Marc Obieglo is known as a UX UI rockstar in the design community, having secured an exclusive seat as a mentor and teacher on the Dribbble platform. We sat down with Marc to find out what attracted him to UX UI design, what’s interesting about working at WiseTech, and the future of design.
Tell me a little bit about yourself and why you decided to get into UX (user experience) and UI (user interface) design?
I actually have never done anything else other than UX UI.
I've been doing this since I was probably 13 years old. I'm originally from Germany and at the age of around 13 we have to do an internship for a couple of weeks over the summer. I decided to do my internship at a little web design agency in my hometown and that really kicked it all off. My whole career path from that internship onwards has been about design.
I've done various disciplines within design, so I've done UX design, I've been an art director, creative director, brand designer. I've really tried to figure out what's most interesting for me and ended up in UI and Design Systems.
What made you land on UI?
I found the UI and design system space particularly interesting because it's something where you don't just build a piece of software and push it out there. The UI design part is about making things look, feel and function well and give the user a sense of delight whenever they use the software. My design system work is around enabling other designers and engineers to do great work.
The design system and the tools that are put in place enable, for example, our design team at WiseTech to build applications, design applications, define how things look and how they feel and how a user overall flows through the particular application. I’ve always been more on the visual side of the design spectrum. It was all fairly natural path for me and I stuck with it.
You’ve been in the industry for a while now, what have you seen change over the years?
Where do we start? So many things have changed. The main thing right now is everything's a bit more accessible. There’s much more talent out there. If you're a company and you want to hire someone, there are so many good people out there because UX UI and design in general have become somewhat mainstream. The barrier of entry is now incredibly low.
The world is also much more connected these days, so we have bigger and more complex problems to solve now. When I started out, I designed a website to sell a certain product to a certain customer. We didn't try to actually solve any real problems back then. Nowadays you look at software and how software has evolved overall, it’s become crucial in the day-to-day lives of people. So, I think the overall impact that design has on the world now has just dramatically increased. And I love that.
You’ve had a lot of experience, so what was it about WiseTech that made you think, yes, I want to join this company?
A big driver was Matty (Matthias Schreck, WiseTech Head of Design). He's absolutely great and he did a really good job selling WiseTech to me in in the early stages. What really interested me was the fact that the design work we're doing here is pioneering work, partially because design as a practice is fairly new to WiseTech and it’s exciting to have a seat at the table now. But also, due to the complexity of our software. We’re solving problems that I personally haven’t come across very often in my career. I found it interesting and exciting to join a company like WiseTech that is established, not a startup or small company, and being able to shape and form design here together with a bunch of great people and great designers.
I'm someone that likes these kinds of challenges. I don't like joining a company where the bed is made, everything's running smoothly, and you know it's a well-oiled machine. That's boring. Having the opportunity to join WiseTech, setting up a design team and influencing a design system is really exciting for me. It's been a good journey so far.
"I have found it really interesting that there's a bit of complexity and chaos when it comes to figuring out what we're designing and how we're doing it. Personally, I like this. I like problem solving and cleaning up as much as possible, that's why I'm in design systems."
How challenging is it to bring product managers and developers on the design journey?
It’s definitely a challenge. Ultimately, we need to show the value of design at every step of the way.
Especially if you're a brand-new practice or domain like we are here, it's sometimes hard to convince people that we're here to do the right thing, we’re here to work together with the teams, and that we bring different capabilities than already exist in certain teams.
Something else that’s important is to show the research we’re doing on certain functionalities of the application. It’s about being super transparent with the teams because oftentimes design can end up being a bit of a magical black box, stuff goes in there and then all of a sudden lots of stuff comes out but no one actually knows what happened. Then you get asked ‘where do all these ideas come from and why should we listen to those ideas?’, but all the decisions we make are research and evidence based.
It's really making sure you share those insights, share the processes and get as many people on the journey with us as possible. What this does is it builds trust with the teams that we work with, and teams that trust each other build great software.
How important is talking to customers as part of the design process?
That’s one of the most important parts of design.
Ideally you spend a lot of time with customers, potential customers or even with industry experts to understand the space, the needs and the problems and then we try to solve them. These people validate our ideas and our thinking and then we move forward with putting ideas in front of product teams, and together designing new features and functionalities. Ultimately, it's this open line of communication with customers, specialists and product teams that is super important for us.
As a UX UI designer you need to be really good at more than design. You need to have strong communication skills, stakeholder management, project management, and more. How do you manage all of those different aspects?
I think it can be quite challenging. It’s important to have the right team around you and the right skills. You can’t work in a silo. We are always part of a broader team that includes engineers, product managers and specialists, delivery teams and more.
