Over the last twelve months the number of employees at Anexia has increased considerably. Over 40% of our staff joined us only in the last year, and each and every one of them is a gem. Like Belinda Baumgartner, for example. Although she didn’t start with us in 2016 – she is a gem all the same.
Good employees bring self-reliance, experience and a sense of responsibility with them. Belinda has all of these qualities. Before she came to us she worked in Hamburg, the USA, Toronto and even the Caribbean as a Motion Graphics Designer and Creative Director. Attracting great people like this and keeping them with us demands an open and exciting environment. Anexia is an open company: there are no boundaries in our heads, and with offices all over the world, there are none on the map either. In this way, we make space for free spirits like Belinda, who is responsible for UX design at Anexia.
You could also become part of our movement, which seeks to demonstrate what modern working and living can look like. Become a part of our revolution: #joinourrevolution.
We asked Belinda to tell us about why experience is so important and yet why she still wants to remain open to new areas of responsibility. Over to you, Belinda!
Can you briefly introduce yourself – who you are and what you do at Anexia?
My name is Belinda Baumgartner and I work at Anexia as a Senior UX Designer. I am involved in creating concepts for web and mobile applications, I coordinate the agencies that are our suppliers and sometimes also still design for customers myself, such as for the Springer Reisen travel company or McDonald’s Germany and their Monopoly app.
UX design is short for ‘User Experience Design’. What can design do to improve the interaction between the user and an application?
There are various factors here. I’ll explain them using a simple example. Imagine that the “Save” and “Cancel” buttons are positioned the wrong way around. Very often, the user will automatically click “Cancel” when they meant to save. Certain web processes simply work intuitively, and if this intuitive quality is interfered with, something in the UX Design has gone wrong. You have to think from the user’s point of view and consider how best to arrange the various elements so that the user quickly gets to grips with them.
Another important factor is simplicity: nothing should ever be too complex, as this also impairs the user’s intuitive experience. To be honest, this distracts increasingly from the intended design. It is more important to create a concept that makes the operation simple and intuitive for the user. The design as such should remain in the background.
So, it’s goodbye to flowery patterns and pretty looks?
We used to think in terms of attractive designs that were really quite elaborate. With mobile design, however, everything is reduced and the emphasis must be on functionality. That’s the key for the whole thing. You need to find a middle way between design and non-design, if you like.
Are there special tools that make user experience easier to grasp and replicate?
Absolutely. When we start on a new project, for example, we aren’t concerned with the look but firstly with the functionality. This is represented by so-called ‘Wireframes’. We use these to arrange the elements screen by screen and to describe the basic functions. The design itself is then based on these Wireframes.
Then again, mobile app design is naturally very different than web design. There are certain standard elements for each platform, such as Android or iOS, for example buttons that are made available for designers to use and that – if used properly – make consistency in the overall concept of a mobile app. You also need to know how these platforms are structured and what interface elements are available. On top of all this, designers must pay attention to the differences in screen sizes and resolutions for the different devices and design accordingly. All in all, you need experience and knowledge of the platforms in order to be able to create concepts and designs for all available devices.
Let’s take a look for a moment at how you came to be doing what you do now. What were you doing before you joined Anexia?
Originally, I graduated from Fashion School in Villach. That was many, many years ago (laughs). After that I became self-employed with a bridal and evening fashion collection – but this was a tough market for a small manufacturer from Austria. Sadly, that did not work out as I had hoped. By that time my daughter was already born and so I did not want to leave Salzburg, where I lived at the time. Since there were no attractive jobs in the fashion industry in Salzburg, I realized that it was time for me to rethink my career. While browsing the internet for a possible new occupation, I came upon something exciting: balthaser.com. That was in 1998, and this American website was one of the first really good Flash websites. I was thrilled and realized that this was exactly what I wanted to do. So I spent three days and nights teaching myself Macromedia Flash, which today is Adobe Flash, then started building a few websites and established myself in the Macromedia.General.Germany newsgroup.
Sometimes you just need the right nose.
You’ve said it. In just a couple of weeks a German company had taken me on as a Motion Graphics Designer. After this I worked in Hamburg regularly, and some of that time was spent working on exciting Flash projects for customers such as RTL, Pro7 and Big Brother Germany. You should remember that the internet – at least for home users – was still at an early stage, and when we started we were still optimizing for 28.8 modems. I can no longer imagine doing this today. At that time, however, it was all very exciting and the Flash designer community was a small family, where we helped one another out. As the years went by I found myself moving more and more towards screen design, while I also did a lot of traditional advertising, such as print design, as well as commercials for TV and movie theaters. And that is how my career as a Creative Director began.
But that isn’t the end of the story, is it?
Not at all. In 2007 I left Austria. First to Barbados and then to Grenada, in the Caribbean. In Barbados I worked for an advertising agency first, where I covered the entire online sector. Soon afterwards I set up another branch of the same agency in Grenada and managed it, until I opened my own design studio in 2009.
