从足球运动员到裁判，又从体育记者到交互设计师，来自意大利的 Franco Papeschi 在自己成长的路途上更新过自己的梦想多次，最终在用户体验(UX)设计这个行当里找到了自己并将其运用到了对人们有意义的事情上。他之前曾在意大利，英国，荷兰工作过，并且还曾满揣着情怀去到了神秘的非洲在NGO里工作，携手当地的创业公司通过科技与服务来帮助当地贫困人群改善生活。2014年，Franco受到了EF英孚教育的邀请，与妻子一起迁居到了上海，任命为英孚教育的体验设计总监，为想要学习新语言的人们提供更好的数字化服务。
From football player to referee, from sport journalist to interaction designer, Franco Papeschi’s role has shifted several times in his professional career life, finally he settled down in user experience (UX) design applying his skills on the things that make people’s life easier and better. Italy, England and Netherlands, he has changed his working field in different countries, but it is not enough, he also went to work for an NGO in Africa trying to improve local people’s life through approachable technology and possible services together with local start-ups. In 2014, Franco and his wife moved to Shanghai by EF – Education First‘s invitation, started working as Director of Experience Design for them, designing digital services to help people who wants to learn a new language.
Before I met Franco, I did not really know much detail about EF. I thought they would be a big and strict corporation in education industry; turns out they are very fun and creative when I visited their headquarter in Shanghai. They are originally from Sweden and distributed worldwide in language education. All photos here are taken in the EF Shanghai office.
I am very curious about Franco’s personal experience, an Italian who likes marking his footprints all over the world. Let’s hear what he shares with us:D
Interview with Franco starts:
Q1: What is your childhood dream?
F: My childhood dreams were very common, I think. I wanted to become a football player. Growing up in Italy, that’s pretty much what other millions of people want to be, at least for a little while. After few years of a rather unsuccessful football career, I shifted from player to referee, then to sport journalist. When I finished high school that one was my dream: to become a sport journalist.
My parents keep telling me that – before I discovered football – my dream was to become a lawyer, or an archaeologist. While it’s quite easy to understand the archaeologist (Indiana Jones), who knows why I ever wanted to be a lawyer.
在那之后，我曾想重新设计大型机器适用于对安全要求非常讲究的环境：例如空中交通管理，电厂仪表盘，飞机驾驶舱系统… 不过，我在大学后的实习经历－设计创新数字化服务（网站和手机APP）－ 才是带入我进入现时今日职业生涯的起点。
Q2: What made you want to work in the UX field, what path did you go through?
F: At Uni, I studied ‘Communication Science’ (I really really really wanted to become a sport journalist, ehm). I studied things like new media, and lots of methods to investigate what people do, to interview them, to uncover data. At a certain point, I stumbled upon an optional course in Human Computer Interaction. That course changed my perspective. All of a sudden I started recombining my previous studies (all the foundational courses I had done), moving away from mass media, and towards the creation of products and services. If you think about it, they are (almost) the same thing: one has to understand and synthesise facts, and create a simple, powerful object that people may want to use. OK, maybe I’m stretching the similarities a bit too much…
After that, I wanted to redesign big machines for safety-critical environments: systems for Air Traffic Management, Power Plant dashboards, airplane cockpits,…. However, the internship I found after Uni was for the creation of innovative digital services (website and mobile phone APP). That’s what I think shaped my career much more than anything else.
(“LEAN UX” 是Franco十分推荐的用户体验类的书籍。)
(“LEAN UX” is Franco’s recommendation for UX design book.)
