We’re excited to welcome another new UX instructor onto our team of top Toronto talent at Bitmaker. Matt Hryhorsky has been at Filament Creative for over nine years, where he is a Partner and Creative Director.
We sat down with Matt to ask him about teaching, the industry, and where beginners should start.
Q: What made you want to sign on to the Bitmaker team? Why do you want to teach UX Design with us?
Matt: I think being a designer is the best, so I'm excited to help a new batch of designers find their voices and kick off their careers. Bitmaker's program plays an important role in filling a gap that exists in UX design education and I'm glad to have a hand in that. The design community has mentored me a lot – many people have taken the time to have coffee with me over the years and I can't wait to pay that forward through this course.
UX & Product Design
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How did you get into design as a career? What brought about a design mindset for you?
I’ve always been interested in design from a young age. When I was in grade school, I was the guy that spent 30 hours on a title page and not a lot of time on the project itself. (That’s not my design philosophy now, of course!). In university, my eyes were opened up to the web and how powerful it was. I actually started doing sites in Flash (gasp!) before graduating into HTML/CSS and JS, but from my first taste of the web I was hooked. After university, I toured full-time as a musician and worked on album art, websites and poster design on off days to make money until I “settled down” and started working at Filament.
How do you weigh artistic versus user-driven decision making when creating?
For me user-centred design is all about the flow, the user story, and how easy it is to get from one point to the other. The aesthetics are an important part of any design system, but it’s just one aspect of a design solution.
At Filament, we take the approach of using a ‘style tile’ to discover what our stakeholders preferences are so we can speak the same design language and tackle any gut reactions to colour or typography at the outset of a project. Everyone starts by saying how they want a simple website that’s clean, so we start with style. Style is visercal. People might say “Oh, I f*cking hate that” or “That font sucks”, and that’s okay – those are art comments, not usability comments. We can combine their preferences with user research and wireframes to get to a great outcome.
What is your take on the current trends in play, like flat design?
Flat design is a tumultuous topic, and sure it’s a trend because it’s everywhere, but I think there’s more to it. ‘Flatness’ was inevitable from an evolutionary perspective – it’s an evolution based on user education. When web and phone interfaces were new, they needed to be grounded in familiarity, with real-life signifiers for the best usability. Now that we’re 10 or 15 years in, we’re all familiar with what an interface comprises. The signifiers that were once necessary can be stripped away and reconceptualized.
What is your opinion regarding the strength and cohesion of the Toronto design community? How could it be improved?
I think the design community in Toronto is fantastic, but there are a lot of UX design people that don’t come out to tech events because they tend to centre around development. Most design events, aside from the odd Dribbble meetup or awesome Creative Mornings events, don’t necessarily attract UX designers. That said, when we do connect, though not often, it’s really enjoyable.
Generally, there’s not enough interdisciplinary discussion. Different types of designers are often siloed off. In order to foster good community, you have to have good communication. I think the community needs to communicate relationships between people who have different amounts of time in the field.
What advice do you want to impart to Bitmaker students? Why do you think an immersive bootcamp is a good option to jump into design?
You need to ask questions of users and your peers and your clients. Don’t assume your opinion is the most correct. The technical execution of a project – the tools you need for creating design – is the easy stuff to learn. The harder skills to pick up are insatiable curiosity and good taste.
Whenever I’m asked about how to become a better designer I always pull up a video by Ira Glass on the gap between good taste and good design. Closing the gap between good taste and creating stuff that you love can only happen through a volume of work.
Diving into a boot camp allows for that volume of work to happen far more quickly, and allows you the focus required to learn the right things in the right way. After all, it’s called a Design Practice, not a Design When I Can Fit It In. It takes repetition, and hard work to recognize the flaws in your own execution. Bootcamps help accelerate the path to that recognition.
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