Spotlight On: Steeve, Creative Designer
Following his recent promotion, we sat down with Steeve Royce, our Creative Designer, to find out more about his career to date and his UX design studies. We started off by asking Steeve how he came to join us.
Q: Where did you work previously?
A: Previously I was working in retail management but wanted to embrace my creativity. I started off at Waitrose and moved between several branches - I did a course where I became a wine specialist, which was a learning curve for an 18 year old, as I didn't understand the concept of a spittoon in wine tasting! I've also worked as a Team Leader at Cineworld and had a career break for a year when I was studying. I did my BA at West Suffolk College to pursue a degree in Graphic Communication. Before I worked at Mackman Group, at some points I was waking up at 1 in the morning and commuting 100 miles a day, and with a young family, that made the parenting split really difficult.
Q: Was it scary to start a qualification on top of your work?
A: Not really. Pursuing UX design was the right decision at the time, and it's something that I've always wanted to do.
Q: So how did you find the role at Mackman?
A: After my BA, I applied for around 160 jobs in UX and design, and only a handful of them got back to me. I had been aware of Mackman for a few years and knew about the reputation the agency has within the community - one of my colleagues at Waitrose had worked with The Bridge Project, who Mackman Group work very closely with, so she also mentioned them to me. I noticed a vacancy on Indeed, applied for the role and was successful. For me, the prestige of Mackman being an award-winning studio held high appeal, I was excited to be interviewed, let alone offered a role! It's very rare to have a studio of this level in Suffolk.
Q: And since joining Mackman, what does your standard working day look like?
A: My days tend to be very mixed; it can include working on a print publication, contributing to the build of a website, or providing digital support to a client.
Q: A real varied day! Have you experienced any particular work highlights?
Mostly, how welcoming the team has been from the first day - it's a very inclusive team and great to be a part of. From a creative perspective, there is also the excitement of seeing a site go live, or having a printed proof come through the door for checking over.
Q: Circling back to your degree, why did you decide to do a Masters in User Experience Design?
A: There were a few contributing factors in my decision to take on a Masters. As an older student, I felt the need to set myself apart and a Masters degree seemed like a logical choice since I was already taking a career break to study. The timing felt right. I also really enjoyed a UX Design module I had completed while studying for my BA, so I wanted to have a better understanding of the user experience.
I am very interested in why people do things, and if there's anything to discover with UX, it's understanding why. The course is delivered part-time remotely by Falmouth University as it is quite intense, in that there is weekly material to digest and practice. Unlike with my BA, most of the other people on my module also have children and are mature students, so their experience of the course is similar to mine.
Some of them have more experience in the industry than me, which was intimidating to start with, but the great thing about the course is that you aren't marked on your experience - in fact, the tutors will be more critical if you have a higher level of previous knowledge, and the course itself provides all the information you need to do well. The current module involves a group project with the added complexity that we are based in different time zones, so trying to meet up is a challenge but overall, it is very rewarding.
Q: What do you enjoy most about your course at the moment?
A: Actually I’m really enjoying the writing, which is something that I didn't think I'd enjoy. Historically I haven't really got on with the evaluation assessments where you have to review your process and your approach. I recently got a Distinction on a reflective assignment that I wrote, which I was really pleased with. The most interesting thing about UX design for me is understanding how people think. So that could be through card sorting, where people organise where they’d expect to see different pages on a website navigation menu, or through observing how they interact with a device and where their frustrations are.
If they're expecting to click on something, for example, and it doesn’t work, we can see that through heat mapping, and design a website that functions how they want it to. Many developers still don't design mobile first sites, which can lead to a poor user experience - the idea is to start small and work up. Mackman have been doing it for years! I feel like that often gets lost in web design, where people design based on a client's specifications and lose sight of the end user and their needs. This includes accessibility as well.
Q: Does your degree relate to / assist you with your role at Mackman?
When contributing to a build, I have been able to discuss some learnings from a UI point of view and further my understanding. I'd like to really push myself in this area going forward to support future builds at Mackman and my own personal development.
Self-reflection is also something that I haven't really focussed on until studying this course, and it has helped for me to objectively look at my practice and find ways to improve my work, whether it be how I do the work, or my way of thinking. Interestingly, before I found Mackman, when I was applying for jobs, one of them was for a remote UX placement at a gambling company. I had reservations about that one because of the ethics involved in designing something that influences people to do something that could be harmful, or fuels addiction. I feel like that's a very unregulated area of marketing, and while there's been a lot of focus at the moment on greenwashing, we still have a way to go on how things like alcohol, cigarettes and junk food are promoted to people.
Q: How do you think your colleagues would describe you?
A: I don't actually know. I know that sometimes I speak quite fast and I might come across in a certain way that could be seen as less professional in a different workplace, but at Mackman I feel like I can be myself. For example, I couldn't have tattoos in some of my previous workplaces - I had to wear a sweatband on my wrist to cover up part of my sleeve so it wouldn’t show through my shirt. My tattoos don’t mean anything particular, they relate to things I enjoy - so the one on my leg is from a game that I've played for 20 years, I have some geometric designs, a Pokéball and different Pokémon among other things. Some of the sleeve used to have UV ink in it, but that came out quite quickly.
Q: Where do you see your career progressing, and are there any areas of the business that you'd like to explore more?
A: I'm definitely looking to progress at Mackman in the more digital side of my role, because that's more what I'm interested in. I'd be really interested to get more involved in Research, because a lot of the UX design work that I'm doing on my course is about things like competitor research and understanding why people behave the way they do.
This spotlight interview forms part of a series on the Mackman team. For more information about our staff at Mackman, visit our Team page.