Q3: 如今UX (用户体验) 设计在全世界都很火，但在中国还是属于相对比较年轻的一个行业，很多人其实对此还不是很了解。你能在此解释一下UX设计到底指的是什么，以及UX设计师的工作内容？
F: 我总是不能很好的回答这个问题。很多年，我父母曾一度认为我要么在一个电话销售中心工作或在策划某种形式的骗局。 但我们这次再试一把吧：用户体验是一个非常模糊的术语。它涉及一系列的方法与最佳实践，来确保产品和服务的设计与执行的方式，能够对其所需人群产生有用的实现，并且使用起来十分方便，在情感层面上也充满吸引力。在实践方面，是意味着一切被设计过的事物（例如一个网站，一次博物馆参观，一部手机，一个课程等等），有一群人会专门负责去了解潜在用户的需求和欲望。从这儿开始，同样的这一群人－我们姑且称之为“用户体验设计师” －将开始进行试验与尝试来寻求不同的方式来满足这些需求和欲望。他们会创建原型，并与真正的用户测试最重要的环节。通过这种方式，他们才能确保所做出的设计，可以为人们在使用其产品或服务时带来真正意义上的不同。
Q3: UX design is such a popular field worldwide nowadays, but it is still relatively new in China and a lot of people are not very familiar with it yet. Could you please explain what UX design is all about in your opinion, and what does an UX designer need to do?
F: I always fail this task. For years, my parents believed I was either in a call centre or plotting some form of scam. Let’s give it a go anyway: User Experience is a pretty vague term. It refers to a series of methods and best practices to make sure products and services are designed and implemented in a way that is useful for anyone who needs them, and that they are easy to use, as well as emotionally appealing. In practice, this means that for anything that is designed (a website, a museum visit, a mobile phone, a course, and many other things), there are people who take care of understanding what the potential users would need and desire. From there, this same group of people – let’s call them ‘user experience designers’ – will start experimenting with ways to satisfy these needs and desires. They are going to create prototypes, and test the most significant parts with real users. In this way, they are making sure they have designed something that really makes a difference for the people who are going to use these products or services.
(In UX design, understanding the user profile is very important. Franco would organise the team exercise on profiling the persona definition on a big user board for a more direct demonstration.)
Q4: How do you usually spend your day in EF? What is the best moment of the day for you?
F: Since I started leading a team, I have done less and less hands-on work. My time is now divided between reviewing projects, solving some of the big or small problems that hinder the work of people in my team, and some work on future concepts. This means that more or less 5 hours a day are in meetings, workshops, critique sessions. Despite the bad reputation meetings have in these days, they are extremely useful, if well prepared, facilitated and followed-up.
The rest of the day is spent drinking coffees (just kidding). I still dedicate some time to sketch ideas for existing and future projects. These are helpful as conversation starters. Moreover, they work really well to make detailed descriptions much more tangible: too many times I found that – after a meeting – everyone agreed on something. Except, in their mind everyone had a different understanding of what that ‘something’ meant. So I try and make these ethereal, fugitive ideas more tangible, by sketching them.
(Sketch book, post-it notes and marker pens are the must have tools for designers.)
这种类型的工作需要大量的合作，沟通，与拥有不同角色和责任的人交流想法。为了定义“用户体验”，以至于需要与很多不同的团队一起工作，许多不同的决定将影响（也被受到影响于）公司的商业模式，以及可用的技术和资源。当我开始工作时（15年前），用户体验设计师的工作通常是孤立完成的。今时今日，我们正在转变成促进和综合的角色，而不是那些必须拥有所有好想法的人^ _ ^。
Q5: Can you give us a little insight into the inner workings of your team? e.g. What’s your team’s responsibility, how big is the team, what kind of work is involved, or how’s the working style like?
F: It’s 13 of us at the moment: researchers and designers. We work on the creation of digital services for people who want to learn a new language: ways for them to study by themselves or with others; in remote (using computers, tablets and mobile phones) or face to face. We work on 6-7 projects at the time, from the beginning (very first ideations, research) to the final production phases, where we are side by side with developers, making sure everything is built in a way that would make our students (and our teachers!) happy to use our products.
This type of work requires a lot of collaboration, conversations, exchange of ides with people with different roles and responsibilities. In order to define the ‘user experience’ there are many different teams to work with, many different decisions that influence (and are influenced by) the business model of the company, as well as the technology and resources available. When I started working (15 years ago), the work of a user experience designer was often done in isolation. Today we are becoming facilitators and synthesiser, and not the ones who have to have all the good ideas ^_^.
