Episode 64 – Karla Mickens Cole

Product Designer at Facebook • https://twitter.com/karlamickens

Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do?

My name is Karla Mickens, and I’m a product designer at Facebook. Originally born and raised in North Carolina, and went to college at Virginia Commonwealth University. After that, I moved to New York where I pretty much started my career in design. I gradually got into more of the tech side of it, and haven’t a looked back since, now for six-seven years I think, maybe more.

How would you describe your job to someone who doesn’t know what a product designer is?

Basically how I explained it to my parents. [laughs]

Yeah, pretty much. [laughs]

The title ‘Product designer’ is still very new. The way I usually explain is that not only do I have a part in designing the visual side of Facebook but I’m also thinking about the user experience and journey. How it is for when someone is signing on to Facebook? Or when they are trying to post something? It’s not just about the visual and the layout, but thoughtful design. Sometimes it’s not the flashiest design, but it is something that’s not going to get in the way of somebody using the product [if you do it right].

What was your perception of tech before you started working in the industry, and how has that changed?

I never really thought about it. Working at design studios was the thing that I mainly focused on. I was at Big Spaceship which is a digital design agency, and we were building fun, interactive websites, but sometimes it can just be for marketing reasons. At one point they split the agency into doing more product work and other sites into a more marketing stuff, and then that’s when I went to the product side, not knowing absolutely anything about product. I was just working on a project that happened to fall into that bucket.

A good friend who was doing contract work there told me what it was like staying on the product side. He said you’d never go wrong with designing for people. I kept that in mind, but I never made the connections between the product and tech. For instance, I didn’t know Facebook was considered a product, Twitter is regarded as a product in tech; I didn’t know those things. I think it’s mainly because that wasn’t my environment.