For our big bad Q&A Blog, Katey and I partnered up to interview an alumnus of the Sheridan Web Design Program.
Our class had a guest a few weeks ago by the name of Alexander Younger, he is the owner of Design Lab located in Toronto and he mentioned (very fondly) our alumnus friend a few times while talking about Design Lab, and this peaked our interest in him and we decided to find out what he is all about.
Giuliano attended Sheridan two years ago and now works for Design Lab as the lead UX Designer, and boy does he love his job. Meeting Giuliano was a great chance to see what life is like after Sheridan, and I hope that when the time comes for us to graduate I will be able to find a place of work that suits me as well as Design Lab suits him. Katey and I had a fantastic time talking to Giuliano and we spoke for over an hour and then hung out for 3 more hours after that! He took us to Design Lab and showed us his offices and we got to know him a little better, it was an unexpected treat and I can’t thank him enough for doing so.
Now, let’s get into that Q&A:
We broke the Q&A down into a few different sections starting with the SPEED ROUND:
After loosening up with the speed round, we started off with talking about his time here at Sheridan.
What was your favourite and least favourite classes at school?
Giuliano: If you talk to Gillian or anyone they’ll tell you that I was a pretty big keener. I guess the least favourite one was Gillian’s tech class – not anything against Gillian. I actually did enjoy that class too its just to rank them it would be at the bottom, it had its purpose. Gillian’s great, but that’s just the one that was non design related I guess
Who is your favourite professor and why?
Giuliano: Uhhhh ha-ha-ha, your “which kid is your favourite” that’s what that question is.
Okay, so who do you love a little bit more?
Giuliano: I have a soft spot for all of them its hard to say they all had their pluses. I didn’t get the most time with was Sheila she had to leave. I guess just put Gillian for any of those questions. She’s the boss right ha-ha. She’s like a mom.
What kind of challenges did you face in school?
Giuliano: I guess being one of the project coordinators, it was myself and Abby, for the grad show.
You guys don’t know anything about the grad stuff yet right?
(Katey and Sam: No not yet, we start at the end of the semester)
So we all sort of… I hope I’m not stepping on anyone’s toes, or ruining any Sheridan plans with the faculty, but basically you guys will have to do grad show. You all have your own roles but there are one or two people that are sort of at the top that make sure that everything goes smoothly.
It was myself and Abby (who works at the weather network), the hardest part was keeping people in line. It’s very hard to manage a group of people democratically there’s sometimes where you have to pull a dictatorship where you say listen its gotta be this way or otherwise we wont get anything done.
So that was the toughest part of the program.
(joking) The rest was like a cake walk so easy ha-ha.
How do you think going to Sheridan helped you grow as a person?
To go back a little bit before Sheridan I was working a very unsatisfying job.
Where were you working?
Giuliano: I don’t want to say anything negative about a company, but it was a print company they deal with like news papers and stuff. The people there where great but I just wasn’t enjoying the work, some of the people there weren’t that great, but whatever.
Anyways, I needed a pretty big change and I decided to go and sort of re-educate myself with web and I think Sheridan brought a lot more confidence and a lot more skill, and it really helped me sort of define what I really wanted at the end kind of thing. Before I was like what ever we’ll see, but then with Sheridan it sort of set me in a path that I really wanted to go down.
I hope that answers that question
Sam and Katey: That was a really good answer for that question!
Do you have a favourite piece of work from your school portfolio?
Giuliano: We’ve had lots of talks about this.
Katey: Yes we have!
Giuliano: So I guess, I really need to update my portfolio. Cus’ I’ve done a lot more stuff now, but I guess with Sheridan my favourite piece. One of them was, well they are all sort of my babies I guess so it’s hard to pick, but I really liked (obviously) the independent project which is the big one, I don’t know if you have touched on that yet but it was one of my favourites because there’s a tonne of process work. It’s the most like working in the field and that’s why that one is my favourite.
Then I also liked; you guys don’t have the flash program but we did, I loved one of Marks projects we had to make a flash animation and I think that mine was called the Saddest Movie Ever. It was just this guy and he’s just very sad, all of these things that shouldn’t really bother you bother him, like he’s trying to buy ice cream or something and they close right before he gets there, just dumb things like that. But that was just a fun project because I enjoyed doing it; I just had a lot of laughs.
They all had their positives.
I guess the least favourite one was the marketing stuff, writing all of that stuff. I don’t like writing too much; “my strengths and weaknesses and opportunities and threats” all that other stuff. So those projects were my least favourite I guess.
I was really more into the design side of things or just having fun. That kind of stuff.
Next we talked about his time at Design Lab.
Design Lab Q&A
What are your favourite office jams?
Giuliano: Design Labs super collaborative right, and we work a lot with Sarah’s team as well. Some of her girls will come up stairs and will work upstairs to and sometimes they need a quieter environment I guess.
