Living the Aerolife

On how I began my internship at Aerolab and experienced the whole process of designing a Digital Product for the first time.

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A year ago, I discovered Aerolab after what I call «an umpteenth serendipity time» on the internet. This searching practice as a common routine slowly turned to be my daily epic quest, navigating unknown online waters on the track of the best sources of treasures for my brain to process. I like to think of my life as an adventure, being my own Jedi on the path of the Force.

At the time I didn’t know yet I’d have found the place that would give an incredible turn to my life and drive me to the best adventure ever.

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The first time I landed on Aerolab’s Dribbble page, I remember feeling so strongly identified with their culture that it was actually really weird, in a good way. I felt, for once, that I could fit somewhere and I didn’t want to let the chance slip away.

It took a lot of nerves to write the passionate cover letter I sent in order to apply for an internship. Within a day Agustín, the perfectionist -and very classy by the way- CEO of Aerolab, answered my email and months later we met in Buenos Aires, some time after my arrival in Argentina from Marseille, France.

Did I forget to mention I am a Marseillaise? 🇫🇷

I graduated in 2014, which could mean taking an internship sound strange when I could be a professional already. Well, first of all: there is no age for this. But also, as some of you may know, France is not really a friendly place for recent graduates looking for a position outside of Paris —because no, I don’t like Paris.

Plus, I was personally looking to gain experience and acquire new skills in UI and UX design, considering it’s quite rare (if ever possible) to find a proper educational field dedicated to it. Although I had previous professional experience as a graphic designer, this internship was giving me the opportunity to experience the Product Design process for the first time. And, what’s better than a first-hand learning experience, right?

Finally, I became a member of Aerolab’s team in January 2016!

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First steps

Belligera on Twitter

The rug life at @aerolab 💘

Working for and with Aerolab was not only my first experience in professional product design but was also the first time I was in contact with the magical process behind it. This lead me picture the whole iceberg, as opposed to just the little tip I had become used to.

On my first day, I was given tons of references by Juani —the lama guru UX Director, and Alejandro —the only person able to make me comfortable with my paranoid nature, also Creative Director at Aerolab— in order to familiarize myself with the basics of this new world. In fact, the next picture perfectly sums up what was the situation like for me during this day:

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I had to discover and assimilate a lot of material in a really short time. But seriously, the amount of information I was exposed led to an all-encompassing learning process, also a key part of teamwork. It has always been crucial for me to learn and to be able to manage my own learning as an almost self-taught person, but the cool part is at this time I wasn’t alone. Being guided by the best supervisors during the instruction really felt like I was taken care of in order to prepare me to work with the team.

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> Knowing that you are not alone but being guided by mentors during the learning process. (OK right, it seems a bit like one hand is crushing the other with the books but learning isn’t always a soft task!) Image from the movie Sayat Nova (1969) dir. Sergei Parajanov. Armenfilm Studios (Soviet Union/Republic of Armenia).

My internship

While I was learning the basics, I was introduced to different research methodologies. The image below is part of the book Sketching User Experience by Bill Buxton.

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> Original image from the book Sketching User Experiences, by Bill Buxton. Reworked version by Intercom Blog.

I chose this picture because it represents one of the highly appreciable working methodologies at Aerolab: focusing on exploration during the research phase of a product design before refining on the investigation.

In fact, the underlying meaning of the exploration side is: you can’t find a solution without making mistakes and going into infructuous paths.

So I was literally asked to fail by Alejandro and Juani because I had to explore, I had to learn, and for this I had to generate a lot, a lot, A LOT of alternatives.

Of course, this goes hand in hand with another design habit: paper first.

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> Actually, this is only 2% of all the research I’ve done during my internship. PAPER, we said! Update: this notebook is currently finished and had fulfilled bravely its task after 6 months of life. R.I.P. beloved notebook.

As designers, pens and sketchbooks are our forever best friends. This is because they are the most user-friendly tools we can have for dropping ideas quickly and being able to fix them. Also the act of drawing AND writing by hand on a raw material allows our brains to process easily and fastly the information.

But from exploration to refinement, when does the right time to stop researching and start refining come? Well, this is the part where I need to work with a team the most.

Working as a team is not only a powerful engine for generating ideas together, but also the best dynamic to get out of the terrible never-ending-exploration-circle-of-hell. It was my peers, such as Valentín —my Batman-like companion!— and many other coworkers who helped me get out of this infernal circles and not get stuck.

It’s also that particular process that helped us define gradually our expectations and grow our ideas into a real product.

