Rodolpho Henrique is a digital designer focused on interactive experiences & mobile apps. He’s currently Senior Designer at McKinsey & Company. Over the past seven years he has developed high-quality products and transformed ideas into first class experiences with established companies and startups such as Globo, Beats by Dre, Banco do Brasil, Tim, Sky, Accenture, and Itaú.
Welcome Rodolpho! Tell us a bit about your background, and how did you start with design?
I can’t remember the main reason, but I’ve had a passion for music since my early years. I was playing with punk rock bands since I was 11 years old and that was how I started to approach and get interested in art and design.
I was born and raised in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil so it all started with the opportunity I found on helping the local music scene in my hometown. Back then none of us had any money to hire a design/communication company to produce our graphic materials. So I felt a sense of pride in helping my friends to have an identity and better communication with their fans.
After high school, I went straight to study Graphic Design because I was sure I wanted to do something related to arts or design. I had no idea what that meant at that time. But then I started to get into this discipline and understand the basics and rules of design.
It’s crazy to look back on this and see how far the design has taken me. I worked in 5 different countries, on 9 product launches and met great people who became a family to me.
How does your workday look like, and what makes your workflow special?
My current workflow is client-based, so there are no routines. Every day is entirely different, and I like it. That is probably one of the things that I enjoy most about working at McKinsey. Things are always changing and evolving super fast.
I am a super hands-on designer. As a Visual Designer, I am responsible for focusing on the craft part of the process, where I merge typography, grids, colors, layout, hierarchy, and compositions to make sure we are creating not only a visually pleasant experience but also an easy and scalable solution for that product.
The reality is that every digital product will scale. Period. A digital product is never done. There is no way to think and build digital solutions following the same way they were done ten years ago because it won’t work. We need to have the technical/development team always well aligned with the design team; otherwise, it is not an intelligent workflow.
One of the big parts of my daily work is helping companies with no previous design experience on hiring, creating and teaching design teams to have an iterative process where I advise them to rapid prototype and make tangible an idea earliest possible, because this is the only way to present something that people will understand.
As a Senior Designer at McKinsey & Company, how do you approach your team of designers to successfully work with front-end developers?
Two years ago when I joined McKinsey, we started to create our methodology for creating and evolving design systems gathering not only designers but also developers on the stage.
We have an incredible team of developers at McKinsey, but as we are a consulting firm, most of the times our developers are there only to coach the client’s team, so we usually ended up working with this client team. For this reason, there is no one size fits all solution to approach design and development for our projects.
But when it comes to the handoff process, style guides alone are not enough anymore because they are designed with only user interface assets in mind. What I realized over the past years is that these elements are just a small piece of a whole picture. And this entire picture is built with other digital assets such as brand foundations, marketing principles, experience drivers and motion principles for example.
The best way to confirm this design/development collaboration is working in a proper way is making sure they are involved in the design process since the beginning. Tools like Avocode has been helping us a lot doing this work of documenting and detailing all the specifications of our designs.
We noticed you have many interesting projects in your portfolio. Which one is your favorite?
The digital experience for the RIOgaleão airport is a project that means a lot to me.
I feel grateful for having this opportunity of creating something great for the place I came from. My parents and friends are often traveling using that airport, and I feel happy to have designed their whole experiences, since the moment they arrive at the airport until the moment the airplane takes off.
I remember when this project shows up at Fjord (where I used to work for), our Design Director went straight to me because he knew I was the appropriate person to make this app reflect the right feeling of the city.
This project was challenging also because I wasn’t so experienced working with other design disciplines such as service, business and interaction design before, so it a nice period of learning.
You’re based in Sao Paulo, Brazil. What’s the design industry in South America like?
Growing up in Brazil it’s a kind of unique experience for a designer. This country is an endless source of culture and natural beauties that influences a lot in shaping our creative mindsets. It is a fact to say that this is one of the main reasons you will find so many Brazilian creatives working on top companies around the world.
I am always impressed with the number of the things happening in South America. São Paulo still being one of the main places where companies and startups take off, so it’s common to have more talents and a more robust design community here.
On the other hand, I have recently worked with designers in Argentina, Colombia, and Peru and what excites me the most, is the fact that there are so many talented people with a commitment to do the best work that I never thought I would find out.
I am inspired by the people I work with. I like to surround myself with people who are way better than me, and I can learn from. I do love that sentence that says: “If you are the smartest person in the room, you are in the wrong room.”
Do you have any time for side projects? Are they important for your personal growth?
I am always doing personal projects. I recently launched a side project called On my iPhone.
This is a personal initiative to document the photos and some stories of the places I have been to, the people I have been surrounded by, the paths my feet have followed and the perspectives my eyes have seen over different countries.
What would be your dream client to work for?
A project related to music/entertainment is definitely at the top of the list of projects I want to do before I die. That’s funny, but I never worked on a digital product related to music before.
How important in your opinion is a self-promotion for designers and why? What channels are working best for you?
I use Dribbble a lot to share some work in progress and personal experiments with the community.
Self-promotion is everything. The design is all about selling your idea and convincing people about what you are proposing. There are a lot of things we can do outside of our screens to gain credibility and expose ourselves to different scenarios and knowledge. You may be the greatest designer in the world, but if you can’t turn off your computer and talk to developers, project managers, clients or others to express your ideas and explain your decisions, you will only be recognized by other designers.
What’s the most important skill to develop for designer and why?
I do believe there is one skill that is above all of those that is the ‘empathy.’
This is the ability to see the world through other people’s eyes, to see what they see, feel what they feel, and experience things as they do. Otherwise, you will be creating things without purpose that won’t work with real people.
Where do you want to be in 5 years as a designer?
I want to be in a place where I still have the possibility to learn from the people I work with.
And also making sure I am responsible for designing products that are honest, understandable and long-lasting.
What’s the last thing you read that had an impact on your design work?
I read a lot about design in general, but I am really into the Japanese design over the past two years. They have a unique approach to design simple, useful and unobtrusive things for graphic, industrial design, and architecture that has changed my mind.
- Muji — Designers like Jasper Morrison, Kenya Hara, and Naoto Fukasawa are responsible for the products/brand’s design and the results of the best of minimalism of Muji. If you love this brand, this is a must-have book to understand more about their principles and design philosophy.
- Designing Design — This is a fundamental book about design for builders of all kind. A delightfully enlightening book on the process and mind of Kenya Hara. A fantastic book that expresses the right sensibilities of design.
- Naoto Fukasawa — This book explores his clear, intelligent and very Japanese view on design, showing sketches and details of Naoto’s products.
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