We’ve had a very pleasant afternoon spent with one talented, talkative guy – Nenad Ivanović. You probably already remember him as an organizer of conferences such as Behance Reviews and 99u, as well as being the one of the speakers at our first UX Belgrade meetup. Nenad now works at Verisec AB company, IT security business that is connected with large bank systems around the world.

We asked Nenad some questions, to find out more about him and how he solves everyday problems. This is what he said.

How did you decide to become a UX designer?

My first contact with creative art were graffiti. I used to draw graffiti, then repaint them in Photoshop and Illustrator. That’s what lead me to graphic design and that’s how I started working in advertising agencies. The thing that always piqued my interest was digital moment and interaction. I used to work for one agency where my job was to design Facebook game for Costa coffee. I did the job, they loved it and I still do some freelance work with that agency. My first touch with UX was on a workshop lead by Janko Jovanovic. He noticed me and said that I have the talent for UX. I thought about it, talked to him and that’s how I started. To this day, he’s still some kind of my mentor.

Which educational path did you choose; good and bad sides?

I finished law-birotechic school in Zaječar which had no connection with any creative work, what so ever. I used to draw graffitis during the classes and that’s what opened my mind to creative world. After that, I applied for college of Fine and Applied Arts, graduated in graphic design and once I figured that my interests lie in UX and interaction design, I further improved my knowledge on that matter in Amsterdam, Hamburg and Budapest through workshops and conferences. I’ve had one great workshop in Spotify headquarters in New York, where I worked with their UX designers on a project and that’s where I learned a lot of great stuff. Among those were that we all share the same thought processes, but their work, compared to ours in Serbia, has much more impact and significance.

Which sort of education would you recommend to young UX designers (schools, courses, books…)?

Practical work, learning by doing is my motto. I think there is no better source of knowledge than taking a challenge and work on a project. That pragmatism is important, defining a goal helps us to comprehend what skill sets and knowledge we need to finish certain project. Online reading, talking with other UX designers, following trends, it’s all a mix. Educational institutions are great for people that haven’t decided which design way they want to go, for people that want to acquire discipline and work habits. I think that our educational system is pretty set back compared to the rest of the world. It takes time for some new trend to get implemented into our educational system. By the time it gets there, it’s already old news. My road was simple, I need to work to earn money to attend workshops and improve myself. Set a goal and define the means to do it.

How long have you been in this job and have you ever made a switch from or to something else?

Now, that’s a bit blurred, let’s say some 4 or 5 years. My previous experience with graffitis as well as my life experience, helps me to understand UX better.

What was the first thing that you ever designed?

My first UX work was the game I mentioned, for Costa coffee and some website for my friend with whom I surf.

What is your favourite job/project and why?

That would be the project I’m currently working on, about the digital identities in Sweden. It’s all very vague, basically we’re trying to transfer your physical identity to a digital form. It’s a very large project, that is all I can say about it.

What has been your biggest challenge as a UX designer?

If you look at UX from wider perspective, as a way to improve things, then I’d have to say that my biggest challenge is myself. Me 10 years ago and myself today are massively different. Every event that I organize, I try to make it better than the last one. Same story goes for myself, I always question myself and think what I could have done better or different. Talking to people about myself helps, it’s a kind of feedback.

How did you solve it?

Still working on it.

Do you sometimes have communication problems with the developers/other colleagues you’re working with? How do you solve them?

Communicating with developers is one of the bigger challenges, on our first UX conference I talked about improving the communication and relationship on design-development. The most important thing is that we need to talk to each other, designers should take some time and learn more about technology while developers should learn more about design. Then, when those two creative persons talk (yes, I think that developers are creative as well in a way) it’s up to them to solve any issues that come along the way. Alas, it all depends on specific people, designers are more open to learn new stuff while developers like to explore new programming languages.

How do you see design scene in Belgrade?

I think there are very few of us, the need for UX designers outweighs the offer on the market. There are some groups of people where we hang with each other in both digital and real world.

We all should hang together more, share our knowledge and work on some projects, even for fun. Hackathon comes to mind.

What would you do to improve it?

About that, I think that everyone should be more active. I think it is a work in progress and it will take some time. Companies are now in need of good UX designers, and they’ve found out that there aren’t many UX designers around, so they’ve started organizing educations and events regarding the UX. Even graphic designers have felt that graphic design is no longer sought that much and that they need to learn more skills. Support that is missing, is from our institutions who should be more active in that field.

I think that the biggest source of learning comes through the feedback. We’ve had some feedback workshops in Belgrade Behance Reviews. 10 workshops with 10 mentors, each mentoring a group of 10 people. Basically, each mentor was giving feedback on attendees’ previous work and they shared ideas what could be improved. Mikser House, Nova Iskra, they’ve always been so helpful, giving us space for work and sponsoring our events, but we’re lacking a bit of support from our government. Our events were quite large, 800-1000 people, we’d always get pat on the back from government people, but nothing really solid came out of it.

What are you learning at the moment?

I’m currently working on face recognition, cryptography and IT security in general. It’s all connected to my current project.

Do you write and where can we find those stories?

No, I don’t think I’m that good of a writer. I have tons of ideas that could be blogged about but I think I’m too young to publish posts… and it never became my top priority, actually.

Which books and blog would you recommend?

For beginners, a book ‘Start With Why’ from Simon Sinek. For more advanced users, I’d recommend ‘Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect’ by Matthew D. Lieberman.

I also follow InVision blog, Medium blog. One of my favourite topics is about designer productivity, I check articles on 99u.com website.

Which UX designers are you following?

I stalk Djura(Bojan Djuricic) mostly, he stalks me. We meet regularly on various events. Of all our people, Janko has a great gift to write and make conclusions and I think he is the inspiration for all our UX designers. Djura has a great attitude that perfectly simplifies things. I also follow several UX designers from Medium blog, like Andy Budd, Daniel Burka, Jared M. Spool, Mike Monteiro, Fabricio Teixeira

Do you have any advice for your colleagues?

Don’t start with UX if it is all about the money. Those are all wrong reasons. Start if you like solving problems, if you like to see the effects of your work, to see someone use your products. There is no ego, there is no ‘God is communicating with me through my mouse and keyboard’ attitude. It’s all about being open to new ideas, to constantly communicate with other people, developers and product managers.

At the end of the day, be yourself.