netmagInterview

Irene Pereyra on innovation and large-scale projects

Irene Pereyra of Fantasy Interactive tells us about her upcoming Generate talk with Anton Repponen, in which they will show us how they redesigned a site that has been described as the most innovative newspaper website ever released

.net: What are you going to speak about at Generate?

Irene Pereyra: We will be speaking about the redesign of USAToday.com, which we completed last year. It's an in-depth, behind-the-scenes look at what it took to redesign such a massive website. We'll speak about how we initially got awarded the project, how we started the project with a very large discovery phase (where, among other things, we followed editors and journalists around), how we moved into user experience design and visual design, how the concept changed mid-way through the project, how we worked in tandem with Wolff-Olins who were responsible for the rebranding, how we worked together with the internal team at Gannett and all their stakeholders, and how we managed to launch on time almost exactly a year after we first started the project.

We are extremely proud of the results, and extremely humbled by our experience with Gannett. Typically when you deal with such large corporations, it's difficult to release something that is very innovative because ideas and concepts tend to get diluted and made for everyone's taste - kind of like how wedding food is always terrible because it has to please everyone, and therefore has no flavor at all. But with Gannett, innovation was always at the forefront of everything we did, and it restored our faith in working with big corporation and lots of stakeholders. Considering all the audiences we had to please, the outcome is a miracle!

.net: What do you think makes a good conference?
IP: A good conference is one that is made up of good public speakers, in my opinion. Sitting in the audience for an hour is quite a commitment, and the talk has to be very engaging, interesting, funny, insightful and honest. Even the most interesting topics and most innovative concepts get lost with a bad public speaker, and the opposite is true too; a good public speaker can get you interested in a topic you know nothing about or have no prior interest in. It's a bit like watching a documentary; a good documentary can draw you in regardless of the topic. I remember watching "Senna" and thinking, 'My God, I am going to be so bored, I have zero interest in anything related to Formula 1', but then being completely wowed by the end of it. A good conference is a bit like that - good talks can really make the hairs on your neck stand up. If you manage to get a few of those in, it's a good conference.

.net: Can you tell us about what you're working on right now?
IP: Right now we're working on the redesign of Wacom, an R&D project for a mobile interface, and the redesign of a large sports portal, among many other things. I can't really be more specific than that, but it's a really exciting time right now at Fi.
 
.net: What are the big ideas you're thinking about at the moment?
IP: I would love it if the browser would go away and the objects that we surround ourselves with would have some form of intelligence, or rather become smart objects. In the near future we’ll start to see web design change completely, when desktop computers predominantly become touch-based. Websites will start to look and behave more like tablet apps, and the mouse may become obsolete completely – or replaced by a stylus. It would be very interesting to design interfaces that are meant to be more tactile and less obtrusive, and perhaps even completely outside of the browser or traditional computer screen as we know it today.

.net: Your role at Fantasy Interactive covers UX and strategy. To what extent to these things overlap?
IP: At Fantasy Interactive these two disciplines overlap entirely. We do not have a separate strategy department as we feel that user experience and strategy are really two different aspects of the same thing. Since we are creating products that people are actually using on a daily basis, the strategy has to be strongly linked to the actual physical user experience. There's nothing worse than a 200 page strategy deck created in complete isolation which then just gets passed on to the next cog in the production cycle.

.net: What are the factors that have driven the direction of your career?
IP: I studied graphic design during my undergrad because I'd had a life-long love affair with design and figured I'd probably end up in advertising or something like that. Once I got a grip on what working in advertising really meant, however, I realized that it was not for me at all and I decided to study Communications Design for my masters, which allowed me to make a lateral move into user experience design (at least from a theoretical perspective). This was eight years ago and the term "User Experience Design" was brand new and something I naturally fell into once I realized that I cared more about making things really functional and easy to use as opposed to thinking about colors and typography. I like that I am the advocate for the user within the creative team, and it's very satisfying to synthesize the experience, content and interactions down to what I feel is the most optimal path, the straightest line from A to B.

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