So we can’t play a lot of hardcore music when they’re around, but my favourite Design Lab jams are when we put on any Zeppelin or the Black Keys I’m good with that. I like when we get a chance we put on Queens of the Stone Age but that doesn’t fly well with Sarah’s team.
I really like putting on some old soul music so we just pick like any station and I’ll just throw on soul, we tried jazz once and it didn’t fly.
I like the police a lot to, we had them on today.
Katey: This is the main reason why I’m interested in Design Lab now, Alexander said you all got to pick turns picking the music and that sounds pretty cool.
Alexanders music taste is like crazy huge – he has a few years on me why (ha-ha), my taste is also really broad. Paul’s more into techno, and Sarah likes the old stuff, and whenever I ask anyone else they’re like “oh, whatever its fine” so it’s just usually just us three that pick.
Katey: But it’s always good music.
Yeah always good!
One thing that’s interesting is I’ll put on the clash – my favourite band, but then audio will throw in some of the pistols and some other serious punk rock and then I’ll have to turn it off because it’s not office appropriate, you have to still be professional and avoid a bunch of swear words.
But when Alexander puts music on its always like stuff out of nowhere. Some of its actually pretty interesting. So I get a lot of exposure to new music that I’ve never heard before.
The speakers are really cool to, their all throughout the office ceiling. So you can hear it all over the office, but we have three zones where you can control the music volume.
Who’s your favourite Design Lab client?
Giuliano: So you guys have seen the website but we’ve got more clients than that. I don’t know it’s hard to pick favourites, when you put a lot of passion into every piece of work. I’m really liking Dimond right now, they’re a lot of fun to joke around with too. I guess my favourite clients are the ones that I can get a long with really well that understand that life is short and it’s not all about “puff,puff” deadlines and things like that. We’ve done a lot UX stuff for a company, and they’ve only implemented about half of it really – not even, but that was a really fun project and one of the people we worked with – she’s great. She was amazing to work with and we are friends now, I guess the clients you become friends with are my favourite.
What are your thoughts on Alexander Younger?
Giuliano: “That guys a dick, he made me stay late for a meeting today!” (totally joking joking: ha-ha)
But seriously, so when Alexander came to speak to my class I found him to be very inspirational, he’s a very intelligent man, and that’s kind of tricky sometimes I don’t know if he’s playing games with me or not like trying to see if I’m on the same level as him. He’s very inspirational, he started Design Lab when he was younger (22 years old) then I am now.
He’s a very inspirational person and someone I look up too, I try to learn as much from him as possible (I’m not kissing up knowing that he see’s this ha-ha). He’s a great boss. Compared to my previous job its like going from dark to light. He’s more of a friend, and generally a great person with no ego and you learn a lot from him.
“Still a total dick though, it’s a front” (joking again ha-ha)
How is environmental sustainability incorporated in your job?
Giuliano: So it used to be a huge huge thing, like we had little recycling bins at every table, now it’s not as crazy – we’re still very pro recycling but we just have the one bin now (ha-ha). Instead of one at every table it’s just a big one.
I love the fact that we’re all solar powered, that was pretty interested too. The building is powered by two panels I think – two larger panels. We’re still plugged into the grid because we have to be technically by law but all the power is suppled by all the panels. We print with this old black and white laser printer and we reuse the back of old papers.
I guess we try to be as wasteful – we are a digital agency so we don’t print much.
Alexander is more in too it though. If you’ve ever seen any of the Sarah shows like “Sarah’s Rental Cottage” or “Sarah’s Summer Rental” depending on where you are either the States or Canada they’ve set up a solar shed there so the cottage is power by solar power. He also owns a solar company as well.
A lot of the things that bothered me about the print industry when I worked there is it’s an incredibly wasteful industry and it’s very very negative towards the environment. Let’s say there’s a misprint on a flyer and they’ve already printed 30,000 they will just throw them out.
Are you happy with your job (work flow, culture)?
Giuliano: “Hate it – its the worst.”
Going back to the boss thing, Design Lab is a very ego free and collaborative environment I’d say. We all work together and we don’t just work with ourselves, we also work with various freelancers too. We’ll bring in word press people or other agencies we really like to find the best tool to do the best job. So if there’s something that we know is not really in our wheelhouse, we’ll find the right people to get that job done the right way.
When I first started there, everyone has been since day one always very very friendly and accepting. There have been other jobs that I have worked at where that wasn’t the case. I guess I just fit in culturally here at Design Labs.
We like to have a lot of fun. So we’ll have retreats this year we went to Alexanders Cottage – it’s an island up in Georgian Bay. Alexander and I flew there, but Paul has a fear of flying so he drove there and we took the boat there and it was an over night thing – it was a great time. There’s was a lot of strategizing going on but also fun – I played Croke for the first time!
