We first met Google Snr Interaction Designer Joel Beukelman at -ing creatives conference in early 2018 and managed to catch him in-between all his travels to get a few answers to a few questions. He shares with us the time he pushed through burnout and developed some terrible rhythms in his life; plus we chat about his vlog hobby, and his current obsession with making keto baked goods and smoking meats.

When did you fall in love with design and how did you get started?

I have 2 early creative memories as a child. As a kid in primary school, I remember making greeting cards for family and friends and my favorite part was the type. I would take big felt, neon markers and draw out nice big letters. From there I would take a fine point sharpies and add a thin black stroke to each letter. Looking back this seems subtle, but the amount of pleasure I got from the precision and detail still resonates with me as I consider craft in building software. My second memory was when my father bought our first computer. I remember spending hours making my own characters….crafting pixel by pixel and making color variants of each character with that magical paint bucket tool.

I got in to design by way of fine art and painting. I always dreamed of being a professional musician and touring the world as a drummer. As a senior in high school (marching band, garage band, jazz band, drum corps, indie music scene, and drum lessons), I found myself enrolling in a random painting class to fulfill my elective credits. I fell in love with painting and illustration and continued to pursue studio art in college. Once I realized music was a tough career, I declared my major in art and graphic design. FWIW, I still have dreams of quitting my job and going on tour with a metal band.

What qualities and skills to you look for in a graduate?

This is a hard question to answer due to the fact that it could be largely contextual to the position. In general, I always look for a graduate who loves their craft and can display that through industry-level work. There is a large gap between the work that students leave university with, and what the real industry expects from a design professional...which leads me to the qualities I care about more most.

Design work by Google The Design Kids interviews Google work-2

Any passion projects/collabs you would like to share?

My recent passions these last years have been making videos about my life and design on YouTube.

As I said before, I love music...being able to take music, moving images, and topics I'm interested in (design, my family, culture) and layer them into a narrative on YouTube has been a life-giving hobby. It’s definitely a time-suck on my responsibilities as a father and professional, but having an outlet where I can create in isolation without any reviews or constraints has kept me inspired through the more difficult parts of a design job. I’ve made vlogs, design tutorials, and personal self-reflection videos that are all about documenting my life, sharing with my community, and hopefully growing and engaging in new conversations.

I have also slowly become entirely too domesticated as a husband and father of 3 boys...currently obsessed with making keto baked goods and smoking meats.

What have been some of your biggest disasters and how have you learnt from it?

I’m not sure if I would call these disasters, but I have for sure made plenty of mistakes in my past. I wouldn’t call this a disasters because I learned a lot for this time in my life, but my year as Design Director at a startup was anything but a success. Let me be clear...I’m not even specifically referring to the success or failure of the business itself, but rather my contributions and how I managed to keep my head above water in the #StartupLife.

Everyone know startups are hard and that you have to wear many hats, but I gravely underestimated how incapabable I was to do other tasks well outside of design...interviewing, team management, marketing, sales, etc. These other tasks I had to fulfil we soul-sucking for me and took a lot of perseverance to “get it done”. I pushed forward and did the best I could as a core member of the founding team, but found myself slowly falling apart in the process. The disaster was much more of an internal negativity, isolation, and stress...which resorted to a lack of sleep and an overindulgence in caffeine and alcohol. I pushed through burnout and developed some terrible rhythms in my life. I found myself as unhealthy as I’ve ever been, unhappy, short-tempered, unable to “leave work” mentally and was often absent when I was with my family.

In retrospect, this could have all been prohibited if I had more discipline and maturity, but it’s my nature to go 110% into something...this time it bit me in the ass. I still have some small corners of my life that I’m still repairing from the damage I did in that intense 12 months of grinding. I am grateful for the journey because I am a much stronger person and have learned a ton about myself and where I need to grow.

Design work by Google The Design Kids interviews Google work-4
Design work by Google The Design Kids interviews Google work-4

I would love to see our community continue to build each other up because if design is respected and understood, we all win.

What is the design landscape like on your city and where do you fit in?

The city I live in, Costa Mesa, CA, is not known for design but is a very creative and inspiring place to live. Many skate and surf brands were born here and I am surrounded by an amazing community of creators from all industries. For design specifically, I see myself as one the voices/contributors to a network of UX/UI designers in Southern California that are demonstrating how teams can work across many cities. Most of us are often travelling to Los Angeles, Seattle, New York or San Francisco for work, but as tech continues to explode I’m excited to see more startups and tech companies investing outside of the Bay Area. I am fortunate enough to work for Google who has already expanded into Southern California, but I think there is plenty of room for growth and expansion in design….I hope to be an advocate for that.

What do you think the design community could do more of to give back?

I think the design industry does a great job at being a community. We are great at throwing conferences, sharing tools, making friendships on social, and helping evolve as an industry. We also constantly talk about the principles of empathy and how we need to know our users/audience. We all know this is core creating appropriate and function design, yet I find our industry has a hard time being empathetic to itself. The design community can often feel way too much like a scene. I think we take ourselves way too seriously and are way too quick to judge and criticize. This obviously amplified with social media, dribble, and #designtwitter but I would love to see our community continue to build eachother up because if design is respected and understood, we all win.

Design work by Google The Design Kids interviews Google work-6
Design work by Google The Design Kids interviews Google work-6

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