Denise Francis - A journey from architecture to product design


Denise Francis shared so much great advice that it is difficult only to highlight a few pieces. Read the full blog and listen to the full episode to gain some of her great wisdom!

🌅 Expand your horizons through travel and the creative outlets that bring you joy. Both of these outlets will allow you to view the world differently and positively impact your design career.

Invest time in finding your superpower and then apply it to everything that you do! Doing this and becoming a solid storyteller will allow you to take your work to a new level.

🎨 Create your own mentorship experience by finding your design tribe and sharing information and experiences. By building your network, you increase opportunities and strengthen your design career!

A journey from architecture to product design

In episode 9 of The Product Design Podcast, Seth Coelen interviews Denise Francis, a product designer who is currently working for a large CRM company in the Atlanta area. During our interview with Denise, she shares how an early interest in fine art led to an educational path towards architecture and then how she landed in product design!

She also provides valuable advice to help strengthen your design career, when it is applied to your life!


Denise's road from fine art to architecture, to design

From an early age, Denise knew that she was interested in following a career path in fine art. Her high school guidance counselor urged her to find a career path that would provide more financial stability and suggested architecture as an option. Denise dove right into an architecture camp experience which led her to focus her further education on becoming an architect.

While she was still in school, she had started working in Atlanta as an architect. She soon realized a career in architecture was not as creative as she had anticipated.

"There's always going to be peaks and valleys, and anytime you feel yourself in a low position, all that means is that something really, really, really awesome is right around the corner."

Denise decided to create a jewelry business to fuel her creative needs. As she was launching her new side hustle, she needed a website and decided to build it herself. She learned some basic HTML to get started and uncovered her interest in design.

The detour that changed her course in design

During this time, she decided to make a move that changed the direction of her career. She went to a concert and convinced a security guard to give a piece of her jewelry to the famous singer, songwriter, and Grammy Award Winner, India Arie. Shortly after, India Arie contacted Denise and asked her to develop a website. This website turned into an extended position in the music industry, touring with India Arie, where Denise gained precious life and career experience!

After her time in design school, she decided to go to a user experience Bootcamp. She quickly recognized her education had provided her with the beauty and the functional foundations of design. She was excited to find that this Bootcamp was allowing her to focus on the strategy part of the design. She quickly fell in love with the idea that she could create something beautiful that helped people and impacted their lives during their day.

She has had an incredibly successful career in product design ever since and has gained valuable perspective on finding what makes you stand out and leveraging it to strengthen your design career. This article focuses on all of the incredible life and career advice she shared with us.

How expanding your horizons can lead to innovative and inspired ideas

Sometimes you hear life advice that leaves an impact. Denise gave us three things she would tell her younger self. You will see how Denise uses life experiences to strengthen her design career!

💗 "Everything you are about to experience is going to be worth it, even if it feels really bad at the time."

🎨 "Make sure you are always creating art on the side because that's what makes you feel good, that's what keeps you going, that's what brings about new ideas and keeps your mind fresh."

🧳 "Travel as much as you can, and don't be afraid to travel alone. Those are the experiences that enrich not only your eye for seeing things that you don't see every day but for engaging with people that you probably never would if you didn't go anywhere."

Top 2 areas to focus on as you navigate a career in product design

Denise believes these are the two things that can take your work to a whole new level if you understand them and also apply them to your daily work!

🎭 Learn how to tell stories.

This skill will help you communicate in a more engaging way for your audience, which leads to better understanding.

🔥 Spend some time figuring out what your superpower is and then apply it to everything that you do.

Denise's ability to draw has given her the gift of bringing whimsy into the tech world!

"Take your superpower and lean into it. Apply it to everything that you do."

How to create your own mentorship experience

When Denise began her transition into UX and product design, she did not have someone who filled the mentor role to help her along her way. Instead, she used the following approach to create her own mentorship experience!

💡 Create your own mentorship experience by finding your design tribe. Those connections will help you learn more as you grow in your career.

📢 Lean into other relationship-building opportunities like sponsorship and design peers or industry friends. Share valuable information while building your network!

🎯 Take the pressure out of the Mentorship conversation. Use small pockets of interaction that help to build your skill set, relationships, and empathy.

👏 These relationships may be long-lasting, or they may be one small chat, but they will help you learn and grow without a formal Mentor/Mentee relationship!

Thank you so much, Denise!

It was such a pleasure to chat with Denise on this episode. She shared such valuable advice for both your career and your life. Listen to the complete episode, which includes an in-depth discussion about Denise's career path and how she approaches her current role in CRM at The Product Design Podcast.

Don't forget to follow Denise and watch as she inspires others to follow the path that calls to them and uses her superpower to influence the product design industry. You can find her on Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn!

Where to find Denise Francis

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