While working at R/GA, they won more business from their biggest client, Nike. This time, it wasn't for a splashy e-commerce flow, new product line, or other public features. The team from R/GA had pitched them on building an internal tooling system that was custom to how Nike works. They projected the project could save millions in efficiencies. The project was awarded to the team, and the internal team was built from various people across R/GA. I was brought on as the Senior Designer to work with the team of dedicated UX designers, mapping out the existing tool's operational flows.
I had worked with (redacted) clients for most of my career at R/GA. The team was only two designers, and we had created a mountain of work and won tremendous business from the client. By all accounts, we were a successful team, operationally lean, and able to win business. I was getting burnt out on the financial sector and knew I needed another big name on my resume. I was in the agency rat race and understood the current protocol of getting on the splashiest projects, putting it in your portfolio, and jumping to the next big gig. At that time, the head of the Nike group in R/GA reached out to me to join the team. I felt conflicted about leaving my former design partner but took the position. I moved my desk into the Nike team's building and got started. I merged seamlessly into the team of experts who had already been working to map out the extensive system we were planning to build. I plugged into creating a UI library and refined UX as we prepared for the build. At the time, digital design was still time-consuming. Nike was a pixel-perfect team; pixel-perfect was literal and not straightforward when you use Photoshop. The technology was slower, the process was bigger, and the cost was high for time and money.
Despite this, my time with this team was rewarding because I got closer to the bottom line of product design. The designers I worked with focused on UX, leaving any UI to me. That left room for the team to focus on more significant issues. With a clear mission tied to a business outcome, we could get above a lot of what R/GA was, which was a superficial layer, and get at the machine's guts. I realized the machine wasn't just literal but metaphorical since we were changing people's work behaviors.
As much as I was satisfied with the depth of UX in my role, I still knew the game and felt I was letting my visual training become dull as the only designer with an aesthetic background. My eyes started to wander to new opportunities as I gradually sunk into the routines of working on this project. I realized if I wanted to grow, I needed to be challenged in a smaller environment. I was always leaning towards a balance in UX/UI, and the industry was pushing that way. I had to find a team that blurred these lines. It would be the baseline as technology improved.
(Story picks up in SiriusXM)