Leaving a Lasting Imprint - an Interview with Martin Simeonov

Post by 
Viktor Dessov
December 28, 2020

1. Can you please introduce yourself and what you do?

As the title of the article probably reveals, my name is Martin Simeonov. Officially, my role in BattlePass is a UX and UI designer. In fact, my responsibilities are not so strictly defined, as lately they have been more related to animation, motion graphics and social media. What I do and what my expertise covers is a wide range of what we can broadly define as "design". I have been professionally involved in the field for over 15 years, during which I have worked in a variety of fields, but perhaps the most important things listed in chronological order are graphic design, prepress and visual identity (not to be confused with the "corporate" one), illustration, web design, animation, motion design, UX and UI. In addition to that, I have published several book covers, I have participated in the making of the series "Bulgar" and I was a pre-printer in a folk magazine (laughs), but maybe these are topics of another, or at least more detailed, conversation.

2. How did you decide to become a UX/UI designer?

This happened as naturally as it was a coincidence.

If we have to start from the very beginning, as a child I loved to paint. I remember drawing a lot of soldiers, tanks and helicopters, which I can now explain by the influence that the action movies and films like "Missing in Action", 'Rambo', 'Commando', 'Operation Delta Force 1' (as well as 2, 3, etc.) had on my generation. Then I grew up and graduated from the art high school in my hometown of Kazanlak, majoring in industrial design. Instead of soldiers, I ended up drawing figural compositions, portraits and animated characters, and besides them I studied a bunch of other disciplines, including graphic design, color science, font, computer graphics and others. There, I got caught up in designing and at home I began playing around with CorelDraw 4 and Photoshop 3.0 on an old computer. Maybe that's when I decided to become a UX/UI designer.

After that, I began working as such, first in a small advertising agency. Here was the element of coincidence, because I still didn't have any work experience, and I didn't have a portfolio, but my brother worked there and recommended me to the boss, explaining to him what I could do - so he decided to put his faith in me. and hired me for my first job as a graphic designer. From there, the carousel turned me around and here I am now in the startup world, a place not so new to me, but on the flip side, always exciting, full of interesting people, projects and opportunities.

3. What are the skills that someone would need to become a UX/UI designer?

First you have to be ready to spend many hours going over the main functions of the programs again and again, which then helps you do your job much faster and better, because you've already had such a case and you know how to solve it. There is also countless knowledge on the subject, all free on the internet. You must have a sense and knowledge of typography, and if you do not have, don't worry, it is a skill that can be learned. There are many resources and courses, so if you follow the rules that have been set there should be no problems in this regard.

The composition is probably next in line. To be able to properly distribute the elements in space and to structure the correct hierarchy between them. Of course, you need to be able to handle the colors. Not to mention achieving the right harmony. In addition to the purely technical skills, it helps to have a rich imagination, analytical mind, and these two things are not mutually exclusive, on the contrary. It is also good to be curious, active, and sometimes to show stoicism along the way, because you may not have to sleep, for example, an entire night because of a project. Especially in UX/UIUX/UIdesign, some canons and principles are better to be observed. The function of a design is first of all being informative and then decorative.

The mistake almost every young designer at the beginning makes, including me, is that we sometimes take criticism too personally. Yes, your design may be extraordinary, but if you need to add a big phone number to it, since it will be better for the business, even though it may have a negative effect on the overall design, it is clear that the phone needs to be inclyded. Later, if you decide to publish your project in dribble, behance, etc., you can make the changes you wanted all along according to your own views on aesthetics. This is a place where you can be creative and be presented without any outside direction. Of course, this was a very extreme example, but it highlights what I'm trying to say.

Otherwise, be creative, constantly try new things, try to express yourself in what you do, and when it happens to you as a designer to do something that the other party imagined (or even could not!), then the goal is fulfilled and everyone is happy! Furthermore, you need to have soft skills, to be able to communicate adequately online and offline, to be good at time planning, etc., but I think that nowadays everyone should have these qualities. regardless of the industry they work in.

