Many students dream of working for one of the world’s top social networking companies in one of the country’s most culturally-rich cities.
Brittany Forks felt the same way when she applied to work at Twitter in San Francisco, California. But first, she had to pay her dues.
“I really wanted to move to San Francisco, but I was too scared at first,” the graphic design graduate said, explaining her transitional move from her native Starkville to Austin, Texas.
In Texas, she worked for a small start-up company while she adjusted to life in a bigger city and mustered the courage to relocate to the even larger San Francisco.
Once there, she spent nearly two years at various companies honing her design, marketing and branding skills until she received a life-changing call.
“I got a call from Twitter about my portfolio,” Forks said. “They liked that I had lots of ad and e-commerce experience, and they asked me if I would like to come for an interview. I said, ‘Yes! Yes! Yes!’”
For nearly four years, she has been happily employed at the popular social media company. As a product designer for the company’s revenue team, her primary responsibility involves designing advertisements.
“Since Twitter has more than 4,000 employees, all of the designers are split up into different teams. You work on one team for a while, and then you switch around and work on a different team,” Forks said. “We want Twitter to be accessible for everyone, and we want the service to be easy to use on every platform. There’s a lot of work that goes into making that happen.”
The process begins when product managers advise Forks and the other product designers on what they want users to be able to do. Three of this year’s projects, for example, have included the ability to buy products on Twitter, create collections on Twitter and see more information about a product being advertised.
“After the product managers, designers and engineers discuss and decide on a plan, the other designers and I go into Photoshop and make the mocks, which are files that show exactly what the website or app will look like,” Forks explained.
Forks said the teams must meet frequently to consider many factors in the design process to ensure accessibility and consistency.
“We need to make sure everything we do looks like and fits in with the rest of Twitter, so we design for Web, iOS and Android platforms all at the same time,” Forks explained.
After creating mock-ups, designers are tasked with making interactive prototypes.
“The prototypes we design are not always full-featured, but you can do things like scroll through a timeline or tap a button,” Forks said. “We make a really elementary version of what we’re trying to build, so we can explain to the product managers and engineers what we’re trying to achieve with the design.”
Once they’ve received feedback on the prototypes, Forks and her colleagues continue creating different versions until they come across one that everyone likes. The engineers then take the selected prototype and build it. It then goes through multiple forms of testing before being released to the public.
“We typically have to launch one tiny part and then another and another, until over time, the grand vision appears,” Forks explained.
For those who aspire to work for companies like Twitter, Forks said the ability to network with others and effectively discuss one’s work are crucial skills to possess.
“Now, more than ever, there are so many animations and little effects that go into apps. I have to know how to use all of my tools and explain my work to others who aren’t designers,” she said. “You have to really care about your work and put your all into it, so you need to make sure you’re ready for that commitment.”
Story by Sasha Steinberg