When Andrius Petravicius came across a job posting for a digital designer at studio Superrb, he jumped at the chance to gain more studio experience. Although the studio were looking for someone with over three years experience, Andrius was undeterred, and one year later the position was his. What made him right for the job? He believes it was a blend of passion, perseverance and a lot of behind-the-scenes work on his portfolio that gave him the edge over other applicants. His day-to-day at the Hayling Island-based agency now involves putting together new designs, mood boards and prototypes for projects. He’s even worked on redesigning a lookbook and blog for his favourite brand of sunglasses. He tells us more about the role and how building HTML websites with his uncle as a teenager sparked a love of all things digital.
How would you describe your job?
As a digital designer, most of my work is concentrated on websites. Within that I do things like wireframing, mocking up interactivity in After Effects, researching transitions and animations and experimenting with different font combinations. Sometimes you might even find me stepping out of my designer shoes and doing some front-end development work. So there’s a lot of variety, which is always nice.
As for my role within the company, I’d say it’s right in the middle of our team’s workflow. There are three main phases to building a website. Firstly it starts with project managers who prepare a project brief using all the details and requirements from the client. My role comes into play during the second phase, which is the design phase. After getting the brief and discussing everything with the project manager, I usually start out by doing my own research before drawing wireframes and designing concepts. Once a concept design gets chosen by the client, I continue to design the rest of the templates for the website. Usually, there are a few stages of doing design amends or mocking up prototypes to test how interactive elements would work on the website. Once the client is happy and all of the designs get signed off, I prepare design files to hand-over to the developers, which is the third and final stage of making a website. My role pretty much ends here, though most of the time, I still work closely with developers during development phase by guiding them on how certain things should look, animate or transition.
“Even though I wasn’t experienced enough, I was keen to learn. I guess my passion and honesty paid off.”
What does a typical working day look like?
I work eight hours per day, five days a week. I’m not really a morning person, so it’s great that Superrb has flexi-start, so I can sleep a bit longer. I usually come to the office at around 10am and work till 7pm. I live five minutes from the studio and have no commute at all. I don’t really have a specific morning routine, though I do manage to get in a 40-minute lunch workout at the gym near the studio.
I try to concentrate on one project at a time, but during busier periods, I have to juggle between different projects and tasks, in order to meet the most urgent deadlines. My ideal working day is when I have one big project going, so I can focus on getting all the work done for that one project.
How did you land your current job?
After university, I freelanced for a while. It was going well, but I wanted to get more professional experience to see what it’d be like to work at a design studio. I found the advert for a digital designer role at Superrb on If You Could. They were looking for someone with over three years’ professional experience in the industry, so I wasn’t qualified for the role. But I was just honest, and told them that I really liked their work and that even though I wasn’t experienced enough, I was keen to learn. I guess my passion and honesty paid off. On a side note: I did also put quite a lot of work into my own portfolio website and self-promotion beforehand, so it’s not just honesty or passion that gave me the edge.
Where does the majority of your work take place?
I work from the Superrb studio. It’s nice and cozy, though we do plan to move to a new one pretty soon, which will be quite a bit bigger, so that will be an exciting change. Our studio environment is very relaxed, there’s usually someone playing their Spotify playlist through studio speakers, and in general everyone gets along great, so there are no bad vibes. We also have two office dogs and they definitely add some life to our studio.
How collaborative is your role?
To launch a website you must collaborate with other team members quite a lot. As I mentioned before, projects usually start by getting a brief from project managers who continue to help me throughout all phases of the project. The design phase is mostly a solo effort, though our design team does collaborate on certain projects to help each other. During the development phase, I also work closely with developers to make sure the website turns out as close as possible to my designs. Besides working with our team, I sometimes get to meet the clients during design feedback meetings.
What are the most and least enjoyable aspects of your job?
Most enjoyable is starting a new project. It’s exciting to take on a new challenge, design new concepts and solve new problems. I also really enjoy doing animation and interaction design work, as it’s always fun to bring static designs to life.
On the downside, there are a lot of mundane tasks within the web design field. My least enjoyable task would be preparing design files for developers. After all the designs are signed off by the client, we still have to make sure files are ready for developers, so they have easy access to all the required values, measurements and assets. That means I have to prepare responsive designs and make sure everything within my design files is consistent and organised.
