Womenize! – Inspiring Stories is our weekly series featuring inspirational women from games and tech. For this edition we talked to Irena Pereira, UX Director at UX is Fine! – Irena explains the importance of brand identities, and how to get started and stay challenged within the UI/UX career path. Read more in this interview:
Hi Irena! You’ve created brand identities for the US Air Force and various games and tech companies. How would you describe the differences and similarities between these clients?

Brand identities are an undervalued User Experience tool. I often leverage branding concepts when working with game teams and clients. User Experience is defined by a user’s relationship with a product or service – and a brand is a way to project an intentional personality for users to relate to.

Brand goes further than just colors and fonts and a logo. Brand encompasses look, and also what the product makes their users feel. It’s expressed through every aspect of a video game, a product, or an organization.

At Kessel Run, we were in a unique position of being a (sanctioned) “rogue” group within the Department of Defense – we were doing things differently, and faster, than anyone had ever dared try before. Our Millenium Falcon logo spoke to our rebellious nature and our drive to always build the “right thing” regardless of precedent. This personality allowed us to capture the hearts and minds of fellow military, the outside world, and even members of Congress. We allowed that brand to come through in our social media posts, our printed materials, our website – and eventually in the apps themselves. Our sense of humor carried through every layer of the experience at Kessel Run.

For games, doubling down on a defined brand creates a deeper relationship with players and gives them information to become fans. When a brand is specific and willing to differentiate itself, it can create a fandom rather than just fans. These games resonate with players more strongly, and can help players connect with lore. For 38 Studios, the Copernicus brand was based around ancient texts and historical style drawings, to evoke Amalur’s connection to our actual history (Amalur was actually our Earth set thousands of years in a post-apocalyptic magical future). This brand approach became an art style for our cinematics, trailers, and in game assets. 

Simply put, brand allows for greater immersion and connection to whatever it is that is being branded – whether it’s a company and connectings it mission or a game and connecting its lore or gameplay. Brand has the ability to vision set in a far more resonant form. 

After more than 20 years in the industry, does your new role with UX is Fine! still provide new challenges for your personal growth?

UX is Fine! has been a phenomenal partnership. The founders and I have connections back to our 38 Studios days, and we’ve always wanted to work together. These guys have been so gracious in bringing me into their fold and asking me for advice on how to set up their business to scale, and to work to evangelize UX within game dev, while also helping raise up the next generation of UX and UI professionals in the industry. It’s a huge responsibility. 

The best part about it so far has been learning how I can reframe managing a team of UX designers the way that I wish teams had been run – essentially I’ve been UX’ing how we UX, and how we work. I’m also getting to take some of my UX tools like journey maps and flows and apply them to how we manage clients as an agency, or how we level up our internal talent. I’ve done this piecemeal in other organizations as side efforts, and this is the first time this has been a primary focus. It’s stretching me and I love it. 🙂 

Is there any advice you’d like to share with people who want to start a career in the UI/UX area?

The best way to kick off a career in UI/UX in games is to play a lot of games and ask yourself why the designers made the decisions that they made. You are still a game designer, but from a design perspective. Getting deep under the hood with the game design – all aspects – really changes how we think about games and why we enjoy them.

All the while learning the craft of UX. General Assembly has a phenomenal remote program. There are many other educational organizations cropping up, as well. Also, I recommend honing the craft skills: typography, graphic design, vector drawing, audio production, and digital painting – these skills go a long way to complement your career. I came into UI/UX through engineering (which was great for developing my problem solving skills) but still developed these creative skills so I could keep up with the amazing artists around me. This multi-pronged approach allowed me to speak with everyone on a dev team on a more technical level – which often leads to faster, more collaborative problem solving. 

UI/UX is empathy in design. Our objective is making experiences more impactful and valuable – whatever that looks like. There’s so much more to UX, this merely scratches the surface. But it’s a great start. 🙂

Thank you for your time, Irena!

Irena’s links: TwitterLinkedInPortfolio

Womenize! – Inspiring Stories Feature by Sophie Brügmann