You need to have some level of resilience and recognize that people may need a little bit more time understanding what we're doing. At WiseTech the design team is pretty new, so it’s important to have patience, to explain to teams why design matters and why it's important.
What do you enjoy about being at WiseTech and why has joining the team been the right decision for you?
It's definitely been the right decision. What I’m working on in my space is a bit challenging. I work a bit more with engineering teams than some of our other designers. The most interesting part is that I feel like every week I learn more about our software and the industry, even a year in.
I'm baffled sometimes when we deep dive into certain features or parts of the software and learn how complex and powerful it is.
So, I have found it really interesting that there's a bit of complexity and chaos when it comes to figuring out what we're designing and how we're doing it. Personally, I like this. I like problem solving and cleaning up as much as possible, that's why I'm in design systems.
It’s challenging but really fun. I don't regret joining at all.
Why should somebody who is an experienced designer consider joining WiseTech?
Because there are endless opportunities. There are so many things that can and need to be done here. We have lots of different product teams that have many of their own requirements, needs and problems. Which means, depending on what part of the business you work in, the problems you’re solving and working on can be completely different. I think that's what's so interesting.
There are so many opportunities that can be uncovered, and we do uncover on a weekly basis. It never gets boring.
Mentorship is something that is very important to you. Why?
It's something I like to give back to other designers. I had amazing mentors as part of my career and without those mentors, I wouldn't be the designer that I am today. So, I feel responsible to give back to younger and less experienced designers and to give them the same experience that I had.
You become better as a designer through mentoring and as a person, to be honest. If there are young designers you can help solve a problem and set them on the right path, that’s very fulfilling.
I currently have a few mentees as part of my Dribbble course. And a few designers that have now started finding jobs on the back of the course they've done, and it just makes me incredibly proud to say, ‘hey, I helped them gain a certain level of skills’, to then find a job out there which is great.
Tell me about Dribbble, because it’s pretty exclusive to become a mentor and teacher on there?
Dribbble is a platform that has been around for about 10+ years. It's always been a bit of an inspiration page for designers, UX UI designers and product designers where you can share your work and get inspired by other people. There’s also a job board for freelancers and people looking for work.
It’s an incredibly well-connected community. About three years ago they started Dribbble Academy, which offers design specific courses for young or experienced designers depending on who you are and what you want to learn. They have a bunch of courses online that focus either on product design as a whole and also some on niche design disciplines.
I'm helping with the design system course, which is an 8-week course that's continuously going. It teaches the basics of design systems and how to establish them at your company in your environment.
How do you feel about having that responsibility to pass on your knowledge and teaching these people important skills for their future?
It’s great. It’s quite an exclusive thing to become a mentor, so in the beginning it was very daunting and overwhelming because it is quite a lot of responsibility. The environments and scenarios I've mentored in before on different platforms were more about people booking in time with you, so you provide more ad-hoc advice on a situational basis.
Dribbble is a big name so there’s a certain expectation from you as a mentor and as a coach. You want to make sure that you fulfill those expectations because people spend quite a bit of money for these design courses. You have to make sure you focus and share the right things, prepare yourself properly, and engage with everyone.
The first cohort that I had I was incredibly nervous for the first few sessions. You have this group of people looking at you and expecting certain things from you. But it’s incredibly fun and is now part of my routine which I enjoy doing.
What else do you enjoy doing outside of design?
I'm the kind of person that hyper fixates on certain hobbies, so there's a million things constantly going on. I don't have a number one hobby that I'm doing, but at the moment I’m interested in watches. I think one of the reasons why I'm drawn to these sorts of things is because they're not digital. I spend 8-10 hours a day on the computer doing digital things that you'll never be able to touch, see or feel outside of a screen or phone.
Up until recently I had a little leathercrafting shop (Dear Dagger) making wallets and small leather goods. The reason I got into wallets was because I wanted to do something creative with my hands. I think it's fulfilling afterwards, to use your creativity in a different type of form.
Where do you see the future of the design heading?
That's a big question. I'm hoping over the next few years we see people becoming a bit more creative again. I think over the past three to four years, design has become a bit of everything and looks and feels somewhat the same. There’s not a lot of creativity out there, especially when it comes to software and applications.
I'm hoping there's a way to get creativity back into this situation, especially with design system; that designers really think about and solve actual problems again and not just repeat the same things over and over again.
The rise of AI could be interesting. I don't know if it's going to be good or bad for design. There are lots of use cases where I can see that it definitely helps us with doing certain tasks, but it's really difficult to say right now. It's such an interesting, weird, confusing space at the moment because everything's changing on a weekly basis.