Meet the Makers: Jake Dragash
Meet Jake Dragash, the talented leader of our Product Design Team, in our inspiring "Meet the Makers" interview series.
Prepare to be inspired by the remarkable people who shape Cinnamon services in our entertaining "Meet the Makers" blog series. Today, we'd like to introduce you to Jake Dragash, the exceptional leader of our Product Design Team. Join us as we explore Jake's journey, his insights into the world of design, and his own special hobbies.
Don't skip up the opportunity to learn what makes Jake and our Product Design Team at Cinnamon so special! Let's get started!
What inspired you to pursue a career in Design, and how did you get started in this field?
Great question! My path in entering the industry is a bit unusual, but in my experience I think a lot of designers come from all sorts of backgrounds — which makes it a unique field. I grew up around a family of creatives and spent a good portion of my childhood making movies with my older brother. I also spent hours watching my adult designer cousin show me the tricks of the graphic design trade — laying out books, sharing clever marketing campaigns, manipulating photos, doing prepress, and introducing me to the world of typography. I didn’t know it at the time, but this definitely impacted me in a huge way.
I ended up studying philosophy at university, but as I finished my studies my interest in design made a comeback and I began to explore tools like Sketch and taught myself to code CSS and HTML. As I worked on projects for friends and family, I came across a then-free service which allowed you to send in a link to your site, a random tester would be assigned, and you’d receive a 5 minute video of them clicking around and giving their honest feedback. This kind of blew my mind, and made me realize design is just as much about how a product behaves as it is how it visually looks. After that, I realized product design was what I wanted to get better at and figure out how to make useful interfaces.
When I finished school, I applied to various IT companies and landed my first full-time job as a UX/UI designer at a start-up in Zagreb.
How do you stay up-to-date with the latest industry trends and best practices in Design, and what resources do you rely on?
When it comes to education, I learned the most from my design mentors as well as quality online courses. There are a few books like Universal Principles of Design that really helped me realize how important design principles are — definitely more so than any trend. But in general I tend to follow individuals whom I think are just really thoughtful designers with solid experience and knowledge. Folks like MDS or Chris Do come to mind.
What are some of the latest tools and technologies you're using in your work, and how are they helping you improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our Design processes?
In my current role as Team Lead, I don’t find any particular technology to be better than another — so I try to lean on gaining experience in working with people, picking up methodologies, and trying to understand how to effectively help my team members grow as designers. But if I put my Product Design hat on, I try to learn the current tools as best as I can. Figma is currently the go-to tool for design, so I try to make an effort to understand its features and take advantage of any new updates that can help me design faster and cleaner. It also helps me to be able to help others, since of course it’s no use in giving someone advice if you don’t have the skill yourself!
What's your go-to productivity hack?
Create fake deadlines for yourself. Of course the success rate of this entirely depends on you, but working without any deadlines in my experience is a recipe for never finishing anything.
What are some of the key metrics you use to measure the success of your Design team?
I won’t lie, metrics can sometimes be tricky because they don’t always tell the full story. When I am evaluating and thinking about my design team, I am first and foremost thinking about them as people. People aren’t inherently guided by metrics, but by seeing their skills and careers grow. Yes, metrics are a part of that — and within the Cinnamon design team we have several areas of soft and hard skills we look at in order to track each person’s progress. But at the end of the day, I see personal successes (a completed project, a positive review, a new challenge accomplished, and so on) to be just as important milestones as metrics.
What was the best project you ever worked on and why?
You know, this is a hard question to answer. But two recent-ish projects come to mind. One was a project I helped oversee — which was a desktop app for professional audio engineers. As a musician, I had a great time (and team) to work with, and we did our best to distill some really specific requirements into an app that hopefully will be a great asset to audio professionals.
Another project that comes to mind is a workshop I co-lead with one of my team members. Our clients flew in from abroad, and we had an intensive multi-day discovery workshop where we made decisions on what we were building and what the design would be. We sketched ideas, voted, did research together, and ultimately gained a focused vision of the product. This was also a music related product, so I guess music seems to be the name of the game!
How do you collaborate with other teams, such as developers and product managers, to ensure that our products are delivered on time and with the highest level of quality?
As they say, communication is key. Some years ago when I had less experience, I really struggled to communicate effectively and on time with the people that I worked with. When I came to Cinnamon I realized just how important it is to keep everyone involved in the loop and to make known what you are doing, what your next steps are, and what information you need in order to complete your tasks.
Today, I try my best to be precise with whomever I am talking to — be it a project manager, a sales representative, someone from our marketing department, or a developer. The most important factor is finding immediate solutions and courses of actions in a given situation. So to answer the question, it’s critical to agree as a team what to do next!
What is one thing you would like the client to know about the work you do?
I think it’s always important to remember that collaboration means being aware of each other’s expertise. The most successful projects are the ones where both sides are willing to learn from each other, and to allow each party the freedom to do their job. As a designer, I want to make sure I understand the client’s needs and to leverage their expertise, and I believe the client will benefit from taking advantage of my knowledge.
In short, I believe design encompasses much more than what you see on the screen, so if clients keep that in mind, we’ll be able to make some great things together!
What's something you're really good at that people might not know about?
As a parent of a two-year old, I seem to have gained the superpower (or super weakness depending on how you look at it) of being able to fall asleep extremely easily. I fall asleep almost all the time putting Reuben to bed. Actually, now that I think about it I don’t know if this is a good thing at all!
If you weren't a product design team lead, what other profession would you have pursued?
In another life I would have loved to be a touring musician — but in reading stories from real bands, I often wonder if I would survive those grueling tour cycles. Playing music with people is a blast, but sneaking your guitar on planes, getting sick, and dealing with every possible logistic mishap sounds extremely stressful!
If you could design a product for any fictional character, who would it be and what would the product be?
That’s a really hard question! I definitely know who I wouldn’t pick — hint, Tony Stark. But if I had to choose someone, I suppose I’d go with John Hammond? He’s the person in white who founds the dinosaur park in the movie Jurassic Park. I’d take a crack at designing the interfaces for the colorful tour cars that ride on the tracks!
What's the most interesting thing you've learned while working at Cinnamon?
There are too many things to count — but if I had to pick one thing, it’s realizing when everyone is on board to do great work and to help each other no matter what, working doesn’t feel like work.
What's one piece of advice you'd give to someone just starting out in this industry?
Don’t wait till you’re “good” at design. Too often I see folks who are afraid to give themselves the label of “Product Designer” or “UX Designer”. They are made up labels anyway. So apply to companies you’d want to work at, and look for a place that will help nurture your growth and provide you the opportunity to do your job in the real world. In the end, we are all learning anyway. So jump on in and get going!
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