Nicole: In this week’s edition of “Meet Fearless” we are here with Bethany Halteman, Fearless’ Senior UX Designer who owns the brand and identity of Fearless. It is great to talk to you over the phone, Bethany. We are on Slack and email so much that this is a nice change. How are you?
Bethany: Loving life, doing great!
Nicole: That’s great! Good to hear. Let’s jump right in. How did you end up joining the Fearless team and how long have you been here?
Bethany: This fall I’ll have been part of the Fearless family for 3 years, which is hard to believe. I found Fearless when I first moved to Baltimore for my husband’s work, and was drawn to the company because of the people and vision that drove it. It’s been so exciting to get in on the ground floor and be a part of so much growth — from the proposal days of our first prime contract, to dreaming up the design of our current office space, to building out our commercial work. We still are learning and growing, but it’s thrilling to see how far we’ve come!
Nicole: Awesome! Did you have an interest in technology early on? When and how did your interest branch into an interest in UX/UI design?
Bethany: I’ve always been fascinated by technology. In middle and high school, I took computer programming languages and started designing for the web. I cut my teeth on coding inside Xanga, Myspace, Freewebs — back in thoooose days of the interwebs. Designing and coding larger websites quickly turned into a side gig, which I continued through college. I got my bachelor’s degree in business administration/accounting but then worked on the web team at a benefits software company where I took on an UX/UI role and realized it combined everything I loved about code and design. UX is user experience, and UI is user interface. They really go hand in hand, but as a user experience designer, my job is to create seamless paths through the content in order to make a web tool, platform, or app intuitive to use. If you’ve ever been frustrated by a confusing navigation, senseless feature, or cluttered interface, you have experienced the need for good UX. On the user interface side, I design and code the look, feel, and functionality — turning abstract concepts into the frontend code that other developers then wire up to the backend. I love that I get to play with color, typography, and layouts, but that I also work in the code base with the dev team every day. It’s a perfect fit for my visual brain and compulsive need to organize.
Nicole: What advice would you give a recent or soon to be grad that is applying for jobs in this field? What are “must haves” for their portfolio?
Bethany: First off, just have a portfolio! Extra points for it being online and interactive. I’ve interviewed too many candidates that have nothing to show. In this design field, you must visually prove that you can take general ideas and turn them into smart interfaces and intuitive workflows that make sense to the user without requiring a 20 page manual. I want to know your process, not just the end result. Also, be conscious of all the small details in how you present yourself and your abilities. Good grammar and communication skills are critical to proving that you can effectively bridge the gap between the customer, the backend developer, and the end user. User experience essentially boils down to communication, so it’s an instant red flag if a candidate can’t blow that out of the water with their attention to detail and other people.
Nicole: That is great advice! So, I understand your love for design does not just begin and end with the digital. Tell us more about how this passion for design extends to other areas.
Bethany: I fall head over heels for a well-designed anything, from clean lines in a chair to a symmetrical building to a beautiful implementation of color to a smart arrangement of typography. My love for good design extends well beyond the digital interfaces — I’m forever critiquing brands, communication strategies, highway signs, architecture, and all the navigation that makes up our physical experience. It’s somewhat ruined me, and of course my family and friends love me for ruining their previously blissfully ignorant lives as well. I’m currently renovating a 102 year old house with my husband and have loved designing a physical space and rethinking the architecture and flow. It’s very satisfying to design things with a power tool and a paint brush rather than lines of code for a change. On the down side, it’s not as fast of a process to move a wall as it is to move an element on a web app. Ultimately, design should be consistent and smart, whether in the physical or digital world. Since today’s companies almost always cross both, I’m a sucker for the experience being seamless throughout every interaction.
Nicole: Wow, I love turn of the century homes. That sounds exciting. Who are your top influencers and why? Who do you love to watch for inspiration?
Bethany I’m inspired by companies that maintain consistency throughout all the senses of their brand and identity — sight, touch, taste, smell, and hearing. My interaction with the company in an app should match what I see of them around town and how I feel when I walk into their space. The restaurant industry as a whole has recently gotten better at recognizing and prioritizing this consistency in design. Baltimore has some really great ones. I also always have an eye on the big tech companies and new startups breaking barriers. Visual design is obviously what I gravitate to the most, but a company’s identity includes the experience they provide to consumers throughout every interaction, including the non-visual.
People also intrigue me. I enjoy learning about different fields and industries that I never touch, because the key ways that people interact are always the same so many of the same principles apply. I love seeing people break out of the mold in the industry they are in to produce better design and experiences for the consumer.
Nicole: Well, Bethany it has been a pleasure! This was great. Thank you so much for your time!
Bethany: Of course. Thanks, Nicole!