Today WebM.ag is speaking with Eva-Lotta Lamm, Eva currently is an Interaction Designer with Skype. Eva’s name has been mentioned in numerous top female designer lists and polls and is often referred to as a role model for young up and coming females in the design niche.
WebM.ag: So Eva-Lotta, Tell our readers a little about yourself and what you do?
E-LL: I’m currently working as an interaction designer at Skype.
I’m originally from Germany where I started out studying classic graphic design. After the basic course of the first two years which included all the important foundations like typography, form and colour theory, lots of drawing, concept and layout, I changed school to do more interactive stuff and interface design.
Before coming to London about two years ago I lived in Paris for three and a half years. I worked at a small agency specialised in Information Architecture and Interface Design – Kahn + Associates . I had the chance to do a lot of Information Architecture and Interaction Design work for a range of quite big and varied clients. But by working in a small team it was also great to be exposed to quite an array of tasks, from conceptual thinking, diagramming and wireframing, to visual design and even some frontend coding.
WebM.ag: So whats it like working over at Skype?
E-LL: It’s great. And mad at times!
Before joining Skype, I was wondering what there is to design apart from the desktop application. Once you are on the inside, things look very different and you see all the different areas that need design and attention from a user experience point of view… there are quite a lot.
It is great to work for a brand that I’ve used and loved for a long time before starting to work here. I think I used Skype pretty much from its beginning. When you live abroad, with friends and family in a different country, it is just the best way to stay in touch.
WebM.ag: You enjoy illustration as well as web & interface design, but if you had to chose just one which would it be and why?
E-LL: I think I’ve made this decision already, at least for my professional life at the moment. Over the years I have specialised and focussed more and more on the conceptual part of the design process, working on Information Architecture, Interaction Design and User Experience in general.
For me it is a good compromise to use the opportunity to work on larger scale and complex projects as a user experience designer in my day job and leave the visual design and illustration for personal projects. I do a few things on the side, mostly helping out friends, like my friend Monika who is a fashion designer and opened her first boutique in Cologne almost two years ago. I designed her logo and some postcards and flyers for the opening. And last year I learned screen printing and designed and screen printed a small series of t-shirts for her shop which was a lot of fun.
I also doodle and draw almost every day. In meetings and talks it is a way for me to focus on what is said and taking visual notes helps me to remember key concepts and to make the notes fun to read again.
WebM.ag: What are you working on at present, and is it something you can show us?
E-LL: I am currently working on a project that is due to launch in spring. It’s on the web and it is aimed at businesses. I can’t really you show you anything yet though….sorry.
WebM.ag: Are there any tools you use on a day to day basis?
E-LL: Pen and paper – I sketch and draw a lot to clarify my thoughts and ideas. And my colleagues know that I have a hard time explaining things without a pen and paper nearby. A lot of things are just much easier to understand when you visualise them, for others and for myself.
Adobe Illustrator – I love illustrator. I use it for making diagrams and visualisations and I also do all my wireframes in illustrator. I tried lots of other tools for wireframing (like omnigraffle, visio and axure) but I always came back to illustrator because of its flexibility, the ease of the drawing tools and the concept of symbols (instead of just master backgrounds) that can be changed globally. It probably also helps that I am just very fast in illustrator because I have used it extensively for long time.
Things – great little tool for tracking todo lists. There are lots of tools like this out there but after trying a few out, Things ended up being the one that suited me most.
Pages (or Word or any text editor, really) – a few years ago I started the habit of ‘writing down everything’ when working on a project. That means when I am thinking of something or an idea comes to my mind that is not directly relevant now, but could be in the future, I write it down.
I create several text files with loose structures that contain all kinds of thoughts around different aspects of a project. These files have proved to be very useful. You can just pull them out of the drawer later and you’ll be surprised how much work you’ve already done which is now ready for you to use.
WebM.ag: Tell us what your dream project would be?
E-LL: My dream project would be creating a my own web application / service from scratch working with a small, talented and dedicated team of designers and coders. It is great to be able to see through a project from the very first idea to the launch, and then improving and developing it. Working with the right people is the important factor though. The trick is to always work with people who are better than you, people like for example Pete Usborne, who I recently had the pleasure to work with and who is an awesome visual designer. He would definitely be one of my first choices for the team.
WebM.ag: You are originally from Germany, but have been to a few other countries before landing in London. Where has the most creative and influential design scene?
E-LL: I lived in Paris for three and a half years before coming to London. The two are very different from each other in almost every respect.
When I came to England for the first time in 2003 I loved spending hours and hours in the supermarket to look at the beautiful packaging designs. As a trading nation Britain has a long tradition selling goods and the first cardboard box packaging was produced here in the 19th century, so it is no surprise that packaging design over here is a very interesting field and that there are lots of beautiful and well crafted designs on the shelves.In France, I really enjoyed the variety and creativity of the illustration scene. There are loads of wonderful illustrated children’s books and interesting comics (called ‘BD’ in France, which is short for “bande dessinée”) exploring different styles and experimenting with various techniques.
German design (and probably Germans in general) is said to be more rational, organised and straight forward. The longer I’ve been away from home, the more I discover my ‘German-ness’ in the way I approach design. The great thing about living abroad is that you actually learn a lot of things about your own culture. Suddenly, things that I never thought about and just considered as ‘normal’ turn out to be ‘German’, sometimes even something as small as whether you blow or throw a paper streamer.
WebM.ag: What advice would you give to a newbie starting out in design?
E-LL: Learn the basics and learn through critique. The main areas of graphic design like form, colour, typography and composition are fundamental to understand and absorb through lots of practice. And critique is the best way to learn these things. The sessions at design school where everybody puts their work up on the wall and gives and gets critique are the most valuable. In these sessions, by critiquing somebody else’s work, you learn to analyse and express what works and what doesn’t work in a design, and why.
And you learn to look at your own work from different points of view by getting critique from others and use it to alter and improve your designs. The other part is of course to be passionate about what you are doing, to walk through the world with open eyes and to practice, practice, practice.
WebM.ag: What are your top 5 favourite websites?
E-LL: Hmmm, this is a difficult question. The websites I probably use most on a daily basis are Google Mail and Google Maps, especially maps on my iPhone. I also use Google Reader daily to read my RSS feeds, again mainly on my phone when I’m on the move. Oh, and I love the BBC iPlayer. It is probably my favourite website. The BBC produces amazing programmes, especially the documentaries and nature programmes, and the iPlayer is a great service which is really well done.
In terms of web services (yes, they are not strictly websites, I know), I think that DropBox, Spotify and Skype are the ones that I would miss most, if I couldn’t use them anymore.
WebM.ag: Tell us something about you that you haven’t mentioned in an interview before?
E-LL: Although I don’t really have a runner’s physique, I ran a marathon in 2004. It was a tough experience and and it took me 5 hours and 12 minutes but I did the whole 42 kilometres and felt great afterwards.
Music Of Choice? Jack Johnson, Ben Harper, Massive Attack, Chili Peppers and music made by friends like Fabien Fabre and Clint is Gone who both self-published their first album recently and who are brilliant.
What are you reading? I’m currently reading ‘Generative Gestaltung’ a book about generative design and processing. The English version of it is coming out soon.
IE6, love or hate? Ignore.
PC or MAC? Both. But prefer the latter.
Facebook or Twitter? Both. But prefer the latter.
A Big Thank You To Eva-Lotta!
Thank you for taking time out to chat with WebM.ag, if you wish to read more about Eva-Lotta and what she does you can visit her here: evalotta.net or you can speak to Eva-Lotta via Twitter: @evalottchen