What took you to the Caribbean?
I always loved traveling, and after I’d been to Cuba for the first time in 1991 I had always wanted to move to the Caribbean. In 2006 I finally put the plan into action, applied for jobs with a number of companies in Barbados – then got an offer and it was simply right. And finally, my whole family and I moved to Barbados in 2007.
What brought you back?
Since then I’ve also spent some time living in California and did temporary work in Toronto for a couple of months. At that time my daughter was living in Austria, and I wanted to be closer to her. I could also have stayed on in Toronto, but from a work point of view it just didn’t seem to be the right choice at that time. So, I had the choice of either going back to Grenada and devoting myself completely to my agency, or returning to Austria and finally realizing my dream of going to university.
I always wanted to study.
Why do you want a degree at such a late stage? After all, you had training and plenty of work experience.
I had always wanted to study, but it had never been possible. I was 23 when I had my daughter, and there was just never enough time, because I was always working. But a couple of years ago the time was right, and I decided to study Medical Informatics at the Carinthia University of Applied Sciences, because this is an interesting field with an exciting future – and because my daughter lives here. I feel that what I’m doing now is exactly right. Computer science is a lot of fun for me.
So, you’ve brought a lot of experience and foresight with you to Anexia. Does all this experience help you here, or does it sometimes seem strange to be back in Carinthia after seeing so much of the world?
(laughs) No, of course it helps me. Having gained a number of experiences and done various things, I know that there is a lot here that I value. Here at Anexia it’s great to be able to work freely. Sure, Carinthia is a small region of Austria and in economic terms is at the rear of the field. Still, what I like is that Anexia thinks outside the box. Our operations are international, which I think is impressive.
Have you always known that you wanted a creative job? Did you, say, enjoy painting as a child?
My whole family has an artistic inclination. My father was a painter and did a lot of art painting. My three uncles are all creative and like to paint. One of them lives in Australia, where he is a sculptor and arts teacher. So yes, it’s in the family – I always wanted to do something creative. Yet in the last few years I’ve noticed myself being drawn to other fields as well. Now I am enjoying the technical training and focus on big data and data science. I’ve already seen a lot in the design field; now I’d like to try my hand at something new, and the area I’m interested in will be increasingly important in future, and not only for large organizations.
Sometimes I feel like a sponge that soaks up everything. Continuing to develop – that is very important for me.
Are you somebody with a lot of curiosity?
Yes, I’m all about studying and learning new things. Other people like going out – but I prefer to learn about something and continue my education. Sometimes I feel like a sponge that soaks up everything. Continuing to develop – that is very important for me.
Studies, work and your family – those are three big commitments. Do you manage to ever sleep?
Yes, I think it’s helpful that I’m a very focused person. I don’t do anything else. Either I’m working or I’m at the college, and that’s it. I knew at the start, that it will be like this for three years. But I’m very happy to be doing it, because I have my goals in front of me and want to make progress. For me education is a lifelong process. People who stop learning will also stop moving forward in their personal development.
Does this require a special concession from your employer?
The college has a fixed schedule and attendance is compulsory. And that’s how it should be, after all; if I miss particular lectures, I have missed out on a certain amount of knowledge. But yes, it must be said that Anexia has helped me very much. I have fixed work hours, but I can arrange these fairly flexibly, so far as the projects I’m working on permit. This is not something you can take for granted, and I am grateful that Anexia supports me like that.
We have heard a lot about what your job consists of and what it requires. How can somebody today get into the work you do?
I never studied graphic design, but instead gathered the knowledge by myself over many years. Of course, a specialized education is useful, because that gives you a completely different basic knowledge in the area of User Experience Design that I only managed to build up over a long period of time. I think that the most important thing is for a person to familiarize him- or herself with the tools and trends, keep up to date with developments and have a good knowledge of the different platforms such as Android, iOS, Windows and so on. Apart from this, practical experience is vitally important. This doesn’t come overnight – it’s a process that takes years.
So what you’re saying is, creativity and being able to draw are not the most important things?
Of course, creativity is very important. You can learn certain things, but you can’t learn creativity. I noticed this among many of my colleagues over the last fifteen years. There are a lot of highly creative young people out there. They have vision and creativity, but they lack a good attitude to work and the necessary tenacity. On the other hand, it can be very difficult for somebody who is not creative at all. Let’s say this: it’s possible to be a designer without being creative, but it will definitely be difficult to be successful.
What direction do you plan to take once your studies are over?
I certainly don’t want to give up my experience as a designer altogether. At the same time, I want to move into a more technical area, and as I said before, data science, as well as data visualization. I would like to combine technology and design and think that I’m already competent as such in many areas.
Hybrid beings like Belinda, competent all-rounders – we can always use people like this at Anexia. So, are you also multi-talented and passionate? Then join our revolution and become part of the Anexia family!