What has been the most exciting project of the last twelve months?
There have been quite a few exciting projects, but I was really stoked to get to work on the website designs for sunglasses brand Tens Life. I was a fan before I started working at Superrb. They already had an existing brand and a website, so it wasn’t a fully-fledged project, but it was still cool to redesign their lookbook and to design a blog for them.
What skills are essential to your job?
It’s essential to be proficient with the software you use. It’s also essential to be knowledgeable of the main web design practices and the latest UX design principles. You also have to be a problem solver and really think through the main goals of each project in order to achieve all of the client needs.
Do you run any side projects alongside your job?
Currently I don’t, but I do use some of my free time to practice new skills. I’ve been working on an update for my personal website as a way of improving my front-end development. I’ve chosen to use two development practices I’m not very familiar with: SASS (a stylesheet language) and GIT (a version control system).
What tools do you use most for your work?
I use the Sketch application the most, with a variety of plugins; it’s the perfect UI and wireframing design tool. I also use After Effects for animation and interaction design work and the Atom text editor with a variety of plugins for front-end development work. Another important tool for our workflow is Invision with Craft, which lets us create mood boards, make simple prototypes, share designs with clients and helps to hand-off designs to developers.
How I Got Here
What did you want to be growing up?
As a kid, I always wanted to be a director. I just loved watching cartoons and movies and was quite imaginative, so I thought making movies would be really cool. But once I got older and started using the computer, I got immersed in everything digital and knew that was the direction I had to follow.
What influence has your upbringing had on your work?
My uncle was always into latest technology – he built a website for his own business way back in the 2000s. When I was around 15 years old, he taught me how to make my own HTML websites, so you could say those were my first steps into web design field.
How (if at all) is the subject you studied useful to your current role?
It’s extremely useful. Even though graphic design is quite a different medium from web design, they share the same fundamentals. Having a strong background knowledge of typography, how to use grids and how to carry out research has been very useful.
What were your first jobs?
My first job in the design field was a year-long, paid internship at a startup called Shopitize. I worked full-time as a web and mobile designer there. Doing an internship was really helpful; I learnt a lot, gained confidence and I felt assured that I had chosen the right career path.
What in particular helped you the most at the start of your career?
Besides my uncle, I had a great project manager during my internship, who was always was really helpful and taught me quite a lot.
Was there a particular project you worked on that helped your development?
I believe everything – starting from my university projects to my internship work – has helped my growth. It’s important to challenge yourself to try and do something new with each project.
What skills have you learnt along the way?
Throughout my career, I’ve dabbled in everything and gained a lot of skills, so I’d call myself a multi-disciplinary designer now. I’m skilled in UI and UX design for web and mobile, I have animation and interaction design skills, and can do a bit of front-end development. I’m also quite proficient with a broad suite of software and tools. In my industry, the fundamentals of everything don’t shift that much, but in general skills and software do, so you always have to be on top of your game.
What’s been your biggest challenge?
University was quite a challenge for me; I moved from Lithuania to the United Kingdom and had to have a job while studying in order to support myself. During the first years of university, I also wasn’t sure on what aspects of graphic design I wanted to concentrate on, so I tried everything from book and poster design to packaging design. I struggled with some of them, but at least I tried and learnt what worked for me.
Is your job what you thought it would be?
Actually, it’s pretty much as I always imagined it to be and I’m happy with that.
What would you like to do next?
I’m still in my early days of career and there’s still so much to learn. Currently, my goal is to keep improving at everything I do. In the future, I hope to shift my focus more into interaction design.
Could you do this job forever?
I could keep doing this job pretty much forever. The digital medium is always changing and evolving, so you have to keep up with it all the time, which means following latest trends, learning new workflows and trying out new tools. All of that forces you to get out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself – that’s why I don’t get bored of what I do.
Words of Wisdom
What advice would you give to a young creative wanting to become a digital designer?
Never stop. Keep learning, keep working. In the very beginning, you just need to get started. Start teaching yourself new things and enrol in some courses, but always put what you learn to use. Give everything a shot and see what you enjoy doing the most, whether it be web design, app design, animation or development work. Once you find that out, focus on it, polish your skills and hone your workflow and style. As long as you do that, your career path will just unfold by itself for you.