Katty: Welcome to the Artisan Podcast. Where we explore creativity, inspiration, and the determination it takes to be an Artisan. This podcast is for Artisans, by artisans. I’m your host, Katty Douraghy and I’m thrilled to introduce you to our next guest. My guest today is Joni Yamashiro, a Los Angeles based UI / UX designer who has been one of our freelancers for a number of years here at Artisan Creative.
I have worked closely with her for our internal collateral, our website, as well as quite a few marketing pieces, as well as several assignments with number of clients. And I just love working with her. There is nothing this girl can’t do. From illustrations to avatars to HTML to web graphics to collateral pieces you name it, she can do it. And she always does it with a smile. I’m thrilled to welcome her today to this episode and would love to hear how she got her start. Good morning!
Katty: I was thinking about a theme for our talk about this morning. And I thought of determination since certainly you and I have been determined to make this podcast happen.
Joni: Amen! It’s so true. We surely are.
Katty: For the listeners out there. This is Joni and I’s third attempt. We’ve had equipment issues…
Joni: Lots of technical difficulties.
Katty: Lots of challenges. But here we are.
Joni: Yes, here we are. Third time’s a charm, we are determined, we are here.
Katty: That’s right. So, so true. So, on that theme of determination. I wanted to talk about determination in your career path. What was that fire in the belly for you that kept you going?
Joni: I think as most creatives are. You have to use that creativity to sustain your life really. I feel like if I wasn’t doing something in the creative field then I couldn’t really survive and speak my truth and what’s truly who I am. So, I think that it really sparks the fire. And because it’s hard to sustain a full time gig as a creative, you really have to keep pushing on and like finding that lane that’s for you that you can monetize. And, you know, make a living off of. So, being determined to find that creative path, it definitely helped me find my way.
Katty: Yeah. When did you know though, when did you know that creativity, and being an artist was the way that you had to go?
Joni: Well, I always liked art, growing up, and you know, like to draw and all the stuff that kids do, but I never thought that I could make that into my profession. I think most creative people are scared to do that. Because it just doesn’t seem like you know, a path that’s, that most people do, especially, you know, like… I’m an Asian kid, I was raised by Asian parents, you know, that whole thing, like, you just, you don’t see a creative, as the traditional lawyer, doctor, engineer type path. So, I kind of have to, like, figure out what worked for me and like, how I could really use that — use my creativity to create a lifestyle.
Katty: Yeah, yeah, exactly. And not an easy lifestyle to get started in, right? It’s just knocking on lots of doors and going on a lot of interviews.
Joni: Right. Like on that same thing, on determination, you really have to just build your own stuff up. Like I didn’t study graphic design, you know? Like, I went to Berkeley, and I started off in Public Health and Art, but I always, like, knew within that path that I wanted to go into design, like at that point, I knew I wanted to go to industrial or product and kind of just because the field is so vast and so, you know, there’s so many different paths of design that you could you can follow through like you kind of really have to find, you know, that lane that type that sparks joy for you.
Katty: Exactly. So you are an Angeleno through and through born and raised. But you decided to move away for school, and then you came back, you couldn’t stay away?
Joni: Yeah, I know. Well I didn’t go that far. I just went up to Northern California. But I thought I wanted to, like spend my days up there in San Francisco, but I just I came back here, and I absolutely love it. And I’m never looking back.
Katty: It’s such an amazing city with so much business growth and opportunities.
Joni: Yeah, I do. That’s what I love about this city. It’s like, really, whatever you want to find, you could find it. And whatever you want to do, you could do it. Like, you could carve out your own space here and just keep grinding and like, find what you need to find, you know, but it just takes some work. Other places like New York, you know, you walk down the street and life just happens to you. But here, you really have to just, you just find your own path, which is great.
Katty: Yeah, exactly. And I know that you get a lot of inspiration from your surroundings and from nature and travel. How does the city of LA teach you? What does the city inspire you to do?
Joni: Well, I mean, kind of on that same path, where you really have to kind of dig a little bit. Like on the surface LA is really, you know, kind of intimidating. It’s huge. Like, it’s not an easy place for like, for newcomers. It’s not completely, you know, warm and fuzzy and inviting, like you kind of like you do have to do a little digging. But once you do find that, that thing that like really, you know, inspires you. Like it’s out there. You just have to do a little digging. And that’s why I love it here so much. Because, you know, there’s there’s so much individuality here. And that, inspires me too because so many people are able to wave that like, freak flag like you just do whatever it is you and that’s fine.
Katty: Yeah, yeah. Yeah. That’s so true. I think I have friends who visit who don’t live here. And I think they’re always inspired and in awe of how there’s just so many different characters and you know, passion, colors, and this city is just so full of everything, it makes it beautiful.
Joni: Well, that and people think that LA has no culture, which I think is hilarious because there’s so many different — I mean, I guess maybe it has an identity crisis because there are so many different cultures packed into like, one small space, but yeah. But I mean, there’s, there’s really like a lot out there. You just gotta find it.
Katty: But I think we’ve had a Renaissance. But I think what’s — it’s such an exciting time to be in LA right now. Yeah, you know, food and architecture and museums and I mean, there’s just so much to do on a daily basis.
Joni: It’s so much and new things are happening all the time. Like Downtown LA is changing every time I go out, like every week, that’s like a different place.
Katty: Yeah, yeah. So true.
Joni: I’m just really fan. I mean, like, I grew up here. So to see like, how many, you know, personalities it’s gone through.
Katty: I know you’re working full time currently as a UI UX designer at a startup. But you also do quite a bit of freelance work on the side. How do you go about marketing yourself? And what can you share with somebody just starting out in their path, about marketing themselves, and just kind of staying the course?