We drink, and that’s fun but we don’t impose it on other people. There was an another employee that doesn’t drink, and we never said “oh you have to drink to belong” things like that.
We’re also big on Christmas steak dinner, this year we’re going to I think Jacobs and Co. or something like that.
Everyone is different that comes through the door and we’re very accepting of everyone and that’s what I really like about Design Lab to, you don’t feel like you out of place or anything like that.
After questions about Design Lab we talked about what his Aspirations would be.
Where do you see yourself in 5/10/20 years?
Giuliano: That’s and interesting question, and I’ve been told it’s not a very good question no offence, because where I see myself in 5 to 10 years could be like getting drunk on some beach in the middle of the tropics or something like that.
It’s a very hard question to say because life is so different for everybody and in one minute it can change, it’s hards hard to say, but where I would like to see myself I guess to answer your question without being an ass (ha-ha) I would still like to be at Design Lab I think its a great career – for me- a lot of designers like to jump ship sort-of and go to a different place move up there and come back. It’s a really really weird industry but I’d actually like to plant my seeds and grow my roots out with design lab – maybe running te company in 5-10 years would be pretty sweet.
That question is tricky: 10 years maybe married with kids hopefully, and in 20 years retired? that’d be nice right 46 that’d be pretty sweet right?
Yeah that’s where I see myself haha.
I really dont know though the future is unwritten so its hard to say.
Mostly I just want to be happy.
We heard you like backpacking…where have you been/where are you going?
Giuliano: The first backpacking trip I guess, was very eye opening for me. I didn’t intend to go back packing originally the trips I have been on where like stay in a hotel like Cuba and Florida. I went to Florida with my family and Cuba with my friends and that was a good time. The friend trip was a lot more fun.
My first backpacking trip was in Japan me and this one guy and I went to Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Hiroshima, Fuji, and we stayed in this 100 year old Japanese temple in Koyasan and we went all over and did whatever we want. The coolest part was grabbing your pack off (carryon) of the plane and just walking out of the airport. Not waiting for anything just going and I felt so free, I felt that this is truly traveling. Where as the other places you stay in one place and you go around and you just stay in a hotel and go to the beach. But in Japan I did so much and I saw so much and tried so much.
Last summer I went to Europe, It was like a capital city trip minus Switzerland we kind of changed that, so I went to Stockholm, Berlin, burn instead of Geneva, and Rome. I went with a differnt friend and that was amazing too just being on the trains and then going all over. There was a lot of drinking, more so than the Japan trip where I thought “I’m not doing that anymore” you get such a feeling of freedom and exploration, like you can do and see what ever you want. I always come back inspired it’s another reason why I love backpacking to because it really reflects in my work.You go to one country and see how they set things up and how the design – Switzerland was really good for that, and then you come back and its shows in all your work.
You see that there is more to life then work, and you get to see how people live in other cultures.
Sam: That’s definitely like my ultimate dream backpacking around.
Katey: where do you wanna go next?
Giuliano: I’d like to go back to Europe and explore all of Germany I was really inspired by Germany. Europe was really fun and I loved Italy it’s kinda like going back to the homeland I guess. In Germany though it was just crazy and I found a lot of history and a lot of art and I was so inspired that I’m dying to go back.
What’s your mantra, what keeps you going?
Giuliano: Pride? Ha-ha
I’d say pride, I like doing good work that I can show off to my friends I’m not going to sugar coat it I love showing off stuff I do.
Winning awards, and feeling like I’m making a difference for instance with a company with the changes they implemented to one section of their website alone, their user experience went up exponentially! and they haven’t even finished all of the changes that we’ve done.
An other thing is I don’t to let anyone down, be it a client or my co workers or anyone sort of. I shouldn’t do that because I feel like I’m carrying things on my chest when I shouldn’t.
So I guess Pride and then Fear? I guess ha-ha.
His stories of backpacking made me jealous, that’s always been a dream for me. After aspirations we asked him some questions about who he is as a Designer.
When did you know you wanted to be a designer?
Giuliano: Grade ten that’s when I knew, I knew because I took a com tech course and I was like “oh this is kinda of fun”. Like in high school you’re not thinking crazy into the future or anything like that. I was like oh this looks like a fun job and I could see myself doing that I guess. But I was too focused on my spare, or I don’t know or going out for lunch ha-ha it was just sort of like a decision that I made.
What motivated you? (to explain the examples used; we had this part of the interview at a Tim Hortons)
Giuliano: What motivated me? Too keep going with design? I generally enjoy it I like the sort of social science of it all. An artist will create something that sort of is like an emotion or something like that. It can be interpreted a million different ways were as good design sends you in a specific direction.
