Melding Design and Performance: An Interview With Yesenia Perez-Cruz

Yesenia Perez-Cruz is a designer who has worked on projects for clients like MTV, Zappos, and Iron Chef Jose Garces; and a speaker who has brought her insights to stages around the world. We got a few minutes of her time to talk about what makes clients challenging, her work at Intuitive Company, and the new talk about balancing design with performance she’ll be presenting at An Event Apart Atlanta.

How and where did you get your start in design, web or otherwise?

I made a last-minute decision to major in graphic design in college. I had already applied to colleges as an English major, but I’d been taking a graphic design class at my high school and I really felt like that’s what I wanted to be doing. So I majored in Graphic Design at Drexel University in Philadelphia. A big part of the Drexel curriculum is a six-month co-op during your junior year. I spent my co-op working at a digital firm in the city where I was exposed to user-centered design and learned what wireframes were—I thought they’d be actual metal sculptures before that! By my senior year, I knew I wanted to work in the web. I was fortunate enough to be hired at Happy Cog right after graduation and was there for five years.

You’ve had some pretty fantastic clients. Which the most challenging?

I wouldn’t say that a particular client has been the most challenging, but I’ve definitely found that there are certain situations that make some projects more difficult than others. If a client is undergoing a branding redesign at the same time as the website redesign, I know there are going to be challenging times ahead. If the branding work is delayed, it’ll delay the web work. Then there’s the added hurdle of figuring out how to translate the new brand online.

What are you doing for Intuitive, and what does Intuitive do?

Intuitive Company is a design firm that designs and builds web applications, mobile apps, responsive websites, and desktop software. The majority of the work we do contains complex user interactions, whether it’s a purchasing flow or an enrollment process or rethinking the voting process. There’s also a full research team that makes sure what we’re building will work for users. I’m currently working on a mix of content-heavy sites and applications.

You have a talk in Atlanta called “Design Decisions Through the Lens of Performance.” What will attendees take away from it?

I started talking about performance because I’d seen a lot of talks and articles about performance from a technical perspective. From my experience, I’ve found that we really need to think about performance from the beginning of a project and throughout the entire design process. One of the challenges I’ve found is that sometimes the elements that make our sites beautiful and on-brand, like images and fonts, also make our sites heavier and slower. My talk is going to cover how I design while keeping performance in mind. I’ll show how I set a performance budget, and how I use it to set constraints in my designs and frame conversations with clients.

What excites you most these days?

I’m excited about the range of projects I’m currently working on. Working on applications is fairly new to me, so I’m looking forward to diving in and learning more. I’m also really excited about the work that the Responsive Issues Community Group is doing around Element Queries. I’ll be watching the updates closely!

Yesenia Perez-Cruz will present “Design Decisions Through the Lens of Performance” at An Event Apart Atlanta 2015, February 17–19, along with eleven other brilliant speakers. Don’t miss your chance to learn from the best—register today!