Vitaly Zahharov works as a senior designer in one of the best and innovative companies located in Silicon Valley. Among his clients, you can find such giants as Royal Caribbean, Toshiba, JLL, Huawei, Oracle, TaxAct, PureStorage, as well as startups which according to Forbes and TIME magazines are among the most promising products of this decade.
His portfolio – www.vitali.work
To begin with, introduce yourself to us and our readers.
My name is Vitaly Zahharov. I was born and raised in Tallinn, the capital of Estonia. Estonia is a small country in Northern Europe. However, due to the abundance of start-ups and the absolute transparency of doing business, my hometown is often called a Silicon Valley of Europe.
I have been engaged in design for more than 8 years, started in 2010 with photo editing for my friends, I worked on major financial products in my homeland.
I always adhere to the principle to go only forward and in any case not to give up. Following this, I was able to visit more than 30 countries, worked in different parts of Europe, and also I managed to gain experience as an Art Director in Singapore, where I led the entire design department.
How did you realize you wanted to be a designer?
Initially, looking at the advertisements, various posters, banners, websites surrounding me, I sincerely believed that I could make them even better. I was obsessed with one simple idea – to turn the bad taste around me into something special and pleasing to the eye. I am engaged in it and nowadays, it is possible even to tell that I more often remake work for my colleagues. By the way, at the very beginning of my career, I even tried to work as a programmer for about two years, but soon I finally realized that design is my element.
Did your programming experience help you in design?
Undoubtedly. This is very helpful in my work even now, when I am making some interfaces or applications, and I know what a “grid” is, for example, why it is needed and how to arrange elements on the page thanks to it.
What is your work today and what are your duties?
I work as a senior designer in the design agency Y Media Labs, which is located in San Francisco. In fact, it is not quite a design agency in the usual sense; it is rather an incubator of ideas and knowledge, where every idea finds its rightful place. I am responsible for the visual part of the project I am working on.
The system in the company is built in such a way as to gather the maximum number of experienced people in their field to work on projects. For example, each project always needs its own art director, designer, who would be responsible for the visual part and motion designer. This is what concerns the design. Of course, there are also project managers, administrators, content managers and programmers behind every project. Usually customers come to us not only for the design, if they are not satisfied with the current version, instead they have certain goals, for example, to increase conversion or move their application to the Top. Our work besides everything includes a complete analysis of the company: who they are, what their audience is, how do they can impact, why do they want to do redesign and then tell them how they should change it. We try to find a solution that would suit them and direct their work in the right direction.
Please, tell us, how exactly do you help companies?
In short, I try to make the first impression of people, who visit the site or download the updated application, very positive and live up to their expectations from the colors to the location of the buttons in the menu. For example, recently we had the honor to carry out a major project about taxes. I was responsible for the second largest tax filing site in the USA – TaxAct. The client came to us with a very interesting proposal – to make the filing of tax returns interesting and original, as usually filing returns does not bring pleasure. In this particular case, only design could solve the problem. Neither technology nor UX would solve it.
By this, I wanted to say that sometimes only design could really help in solving problems and influence people’s decisions. The result, by the way, exceeded all our expectations, we received rave reviews from people, and the conversion was more than high.
Indeed, people who started using TaxAct were satisfied, and the filing of taxes was done quickly and with pleasure. In addition, it was wrote in Forbes, we received a lot of praise and this is probably the most pleasant thing in my work. However, this is not only my credit, this project involved a large team of the best experts in their field, and everyone contributed their ideas, which are reflected in the final product.
How important do you think innovation is in projects?
It is essential. Sometimes they play a major role in product selection. For example, ten years ago we could not think that phones will generate almost 60% of all traffic. Everything is changing around, and nowadays, I think, is the time when we need to surprise users. We need to create more innovative products, both digital and physical, each time allowing the user to interact with them better and better. Of course, it all depends on the task and goals pursued by the company or a person.
As for the design, 100% it should always do only what is required of it. You do not do design for design. Why reinvent the wheel if you make another E-commerce site. Innovation should be – this is undeniable, but it should be used for specific needs, when it is necessary to emphasize what cannot be done by the traditional method, and not for everything.
I want to highlight the application for Royal Caribbean, in the development of which I was actively involved. Royal Caribbean is the largest cruise company in the world. The application was intended for people who could use it during the cruise, so you could, for example, book a table in a restaurant or find the right store for shopping. Since this is a world-famous company, we had to try to jump above our heads and surprise everyone with our decisions. We succeeded. The result was impressive: hundreds of satisfied customers and dozens of awards, including “the best app of the year”.
You had mentioned a team without which no project would have been implemented. What do you think makes it the best?
First of all, it is experience. Everyone has a huge amount of knowledge behind his back, with which he or she actively shares and can help in any situation in which you are stuck and need help. The second is probably the passion with which all people do their job. Everyone knows perfectly what they have to do, and do it with great enthusiasm and zeal for success.
Tell us about any projects you are particularly proud of
I have many of such projects. For example, this year we did a great project for billionaire Thomas Siebel and his company – C3. The company is engaged in the study of monitoring and infrastructure, and the use of artificial intelligence. The most difficult task was to demonstrate that AI is not so boring. The client came to us skeptical, but we could prove him that we were the team he was looking for. We have been developing this project for about six months, every detail there was important. This is exactly the case when the collective mind can come up with something worthwhile and give a full quality finished product. Here I mean not only the design; our time was also spent on the study of the product in order to stress the most important aspects of the company.
The project turned out to be large-scale, in terms of information it can be compared with an encyclopedia. As a leading designer, I pursued only one goal – the expectation of the project should be fully justified, everything should work without any unnecessary information. I want to point out that it is not every day you get praise from a billionaire.
My team and I are always trying to make an impact on a particular product. We do not just help clients, but, as I said earlier, we guide them. For example, Y Media Labs developed a device for Molekule. It is the world’s first intelligent air purifier. As a result of our work, the company immediately received prestigious awards, and their device was named by TIME newspaper “the most innovative product of 2017”, and was sold out in just a few hours. That is a job that you can be proud of exactly.
How much does design affect people?
Design very affects people. Sometimes you can distinguish a professional site from a bad one in a moment. People want to feel safe and trust the product, for example, when they buy a particular thing. The whole process should go logically and clearly. It is not always visual design, I also mean the combination of the visual – aesthetic side with the logical side, and when it comes together, you get the perfect product in the end.
Can design and business exist together?
Of course! Moreover, in my opinion, they are inseparable. Even design should have its own business model, despite the fact that it is more of a creative field. Design is no longer just a beautiful picture; it is backed by experience, knowledge and innovation. If we are talking about design as a business, then, in fact, there is a lot of money and immense opportunities for growth.
What can you say at the end of our interview?
I advise everyone to find that business, that work which he or she will adore. Self-belief and hard work every day is the key to my success.