This post is part of a series highlighting the talented team of UpTrending. We believe in hiring the best and brightest in all areas of expertise, and it shows in the wide range of personalities and skills we have on our team. But our team members are more than just talented professionals – and you deserve to know them a bit better.
This month, we are pleased to spend a few minutes with Janel Sheehan, who was the lead designer on the redesign of our own brand this year – including this new website! Janel has been an UpTrender for about a year and a half, and prior to coming on board spent the previous 6 years working both in agencies and as a freelance contractor.
Janel, when people ask, “So, what do you do?” what is your typical response?
I tell them I’m a web designer and front-end developer for a premier agency headquartered in California. Basically, I make the Internet!
With so many people trying to “break the Internet,” it’s good that we have someone being a bit more constructive. So what led you to design and front-end development?
I actually majored in Biology, and then later Journalism. In college I was always illustrating detailed biological diagrams in my notes. I ended up taking a couple of intro web dev and graphic design courses as electives, and had kind of a knack for it. I’m a lifelong learner, I never want to get stuck in a single skillset.
Quite a switch, from Biology to being a web designer and developer.
Both my parents were biologists, so I was raised with a deep appreciation and respect for wildlife and the natural world. I love that all animals have their own personalities and weird little behaviors. I volunteer at different shelters and rescue centers. I could easily watch David Attenborough frolic with the beasties all day long.
Volunteering at shelters sounds very rewarding.
I also used to care for rescued exotic animals. I once hugged a 300 pound tiger.
That sounds…terrifying. Any other cool hobbies?
I’m a blackbelt and into (hardcore) yoga. I also love interval training, and going hiking. I’m always trying new ways to challenge my body. I think it’s really important when you’re working at a desk all day to stay active, it keeps me inspired and happy.
Speaking of “working at a desk,” remote working is a new experience for you. What “myths” about that can you bust for our readers?
There’s a preconception about people who work from home, that we get paid to mess around on the Internet all day. In reality the days can be longer and even more grueling than an on-site office environment. I don’t spend all day on Facebook. In fact, I’m actually trying out a social media “cleanse” right now!
So as grueling and long as the days can be, why keep doing it?
I love being able to apply both hemispheres of my brain to my work. I get to be creative and analytical at the same time. Having the flexibility that comes from working with an exceptional team is a bonus too.
I once worked on a website for a popular craft brewing company. The designs were very new and modern, and the client loved them, but for various reasons the project never came to fruition. Then one day a coworker emailed me that someone had found the design on my folio– and it ended up making it’s way around to a couple of design galleries and inspiration boards. It was really incredible to be recognized alongside all these other amazing designers.
How do you develop those type of inspirational designs?
I like to start with research, and of course content strategy. The client knows the company better than I ever will, so getting their initial input is critical to design success.
From there I dedicate a lot of time to brainstorming thoughts around look and feel, usability, competition and niche, and messaging. After I’ve put some organization to my thoughts I like to start concepting as soon as I get struck with that bolt of inspiration, and then work as quickly as I can before design fatigue sets in. Once you’ve hit that point I find it’s best to come back to it later rather than spinning your wheels for too long.
Give some advice to a young designer getting started.
Experiment with everything, but keep it simple in the end. Unique design is only good if it works. Work closely with your team and ask for help if you need it, you can always return the favor. Take time for yourself to refuel, don’t overwork yourself. Follow the great designers and pay attention to the details, that’s what makes them great.
Last question. As an UpTrender, you can live anywhere in the United States – but if you could live anywhere in the world, where would you go?
Anyone who knows me could tell you that I’ve been working on moving to North Carolina for a minute. But long-term I would love to venture to France, Sweden, and pretty much any remote island in the tropics.