenges with the designers I know from the community, I do discuss career growth, industry developments and what we can do to build an open community.
What’s one of your favorite design tools and why?
Pen and paper to start things out like wireframes or user flows, because no matter how skilled I get in digital tools, pen and paper is still the fastest, easiest and cheapest method to get your ideas out.
What user research method do you use most often? Why that one?
Currently I don’t do much user research myself anymore, because we have a dedicated User Research team at work. However, I used to do a lot of qualitative user interviews and still do those occasionally. I think it’s a great way to compliment quantitative data and get deeper insight into human behaviours and motivations.
How (and why) does your design process change across different projects?
It changes depending on the company I work at. So far, each company used their own interpretation of the design thinking process mixed with agile frameworks. So my design process is oftentimes the way the company I work at works — simply because it’s easier to work together with people when everyone follows the same process.
What tips do you have for someone going through the interview process for a new design job?
Bring focus. Just applying to a random bunch of job openings without proper research and a fit portfolio might seem like you’re winning time, because you’re just sending out the same portfolio and cover letter to each company but it’s not effective in the end. In my experience, you’re more successful when you apply to fewer job openings, but with a portfolio fit to the role and good knowledge of the company. Why would a company want to invite you to an interview if you don’t even bother to get to know them?
What’s a big mistake you’ve made as a designer and what did you learn from it?
Assuming people understand the context. I found that it’s very important to explain your design decisions in a way that your audience understands. Explaining a design decision to a stakeholder is different from explaining the same thing to a developer. For the first you need to bring in more business rationale and high level overview, whereas with the latter I’ll find myself discussing technicalities.
What attributes or skills make an effective and successful product designer?
Strong communication skills, ability to find compromises, perseverance, being proactive.
What makes you feel energized at work?
As crazy as it may sound: looming deadlines. I love a work environment where people are highly driven and projects move fast. Working with deadlines keeps me motivated — the feeling of accomplishment when I hit a deadline is something I really like, too.
How do you keep learning in your profession?
It’s an essential part of my job. When you work in a field that is relatively young and always moving, you have to keep learning. I’m not a big fan of reading UX books though, somehow it feels unnatural to learn about such a dynamic field that changes so fast out of books. But I do read a lot of articles, listen to podcasts, attend webinars. The best way for me to learn however is through conversation with other designers.