Jon Wong from the Switch Visual Design team aims to create purposeful, story-driven designs, and has played a key role in making the product experience memorable. Today he describes what it's like working on Switch, and tells us a little bit about his personal philosophy as a designer.
What was your role in the creation of Switch?
I helped create the visual language for Switch. (A product's visual language is the visual system used to brand the company). Coming into the crowded space of business phone systems where there are already big, established names, we wanted to focus on bringing the playful and easy-to-understand voice we created with UberConference to Switch.
What aspect of Switch did you enjoy designing most?
Onboarding was really fun. The UX team had the vision of making the process really intuitive and clear, and our job was to make sure the visuals didn’t bog down the simplicity of the whole flow. We wanted to keep it light and snappy. I think the clarity and simplicity has made it one of the more successful design components of Switch, especially compared to the onboarding processes of other services that can require specialists and take over a week to set up. With Switch you can signup and invite your team in less than a minute.
Where do you find inspiration for your work?
The design team spends a lot of time looking at a wide variety of sources for inspiration. A large part of this is consuming experiences, so we’ll go to bookstores, look at websites, and think about memorable online experiences we’ve had. We try to aggregate all those impressions into something we can work with. From there it’s a lot of sketching, with the emphasis on quantity over quality. For me it’s a given that I’m going to make some bad designs, but it’s helpful to put them down on paper to get them out of my system. Hopefully by then you have enough work that you can start to hone in on concepts you think are interesting.
What do you find to be most challenging part of your job?
When I’m given a blank slate, I never know what to do with it, so to me the fun part about design is the constraints. In this case, the constraint is working on an enterprise product but pushing the boundaries to make it interesting—finding the convergence of things that excite me as a designer with things that our users appreciate. When you find that area of overlap, you’ve made something that’s helping people in an area that’s not really associated with cutting edge design. That’s the fun part for me.
Do you have any advice for aspiring visual designers?
I’m sure a lot of designers have heard this, but a Paul Rand quote I always try to follow is, “Don’t try to be original. Just try to be good.” A lot of research has gone into designing things the way they are, so it makes sense to understand why specific design choices were made and move forward from there, rather than trying to reinvent things. For instance, with onboarding, people have certain expectations for that process. You want to follow that flow so you can focus on communicating your message. If you try to do something that’s too out there, people may end up fighting to interpret what you’re saying. The exciting part comes when you find opportunities to break expectations, and that’s when you can surprise and delight users, which is hopefully something we’ve been able to accomplish with Switch.
Take a look at some thoughtful features Jon has worked on designing.