Design Careers: From Brand/Marketing to Product Design at Auror, here’s how one designer made the switch.
The idea of making a career transition can feel a bit daunting at times. That’s why we sat down with one of our DA Friends – William Lee from Auror – to chat about how he navigated making the switch and the key takeaways from his journey so far as a graphic designer turned product designer.
Kia ora William! Can you share with us a bit about your design background and career journey so far?
Kia ora! My dad was a Creative Director at an ad agency. Back when I was in school, he often brought home his sketches from work and would very generously share with me his thoughts and processes for some of those pieces his team was working on. I remember just being completely taken in by his skills and the stories that accompanied the incredibly creative work he was doing. That was everything I needed to inspire and steer me towards pursuing a career in design.
Fast forward to graduating from AUT with a graphic design degree, I worked at a couple of design studios that specialised in packaging and below-the-line advertising design. After a few years of learning and honing my skills in print and packaging design, I wanted to expand my craft—more specifically into a digitally-focused space. My next role at Les Mills Asia Pacific proved the perfect segue for me into the space of digital and web design, and that was also a shift into an in-house design environment that I quickly realised I quite enjoyed. Following that, I worked at a couple of design agencies before joining Auror in 2019. I started with the team as a Brand/Marketing Designer and in 2021, had the incredible opportunity to move into a Product Designer role that I am really enjoying!
Talk to us about jumping into a whole new area of design. What was the catalyst and how did you navigate this transition?
At Auror, a fortnightly design meeting between the Product and Marketing teams was a time for us to share some of our work highlights. As I was a part of the Marketing team when I started, these meetings were like a looking glass—giving me glimpses into the world of product design and the (almost direct) impact that the craft had on our customers’ lives. My curiosity and interest in human-centered design was piqued. I wasted little to no time scouring the web for videos, articles, tutorials, and chatting with other amazing people in this profession of product and user experience(UX) design. I was not disappointed!
I must add that I was also incredibly lucky and grateful to have a very supportive manager at Auror that made it possible for me to confidently communicate my interest in making the switch to product design. (Huge shoutout to Alister, Director of Product Design at Auror!) Before the transition and while I was maintaining my role as a Marketing Designer on the team, we had weekly UX learning sessions that were very insightful. Alister also looked out for other opportunities for me to keep growing as I continued on this trajectory.
It was an exciting time of learning and preparation for me. I felt like I was making good progress towards my goal. Six months into this journey, the product design team was ready to expand. I seized the opportunity to join the team and the rest was history!
How much of your brand/marketing design skills were transferable and what skills did you need to brush up on or learn in order to land your role as a product designer?
I felt that most of my graphic design skills were transferable—understanding colour theory, space and layout, typography, to name a few—all these things were highly valuable in the craft of user interface(UI) design. One area of note that I had intentionally spent time getting into was understanding and creating clear and robust design systems, which is essentially a library of reusable UI components and patterns used in creating a consistent experience of a digital product. It was timely that the team was looking to move from Sketch to Figma as our preferred design tool. It presented itself as the perfect learning opportunity and I wasted no time jumping onto it! It took me about 5 months to build a good working foundation that we’re now continuously iterating and improving.
A great product designer would be fluent in the human experience and understand the needs of the business, all at once. They will make it their greatest responsibility to ensure that the product is really solving the right problems, for the right people. These are some of the areas that I strive to improve on daily. It’s an exciting and humbling journey of learning to get it right—which I, of course, hope to someday!
What are you enjoying most about being a Product Designer at Auror?
Auror has an incredible mission—to empower the retail community to prevent crime, reduce loss, and make stores safer. What gets me out of bed each morning is knowing that every bit of my hard work that goes into the product actively enables partnerships with retail organisations and law enforcement to keep our communities safer. It also really helps that I have the privilege of working alongside some really smart and empathetic people all on that same mission! Collaboration at Auror is on a whole different level when everyone is switched on, focused and supportive of one another’s craft.
Lastly, changing career focus can be a little daunting. Can you share any advice, tools, or resources for fellow designers looking to make the switch into a new design career?
It’s important to remember that there are many different ways to navigate a change of discipline, let alone in design. Be kind to yourself. Allow space for curiosity and experiment. Be intentional with your attention—design is in everything around us. Learn from the experiences of others in the field you’re after. And with so many avenues to skill up, online or in-person, there’s really no reason for one not to!
My suggestions for resources:
- Nielsen Norman Group Top notch for UX-related research, learnings, and courses.
- Atomic Design Atomic design is not a new idea but Brad Frost’s perspective, coupled with some examples of real-world scenarios really helped me get my head around the concept. He continues to improve on the methodology and writes more about it on his blog.
- Subscribe to design newsletters Find one (or more) that covers a good range of topics within your preferred discipline and get inspired! My go-to is Sidebar, a daily roundup of 5 design articles to keep you in the know and learning.