As we celebrate the second annual World Interaction Design Day (IxDD) today, it’s the perfect time to showcase some of the most promising rising UX design talent from around the globe. Adobe’s new UX Designers to Watch program, in its inaugural list, is spotlighting ten UX designers who are still relatively early in their careers, but already pushing the profession’s boundaries.
To identify this up-and-coming talent, we assembled a panel of widely recognized design leaders like Tom Beck, IxDD Global Committee & Executive Director at Society of Digital Agencies (SoDA), Albert Shum, CVP of Design, Experience and Devices Group at Microsoft, Aynne Valencia-Brooks, Chair of Interaction Design at California College of the Arts, and Jerlyn Thomas, VP of Product Design at Havas Health. I was fortunate enough to join them in the selection process.
Together, we searched worldwide for design talent that stood out not just through a portfolio or résumé – but through their involvement in the vibrant global design community and commitment to improving the human condition through UX and interaction design.
The first annual list features a range of talented young designers, from an in-house designer who dedicates his free time to championing diversity and equality in design to others who have created communities to raise up women and non-binary individuals in UX. We’re excited to see where their careers and passions take them in years to come.
So, without further ado, let me introduce Adobe’s UX Designers to Watch.
Liz Wells, New York, USA
It wasn’t too long ago that Liz Wells was an intern at Stink Studios in Brooklyn – but she quickly rose through the ranks to become a senior UX designer. After just four years at the agency, she’s already worked on projects that have earned accolades from the Webbys, Awwwards and Cannes Lions. One of Liz’s most prominent projects was Stonewall Forever, which launched this summer to commemorate the legacy of the Stonewall Riots, marking 50 years of Pride. She helped create a documentary film, an interactive monument, and an AR app that features previously unheard perspectives from the LGBTQ+ community.
Outside of work, Liz is also passionate about raising the voices of creative people of marginalized genders. Noticing a gap in the market for a platform that uplifts the stories of creatives of marginalized genders, she co-founded the newsletter, Desk Lunch, to empower these groups to share personal stories of their experiences working in the creative industry.
In the future, Liz aims to become even more immersed in the design industry by speaking at conferences, and dreams about opening her own studio one day.
Tim Hykes, Missouri, USA
On the heels of receiving a degree in graphic design from the University of Missouri-St. Louis in 2015, Tim jumpstarted his career in UX design by joining RoverTown, a mobile app and startup based in his hometown of St. Louis. Since then, Tim quickly made a name for himself both at work and in the design community. He currently works as a UX consultant at World Wide Technology. Tim is also former president of AIGA’s St. Louis chapter, and the current co-chapter advisory board member for the Midwest which includes 19 chapters.
Tim is also a champion for diversity in the design industry and serves on AIGA’s national diversity & inclusion task force. His senior thesis was named Design + Diversity, and since that presentation in 2015, he has worked with his co-founder to spearhead the Design + Diversity Conference and podcast, which examine ways to make the design industry more diverse. Tim also incorporates diversity and inclusion into his daily work at WWT, and believes the key to creating an open and inclusive workspace is creating a culture of feedback.
Tim is well-known for the project, 28 Days of Black Designers, which put the spotlight on 28 black designers from a number of fields, ranging from fashion to graphics to architecture.
Ultimately, Tim is proud to be at the forefront of helping the next generation of diverse designers succeed and have a seat at the table.
James Alonso, Barranquilla, Colombia
From a young age, James has been inspired by colors, geometry and design in general, leading him to pursue a career in design more than 10 years ago. He translated his innate curiosity and creativity into a fruitful career by discovering he could translate his ideas and concepts into digital tools, making himself into a designer who solves programs and creates digital programs for brands and entrepreneurs around the world. As a freelancer, James lends his UI/UX skills to projects ranging from simple mobile apps to robust business dashboards for brands. James earned his stripes in a variety of roles as a product and graphic designer, before transitioning to the UX space several years ago.
James quickly amassed a large following on Instagram due to his colorful, eye-catching designs featuring bold graphics, and remains committed to building products that have the potential to change the world for the better.
Above all, James is passionate about working with entrepreneurs and startups, and enjoys helping them create a clear vision for their brands and come to creative business solutions through his design work.
Viba Mohan, Bangalore, India
As a child, Viba loved visual art and problem solving and was certain she wanted to become an artist. But she soon realized this path wasn’t fulfilling her, which led her to discovering opportunities in product design, allowing her solve challenges while putting her visual design skills to use.
Viba has been a UX designer since 2017 and has already made waves with her innovative work on local startups and her design blogging. She previously was a blogger for DesignUp, a community of designers and product creators in tech, schools and non-profits. She also often writes on her own Medium channel, where she shares practical advice for other designers and insights into design trends. Viba also co-organizes a design meetup called UX Brunch in Bangalore, which facilitates events structured around different topics in UX, with two experts leading each discussion.
In her spare time, Viba is interested in reading books and meditating.
Fiona Yeung, San Francisco, USA
In just a few years, Fiona has worn several hats in her career, from being a UX designer at Google, where she works on the Fuchsia OS team to simultaneously becoming the director of an international non-profit. Inspired by people and their stories, the heartbeat behind her personal mission is to create meaningful human connections through the power of curiosity, love, and community
Fiona uses her design skills to lift up women and non-binary individuals, as well as to support social causes. She is the director at Hexagon UX, a non-profit focusing on providing community events, mentorship and support to empower women and non-binary community members at all stages of their careers in UX. She also previously volunteered her skills as a designer for the International Rescue Committee, a global humanitarian aid, relief and development organization.
