7 years at Studio Rodrigo
This long, chronological post is comprised of many nostalgic moments, sandwiched in between client work recaps.
My time at Studio Rodrigo
I made websites, applications, and friends.
In 2014 I was selected by Dave Carroll, the department head of Parsons School of Design’s MFA Design and Technology program, to be the representative of our year at AIGA’s Dog and Pony Show. I presented my thesis to a full and dark auditorium alongside 11 other fresh graduates from top design schools in the US.
A few days later I got an email from Ritik Dholakia of Studio Rodrigo, inviting me to come in for an interview. I had been making the rounds, looking for a job while helping out my friend Uri Romano at his design agency Yellowtale.
At the time, Studio Rodrigo had a png as a company website. It was weird. I decided to go in thanks to Ritik’s email writing skills and the fact that Kunal Patel, who was my mentor at Huge, said something like — they’re nice guys, you should meet with them.
I came in through the shabby elevator at 30 West 22nd Street and walked into a beautiful, artsy space, where Greg was singing ‘this table is disgusting’ while cleaning it. It was a good sign.
Spoiler alert: I would end up cleaning that kitchen table alongside Greg for the next 7 years.
I learned that these two guys with no website had actually been in the website designing business for a long time. Ritik and Khoi Uong essentially ran Method’s NY office for over a decade and had a hand in creating a ton of successful digital products and services for giant clients.
I was sold. After a trip to Brazil with my later-to-be husband, I started to work at Studio Rodrigo in September 2014.
October 2014 — March 2015
It’s like Dropbox for Comcast
For my first big project at Studio Rodrigo, I got to work alongside the super talented Greg Ervanian and Colleen Redmond. With Ritik leading the strategy, we helped our partners at Xfinity design a north star concept for an online file sharing service. They considered launching this as a free product for all Xfinity customers, something like Dropbox or Google Drive. The brief was very open-ended and allowed us to dream up exciting features.
One of my favorite sections to design was the photo-sharing feature, envisioned for households with multiple users. The goal was to allow users to back up the photos and videos from their phones; the added value was being able to collect the whole family’s content into one place.
The user would be able to select what content to share with the household and what to keep private. When looking at the images, the users would be able to tell which user uploaded what. At the time, Google Photos wasn’t out yet so my concept of joint storage of photos from multiple users was new.
We presented a full, well thought-out design to the executive team at Xfinity. Our partners were happy with the result but unfortunately, the project didn’t get the green light.
February — June 2015
It’s like a pilot episode for a digital product
How does a broadcast network design a digital service? Like a TV pilot. We worked with the team at NBC, led by Joshua Dern, and helped with their video fitness product, Radius. The app+web subscription service gave users personalized, at-home fitness video programs.
The Radius Fitness programs included many focus areas to choose from and featured a group of exciting instructors. The exercise videos were well produced and the programs were thought out. We were ready to help them turn all the existing content into a digital service.
We defined a great visual language pretty quickly, so at that point, I was able to use it to wire new pages.
And then, one day, the project was over. For a number of reasons, the product didn’t quite gain the traction it needed. Not all pilots get picked up.
In any case, we’re very proud of our work here.
June — October 2015
It’s like Google Hangouts for Comcast
We had fun concepting a video call service for Xfinity. As this was another open-ended brief, we were able to bring in cute features like filters and online games in the style of Google Hangouts (Zoom wasn’t a thing back then).
It was great working with my talented friend Diego Zaks, a super creative designer and artist. Surprisingly, he’s a fellow Israeli who’s also from Venezuela!
With Ritik guiding the strategy, we designed and presented a full product for Xfinity. Again, the product didn’t end up becoming a reality, but we were having fun envisioning the future of consumer products for Comcast.
What color is your baby’s poop?
Amy Spangler has built an incredible brand helping young families with breastfeeding and many of the other joys and challenges of having a newborn. Studio Rodrigo is proud to have been able to work with her and our partners at Shift Lab to relaunch babygooroo.com and support the redesign of the Baby Gooroo books.
