Walia Skinner is a professional web designer by trade, but web design can and does mean many things. Specifically, she has expertise in graphic design, branding, usability testing, building responsive websites, experience, and material design.
What Skinner does most of the time is creating highly efficient User Experience design for businesses, (large and small) so that they can overcome people leaving their website, to gain increased conversion and sales.
She does this by journey mapping the end to end experience. Walia work with clients and coach them to understand who their ideal customer is? What is the real problem? How can their product or service uniquely solve the prospect's problem?
The most significant thing about her is she likes to have fun! Skinner wants to find it in just about everything she does, whether it's work, hanging out with friends, or just chilling by herself.
“I want to live in such a way then when I get out bed in the morning, the devil says, “Aw shit she’s up!” - Steve Maraholi
Oh and I have 2 cats and live in downtown Saint Louis
My name has 3 syllables and is phonetically
pronounced "Why - eeee - lah" Ask me how to say it, it's cool :)
How did you first get interested in design?
I was constantly drawing on everything. I loved watching painting programs, loved art history. In college I looked in a paper under design jobs and reverse engineered a custom degree program that ensured that I would meet all the job requirements, it was the early days of web design.
Tell me about the work you've done?
I have done the full gambit of design work: I have done newspaper design, logos, websites, graphic design, books, brochures, consulting on large projects with fortune 500 companies to working with local small businesses and individual entrepreneurs.
What are your proudest accomplishments of your career?
I have worked with a financial institution on product launch called intuitive investor. It is still a work in progress but I am very proud of the work and advocacy for the user experience that we were able to create.
What have been your biggest struggles of your career?
Great design can look deceptively simple. I find that one of the biggest struggles is overcoming the client's belief that if something is simple and easy to understand that it was easy to do and required no expertise. It is a constant struggle for those DIY'ers who have a copy of Microsoft Word and think everything can be done in a couple of hours. Getting business partners past the idea that the bare minimum and "people can get through the experience" is good enough. Designers shooting for usable is like a chef shooting for edible. ~ Aaron Walter;
What are you doing that's special that sets you apart from your peers?
One of the things that I think is forward thinking, that I don’t think many traditional web designers are doing, is considering the accessibility factor. I think we intuitively strive for usable experiences that are mobile responsive, but don’t consider those with disabilities. We design for our aesthetic, but that negates a highly usable experience for a large percentage of the population, if we're not careful to consider things like color blindness. If you’re responsible for design with a large corporation and the results are something that isn’t accessible that can spell disaster for your client. I believe that this will continue to be an emerging challenge for designers as the use of the internet is a right, one that can and has been enforced by law.
What have your experience been as a person of color in the design industry?
There is a fair amount of isolation in the industry, seldom do i find myself in the company of other people of color. I am used to it, and I think you have to be confident in your abilities and not be intimidated by the fact that you may always be the only one.
What are your biggest motivators?
Great design! I love to look at dribble or Print magazine, Aiga, etc and see what my peers are up to - what’s trending, waning, what’s innovative and avant garde; it feeds the soul.
How do your friends and family feel about the work you've done?
My friends and family have been my biggest supports and have always encouraged my development within the design community
What do you love most about working in design?
I love the color, the influence that it has how fonts and language can completely reshape the impact of something. I also love the problem-solving aspect of experience design. What’s broken and how can we fix it?
What would you like to see changed about the design field?
The design and advertising field should be as diverse as the world it is marketing to. I would like young minorities to see themselves within the field.
How can design be more accommodating to underrepresented populations of people?
Be considerate, ask good questions like does this represent the population accurately? Or is all white dudes in suits in an awkwardly staged stock photo? Does the picture unintentionally send an insensitive message? For example, I recently saw a beautifully design board game that was named Indian Summer, perhaps it is a common saying, but it is rooted in vulgar origins and is derogatory to a whole nation of people.
What are you working on right now, either for work or for yourself?
Right now I’m working on creating a blog called Ask Waila, and my youtube channel. I will be focusing on helpful content for both designers as well as individuals wanting to get the most out of working with a designer.
Where do you see yourself in 5 or 10 years? Do you think you'll stay in design?
Yes, what I work towards at this point in my career is the ability to do the work based solely on my interest and passion around the project and less about paying bills.
What advice would you give to folks from similar backgrounds who are in design or hoping to get into it?
Be motivated, and prepared. You get what you prepare for. Whatever it is you want to do in the field, find out what is expected, look at job postings etc.