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The product

Shootroom is a side project from Aerolab to which I was introduced during my first week, and that slowly became my internship’s main project.

We made a very close-knit team with Sergio, Roberto, Valentín, Karen, Alejandro and Juani —developers, designers and supervisors from both sides in order to lead this small world.

what is shootroom?

In a nutshell, Shootroom is an Android and web app you use to easily exchange and present what you are working on with your stakeholders during a call. What Shootroom does best is that all the process is made in a reduced amount of steps, with no hassle whatsoever.

What makes shootroom worthy?

For teams who are working remotely, Shootroom is a tool that makes remote collaboration easier. Our product is straightforward and accessible to all the members of a team!

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What have I done for Shootroom?

Following the Minimum Viable Product we settled with the team, I was focusing from my designer side on the Minimum Viable Brand.

According to the time we disposed for the project, we weren’t in need of a full complex brand identity. Shootroom needed a brand with the necessary core assets in order to define a strategy and an emotional message, positioned in a specific way to a specific target customer.

I got these reflexions from Iryna Nezhynska and Denise Lee Yohn: two very reliable references that I admire concerning brand design strategy.

Logotype

shootroom app logo

Landing page

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Illustrations

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How I was allowed to fail…

At one point I was obsessed with creating a mascot for our product. I began to sketch it on paper and then bring it to life on computer. This task had taken several hours of my time until I realized it wasn’t needed*.

Indeed, Shootroom is a tool, not a social network where we needed to bring people together around it. I’m saying this because I took the example of the GitHub’s Octocat in order to justify the production of a mascot, but the comparison was a bit out of line and I’d realised that later.

Because failure is part of the learning process… «Nothing is lost, everything is transformed».

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*nb: no mascots were harmed during the making of this project. Actually, we’ve heard that it is retiring with some of its peers in Aruba 🍹

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«The TureFu»

What’s that ?

Some foreword: in the French, the Verlan is an argot featuring inversion of syllables in a word and is common in slang. The closest concept in the english language would be the back-slang, although it doesn’t have the typical societal features of the Verlan. «Many verlan words [are related to] the original purpose of keeping communication secret from institutions of social control», according to Wikipedia.

This is why it’s funny to apply Verlan to the word «future», because it’s like tricking verbally its societal conception. By saying «Turefu» instead of «future», I’m tricking my future’s conception and making it seem less frightening. If you don’t get it, no worries: it’s because I’m a Mediterranean French (crazy but classy people 😎 y’know).

Actually, I built myself a future based on the opportunities I discovered during my ongoing journey at Aerolab.

Aerolab on Twitter

Last night she said… oh baby let’s make a logo! 🎵✨🎈

What I Learned

These first three months were a learning stretch. At some points I felt slow like a snail 🐌 —and I still do sometimes because I have high expectations for myself— but I also learned how to become autonomous without losing sight of the importance of teamwork. I had to take charge of the project and be able to work by myself —although I received help when I needed it. I also had to learn how to set schedules and deadlines when there was no one rushing us.

Besides, when I was in need of design-related advice, I had to develop the habit of going into conversations with peers and generate spontaneous design reviews.

In recollection, I re-learned how to be social. By working with a team, by taking care of my project, but also by taking care of myself.

Aerolab on Twitter

Our favorite French girl presents us the project in which she has been working on the past 3 months 🎈 cc @belligera❤

Back To The Present

Since I joined Aerolab, I took a great deal of pleasure to talk with peers about the ongoing stuff. Discussing, giving and receiving reviews is a rewarding experience for everyone!

As designers, having small group reviews is great to sharpen our eyes; it helped me see details I wouldn’t have noticed alone. I’m willing to keep up with this dynamic. Not only because it’s a team benefit, but also because it leads to challenge the limits of our understanding. And keeps us growing?

Also at Aerolab having our own time dedicated to side projects —such as Shootroom— allows us to pitch new ideas to which we can dedicate some of our time.

Aerolab is a place you can fall in love with. It was the first time that I felt comfortable while working somewhere. I had plenty of support around me during my stay and it was rewarding. It was a relief to be allowed to be myself, which naturally had a positive impact on my efficiency.

Aerolab is a big family where everyone has a say. Here, I wasn’t just the little trainee from France Marseille or anything else; I was and am Gabrielle and I am part of this huge and wonderful family ❤️

Aerolab on Twitter

Joyeux anniversaire mademoiselle @belligera! 🇫🇷 We love you so much! 😄❤🎉

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