Creating Your Own Path: Bypassing University and becoming a creative director at 23 — with Ales Nesetril
Ales Nesetril is a digital product designer from Prague, Czech Republic, who focuses on interactive experiences & mobile apps. At the age of 23, he currently co-leads a design team at STRV as a Creative Director. He is in charge of his team’s design process and design promotion/marketing. He also works for clients such as Flip, Start Daily and Roam (recently featured in Forbes and Vogue). Design is not the only passion of his—he also loves electronic music and skateboarding.
Why and how did you get into product design?
How long have you been a designer and what tools do you use?
What was the moment that made you decide to pursue design professionally?
I didn’t go to college but started working as a freelance designer (with a little bit of experience in the field) right after high school. Parents told me it makes more sense to go study instead, but I didn’t want to waste my time. Once they learned more about what I do and saw my first success they realized it’s better to give me more space. We’re all joking about it these day. Still wondering what would happen if I’d go study for an engineer.
I’m curious more of your decision to not go to university. It’s quite clear that it worked in your favor, but did you have any doubts in yourself when you first decided to learn on your own?
It’s not a problem on my side. There were no “web design” or “digital design” oriented student programs in Czech Republic back then. I studied IT high school for 4 years, focused on programming and SW/HW. So let’s say I was already a bit experienced with computers in general. Since I already worked for a few companies as a freelance designer I decided to stop my studies and learn more by real practice in the field. When I see other young people in the same age as me working in IT or SW development they have a similar path as I did. “Official” education programs were too outdated for us so we learned ourselves. It sounds a bit funny but we kind of turned our hobbies into full-time jobs. For me it was the best decision I could make, because I already knew what I want to do. I just needed more freedom.
“You can’t move forward unless you challenge yourself.”
What’s the toughest challenge you face (or faced) as a designer?
Any designers you lookup to? Why?
Are you working on any personal projects you’d like share?
Do you have a favorite workspace outside of home and corporate offices?
There is also one more amazing coffee place near my apartment — AnonymouS Coffee. They also have a bar in the city center with similar name. Both are definitely worth of visiting.
What advice would you give a novice in product design?
Would you mind giving us tips on how to deal with a client that doesn’t have a clear vision?
- The sooner they agree on minimal set of features for MVP (minimal viable product) the better. Clients usually want to include all the features in the first version to make sure they’ll succeed. But development for such a complex product could take months. We sometimes call those clients “feature creeps”.
- You need to proof your expertise and build trust. Clients will see you as a leader and will listen to your advices. What worked for us in the past was to show some working examples of similar solutions we already build. We also gave them a little behind the scenes story as well. It was easy for them to understand those projects were in a similar stage and were curious about what kind of decisions were made in the process.
- Make sure there is one responsible person as a main point of contact on client side. Two co-founders fighting over features they want to include is the worst scenario. It’s important to set up these roles upfront, because communication and iteration process can be much faster.
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