An Interview with Andre Felipe Ribeiro
Andre Ribeiro is currently the Design Manager at Squarespace. At Squarespace, Andre’s primary role is to lead the design efforts of Squarespace Visual Design team. Their tasks range from designing and custom building all pages of the front site (squarespace.com), developing standalone microsites for a variety of subjects including Squarespace seasonal campaigns, and creating bespoke websites for high-profile customers. Andre also help oversee the work of other designers in the Squarespace organization, including some of their branding projects, installations, and events.
Prior to Squarespace, Andre was a Senior Art Director at Huge Inc, working for a variety of clients such as Apple, Nespresso, Google, and Morgan Stanley, among others. Andre is Brazilian-born, now based in New York City. With more than 15 years of experience, Andre has developed a refreshing and field-tested methodology toward design that impacts millions of people worldwide on a daily basis.
Yuming Lu: What made up your mind to pursue your current career in the design field？
Andre Felipe Ribeiro: I remember when I was a teenager that a lot of my friends had a hard time trying to figure out what career to pursue, but to me it all happened quite organically. When I was very young, my mom had to buy a computer for her work, so I got exposed to technology very early. At that time I also really enjoyed drawing, so when I found out the opportunity to work on something that involved both technology and visual expression (Digital Design), I didn't think twice before jumping right into it.
Yuming Lu: What is your design process like?
Andre Felipe Ribeiro: For some people, their design process can be quite chaotic and messy, while others can have a pretty structured approach to design. I like to think that my process sits somewhere in the middle. Sometimes I can be a bit methodical: I find very important to do extensive research on a project, in order to fully understand the problem in hand and the clients brand and their need. For each project I usually create a Dropbox Paper doc to document all the references I found and insights I had. That being said, while I am creating something, I often jump around between tasks and try to keep the process fluid and natural. That way I am allowing different pieces of information to connect and different ideas to click.
Yuming Lu: How is it different for you to work in a project now compared to the time when you just start to work?
Andre Felipe Ribeiro: As they say, "experience comes with practice”. But besides just having more practice tackling different types of problems, I feel that nowadays I have a better process of going about it. I waste less time going down dead ends, and quickly and better recover from failures or mistakes.
Yuming Lu: Do you have some recommendations for people to learn the UI design by themselves？
Andre Felipe Ribeiro: Nowadays there are so many resources available for people to learn from. Sites like Dribbble and Savee.it are a great source of visual inspiration in general. When it comes to UI design specifically, there is a bunch of design pattern sites with loads of commercial examples, including entire product flows, that I sometimes check it out when I am curious to see the different ways people designed different components. Another source of inspiration to me is really just downloading a bunch of apps and paying attention to how things work. Things like how the information is organized, how the interactions are explained to the user, and in general how the pages flow together. I am always paying attention to those things, from micro interaction on my Apple watch, all the way to my TV, my phone, iPad, computer, video games, interactive displays outside, etc.
Yuming Lu: How do you compare the experience of working in-house and in the agency？
Andre Felipe Ribeiro: I'd said there are pros and cons on both sides. I can't speak to all types of companies and agencies, but I'll briefly covered my experiences working on both. At an agency (especially the bigger ones), you usually get to work on all types of projects for a variety of clients. You get exposed to very different problems and mediums, and often get to work with all types of people, sometimes for brief periods of time. Things at an agency are usually much more fast paced, which some people love, and some people hate it. In-house things usually move a bit slower, and everyone tends to be a bit more thoughtful and measured. That sometimes can be great, and some other times a bit frustrating. Another difference is that in-house you often work with the same group of people for a long period of time, so team culture and synergy is especially important on those environments.
Yuming Lu: What is the cooperation process like in the company while working in a project？
Andre Felipe Ribeiro: When I joined the company, about 3 years ago the company was much more flat, so it was easier to just walk up to someone's desk from a completely different team and ask them questions about their work. Nowadays the company is growing substantially, and with that, sometimes a bit of bureaucracy and unnecessary procedures can come with it. That being said, I'd say that at Squarespace the teams across org are fairly collaborative. My team (web design), usually partners with stakeholders from multiple disciplines throughout the company, including the People's team, Marketing, Engineering, Product, and even Legal and Finance.
Yuming Lu: You are really into photography, is there any specific subject that you like to capture? What connection do you find between photography and interface design?
Andre Felipe Ribeiro: My favorite subjects are usually architecture and landscape. I'd like to get more into fashion photography, but I just haven't had the chance to explore much of that.
The connection between photography and design to me is really about taste. Doing photography helps you understand what composition works best, and makes you pay attention to technical aspects like the contrast, the balance, the textures, etc.
Yuming Lu: Is the style of your own design work different from the style of your design for the company?
Andre Felipe Ribeiro: Not really, nowadays I have a pretty minimal and clean design, which aligns really well with the Squarespace aesthetic.
Yuming Lu: Any advice for designers who try to step into the industry?
Andre Felipe Ribeiro: Keep experimenting. At the beginning is really important to keep your mind open and to not be afraid of trying something new.
Yuming Lu: Since you have been involved with recruiting and team building in the past, what is the most valuable quality in hiring a person?
Andre Felipe Ribeiro: Besides good taste, I am always looking for people with passion and eagerness.
Yuming Lu: What are some difficulties in being a design manager compared to being a designer？
Andre Felipe Ribeiro: For the past few years now I’ve been really working on my soft skills: I've been trying to learn how to better lead teams, how to collaborate and negotiate with stakeholders, how to better organize and resource a project to assure success, etc. Going from primarily an individual contributor working behind your screen to someone leading projects and managing a team can be a pretty big shift of mindset, but I've been enjoying the challenge.
One specific area I am really focusing on right now is public speaking. In the past I've always avoided big presentation settings, but now I’ve realized the need of knowledge sharing and being able to properly represent your team and the work you are responsible for.
Yuming Lu: How do you balance between creativity and functionality in design?
Andre Felipe Ribeiro: Because I didn't go to art school or anything like that, to me the question is always about how to better display a piece of information, and how to ease the burden of a task. Of course you can always go beyond that, and aim to create something more unique and engaging, but at the end, if those basic core principles are not being achieved, it doesn't matter how creative a project might be (at least for commercial work), so to me balancing creativity and functionality is a natural extension of designing.
Yuming Lu: Do you regard Squarespace as a platform for people to produce or create?
Andre Felipe Ribeiro: Absolutely! One of the main reasons why I decided to work here was because of their mission ( "Squarespace empowers people with creative ideas to succeed."). A lot of companies talk about empowering people, but I think Squarespace truly does. They provide a tool for people to express themselves online, and to have a polished and professional web presence.