Hailing from Toronto, Fiona has a BDes in Graphic Design from York University / Sheridan College and now lives in San Francisco. She is an active voice in the UX design community, speaking at events like Google I/O, and at smaller conferences at UC Berkeley, Duke University, and University of Waterloo to name a few.
Léo Chazalon, Vancouver, Canada
Léo graduated with dual bachelor’s degrees in business and law earlier this year, and has already translated his business acumen and UX design skills into a consulting role at Accenture and co-founded design studio Castle Lab.
An entrepreneur at heart, Léo founded his first tech startup in his third year of university (with two anonymous Reddit users!) From there, he mastered the basics of UX and has played a key role in making Castle Lab a rapidly growing, up-and-coming design studio in Western Canada. Léo now takes pride in creating cohesive brands for legacy industries and reinventing the UX of fast-paced tech company products.
Léo truly believes UX design benefits from a diverse workforce, and Castle Lab often collaborates with university students on projects that require thinking outside the box. Coming from majors as unrelated as philosophy and electrical engineering, Castle Lab is pushing for partnerships with universities to send students every semester to train on real client-projects.
In the near future, Léo would like to continue growing Castle Lab into an innovative studio as well as a hub for aspiring students looking for advice, training or case-studies before diving into the web design industry.
Ben Johnson, Marquette, MI, USA
Ben is the owner/creative director of Elegant Seagulls, a Michigan-based creative design agency known for working with customers like ESPN, Forbes, Yelp, Audible, InVision and Panasonic, to name a few. Starting his own business wasn’t the plan all along – Ben was freelancing while searching for his dream job, but quickly realized that most design opportunities would require him to relocate away from his hometown in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. So instead of relocating for a job, he created his own, using his spare bedroom as an office and offering design and branding services to local businesses.
Today, Elegant Seagulls celebrates 13+ years in business, just expanded to a brand new office, has serviced over 100 clients, and has a team of 13 designers/developers focused on highly creative web/UX projects. Recently, Elegant Seagulls designed + developed the website of Waves for Water, a nonprofit dedicated to providing access to clean water where groundwater is not accessible. Being an outdoor enthusiast, Ben says nature is “near and dear to my heart, so having a chance to partner with like-minded organizations such as Waves For Water is a dream come true.”
In the future, Ben’s goal is to continue growing Elegant Seagulls into the go-to creative agency for clients looking for something unique yet conversion-focused.
Aricka Lewis, Arkansas, USA
After graduating from the University of Arkansas in 2015, Aricka began her career in graphic design before transitioning to User Experience Design in 2016. In just under four years, she’s already produced work that’s making an impact. As a designer at digital agency RevUnit, she had a direct hand in designing mobile and desktop apps for enterprise companies like Zappos, H-E-B and Walmart – where she worked on a note-taking app used by thousands of associates to boost productivity at the store level. Today, she’s a senior UX designer at Ad Hoc LLC, which focuses on building government digital services that are fast, accessible and user-friendly.
Aricka is passionate about inclusive design, and outside of work, volunteers as Vice President of Inclusion & Initiatives at AIGA Northwest Arkansas. In 2018, she was named to the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal Fast 15, which honors impressive young professionals in the region. This year, she decided to use her experience to teach the next generation of designers as an adjunct professor of UX Design at the University of Arkansas School of Art.
It’s also important to Aricka to reflect accessible technology, sustainability and equity in her work. She says when she conducts research, “I make sure to understand the limitations for various people who could potentially use the products I work on,” in addition to the environmental and social impact of her work.
Charli Prangley, Valencia, Spain
Originally from New Zealand, Charli is a design lead at ConvertKit, a remote email marketing company with a mission to help creators earn a living online – but she’s not your typical 9-to-5er by any means. In fact, she’ll be the first to tell you about her passion for side projects. Last year, Charli reached a six-figure subscriber count on her YouTube channel, where she offers design advice, tips and tool reviews to the broader design community. On top of that, she runs a podcast called DesignLife about design and side projects for motivated creators. And somehow, Charli still finds time to travel the world, working remotely and sharing her adventures on Instagram.
Charli is passionate about empowering people to go after their dreams and giving them the tools and confidence to create the kind of life they want to live, which made her role at ConvertKit a natural fit. In her side hustles, she also shares what she’s doing and learning in her career in an effort to help other designers progress through theirs.
As she progresses in her career, Charli would like to be a mentor for other designers and develop an internship program to help develop the next generation of creators.
Shaban Iddrisu, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Shaban has been an artist since childhood with an immense passion for drawing and painting. As he grew up, he transitioned to working on more computer-generated imagery, leading him to pursue a career in design.
Shaban is now lead designer at the Dubai office of This is Crowd, a global agency with headquarters in Bournemouth, UK, helping brands grow their audiences, sales and brand awareness through 3D, motion, UI, UX and brand design.
He has been working in design professionally since 2010 and mastered his skills while at Takoradi Technical University. After growing his career in graphic design, Shaban pivoted to 3D, motion graphics, UI/UX and brand design and joined This Is Crowd in 2019. His eye-catching portfolio has already amassed more than 5,000 followers on both Behance and Dribbble, and been featured as inspiration on design blog Prototypr.io.
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