Digital by Design

Great digital design is not only about creating a unique world, but helping users navigate that world.

The Being Group’s Digital Designer, Yevgeniya Podstreshna (AKA Gen), shares her experience as an expat Ukrainian in Australia and how she came to love digital design.

A world of experiences

I love all elements of design, but I really love digital design — creating anything for mobile and web that’s displayed on a screen. It’s great working with graphic design in packaging or a printed piece of collateral, because you can feel it and hold it in your hand, but with purely digital design, you’re creating a whole experience for people.

There’s a whole lot more to it. How does it your work look when it’s automatically resized? Is it easy to understand? Does it create an on-brand, positive user experience?

Digital design allows you to create a whole world for people to immerse themselves in, while telling a story in the process. How a user navigates through a website — particularly an e-commerce site — is down to the user experience (UX) design, so it’s important both aesthetically and commercially.

Designer, by design

I knew very early on I wanted to be a designer. My father Vitaly is a computer programmer, so I had easy access to a lot of knowledge. When I was about 11, dad got Photoshop and a huge book for me on how to use it. Then he gave me another huge book — this time on HTML. He paid me to read them and then tested me on my knowledge. It was a great way to start. I wasn’t really designing, but I was using Photoshop on my personal photos and projects and knew there was a path forward for me in the field.

During my last year studying Visual Arts and Design at university, I worked at a business in the financial sector. I had a really great mentor there and she showed me how marketing campaigns worked. I did a lot of print, EDM and research work and learned a lot.

Then I spent three years at creative and digital agency, where I honed my skills in UX and user interface (UI). The agency had a guaranteed turnaround of 24 hours on most things. It was like running on fire. That job certainly helped me with design speed!

After that, I spent a year at a not-for-profit, which was all about giving patients a voice in the health system. It was amazing and helped people, but I found it very heavy. You’d make connections with people who were battling serious health issues. It was a great cause, but I found it difficult to enjoy work. I knew I had to go, for my own mental health.

When I saw a digital design role advertised at The Being Group, I stalked our Creative Director, Bas, and really liked him and the vibe here. It’s been my professional home ever since.

A better life

I am Ukrainian. The war in Ukraine broke out soon after I started at The Being Group. It was a really difficult time personally and I’m grateful for how understanding everyone was when I was feeling emotional and sad for my country. I still have a lot of family there, close to the border with Russia.

On the day of their wedding, my dad told my mum that he wanted to move to Australia. It was always in his mind; he’s very goal-orientated. So, after I was born, we started learning English and began the process of emigrating to Australia for a better life than we had in Ukraine. It took seven years for all the paperwork and checks to secure a visa. My father was determined to do everything by the book.

I was 13 when we left my home town, Kharkiv, in 2010. We took a train to Moscow, flew to Abu Dhabi, then Sydney, with our whole lives in our bags. The trip took nearly 40 hours and I’ll never forget it. We were moving to the other side of the world, somewhere I’d never been.

While most Ukrainians consider the war to have actually started in 2014, when Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula, the scale of what happened in 2022 was a huge shock. We thought any attack would only take place on the eastern border with Russia. A lot of us are still in disbelief.

My grandfather passed away recently and there was no way to go back for his funeral. I still have aunts and cousins there. Every time the phone goes off, you know it might be terrible news — and that’s not an easy way to live.

While I love Australia and the life it’s given us, being away from home at this time has been surreal. You just feel so guilty, yet lucky at the same time. As time goes by, you get desensitised, but it’s always still there in the back of your mind. It’s just not as painful.

Focusing on the future

During that time, I really needed something secure to hold on to. For me, that was my family here, my fiancé Ben and work. There was so much understanding and care. I felt very supported, even when I was in tears in the office kitchen on a workday afternoon. That was special to me.

While my professional ambition is not to become Creative Director — Bas can stay — I would like to grow the UX and UI part of the business and hopefully take a leadership role in that.

I think it’s going to be a growth area and my background has positioned me perfectly to be part of it. There’s a sweet spot between design and UX to be explored as the market matures.

If Gen wasn’t a Digital Designer with The Being Group, she’d be a full-time stay-at-home cat mum. (Her words, not ours.)

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