Working with AmazonFresh

Still from AmazonFresh Motion Graphic piece

I have been reluctant to write this article, simply because I don’t particularly like talking about “my success”. But under threat from our much loved Sholeh Atash, who reminded me the first chance she got that I owed her a story, I have been forced to set aside my quibbles and repay my debts (I still love you Sholeh :P )

I was hired by AmazonFresh as a UX (User Experience) Designer, shortly after graduating. For those who don’t know it, AmazonFresh is a Seattle-based online grocery store. When I joined the team, there was only one designer who had been doing the UX, the UI (User Interface) design, and everything in between, all by herself for over a year, and she was clearly looking to share the increasing workload. What particularly attracted me to this opportunity was that the team was small enough that I could really make a mark fairly quickly. I would have little chance to hide behind a line of more senior colleagues, and would have to hit the ground running. And that’s how I like things to be. Also, given that it was Amazon, everything had to be done today (and doesn’t that sound completely familiar and normal!). So, the time between ideation and fruition was as small as possible. I could join and have my stuff up on the website in a few weeks, live and operational!

Still from AmazonFresh Motion Graphic

While this was all very exciting, I confess that before starting, I had more than a few misgivings about “being any good in the real workplace”. But when I started, I was completely surprised to discover that, not only was I able to jump right in, but it was completely familiar territory. In fact, if anything, it was way more relaxing than the year I had just been through at VFS.

I started off with a project to create a series of high-level pages for the grocery store’s main aisles/categories, with no definite deadline; just the instruction that they would judge the feasibility of launching the whole thing based on what I produced. I started by designing the produce category page, and I am happy to say that not only was I able to create a template and a visual look that worked within all of their restrictions and requirements, but that they liked it so much I was instructed to launch it as soon as possible, and start working on the rest. I have launched 3 pages in the few months that I have been there, and I’m working on the rest as we speak.

One of the things that I have learnt is that the standard at which VFS expects its students to work, is not only industry standard, but often also good enough to impress. It has been that way for me. The best compliment that I’ve been given is that I push the envelope for design. The fresh perspective that we as new graduates bring is an invaluable asset. Which is not to say that all of my crazy ideas got accepted. In fact, most of them got rejected as I learnt to work within real world restrictions, but enough of the “new” seeped into the final design to make it something exciting.

The other surprise that I encountered was, even though I was hired as a UX designer, nearly all the skills that I learnt over the course of my year at VFS came to my rescue at one point or another. I even ended up prepping pamphlets for print (my personal nemesis). But the project that has earned me some of the best compliments is a Motion Graphic piece. I fell in love with Motion Graphics and After Effects at VFS, and not wanting to become rusty at those skills after graduating, I proposed an About AmazonFresh Motion Graphic piece to my manager as an “experimental day project”. No one had ever done anything like that before and they found the idea novel enough to let me show them what I could do. They loved the little I animated that one day so much, I was given the green light to finish the whole thing. I did, and my senior designer played it on one of the Amazon Design Forums as an official way of introducing me to designers at Amazon. I get many amazed compliments for being able to do “animation” as a UX designer, and it felt great to hear that!

If there is anything that you can take from my story, it is that you will be absolutely fine out there. All that you have learnt from your year at VFS — be it Typography, Motion Design, Photography, Time Management, etc. — will all end up being useful. Your most valuable asset will be your ability to learn something new, on the fly (UX designers should brush up on your HTML and JavaScript, and avoid the panic of coding your designs in just a few days ready for launch). Don’t be afraid to suggest something outlandish; as a fresh graduate it’s your job to be a little kooky. And best of all, the family you have made at VFS, your instructors and your class fellows, will always be there for you to give you a hand when you need it.

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