Supercharge Designer Spotlight – Petra Smolčić

Supercharge Designer Spotlight:
Petra Smolčić

Welcome to the inaugural edition of Supercharge Designer Spotlight, where we celebrate the brilliant minds within our design community. This series aims to inspire and motivate you by showcasing the journeys and achievements of exceptional designers.

Our first spotlight shines on Petra Smolčić, a UX/UI freelance designer whose career began over a decade ago. Petra’s fascination with forums, CSS, and Photoshop sparked a journey that has seen her evolve from a branding designer to a UX researcher, product designer, and now a celebrated UX/UI freelance designer. She has shared her insights and expertise on stages in Stockholm and Berlin, making her a perfect choice to “break the ice” for this series.

Read on as we dive in deeper into Petra’s journey, her inspirations, and her invaluable contributions to the design world.

What made you interested in design in general? What drew you to UX/UI design particularly?

When I was a kid, I used to collect flyers from banks as my grandma dragged me with her everywhere. I was always creating something new from magazines, or creating artwork for my favorite bands in photoshop when I was 12.

It was all very organically as I didn’t think about my career, I just wanted to continue doing what I love. At times it was photography, then branding, and now UX/UI.

What really made me fell in love with UX was learning about usability and Shneiderman’s Eight Golden Rules of Interface Design.

Combining human behaviour with computers was something so interesting that I kept digging and digging until I found myself as a UX researcher.

What was the most significant or memorable project of your career so far? Why did you pick that one?

My most significant project would probably be a public transportation app in my hometown. It has been my dream since I was in highschool to redesign it and design a modern branding, an app and take care of the system of public transport.

I wanted to do it for my master’s degree but I got a job and started working as a UX designer.

One year into my work, the project came to us and I made my dream come true for real. There were so many people at the end working on the app but my core flows and overall look is there and I’m pretty proud of it.

It was also crazy how the timing was perfect.

Public transportation app from Petra Smolcic

One of Petra’s case studies focuses on traveling and booking

How would you describe your approach to design overall? What principles guide your work the most?

My design principles are mostly guided by double diamond. I love a structured design process, not because I am not flexible but because it keeps you on the right path.

It allows you and your team to solve actual problems and minimise the risks along the way once you start designing or developing. (1:10:100 ratio is real, people!)

I think my approach is combining user needs, business goals and technical capabilities into quality and scalable products.

Being clever, flexible and resourceful to get long-term results is my favourite part.

Now as a freelancer, I am really nailing down my process and learning along the way how I can maximise my productivity and help clients achieve their success while geeking about UX and design.

Petra at UX workshop

Petra Smolčić leading a UX workshop, working with sticky notes

What skills do you see as indispensable for a modern UX/UI designer?

Willing to change and adapt. Our industry tools and ways of working are moving so fast and still developing so if you are not on track, you can easily fall behind. 

Also, having separation from your designs and not getting your taste into the work is a special skill to develop but not an easy one. 

Understanding that UX/UI is not about visual but about interaction so it doesn’t matter how “pretty” it looks. Human behaviour and core principles of usability will not change that easily so focusing on that, makes you a good and with that, a modern designer.

How do you maintain your work-life balance? What activities do you enjoy outside of design/work?

Since I am self-employed now, being on the computer all the time is something very easy to do as everything is exciting and you always have something to improve, add or work on.

I try to keep my to-do list organised and plan my days in advance in a calendar or so. I get up usually around 7-8 and aim to do 6 productive hours. After that, I close my laptop and enjoy the rest of my day.

In my free time, I try to spend much of my time outdoors. I love physical activities, exploring new places, learning new skills and just talking with my friends & family for hours.

Sometimes, staying at home and drawing or watching sitcoms! 🙂

Petra as a speaker at STHLM Xperience Conference

Petra Smolčić gave a talk at STHLM Xperience Conference

What are the biggest changes you expect to see in the design industry over the years? What trends excite you the most?

Oh, this is an exciting question! I’ve been in design since Photoshop CS3 if you remember it… So many things has changed since then and I love seeing how things are changing.

My first full-time job was when designers started moving from Sketch to Figma and it was revolutionary.

Now AI is a new tool that will help us create so much more stuff and kill a lot of manual work. A lot of people are saying it’s not good for junior designers but imagine if junior devs were still writing code in notepad just because. It takes and it gives.

I think the biggest change is going to happen in UX research as it will become more and more accessible to everyone and we will start getting more and more data. I would love to see that happen. 

Oh, and also, no code websites in builders like Framer. You can do magic there already!

Petra's work

More of Petra’s work

Petra's work

A fitness dashboard web app

What advice would you give to aspiring designers?

Design has been a bit of a hype since 2020. and it slowly bursting in the last couple of years. It’s not just design, but the whole IT industry.

I feel we stopped being a hype and are starting to become a standard industry. (If you ignore that the world has been suffering since 2020…)

Which will mean there will be no room for people “pretending” to do work but we will actually need and have real experts. Instead of a visual designer doing websites, we will have a dedicated UX/UI designer, maybe even a researcher.

AI is not going to replace us, but give us time to concentrate on bigger issues and finally allow us to do some stuff we didn’t have the budget to do.

This also means that if you are looking for an “easy job you can do remotely” your time is over as there’s no place for bubble hire anymore.

If you truly love UX/UI and are trying hard enough, you will be fine and we will welcome you with open hands. It sucks, you’re gonna love it! 

Petra Smolčić’s journey from creating band artwork in Photoshop as a pre-teen to designing impactful public transportation apps showcases her deep passion and adaptability in the design field, a crucial skill for any designer to have.

Her commitment to structured design processes and continuous learning, coupled with her ability to balance user needs, business goals, and technical capabilities, makes her a beacon of inspiration for aspiring designers so we hope you enjoyed learning more about her and that you look forward to future Designer Spotlight articles. Subscribe to our newsletter to never miss an update!

As the industry evolves, Petra’s insights into the future of UX research and the integration of AI highlight her forward-thinking approach. Her story reminds us that with dedication and a love for what you do, success in design is within reach. Thank you for reading and stay tuned for more inspiring stories in our Supercharge Designer Spotlight series!

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