I spent about 5 minutes helping sketch out some ideas for the nav structure for the new website. We thought up ideas on how to group the poop color articles, the different breast latches, and million ailments that parents might have questions about.
This is the project that taught me how talented Chonko is. A quirky-smart-sweet designer, Jon Chonko is amazing at both UX and visual design. As we split up the work and came back with concepts for Baby Gooroo, my wires looked like wires and his looked like grayscale finished visual design comps.
It was such a pleasure working with him. We remain good friends and now talk about our own babies’ poop.
Xfinity My Account
September 2014 — November 2019
A 5 year engagement (!)
Xfinity ‘My Account’ is the online self-service portal for all Xfinity customers where they can pay their bill, manage their devices, and troubleshoot their services.
Studio Rodrigo has had a long-lasting relationship with the design division at Comcast/Xfinity. This time, the studio was brought in to lead the complete re-architecture of the “My Account” website.
The big internal Rodrigo team was split in two: Visual and UX. Mike Klodginski and I worked on reorganizing the entire website and restructuring the navigation. The team of visual designers worked on multiple iterations of a new visual language strategy for the site. Ritik and Khoi led strategy and art direction.
We were always taking into consideration our audience. Our main demographic was older and less tech-savvy. Our users were coming into the site with specific tasks in mind: pay a bill, troubleshoot an issue, change settings, etc.
One of the tactics I brought in and fought for was letting the users find what they were looking for in multiple places. For example, if a user was looking for their WiFi password, it should be easy to find on the modem/router information page and on the internet service page. We wanted to link to important targets from any and all pages that made sense.
I also wanted to keep our users super focused on what task they were tackling, so I opted for a clean, full-screen flow for each task. This also worked well as it allowed us to link each flow from multiple sections of the site and easily come back to the starting point.
After about a year of design, iteration and development work, the new site launched. We were very happy with what we achieved.
I kept working on My Account for another 4 years, as you‘ll read more below.
Halloween at Studio Rodrigo
We take it seriously
Birthdays are fun at the studio, so are holidays. But Halloween is the best. The studio takes Halloween seriously and so, every year, without avail, we set up a photoshoot (thanks, Greg!). It’s now a tradition for my husband and I to go to the office on Halloween, take pictures, party, and then walk the streets of the city.
Our best costume to date was Rick and Morty — we created giant papier-mâché heads over the course of a month before Halloween.
Wow, we used to have free time pre-baby.
Serial Season 3
June — October 2018
I swear, they are not telling us anything
Studio Rodrigo has had a long relationship with This American Life. When the studio was asked to design a website for a small, new podcast named Serial in 2014, it wasn’t a big deal. Obviously, it later became a very big deal, as Serial season 1 became insanely popular across the US and the world.
We were happy to continue the relationship and design seasons 2 and 3 as well as a few other standalone podcasts produced by the same team, like S-Town and Nice White Parents.
I was very fortunate to be able to work on the design for Serial’s season 3!
The question on everyone’s mind was: What is this season about? And although we were designing it, we didn’t actually know. All we were told is that, unlike seasons 1 and 2, season 3 would not be about one storyline, but many.
Whitney Dangerfield, the digital and creative director for This American Life, had a great vision.
Each episode would be represented by a mural in a location relevant to the plot. Moth Studio worked with illustrators and animators in order to create 3D models of the scenes and added the illustrations on top.
Read more about the art of season 3.
We wanted the design of the website to highlight these beautiful animations. We had no idea what any of the content was about, but we trusted Whitney’s plan.
It was a pleasure to work alongside Ritik (strategy), Khoi Uong (creative director), Ben Averill, and Juliette Wang (visual/product design). Ben and I were also managing the Comcast work track. We were joined by Juliette, a brilliant design intern working with us that summer. Juliette was able to create beautiful and plentiful variations for comps super quickly, and was able to tell, from 4 feet away, that stuff was off by a pixel. We were lucky to have her on the team!
