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With genuine warmth and infectious energy Scott Kirkman combines art and intellect to create epic digital designs. We had the pleasure of speaking with this uber cool creative to learn how his love of drawing “cool looking robots” turned into a career, his insights into the latest trends and emerging tools in the UI design space and his honest take on the challenges of running your own business.

Q For those of us that aren’t as tech savvy – can you explain what a UI designer does?

As a UI (User Interface) designer at Coassemble, a fast growing e-learning start-up based in Newcastle, I am responsible for the way our platform looks and feels. I design all the graphics pertaining to the app’s interface — from the overarching page layouts to the shape and colour of the buttons. As a user-focused online training platform, this attention to detail plays an important role in ensuring the app is a joy to use for both the learner and the content creator.

Q Coassemble is a cool company – what exciting projects are you working on?

Whilst I’ve only been in my role at Coassemble for a few months now, I was already familiar with the company and the team before I started. I had previously led the rebrand of Coassemble (from eCoach) in early 2019 when I was self-employed at a design agency called Shorthand Studio. During that project I was taken with the then up-and-coming start-up’s passion for their product and the culture they had created. When the opportunity arose, it was an easy decision to join the team and pick up my work where an agency’s involvement typically ends. I wasn’t the only one to see the potential in Coassemble as they have now seen 350% revenue growth and raised $4.4 million in Series A funding.

In regards to what I have personally been working on — while there’s some big new features on the way, I’ve mostly been focused ‘under-the-hood’ by establishing a new design system. This has involved a transition from Sketch to Figma, which is the relatively new kid on the block when it comes to UI design software. As a cloud based platform, it allows us to create a centralised, always-up-to-date library of design components. These components consist of the design elements and patterns that we use frequently throughout the app. It has been a lot of work to put together, but will be critical when we begin to scale our product design team.

Moving from his own business to working at Coassemble has been a smooth transition for Scott.

Q What did you want to be when you were a kid?

When I was a kid I always wanted to be a ‘robot fixer’, which I guess would technically be a mechanic or an engineer? Really I think I just liked to draw cool-looking robots, which might better explain the career path I ended up going down.

Q What does a normal day at the office look like for you?

I actually started my new role at Coassemble the week COVID-19 restrictions went in place, so I’m yet to experience a normal day in the office. While we are all working remotely right now, we try our best to simulate a typical day by keeping regular hours and hosting virtual ‘stand-up’ meetings (while sitting down) via Google Meet each morning at 9am. From there we move on to Slack to keep in touch as we go about our daily tasks.

Q Have you been working from home in the past couple of months and how has it been ?

Fortunately I have been able to continue working from the Shorthand Studio HQ in Mayfield which my wife Amanda and I still own. Amanda has been running the agency from our home office while I have the studio space to myself to work on Coassemble, so I can’t really complain. In terms of collaboration, tools like Slack and Google Meet have really helped the team feel less distant. Figma actually has a cool real-time collaboration feature where you can see your team mate’s curser moving around the screen next to yours. That has also helped us feel more connected funnily enough.

Q What are the main trends you are seeing in UI design?

Animations and micro animations. The introduction of user-friendly software like Principle and Framer have made it so easy to brief your developer on the way you want things to move and interact — right down to the tiniest detail. This has made animation more accessible to smaller design teams and is definitely something that I will soon be exploring within the Coassemble app.

Q What’s the best career advice you have ever received?

I wouldn’t call it advice exactly, but it was a tweet from my friend Luke van O that I can partially credit with my recent career change. Like myself at the time, Luke runs his own branding agency. He tweeted “Imagine the most challenging job you’ve ever had (good or bad), remove most of the people helping you and take on their responsibilities too. All good? Now take away the guaranteed paycheck. If you’re still comfortable by all means go start your own small studio/agency.”. It helped me realise that I wasn’t alone in my frustrations with self-employment and prompted me to look introspectively at whether or not I was still enjoying what I was doing.

Coassemble is a fast growing e-learning start-up based in Newcastle

Q You previously lived in Melbourne – how does lil’ old Newy compare?

It’s actually very comparable! After our four years in Melbourne I came to the conclusion that it wasn’t so much the CBD itself that I loved, but rather the inner suburbs like Collingwood, Fitzroy and Carlton. Newcastle feels like one big inner Melbourne suburb to me, with the benefit of being surrounded by beaches. We have the great coffee, restaurants, small bars and even the trams now!

Q When you’re not creating amazing designs, how do you spend your time?

Our old cottage in Tighes Hill keeps me forever busy. Since COVID-19 I’ve been trying to piece together a home gym in our back shed — not an easy task when everything is sold out. Luckily gyms have just reopened.

Q What Netflix series did you binge on during lockdown?

I recently finished watching a mini-series called DEVS on the new streaming platform ‘Binge’ which I loved! I’d describe it as the dark, sci-fi cousin of Silicon Valley. It deals with some big questions which is to be expected coming from he mind of Alex Garland (Ex Machina, Annihilation). I highly recommend it.

Q If you could be anywhere other than here, right this minute, where would you be?

I’d love to be in a wintery cabin in the Blue Mountains right now with my wife Amanda, our dog Ripley and our phones and computers left at home. It has been an intense few months and we could use some time to disconnect from the world.

We had the pleasure of placing Scott in his role with Coassemble. If your looking for a digital or tech expert to take your organisation to the next level or seeking a new position, reach out to Liz Folpp today on 0402 767 365 or email liz.folpp@gwg.com.au

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