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Life as an Art Director / UX Designer Hybrid



Juan Pedro (JP) Gonzalez, associate creative director at R/GA Austin, on the refreshing variety that having a foot in both advertising and UX (and yoga instruction) offers

Life as an Art Director / UX Designer Hybrid
“Someone’s relationship with a brand is not compartmentalized the way we compartmentalize roles in the industry,” says Juan Pedro (JP) Gonzalez, associate creative director at R/GA Austin about his hybrid role as an art director and UX designer. Here, he discusses that role and how it helps him scratch different creative itches.
Q> Tell me about your career path. What brought you to R/GA?
JP> I started my career at McCann in Barcelona, Spain while I was in college. An art director came to a class as a guest speaker and she perfectly described what I had always wanted to do, but I didn’t know it existed as a job. I pestered her enough and eventually got an internship that exposed me to great mentors and work. Then, I moved back home to Mexico City and took a job at JWT during one of the biggest moments for the country’s creativity. From there, I was approached for an art director position in Austin. I didn’t know much about the city, but the creative opportunities that came with the job along with adding yet another market to my resumé were exciting, so I took a leap of faith and moved.
I’ve been lucky to work and build my portfolio around great brands like Target, Wendy’s, Mars, and Domino’s. After a few years in advertising and seeing the industry evolve, I started getting a new creative itch. I enrolled for a user experience course while working full-time, and it opened my eyes to new ways to solve creative problems. I knew very few places would welcome me doing both, advertising and UX, so I interviewed for a position at R/GA. Since then, I’ve been fulfilling a hybrid role as an art director and UX designer.
Q> What do you think is the value of a hybrid role like yours?
JP> Someone’s relationship with a brand is not compartmentalized the way we compartmentalize roles in the industry. If they see an ad for a brand and then use their app, or interact with it in their smart speaker, it should tell the same story and carry the same voice. The ultimate goal is one connected experience. Coherency between what a brand says and how it behaves is crucial, particularly with the myriad of points of connection that exist today between consumers and brands. I believe there’s immense value, and fun to be had in ensuring a brand’s persona carries through in every interaction. 
Q> What do you enjoy most about design work?
JP> I’m a big fan of the versatility that comes with creative work in general. One day you’re working on an alcohol brand and you get in that mindset. You are able to learn a lot about that particular consumer and category. Then, the next day, you’re doing the same for a makeup brand, a chocolate bar, or a telecommunications company.
A lot of our work is about empathy and curiosity. Learning about other people and putting myself in their shoes really gets my imagination going. This is one of the most fun things about my job, and at the same time, this is what makes the work successful — putting the user at the center of the experience. 

Q> What makes you the most excited about a project you are working on/have worked on?
JP> The beginning of every project and the creative process in general. Really, the bliss of thinking you can do anything and the sky's the limit, and when anything goes. Reality eventually starts to settle in like deadlines, budgets, business realities, etc.. But I try to approach the beginning of every project with an optimistic mindset that there’s a great creative opportunity in there somewhere. Often the seeds of those initial, unfiltered ideas turn into something real at the end. 
Q> What are some of the biggest growth moments for you?
JP> There have been moments where someone above me was supposed to make a call. However, for some reason, they weren’t there, and I had to step up to the plate. You grow by just doing things, failing, and as cliché as it sounds, forcing yourself into uncomfortable territory.
But more than that, living in different places, being exposed to different languages, cultures, and ways of thinking is the best way to grow and open your mind. I encourage every creative to move, travel, collaborate with global talent and people different than themselves. 
Q> What would you say one should do to maintain creativity?
JP> It’s different for everyone. I start my day by either taking a yoga class or a long walk with my dog, Greta. Both are ways to clear the mind and allow me to approach each day as a blank canvas, with renewed curiosity and energy. I’ve learned to apply a lot from my yoga practice to my creative work, like the impermanence of things: “This too shall pass.” You can be really struggling on a pose or a project, or a creative block, but you can choose to either suffer through it or to remember it’s temporary. By simply breathing through it, you can come out stronger on the other side.    
Q> Do you have any passion projects outside of work?
JP> I do some doodling. I guess you can call them illustrations, but I’m extremely self-conscious and private about them. Maybe one day they’ll see the light of day. I’m also a certified yoga instructor.

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R/GA New York, Mon, 27 Jan 2020 15:30:32 GMT