It was great to take a break from the corporate work for a bit and have fun with a much more dynamic and visual project! Serial season 3 was a huge success and we were happy with the website design.
We even got a shoutout in the podcast!
Pretend ‘Real’ Business
Great designers produce great products. Over the years, Khoi, Greg, Nick, Beckie, Connie, and the rest of the team have made us all happy by making some beautiful stuff.
More Xfinity My Account
Still going... September 2014 — November 2019
Now — embedded at Comcast!
Our multi-year, collaborative working relationship with Comcast continued as we helped overhaul and streamline their customer self-service tools across web and mobile platforms, enabling simpler experiences for customers and driving value for the business.
After the successful launch of the new My Account website, our team shifted gears and became embedded within the Comcast design division. For the majority of the time, I was filling in as the Design Director for My Account. I was leading a team of designers (on both the Rodrigo side and Comcast side) and worked alongside the Copy, Product, Dev, and QA teams at Comcast.
My team and I were in charge of all the design aspects of the My Account sprint work. The goal was to pull in the remaining features from the old site and add new ones that would improve the experience.
We received new feature requests from the product team (led by the wonderful Darcy) and quickly presented them with possible solutions for the problem.
Once copy and legal would approve, we would go into grooming with the dev team (led by Dan), where we would make sure our designs were viable, covering all error states and breakpoints. We then supported the dev process and QA process (led by Sunitha).
As the work picked up speed, I was able to affect and improve the agile sprint work process. I pushed to add a UX Review step that would be completed before functional QA started. This additional visual review was done by myself or my team and included a walkthrough of the devs’ work in all breakpoints and states.
As part of the UX review, I would annotate the devs’ screenshots with pink text and markings, then return them to the dev and product team to be fixed. The term “Pink Notes” was coined and is still in use and UX Review is now a required step in the QA process.
One of my favorite design challenges is explaining complex concepts. I got to do a lot of that during my time with Comcast.
The goal was to make the right visual aid that would help me or product leads explain the situation with voice-over. I made a lot of diagrams to explain complicated technical situations, requirements, and business prerequisites. Here are some examples:
Working at Comcast, I got to enjoy the best of both worlds: I got to experience a very focused work-track as an in-house designer and still enjoy the social perks of working at a small New York agency.
Our Rodrigo team would take the Acela once a week down to beautiful Philadelphia to have a super intense day of meetings, work sessions, and presentations. We’d chat and snack and Tracey would laugh at my jokes (thanks, Tracey!). I’d sit around with devs and catch up on TV talk (looking at you, Pete!). I got to work with and enjoy the company of many great designers and colleagues whom I’m still friends with today.
But, by far the best part was being able to mentor two young designers.
Ben Averill and Elle Oser are not so young anymore, but when we hired them at Rodrigo they were fresh out of school. I had the privilege to work closely with both, see them grow, and realize their potential over the years.
Ben is sharp and smart, and able to think through complex UX problems. Elle is a wonderful visual designer, super creative, and productive.
They are both bright and talented and just all-around good people. I’m honored to have been their mentor.
Comcast Design team: Sabina Fletcher ❤, Matt McGlynn, Kathleen Mulhearn, Stefan Legazpi, Henken Bean, Brit Pinesich, Mary Nugent, Ashley Moran, Stefan Backhaus, Steve Huber, Eugene Kernan, Lisa Hoppes, Heather Hollis
We wrapped up our engagement with My Account at the end of 2019, the longest in our long-term working relationship with the UX and product teams at Comcast.
Moving new product and design ideas through a big company is always a challenge, but the team at Comcast is driven and passionate about giving their users a better experience. We are proud to have helped them move the needle!
Since the My Account re-architecture launch in 2016, the number of visits to the site went up significantly and Xfinity’s NPS has gone up more than 18 points. Customers are now solving their problems online instead of calling and they are spending less time on the site. More users are paying online and signing up for Autopay, which translates to a remarkable monetary gain.
