Name: Julianna Miller
Hometown: Miami, FL
Education: Cleveland Institute of Art
Team: Industrial Design
How would you describe your role as a designer?
I am an interpreter. As a designer you often end up as the nexus or voice between users, clients, teams and processes. Our ‘usual’ point in the process is between the innovation strategy team and the product development team. We take the insights from users and client teams and translate that into a compelling, creative solution. But that design also needs to be achievable, so I need to be able to switch languages to ensure that a solution can be executed by product development teams whether engineers or developers.
You've worked on a number of projects across many different industries. What's a common challenge that you see your clients facing?
This doesn’t feel new, but I’m still surprised at how often clients struggle to understand their target audience. To really understand what their users want or need.
What is something you are most proud of professionally?
This is a really tricky question because I’ve been fortunate to work on a lot of really interesting projects with a lot of really great teams, like Hydrow and Woodford Reserve. But I would have to say our work with the Guide Beauty team on a new brand of accessible beauty tools. As designers we are trained to think about our users and to make products better for them. As much as that is core to how we work, it’s surprising how often the benefit to the user can still feel a bit removed.
When working with the Guide Beauty team, I was surprised to learn how many people struggle to apply makeup, whether from lack of confidence or a specific disability. More often users blame themselves for their perceived lack of ability, spend ages reapplying and touching up mistakes or even quit using specific products because it is just too difficult.
It was really painful to watch these makeup lovers beat themselves up over little mistakes. But when we showed them our concepts they were overjoyed. They couldn’t imagine the process any differently than it had always been, a tedious means to an end. It was such a surprise to see that such a simple moment in their day could make them feel so much better. I’m still touched by all the joy and enthusiasm you can read about in the reviews.
How are you dealing with the Work from Home experience?
Covid-19 has completely disrupted how we work as a team and led to the adoption of new remote ways of working. We’ve always had a very in-person collaborative way of working, and almost overnight that completely went away.
It’s been very interesting to see how the team has embraced new technologies — like Miro, an online collaboration tool that recreates the collaborative workflow. Even switching to a more ‘paperless’ workflow is new, since most of us didn’t have a printer or scanner at home!
Many on the design team have embraced iPads for sketching instead of our trusty note cards and Copic markers. Rather than it being a detriment, I’m inspired by how the team has risen to the challenge and actually found ways to work that could improve our workflows in the future, even when we return to work.
What might people not know about you?
I’m a cat lady. Just kidding, everyone knows that!
(Left) Juli's cat, Hamster, lounging next to her design work on Brown-Forman's Woodford Reserve. (Right) Bomber showcasing some of the first tool shots of Guide Beauty.
What are you reading right now?
Ruined by Design: How Designers Destroyed the World, and What We Can Do to Fix It, by Mike Monteiro.
Where do you turn for inspiration?
There are so many options now online. Behance and Pinterest are great. And I would be lying if I didn’t spend a good chunk of time looking at pretty things online. But after a while, they can feel too insular and disconnected from reality.
A lot of the time I need to step away from a problem to be inspired. My husband and I travel, hike, or visit museums when we need a break. We are both designers, so we actually spend a lot of time talking about design, even when we are both taking a break. For example, the forms for Guide Beauty were inspired by gorgeous glasswork we saw hidden in a faraway corner of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Juli exploring slot canyons in Escalante National Monument, Utah. Hiking is just one way she finds space to think and find inspiration.
We hear you're really into leather bags. Tell us about that.
Leather bags — making them, deconstructing them, learning new techniques. When I started, I thought it would be just like sewing but thicker, but I’ve learned that it’s really a hybrid of sewing and woodworking skills. The hand finishing can be time consuming, but I actually find it relaxing and the end result is so much nicer. I’ve even been experimenting with 3D printing to create my own custom hardware, so the end result is that much more polished.
What are you passionate about?
Good design, thoughtful solutions, and making things. I may be a designer, but I’m still an artist deep down. I want things to be beautiful. I want to make the best possible experiences that thrill and delight users.
Interested in Industrial Design at Essential?