Name: James Barraza
Title: UX Designer
Hometown: San Diego, CA
LeaseLabs: How did you first get involved with the LeaseLabs team?
James: I feel like I was very fortunate to find myself here at LeaseLabs. I was working at another agency who was going through some rough times, and I was randomly approached by a hiring manager here. I think it was just meant to be, because I found myself as a part of the team shortly after that meeting. This company’s dynamic is unlike any other place I’ve worked; the culture, the people, and the clients create a great atmosphere and I couldn't imagine myself anywhere else.
LeaseLabs: Sounds like destiny. So what is your favorite part of your job now?
James: There’s a lot to like about my job. I get to see the full scope of a project from beginning to end, so knowing that I get to have a little input on everything is really rewarding. What I enjoy the most is collaborating with the different internal teams. I take everyday as an opportunity to learn something, and the development team has been super helpful in that regard. There’s so much that goes into creating complex, custom websites and that type of team interaction is crucial to producing quality end products. We have such a great group of people working at this company, it’s really easy to enjoy everything I do...everyday.
LeaseLabs: So let’s get down to what you do… Can you explain the difference between a UX Designer and a Graphic Designer?
James: Yeah, that’s a great question. The abbreviation “UX”, stands for User Experience. This is a title that will vary from company to company and has different meanings depending on the product and deliverables you provide. UX is a term that encompasses research, analytics, and user testing to create an enhanced experience while clients are interacting with your product, and making sure users find value in what you’re providing them. In my current role, this requires researching the creative brief from our clients, looking into the demographics, and understanding what aspects of their website they want to highlight in order to give the best experience possible based on the client's needs.
Graphic design is also a very broad term that might mean different things to different people. You have graphic design, web design, interactive/digital design and, a lot of the time, these titles overlap each other. Each title or position has it’s own little nuances that make them unique. Here at LeaseLabs, we have a creative department that has a team of graphic designers that focus on the branding and print collateral for our clients. We also have a separate team solely dedicated to the digital design of our websites that’s made up of web designers and myself (the UX Designer) to ensure all of our websites meet a certain standard of function, usability, and creative perfection.
LeaseLabs: With so many areas to cover, what is the average day in the office like for you?
James: That’s a loaded question, haha. I feel like there are no average days at any agency, especially here. There’s a lot of moving parts, but typically, I show up in the morning and have to start prioritizing my schedule, because it could change at any moment. I work really closely with a number of internal team members on any given day. If I’m not in a kickoff with a project manager for new client, or collaborating with a member of the development team, you’ll find me creating wireframes or working on the visual user interface for the finished design. It’s a very fast-paced work environment, and I thrive in that type of setting– it’s great.
LeaseLabs: Have you always wanted to pursue a creative career?
James: Oh yeah, I’ve known that from a young age. I’ve always been into art, drawing and comics, but growing up, I didn’t know exactly where it would take me, or what I even wanted to do with it. Right around high school, I really got into graphic design and was able to see the potential I might have with it. After that, I became fully consumed by everything design and creative-related. I would stay up super late trying to learn programs and research different ways to achieve specific results on projects. It was kinda addicting, I wouldn’t go to sleep until I got the results I was looking for or it would really bug me… I guess I’m still like that, haha. I just know that this is what I was meant to do with my life and I love every minute of it.
LeaseLabs: What are some of your sources of inspiration that keep you on the cutting-edge of UX design?
James: I get inspired by everything, I really do. I think the day to day things that get overlooked as just normal can be inspiring. Designing with empathy is a common phrase among the UX community and it’s about keeping the user in mind at all times and being empathetic to their needs. Cutting edge doesn't mean the latest and greatest new software application or feature set– just make it feel natural, not so digital. Yes, it’s a digital environment, but how do you make it relate to people on an emotional level?
Here is my secret to UX….make it feel human.
LeaseLabs: So when you’re not hunting down new programs or refining a project, what do you like to do in your free time?
James: Everything! No really, I try to be active and outdoors as much as possible when I’m not at work. My wife and myself have 2 awesome boys and we just try to hang out and enjoy each other’s company. You’ll mostly find us at the beach, spending time with friends and family, and just really enjoying our time together.
LeaseLabs: I’ve heard that you also like to sketch; what are some of your favorite things to draw?
James: Yeah, before kids, I loved to sketch...haha. It’s been awhile since I’ve been able to sit down and get into a sketch, but when I do, I usually start with faces. Not sure why, but it always seems to start with a face and just morphs from there. Everything I do is completely abstract and always feels urban or has grungy street vibe. I think it really helps any creative person unwind to just focus on using a natural medium other than the computer. The basis of being a good designer is to just let things come to you organically and allow your designs to take shape based on instinct. I know we have a ton of creatively talented people at our company that would put any of my sketches or drawings to shame, which is why I believe our products and websites always come out with the highest quality possible.