There are a lot of different fields that branch off design like UX and things like that, and it also translates into the real world if you look at this store for example we got the signage around with soup and sandwich pick up beverage pickup and order here – although the typeface which is copper plate is kinda gross. It’s pretty good user experience because now I know exactly where to get my beverages or soup and sandwiches and I know where to order, they are all brightly illuminated this is design and its also a bit of a social science because it effects people. It all benefits peoples lives in a small way. I suppose.
But yeah I guess that’s why I like design and that’s what keeps me going. Because I like doing that sort of things and I like how it’s challenging and it makes me flex my brain more – it keeps me thinking.
It’s also just a very changing industry too especially with web so there is always room to grow and adapt. A lot of people will say that finding a job with graphic design or design in general is difficult, but I would say its actually quite easy because let’s say “knock on wood, I loose my job tomorrow” I still have a very great sort of set of skills that I can translate into freelance work, I could build websites for people, I could do print work, I could market myself and with design everyone needs a designer. I’d say it’s a very safe industry for people to be into.
Do you have any design hero’s or anyone in particular that you look to at design lap for design itself?
Giuliano: For design itself? So design hero’s, not really no I don’t really have people that I sort of like look up to or anything like that.
Like people will choose names like Saul Bass or something like that, I don’t want to sort of idolize those sorts of people and become like “oh I have to do everything by so and so does things” because with design everything is changing and growing and one of the things I learned, its sort of like the fight club thing; the 1st rule of graphic design is…I know at Seneca there was a bunch of rules like don’t use a bad type face or like make sure you’ve aligned things and at the very end was break the rules.
I don’t want to base my work of someone else’s so I try not to have hero’s, there is really great design that I appreciate and there’s a lot of great stuff coming out of a lot of great firms especially in Toronto that I see oh that’s really great and I try to draw inspiration from that, but hero’s no.
My hero’s are silly boy hero’s like The Rock, and Captain Picard and things like that – those are my hero’s.
At design lab, people that I look up to again I can say Alexander, it’s just that he comes from a creative background as well; he’s done painting and he knows a lot about design, and there is sometimes where I’m struggling with something and I can always bounce an idea off of him and he can provide feedback. Sometimes even Paul who’s a developer I can say “Hey Paul how does this look or how does this read to you” and he’ll provide honest feedback.
So I wouldn’t say there is any sort of people that I hold on a beautiful pedestal kind of thing right.
I try to draw inspiration from as many sources as possible, but Saul Bass is pretty good actually so, just say him.
One person I will say is a very great inspiration is Steve Krug, I think you guys have his book – its a great book. At Design Lab we take a lot of what he says in the book “Don’t make me think” in to consideration – it’s pretty important.
So if you guys said I had to pick someone go with Steve Kurg. You can use that with everything you do.
What’s your preference – print or web?
Giuliano: I like web, but print has a special place in my heart. Especially when you have the physical thing in your hand, it will never be truly be replaced, like right now you can see that the menus are digital now (television screens) and back in my day (to age myself ha-ha) they would slide the things out or whatever and they would be paper.
Now its moving towards more digital. It’s more cost effective and that’s probably why they are doing it. If you make a mistake its easy to replace or fix. An example I did a freelance magazine it went to print and we had printed the wrong barcodes on them and it cost $5000 dollars to put replacement stickers on all the issues with a new bar code. If that was digital it would be easy as “oh sorry let me re-upload the file. There’s a lot more flexibility with the digital medium. Print its like – once its printed that’s it more costly, bad for the environment and I would say its harder there’s a lot to remember.
What inspires you as a designer? or life in general?
Giuliano: Traveling can be very inspiring sometimes sobering believe it or not (with all the drinking that you do on the trips ha-ha especially in Germany oh my god ha-ha).
A lot of science stuff actually I find that to be very inspiring learning, where we come from, learning about space and the cosmos. I find that inspiring because it sort of puts life in perspective too.
As a designer I draw a lot of inspiration from my everyday surroundings, I like to see what other people are doing and what’s going on. Like right now I’ll check out how the till is shaped like a cup that’s clever right?
Architecture can be inspiring as well because it’s a whole different field of design entirely its interior design. They’re not actually all that different there’s different words but the process is the same, you make wireframes and a site map the whole information architecture, its a very similar process. It’s looking at design from a different field can be really inspiring as well.
I dunno, its sort of like a lot of inspiration everywhere you just have to keep your eyes open.
My last minute thoughts, speaking with Giuliano was really interesting. It gave me an idea of what to expect when working for a smaller design company. I walked into Sheridan thinking I wanted to work for a big bad agency with many clients.
It also stands to be said, he loved his time at Sheridan and spoke very fondly of it.
I feel like I made a new friend that day!
How to get in contact with Giuliano?
Giuliano Rosati: Lead UX Designer | LinkedIn
Company Website: http://www.designlab.net/