Article  |  UX

"I think we are all in the business of just making things look beautiful."

Reading time: ~ 6 minutes

I interviewed Veronica Pisano, senior designer at the Brooklyn design shop OrangeYouGlad, and one of my favorite people in the world. OYG is a small multi-disciplinary design studio that makes incredibly inspiring stuff for web and print. We touched on all the important subjects: animated gifs, inspiration, celebrities, narwhals, and more. Over the course of the chatroom-based interview, Veronica posted no fewer than 6 whimsical animated gifs, mostly of kitties with super powers. In the interest of saving space, I’m only going to include one- you’ll have to imagine the others.

Planet Argon: Question 1: what is your favorite animal and why?

Veronica Pisano: My favorite animal is a human, because they can talk back unlike kittens or puppies or narwhals.

What do you hate about web design?

Well, to be completely honest, I hate that it changes so much. It means you constantly have to learn new stuff, and I am lazy. BUT I also love that! Being a web designer means you are pretty much guaranteed to learn new things for the rest of your life. I guess I love it and hate it.

I agree. I think that’s the toughest part of what I do, too.

You have the best arsenal of animated gifs.

I know. I am very grateful for the internet.

How would you describe the internet to someone who just time-traveled from the year 1800?

I would say, “I know you are used to walking around rose gardens and writing letters to your great aunt for fun, but here in the year 2012 we sit in front of a machine that helps us chat with friends who may even be sitting in the same room as us and ask it questions like, ‘Where can I get a can of tuna at 2am?’ It is a very useful invention, trust me.”

Hmm, food for thought. Speaking of food for thought: Is inspiration overrated?

It depends on what kind of inspiration you mean. I don’t need to buy a screen-print that says “Live what you love” but I do like to go to Creative Mornings. It’s interesting to see how other people are inspired by design. It’s kind of contagious, and that’s a good thing. You know, I also just like to look at beautiful things. It’s like when you read great literature, you start to write better. I think the same thing happens when you look at really beautiful design.

I agree about the inspiration thing- but I think the key is to actually use it, since you won’t write better or design better by just sitting on that inspiration.

Yeah, you just have to let it marinate in your brain, I guess. I don’t actually think, though, “Today I am going to come up with something beautiful and thoughtful.” Someone asked me recently how I come up with a design and I actually thought about the steps, and this is how I always start: Open up Photoshop, create a new file, RBG, 1024×768 resolution, stare at white canvas for a long, long time, and then?

Then the magic happens?

I do stare at that white screen for a long time and then I work my way around the nav. The homepage is the hardest part – it’s like designing the cover of a book.

Is there really that much staring involved? Rather than sketching in a book, perhaps?

Ha. I never sketch anything out! Some of us here do and you see all these papers and stuff on their desks. I guess I should, but I never sketch anything. I just start on the computer. Well, unless I am making doodles during work meetings.

I don’t think that matters, does it? Everyone works differently.

I just sent you some doodles I have done during staff meetings.

My favorites are the tiny burgers. And the fruit.

Always I am drawing food.

What project are you most proud of?

I don’t know that I am “most proud” of one thing. It’s always the last thing I worked on that I the most proud of. I like to look at the work I do as one big collection and I like to see how totally varied it is. I am fortunate to have been able to work on a really wide range of projects.

That’s so good! Your favorite should always be the most recent thing.

That’s true!

Your design is super fun and childlike and full of delight- can that aesthetic sensibility work for any kind of project?

I think that it does and that is kind of what our aim is here at OYG. We really are collectively all about fun and try to add an element of that to all of our projects, even the corporate ones. There is always room for personality in design – it’s what helps you stand out as a company and I think people see that in our work and seek it out.

I remember you telling me a story about school- you were told that you give good feedback and criticism, but that your own work didn’t reflect that- how did that change things for you?

That was the turning point for me. What my teacher actually said was, “You give such great comments during critiques, which is why I don’t understand why your work is such shit.”


It made me really upset at first. I had to hold back from crying actually. After that though I realized she was totally right. I would look at my work more objectively and think, “Is this actually good?” I have been doing that ever since. I think that it also helps me not get “married” to projects. That is a useful skill for working with clients and also working in teams. You’re more flexible and open to change.

I think that’s pretty awesome advice.

Some people get so in love with their ideas sometimes that they miss the chance to make them better. I try to avoid that as much as I can. Sometimes I do get attached though.

How do you avoid that?

Well, you talked about inspiration before and it being overrated. I think sometimes it’s good for reminding yourself that you are not the best thing since sliced bread- I guess more motivation than inspiration. Sometimes, I will look at my work and size it up compared to something I see, let’s say on dribbble or thebestdesigns
and I will be able to say, “Yes, this is good,”
or, “This is terrible. Look at those other guys they are doing such a great job. Starting over…”

You have 5 minutes to spend $1000 on Amazon- what do you buy?

This has sort of happened to me before and I got a bunch of baby gates- so boring. What I would really spend it on, though, is: A lock-picking set so I can learn how to pick locks, a backyard playground set, and a Miu Miu bag, maybe. I should say something like a Wacom tablet and a terabyte hard drive, but that shit is boring.

Whatever floats your boat, my friend. What are your favorite filler text and placeholder image generators?

Well, I usually just go to I know, I know – BORING, but I also add my own words to it when I need more, and I use a combination of words I remember from high school latin and all the spells I know from Harry Potter. When I am searching for lorem ipsum I don’t have time to dick around.

There are a ridiculous amount of cutesy lorem ipsum generators. Do people actually use things like cupcake-ipsum or whatever?

I don’t know. Do YOU? I’ll make a lorem ipsum for you, Portland style.

But doesn’t it defeat the purpose, really? Isn’t the whole point to provide non-distracting latin text that you won’t bother trying to read?

Fixed-gear farm to table fresh camping Multnomah Falls cold brew coffee something Burnside Holocene new falafel place. You can use that if you want, for your next project.

That’s perfect, thanks. Do you think that your print design background influences your work? Do you think it’s an advantage that you have a print design education?

I did have a print design background, but I honestly think that design is just design. Some people get so caught up with different types of design, but I think we are all in the business of just making things look beautiful.

And solving problems, right?

That’s my favorite favorite part about design! I love problem-solving. We do that all the time, every day – it’s like a puzzle.

Yep, same with development- that’s the best part.

Except that shit is boring.

Do you think that the music in your headphones influences your design?

Well, sometimes I am just listening to Harry Potter books on tape. That’s really good when I’m just doing art production- it keeps me from blowing my brains out.

Follow Veronica on Twitter, take a look at the OrangeYouGlad team’s collection of amazing work, and read their charming blog.

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