A day in the life of... a full stack designer
Published: 03 Jan 2017 By Ben Davis
At Econsultancy we've recently been turning the spotlight on design.
So, for this week's Day in the Life, we caught up with Andrew Clark, a full stack designer at the digital agency DXagency.
Andrew comes from Pennsylvania, studied commercial art in high school, and graduated with a B.F.A. in Graphic Design from Montclair State University.
Let's find out what he does every day (and remember to check out the Econsultancy jobs board if you are looking for new opportunities).
Please describe your job: What do you do?
To put it simply, I design, photograph, and develop content for the web, social media, and email.
More broadly, the role of full stack designer indicates that I am capable of designing media for print and web, understand good UI/UX principles, know front-end development, and a whole lot in between.
Whereabouts do you sit within the organization? Who do you report to?
I work on the creative team at DX, along with other designers and developers. My boss is the head of design and development for the agency.
What kind of skills do you need to be effective in your role?
I work with a lot of software in my role, and it is always an advantage to know programs from Adobe Creative Cloud (Photoshop, Illustrator, etc). But in my experience, an even more invaluable skill is to be an agile learner.
Technology and practices on the web change on a nearly daily basis, and one cannot hope to know every program and language out there.
The best I can hope to do is remain flexible and able to grasp new ideas quickly.
Tell us about a typical working day…
My schedule varies pretty widely from project to project.
Typically I start a day by grabbing a cup of coffee and taking a seat at my computer to find out what lies in wait for me.
I spend most days in Photoshop and Sublime Text. There’s also a lot of collaboration in my role. I spend a good deal of time in conversation with my creative team as well as the accounts team brainstorming content and execution strategies for various clients.
What do you love about your job? What sucks?
It is a blessing and a curse that my role covers so much creative territory. One minute I will be developing an email blast, then switch over to design a Facebook post, and then jump down to the studio for a photo-shoot.
The blessing my job provides is that I can come to work and learn a new skill almost every day. There is always a new framework, code library, or photography secret that I can apply to what I make.
The curse is that I have to rapidly switch my role (and mindset) from designer to developer to photographer and have to juggle it all, sometimes at once. That part requires some real focus and discipline.
What kind of goals do you have? What are the most useful metrics and KPIs for measuring success?
The underlying goal that motivates all of my work is to produce the most beautiful, usable experiences the web has to offer. Everything I learn and practice is a means to achieving this goal. The more I learn, the more means I have to create the best work possible.
For social media I find it most useful to follow the engagement generated from post content.
There is a lot of noise on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, so finding a way to cut through that noise and engage those interested in a client’s brand can be tricky. It is the most difficult part of my job, but also the most rewarding.
What are your favorite tools to help you to get the job done?
A lot of my work of late has been utilizing After Effects and it is quickly becoming my favorite program Adobe CC has to offer. Also, nothing beats a good, simple code editor and for that reason Sublime Text will always be a go-to standard.
But software only takes you so far. Perhaps the largest unsung hero of my repertoire is a humble pen and notebook. It’s where I sketch all of my ideas, jot down to-dos, and make notes to aid my faulty memory. Without it I’d be lost.
How did you get started in the digital industry, and where might you go from here?
I fell in love with digital media and the web in college. I owe a debt of gratitude to one of my professors. He introduced me to designing and developing for the web, as well as giving me my first job in the industry at his studio.
Moving forward I will strive to improve my design and development skills. That is and will always be a constant. As my multi-disciplinary experience turns into wisdom, I want to move into an all-encompassing role as a creative director.
Which brands do you think are doing digital well?
Bleacher Report quickly comes to mind. They create some dynamite content and have managed to tailor it to each social platform. They may have one of the best Twitter accounts on the web.
Spotify is also another brand killing it in the digital space. I am constantly listening to music, and they have created a seamless multi-platform experience that works across my computer, phone, and television. That’s quite admirable.
Do you have any advice for people who want to work in the digital industry?
Google a lot.