Personally, I love knowing that I made a difference for 30 million Comcast users by making the My Account experience better.
All the time!
So are we doing Karaoke?
Museums, walking tours, lunches, dinners, axe-throwing, rock climbing, day trips, full-on multi-day retreats to wonderful places, and lots and lots of karaoke. We genuinely always look forward to hanging out together.
Maternity Leave I
November 2019 — February 2020
We were ending our long engagement with Comcast as I went on maternity leave. This meant I got to wrap up all the loose ends and enjoy the new baby with the knowledge that everything was taken care of.
Rodrigo Moves to Gowanus!
The Venice of Brooklyn
February — March 2020
We should get a will
Coming back from my parental leave, I was able to re-join the team and help Harness Wealth expand their set of online tools. Ritik and Khoi led the project; Ben Averill, Ashley Newcomer, and I designed the experience.
We started digging into the world of financial advisory services and I was using my personal experience to bring Ben and Ashley up to speed on the relevant terms. We didn’t get very far, since COVID-19 started becoming a real issue in NYC.
After only a few weeks back in the office, we started to work from home. The team continued to work with Harness remotely and supported their successful launch. I ended up going on a second parental leave — as you’ll read more below.
February 2020 — ???
I have hand sanitizer
The pandemic has been hard. Let’s skip to what we did as a studio to keep morale up. We have morning coffee at 10am, where anyone can jump on and chat. We have Thursday zoom lunches, where we awkwardly make lunch and eat in front of our respective screens. We send photos of babies and cats and dogs that brighten our days. We also encourage said babies/cats/dogs to join some calls and be social. We have outdoor meet-ups that remind us what we all look like IRL. It’s not the same, we have yet to master remote dice games, but the spirit of the Studio lives on.
Maternity Leave II
April — July 2020
As a way to avoid the uncertainty of Corona and to help Studio Rodrigo financially, I took the extra maternity leave I had left. These were strange times, but we were lucky enough to be able to keep our jobs. As the tech industry adjusted and adapted, working from home became the new norm.
Nutshell Parental Leave Planner
July — December 2020
Could not have planned it better
Coming back from my second maternity leave, I was fortunate enough to be able to work on the best-timed project in my career: a digital product helping parents figure out their parental leave. Led by the awesome Sarah Stormberg, this project was growing at Discotech, TD Ameritrade’s internal incubator. We jumped in to help with phase 2: expanding the capabilities of the service and helping Sarah define the future of the product.
By the time I returned, Studio Rodrigo had been working remotely for months with much success. The team acclimated to Zooms and Google Meets, chatting all day on Slack and following each other on Figma.
The Nutshell project was underway, with Ritik leading the strategy, Christina No heading our internal project management, and Aldo Juraidini as lead designer. I came in to help lead the team and focus on UX and content design.
It was such a pleasure to work closely with Christina and Aldo. Aldo is an amazing visual designer and problem solver. Whenever I would hit a wall, we’d work through the solution together. He would create beautiful comps so quickly that we were able to move faster than our set timeline. Christina is always on top of her game and made our lives immensely easier. In addition to that, they are both just good, kind people, and chatting with them multiple times a day made the Corona isolation a bit easier. ❤
Our long-time friends, Shift Lab, were in charge of development, including a special perk: Mike Klodginski! Mike was a staple at Rodrigo and recently switched over to the realm of code, giving Shift Lab a designer’s eye on project management. It was fun working with him again, and he was often the voice of reason in the room.
Since this project was being incubated, it was a very structured process. Every 2 weeks we would test our latest designs through usertesting.com with the help of the lovely Hannah Brener from Bionic. We would then quickly adjust our designs and groom them with the dev team. Our sprints were fast and efficient. Good communication between the different teams was key to ironing out issues.
