Yesenia Perez-Cruz on embracing scary things

We hear from this Philadelphia-based designer about giving back to the community, taming her inner critic and working on award-winning projects.

One of the 10 nominees for Designer of the Year in the 2014 net Awards, Yesenia Perez-Cruz is a designer at Happy Cog in Philadelphia. She's worked for clients including Zappos, MTV and the O Music Awards, she helped launch Ladies in Tech and her team recently won a Webby. We quizzed her to find out more.

Give us a summary of your career so far.

I graduated in 2009 from Drexel University where I studied Graphic Design. I began working at Happy Cog two weeks after graduation, and I've been here for a little over four years. In that time, I've worked for a wide range of clients, like Zappos, MTV, and Jose Garces. I've been teaching for GirlDevelopIt's Philadelphia chapter for the past year, and have spoken at conferences like SXSW, Artifact Conference, and Blend Conference. Additionally, I'm an acquisitions scout for A List Apart - essentially, I work with potential authors and serve as a sounding board for their ideas.

What have you been working on over the last year?

One of my favorite projects that I worked on last year was creating a design system for Garces Restaurants. The process consisted of designing and and then documenting the process in a style guide so that the Garces team would be able to roll out the design system for the rest of their restaurants. I also led design for the fourth O Music Awards, an online music festival and awards site. This is always a fun project for me because we get to create a design system that is then translated to motion graphics and set design.

I worked with Jenn Lukas to design and launch, and I also was busy speaking at AIGA Orlando, SXSW, Artifact Conference, and Blend Conference, teaching my GirlDevelopIt Typography course, and recording a Typography screencast for The Happy Cog Way.

What have been the particular high points of your career?

One of the first sites I created a design concept for was Zappos, and my concept ended up being selected, so that's something that I'll always be proud of. In 2012, Happy Cog won a Webby in the Celebrity/Fan category for our work with MTV on the O Music Awards. I've led the design of the last three O Music Awards websites at Happy Cog, so it was awesome to be recognized for the work from the Webbys.

The O Music Awards site won a Webby

Who and what influences and inspires your work?

I draw inspiration from my co-workers - we're constantly trying to evolve what we create and how we work and it keeps things exciting for me.

What are you excited about at the moment?

I'm really excited about the projects I'm working on at the moment, but I can't share any more details! I'm also really looking forward to trying out Macaw.

Tell us about an important lesson you've learned in your career.

To embrace things that are scary. If something feels scary or uncomfortable, it usually means that there'll be something gained from pursuing it. I wrote a Cognition post on confidence this year, and got a lot of great advice from people that I admire.

Name an 'unsung hero', someone you admire who deserves more recognition for their work.

I've really been enjoying some of the work that Justin Edmund has been creating for Pinterest.

Vote in the net Awards!

Celebrating the best in web design and development, the 15th net Awards is open for public voting until 24 March. With a record breaking number of nominations this year, it's set to be the biggest and best yet. Have your say by casting your votes here.