4. What makes a visual design truly good?

The answer is somewhat a continuation of the previous question. In the context of graphic design, apart from everything mentioned so-far, what distinguishes the really good designs from all the information noise that floods us every day is that they leave a more lasting imprint in a person's mind and provoke us to think. They stand out and that's what makes them far better than the good designs. Naturally, the provocation must be presented intelligently and with taste, otherwise the effect would be negative. In this line of thought, I would say that the good visual design has a lot in common with good visual art. As for the other forms of design, we can look at benchmark companies, in product design for example, such as Apple, Ferrari, Nike. What sets them apart and makes them better than the competition (besides their marketing budgets, of course)? The concept, the materials used, the product lines, the proportions, the attention to detail. These are, in my opinion, the main things, but if we decide to go deeper, we can talk a lot more on this topic.

5. How do you keep up with the latest trends in UX and UI?

I mainly follow what is happening in behance, in social networks and on YouTube, I also occasionally take a look at dribble and Pinterest. Here I will give a few recommendations that I think would be useful, not only for UX, but also related to some of the other areas in design. First, Chris Do's YouTube channel The Futur. Extremely diverse content, from graphic design to business development and negotiations with potential clients, presented in a very intriguing and motivating way for me personally.

Second, I follow Adobe CC in all the social networks, so I can be up-to-date with the latest features and new products, plus there are daily live workshops on YouTube, also presenting very diverse content. Specifically for UX, I would also recommend the Howard Pinski channel. The essence of Adobe XD, presented in very short videos - between 1 and 5 minutes. A very good site for inspiration and tracking trends in my opinion is also Awwwards.com. They have a great archive of sites awarded in various categories and rated on each of the main criteria in particular UX and UI.

If you are Bulgarian, I'd suggest that you follow the Bulgarian Design Group on Facebook. There you can keep track of what is happening on the Bulgarian design scene. In this regard, I will recommend the Bulgarian design podcast designofthings.fm, as here you can rather be inspired by the stories and the path of the guests as designers and not only, but also find out about the trends, tools that would be from benefit and many other things.

I also want to mention Andrew Cramer's site - videocopilot.net. It is full of video tutorials and plugins for After effects. When I first visited it, I could only open the program. Andrew is an extremely good teacher, as he teaches in a very understandable and fascinating way, and everything while he is having fun, as if it was a game (probably because that's the way it actually is for him). At the same time, he is a very strong motivator and even if you just follow his path, you will be convinced that there is no upper limit in this profession and you can grow indefinitely. This is just a drop in the ocean of information, look for knowledge everywhere, not only online, but also live, meet people and attend events and workshops (of course when the situation allows it again). Also, follow the BattlePass website and follow us on social media, as well as me in behance.

6. Why should every startup invest in design, whether that be branding, UX, UI or MVP?

There are many reasons but in my opinion, there are 3 main ones. The first one is that great design sells. It helps the user/customer understand the product better and it facilitates the work with it. Numerous studies over the years have shown that companies that pay the necessary attention to design enjoy an incread turnover and higher profit than those who do not focus on design. The second reason is that the great design and UX make a good first impression (both to consumers and investors). Google found out that web users formed an opinion about a company just 50 milliseconds after logging into their site or app. This is all that takes for someone to have an initial impression, which ultimately forms the decision of whether to stay on the site or leave. The third reason is that great design makes your brand memorable and recognizable, both overall and next to your competitors. When combined with good marketing and PR, it makes it easier to communicate the brand ideas and messages. A professional UX/UI designer will take the time to understand your brand, your message, and what you are trying to achieve with your marketing team.

7. How and why did you decide to become a part of the BattlePass team?

After being offered to join and after I was introduced to the idea and the team behind BattlePass, I did not hesitate much and accepted immediately. I like the concept of ​​a startup studio, because it means working on many different and diverse projects, that we ourselves pick, based on how interesting and promising they are for us - as well as the opportunity to realize our internal ones. I have already worked with some of the people (for example with Peter Lozanov and Todor Gerovski) and we have built good working and personal relationships. After all, a stable team is a prerequisite for good and high-quality work.

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