Nutshell had a great concept: the user would fill in a detailed questionnaire and Nutshell would tell them how long their parental leave could be and how much money they could get. The product was already active in NY state and was giving users real, helpful, personalized information about their parental leave.
The main value of the product was the “Planner”, where parents-to-be could see ahead of time what their maximized parental leave could be in the form of a timeline or calendar. The team was working on improving this feature when I joined.
The second biggest feature was a task list: a long list that was meant to help the users with everything they needed to do before they go on leave. I was able to jump in here and improve the experience.
We sat down with Sarah and asked her to explain to us the full process of submitting all the necessary paperwork for the many, many different types of leaves you could file for. Anyone who has done this knows how complex it is. Sarah is an amazing expert and was able to help me fully understand the process.
I always like to say that I need to become an expert so I can explain it to our users. It’s a cliché — but it’s true!
With this information, I was able to turn the long task list into a clear guide with 3 steps.
Figma Protoype: Completing a task
Next, we worked on streamlining the onboarding process. The goal was to lower the ask of the user by having fewer questions and by making them crystal clear.
Figma Protoype: Short Onboarding
We also wanted to revamp the marketing site but did not have any dev scope to spare, so we ended up customizing a simple Squarespace template. It was a joint effort with high rewards!
Nutshell ended up being the only project from the incubator to receive a green light once TD Ameritrade’s merger with Schwab was finalized.
It was a pleasure to help Nutshell and we’re eager to hear what Sarah has planned next!
Global Fund for Women
November 2020 — October 2021
Helping a good cause
Global Fund for Women is a non-profit organization, raising money in North America and Europe and funding local women’s groups operating in the rest of the world. They are a unique funder in the way they operate, giving funds directly to the women activists on the ground and letting them decide how to use the money while providing continued support and advice.
We were happy to help the Global Fund team tell their story, refresh their website, and explain their new approach focused on social justice movements.
Here is the website before the relaunch.
We wanted to help the team design and launch a new website that would be helpful to all of its users: the worldwide audience, donors, grant seekers, and internal Global Fund for Women team.
I led the UX research, strategy, and wireframing work. Our team included a senior visual designer: Ashley Newcomer, a junior product designer: Hee Je Wi, and a project manager and content writer: V Pan. We were later joined by a wonderful product design intern: Dariel Davis. Ritik oversaw the overall strategy and project.
We worked closely with the internal departments of Global Fund for Women to understand their different needs and requirements. We wanted all teams to be heard and have the website serve each well.
We also sent a survey out to our audience and had a great response.
Based on our audit, research, and stakeholder interviews, we were able to identify the main issues.
We focused on simplifying the site IA and sharpening the navigation terminology. The navigation at the time proved to be confusing, tools and information were hidden (ex. searching for grantees), and page content did not always match what users expected to see.
We created five main landing pages that would serve all of our different users.
In terms of strategy and content, we advised the team to create messaging that works on web and mobile: simplify long-form content to be more digestible, use simple language, and back up approach with examples.
One section that was challenging to tackle was the grantee section: the part of the site that explains how the grant application works. I met with the grants program team several times and learned from them what the detailed process was. We spoke about the pain points in their day-to-day work and listed all of the information that potential grantees often ask for. I then redesigned the application explanation page to predict our users’ needs. The goal was to answer all of their questions ahead of time so we could lower the quantity of email assistance needed.
The new site launched in July 2021 and the Global Fund for Women team was thrilled with the outcome.
Helping them refresh and relaunch their web presence was very fulfilling. Now they are able to share their story and the stories of the gender justice movements they help fund around the world.
Strategy and Design: November 2020 — January 2021
Dev support: January — May 2021
Brand guidelines and social strategy: June — December 2021
Rodrigo team: Ritik Dholakia, Ashley Newcomer, Hee Je Wi, Dariel Davis, V Pan.
Global Fund for Women team: Lori Adelman, Nicole Crossley, Krista Walton Potter, Kara Wuest, Camille Matson
Development: Wave Motion Digital
January — July 2021
Xfinity, now with even more purple!