(Franco and his team will wear the mask and helmet sometimes when dealing with very difficult problems at work, he thinks it helps people to put their serious face on, and the helmet can protect themselves getting hurt. I found it super funny at first but it is actually brilliant while thinking about it, also showing how open and interesting their work atmosphere is. )
Q6: What’s the most important stage during an UX project?
F: To me, there are 2 crucial parts. The first one is the transformation of research insights into concepts for the products and services to design. It’s something where different points of view are going to be balanced. The difficult job is to find a direction that does not work as a compromise among the different ideas, but that makes something more than the sum of them.
The second part is in the crafting of the tiny details. It’s often easier to discard or forget about something that looks irrelevant. But these are the things that move the needle from good design to great design.
Q7: What’s the most challenging part when managing a big team? Do you have any personal tips on how to build and grow a good creative team?
F: I don’t think we are a ‘big’ team. Compared with the team I was in my previous job, we are mid-size. We are growing at a pace that allows us to keep the spirit, creativity and energy at a high level. I think I’ve done many many mistakes while building and growing the team, but this has been helpful to learn more of what works and what doesn’t. I’d say the secret is in finding a good balance between freedom and autonomy on one side, and a common direction on the other side. Everything I’ve experimented with in the past 18 months has been around finding a good balance. Killing the autonomy reduces the drive, sense of ownership and motivation of a designer to find an awesome solution. Without a common direction, however, we would find ourselves with a bunch of fragmented, incompatible solutions.
Q8: Tell us about your previous experience regarding managing a NGO project in Africa. E.g. what’s the project for, how did you start the project, what is the end result, any interesting story to share?
F: Imagine you are a farmer in rural Kenya. You don’t have a lot of money, but maybe a few cows. Your life depends on these cows, so you want to make sure they stay healthy and productive. Now imagine there is a service that helps you keep track of the cows fertile periods, of the milk cycles, and that helps you prevent illnesses. Imagine this service runs through SMS, so you can use your old mobile phone. No need of a vet, who costs a lot and is never around.
So my previous job in an NGO in Africa was trying to help start-ups in Kenya, Ghana and Senegal create services of this kind: using technology that is widely spread in the continent (such as old mobile phones and radios) to solve particularly wicked problems related to food, health, education and the ability for people to thrive with almost no infrastructure. My expertise as an User Experience Designer helped me in the research and concept of services. I started working as a User Experience mentor and trainer for these start-ups, and ended up managing the entire program, including the training and the incubation of new start-ups. It was a particularly demanding job (as I had to travel very often), but also exciting and rewarding at the same time.
F：我希望在这里我能提一些有名的人，也许Dieter Rams或Jonathan Ive。也许Steve Jobs或Henry Ford。Elon Musk或马云。但这不会是真的。
Q9: Who or what has been the biggest influence on your way of thinking?
F: I wish I could mention some famous people, maybe Dieter Rams or Jonathan Ive. Maybe Steve Jobs or Henry Ford. Elon Musk or Jack Ma. That would not be true.
Few years ago I was working with a guy called Justin. We were in a discussion for a new project. We had different ideas and we couldn’t find a good way to make all these ideas work together. Halfway through the discussion, he said something like: ‘give me a hint on what I’m wrong about. I’m happy to change my idea’. That shifted my perspective on the way to work WITH people, rather than trying to push for my own opinion.
Interview ends here.
Franco also told me that he had a big interest in coding. Because after all, the final design they made will be developed into digital products, by learning more programming knowledge helps the design process. This is similar to product designers and architects who need to understand different materials and structure forms. As for user experience design in the digitization era, the most obvious “materials” are different expressions in shapes and forms, as well as visual language (e.g. colours, typography), and also information architecture. But further down, the other important “material” is coding, which is the language using in the digital world. By understanding it, designers can find out if their design capabilities risk to be either too much or too little ambitious.. Anyway, Franco keeps learning and adopting new tools and knowledge from all aspects to incorporate with better design process, maybe that’s the secrete to turn from a good designer to an awesome designer.
Franco is currently undertaking a big change again, a new life and work ahead of him. As where he is going next, we will have to wait and see:D