Hi Gleb! Can you briefly introduce yourself and tell us about your background?
Sure, my name is Gleb. I am the Chief Design Officer in a new AI company that is focused on creating the future of human-computer experience. I work full-time and also run my own studio Milkinside.
Three years ago we decided to move to California from Switzerland. I was born in Moscow, Russia, but I grew up in Germany, and for the latest ten years I had been living in Europe. So far, I am happy to be in the US.
I’ve worked with major brands and startups you haven’t heard of yet. The most future-focused companies are tired of agencies and want direct access to the best design talent. In 2017, I opened up my product design studio, Milkinside. This allows brands to work directly with me. I have a global team of incredible designers and engineers who help extend our work, always with my direct creative leadership.
I believe the top of the happiness pyramid is to be a creator — transforming ideas into reality.
I’d like to add that I have a beautiful nine-year-old girl and wife I love who supports me in my professional journey a lot.
Could you briefly describe your path to design?
I started computer programming when I was about 11 years old on a Pentium 2 computer. At the age of 15, I decided to focus on design. At that time, in 1999, user interface design and user experience were basic and barely talked about. It was fascinating — though challenging — to work to create something new that had never been built before.
This feeling is what I’ve carried with me my whole life. For more than 15 years of my professional life, I worked for technology companies around the world. My passion for creating what doesn’t yet exist allowed me to focus on the creation of a variety of innovative products for AI, healthcare, consumer electronics, and automotive HMI.
How does your workday look like, and what makes your workflow special?
It all depends on my schedule. Usually, I have meetings early in the morning, starting from 8 AM till noon, I spend the first half of the day talking with my European team, discussing projects with stakeholders from the European time zone.
In my afternoon, I drive to the office in Silicon Valley and focus on sorting through my emails and taking the most urgent meetings. Only after 4 pm, I finally start doing my design work using the Photoshop / C4D.
I can’t tell you at what time my day ends. It’s usually when I stop focusing on what I’m working on at the moment, and the strength leaves my body, which is typically close to midnight. I’ve found this schedule lets me successfully mix management functions with design work. It’s all about proper time management.
I stay focused, only getting distracted when it is worth it. I keep working — polishing until people say, “Gleb, this is WOW!”
What does design mean to you and where do you find inspiration?
I look for and find inspiration first in the natural environment — mountains, the ocean, and the nice scenery that surrounds me. Some physical products like vehicles, body shapes, and art installations in museums inspire me a lot, too.
For work, I also use platforms like Pinterest to source images and create mood-boards or collages that will be the inspiration for new design languages and brand styles.
I look for and find inspiration first in the natural environment — mountains, the ocean, and the nice scenery that surrounds me.
Choose one of your favorite projects from the past. Why is it your favorite?
I have done many fascinating projects in the AI, mobile operating system, and automotive fields recently. My recent favorite was for SFMotors doing EV HMI strategy and design. The project scope was massive, and it was terrific to have considerable time to perfect the results.
We created the holistic HMI design strategy and got to include many innovations. The operational system focuses on safe driving and, as a plus, switches to entertainment services while in autopilot drive mode. We created the future for the digital experience of an electric vehicle — which will be on the road starting next year.
Why is it my favorite project to do? Because I learned so much from this project! Projects, where you can learn about new industries and entirely new specifications in digital product design, make me happy and complete.
It’s challenging but, at the same time, I feel privileged to learn and grow. I tested out many current vehicles and started to fully understand the decisions made in the past by the generation of HMI.
Projects where you can learn about new industries and entirely new specifications in digital product design make me happy and complete.
As we were learning from the past, internally, there were a lot of politics and shifts within the company. In new territory, it can be a challenge to find the right team, and as some people left, decisions on the project changed. It was a challenge to start the work over after three months altogether, but at the end of the day, the design team did a fantastic job.
I’m very proud of the results. I can’t share the work yet, because the patent process is ongoing and can take 5–10 months to get approved. But I look forward to seeing the actual vehicle next year with my work inside.
Do you have any time for side projects? Are they important for your personal growth?
Heh, I have no idea what is a side project. Usually, every project I agree to take on becomes the main project.
What problems do you face as designer when working with developers?
Usually, I don’t have any problems with the developers because they do their work through the product owner/product manager. I trust the developers and their product owners to make sure the final product follows the design vision.
When I work directly with developers at the level of design implementation, the challenges are usually around communication — bridging language barriers and time zones can be hard.
I trust the developers and their product owners to make sure the final product follows the design vision.
How do you manage your team and make sure everyone is in sync?
First of all, I fully trust my team; sometimes they help me manage myself. We do meetings on video calls or in-person, a couple of times a week. Having face-to-face interactions is essential. I use different tools to sync check-in a few times a day, to make sure that a task is in progress, everyone understands their goal, and how to help get the job done with the best result.
If scheduling gets too complicated, I might record myself walking through a task, designs, or even tutorials on how to achieve the best result.
We noticed a lot of 3D work in your portfolio. How does 3D design elevate your design skill?
I started working with 3D when I was diving into motion design for UI and interaction approaches. I use 3D assets when I want to create an immersive user experience to connect the customer with a tangible product; it could be a mobile phone or a freezer in your kitchen.
3D animation creates a more efficient feeling and quality of interaction. Even in flat design, navigating interfaces requires moving between states and elements, and 3D brings life to what can easily feel static.
Ultimately, 3D is what elevates your work into something more like art. If you want to start with 3D, you can begin learning tools like 3D Max or C4D. There are many tutorials or articles you can find now helping you to determine the process quickly. At Milkinside, we’re able to use many different tools including Houdini FX, Trapcode Form, C4D, Red Shift and around 300+ different plugins.
What’s the most important skill to develop for designer and why?
This critical first question is: what type of designer you want to become? If you’re going to become a product designer and to work with business tasks transforming ideas into physical and digital products, you need to learn a lot of skills beyond designing interfaces.
The essential skills are UX engineering, creative and strategic thinking, coding, and even old-fashioned, analog, drawing. But no matter what path you choose, the most important skill is to be practice learning and gain the ability to learn fast! This skill is everything.
But no matter what path you choose, the most important skill is to be practice learning and gain the ability to learn fast! This skill is everything.
What would be your dream client to work for?
I am happy to have worked with many dream clients, but I would like to keep working on the future of transportation and consumer AI — like building a new voice assistant or flying taxi experience. I am sure these industries will be a high demand very soon.
What do you think will be the next big thing in design?
The next big trend in design is already starting: voice interface design and emotional UI design. But, it’s 2018, and most interfaces still look old-school, without any understanding of the human who needs to connect.
As our technology gets smarter, we need to build emotional interfaces to match our intelligent products and build trust between machines and humans.
The next big trend in design is already starting: voice interface design and emotional UI design.
If they made a movie about your design work, what would it be called?
I think this will be something like “Designing tomorrow today”