We were invited once again to work with the wonderful Sabina Fletcher at Comcast. Sabina’s big design team was now in charge of another redesign of the Xfinity customer portal: this time, bringing the account management abilities of Xfinity Mobile into “My Account.” We jumped in and helped with whatever task was shorthanded.
We helped rethink the sign-in experience and reskinned the pay flow to match the current rebrand:
We helped organize the new billing experience that would include both Xfinity core services and Xfinity Mobile services.
I helped the team start to think about revamping their activity feeds and notifications:
It was great to work with the Comcast family again, even if it was a fairly short engagement. They continue to care about their users and try to push the envelope and give them a better self-service experience.
My team: Ashley Newcomer, Dariel Davis
Wider Rodrigo Xfinity team: Ritik Dholakia, Aldo Juraidini, Beckie Choe, Christina No, Connie Chu, Nick Emrich, Emogene Cataldo, Katie Shia, Sabine Ostinvil, Tamra Feldman
Xfinity team: Sabina Fletcher, Brit Pinesich, Mary Nugent, Henken Bean, Stefan Legazpi, Stephen Miller, Kathleen Mulhearn
August — October 2021
Work calls in Hebrew??
We helped the Israeli team behind Swimm refresh the marketing site for their product: a tool for continuous documentation for code. This was a quick and productive process. Building on top of their user testing and preliminary research, we first had to rethink the pacing and messaging for their home page and product page. We gave their visual language a fresh and clean look and added some attitude and personality.
We helped Swimm re-launch their web presence as they announced their $27M Series A in November.
Ritik led the strategy and copywriting, Greg gave us much-needed visual design guidance, and our new hire Soyeon Kwon supported all aspects of the effort. I was in charge of UX and, along with the help of the Swimm team, dove deep into the product. (Water puns were too easy with this project 🌊)
The biggest challenge was explaining what Swimm does in a language that resonates with their audience: devs. At every step of the way, I made sure to test the copy and design on my husband, who is a front-end developer. In-house user testing!
We decided to break apart the abilities of the product and turn them into mini animations. I designed the keyframes and Greg brought them to life:
This project was a special treat: for the first time in over a decade, I got to work in Hebrew again! Chen Mor Veiber (head of marketing), Tom Ahi Dror (one of the founders), Ohad Nathan (lead dev), Shu-Ju Lin (UX), and the rest of the Swimm team were a pleasure to work with!
2014 — Present
Studio Rodrigo made a template
I was once in the elevator going up to the studio on 22nd Street with one of our downstairs neighbors. We rarely interacted with them but they seemed nice (toy selling company? Not sure). This person says: “You guys are on the 4th floor right? Can I ask you something? Every day in the afternoon you guys yell a lot, why is that?”
We play dice almost every day towards the end of the day. We invite everyone including our neighboring devs Shift and Posse (now- Very Good Ventures). We yell when we play dice. We play loud music and root each other on as we try to win the game of threes.
I played every day from the day I joined and it took me 7 months to win for the first time. I’m not very lucky 🎲.
But gambling isn’t the point. Ritik and Khoi cultivated an amazing friendly culture at the studio. We are small on purpose and we are friends by design.
At the end of the day, 3 things are important to me about my job:
• What I’m working on
• How my job affects my time outside of work
• Who I’m working with
Studio Rodrigo has been good about the first one. I got to work on super interesting, complex, and challenging projects. I have been jealous at times that I didn’t get to work on all the other exciting projects that were happening around me in the studio.
As for the second point, Ritik and Khoi have always made work-life balance a priority. Times of stress were few and far between.
The people I worked with and next to were by far the winning point. The studio was and is filled with kind, smart, fun, and interesting designers and creatives. Some have come and gone and all still remain friends.
This is why I’ve stayed here for the better part of a decade.
It’s time to move forward.
I’ll take my experiences with me and work hard so my next team will be as supportive, creative, and fun as Rodrigo.