Joni: You know, when I was starting out, I did a lot of like, like a lot of cold calling, and just being like reaching out to people. And like I wanted to, at that point, when I first started I worked a lot with– I was really into health and wellness at that point. And so I wanted to work with health and wellness coaches. So I like went on all the forums and Facebook chats and whatever, and reached out to people to do their personal branding. So I mean, you know, the more that you just talk to strangers, I think will lead you down to Interesting paths, definitely. But also, you know, paths that lead you to the next place. So, just not afraid to like, make some noise, I think, is what helped me start out.
Katty: Well you’re definitely not the shy type.
Joni: Not anymore. But I think it’s because I did a lot of that a while ago.
Katty: So you are your own marketing engine?
Joni: Well, yeah, you kind of have to be when you know, you’re own business like you have to just get out there and talk to people and, you know, create a community and learn from other designers. And that always leads to other things like a lot, like in the beginning too a lot of the other designers that I would, you know, work with, like on a freelance gig or agency or whatever. Like, if there was something that they didn’t have time to do, they would pass on to me. So like, and then those clients will lead to other ones. So it’s kind of just one of those ripple effects. You know, that once you just get in there, like, it just kind of snowballs from there.
Katty: Yeah, yeah. Good. Do you also do a lot of social media for marketing your businesses or is it more traditional? Kind of just knocking on doors and who you know?
Joni: Yeah, it’s, for me, it’s just like a network kind of thing. Like, I don’t really, I don’t market on social media or anything for like, my personal stuff. Like, I kind of just use that, you know, just that those platforms just to keep our personal stuff. Yeah. But yeah, I mean…
Katty: Nice. All right, good. And I know that you have plenty of other avenues to unleash your creativity. I know cooking, and food is one way that you do it.
Joni: Yeah. So I mean, that’s, that stuff is so much fun. Like, you know, I love to bake. And like, there was a time where I had this Baking Company with a friend who was a florist and, you know, we did a bunch of events, and we would do gifts and stuff like that. And that was really fun. But since then, I’ve just kind of decided to keep those hobbies, as hobbies, you know?
Katty: Okay. So your single focus is on your creativity.
Joni: Yeah, but all the baking and all that stuff are like more so for the downtime when I need to like decompress from the day to day.
Katty: Yeah. The Zen of it versus the work of it.
Joni: Yeah, exactly. Yeah, exactly.
Katty: Part of your mindfulness practice, I guess.
Joni: Yeah, it really is. It really is like, it helps to just switch gears and do something different. But that’s still creative, you know, like, to still thrash that part of the brain, but in a different way. Well, you inspired me yesterday, after we did our talk that no one’s going to hear since we had audio issues. I went and cooked a brand new recipe that I have never done before.
Katty: I know you are a big traveler. So what is — what’s your favorite place that you’ve ever been to?
Joni: Oh, man, I mean, all they’re all so special in different ways. But I really did love my time in Nepal. Like, I feel like the, the people there were just so beautiful and welcoming. And the culture is just so just, you know, be just beautiful. I don’t even know how to explain it. But like I stayed at –, I had a homestay and they were just so welcoming to me, and very generous and sweet. And, you know, it’s very, you know, low income, but they have, they’re so wealthy and many different ways, which is really inspiring, because, you know, here we’re working on a totally different framework where we just want more and more and more, but like, they’re happy with what they have, you know, so it’s really, really inspiring to see a lifestyle, which it’s not what you having what you want, but wanting what you have, you know?
Katty: Yeah. Can you — did you bring some of that back with you? Can you stay in that mindfulness? In that present state?
Joni: I mean it’s hard, right? It’s hard when we’re doing what we do every day. Like, I mean, to have had that experience and to recall that, you know, and, like, kind of just be able to zoom out and be like, you know, there’s, there are so many ways to do life, right, like so many different avenues and, you know, lifestyles to choose, and the way that we work here, it’s completely different than the way that many other people work in the world. You know, so like to just be conscious of that and know that there are so many ways to do it. So like, you don’t have to be pushing all the time. Like it’s okay to slow down and just relax and like, clear some stuff off your plate. Instead of just like keep adding things on, you know?
Katty: Yeah. Yeah, I’m trying to practice just being present more and just gonna just take in my surroundings and not be on this auto, you know, this autopilot.
Joni: Yeah, I mean, but it’s hard, right? It’s, like, that’s funny, because that’s the thing that we have to work on to, like, practice to, to be chill. Right? You can’t just like, enjoy, you know, eating a sandwich. You have to eat the sandwich, and also think about, like the 20 other things you have to do that day, you know, like, you just, it’s, it’s kind of crazy. Because if your mind just wants to keep busy, but like, once you clear that out, and you know, whether it’s through meditation, or just being mindful whenever you’re doing whatever you’re doing. It’s like, the benefits are like is so immense, right?
Katty: Yeah, yeah. It’s so true. It’s funny you say that, because someone had mentioned mindfulness eating. Oh, and so where you would like take a bite and you go, “hmm that’s a tomato. Hmm what a great avocado”.
Joni: Yeah. Which sounds crazy, right? But it’s like, it really does change the whole experience. Like I did this whole silent meditation thing, a couple years ago in Thailand, and I got to do this whole, like, like eating prayer before we did it. Before we had lunch before we had breakfast, or we didn’t have breakfast, before we had dinner. And, and it totally changes the whole experience, because you’re really just there, you’re just there with the food in front of you, and nothing else matters, you know, which is so like– it’s crazy to like just whittle it down to that act. But like, how often you’re eating and you’re always watching something, or you’re, you know, you’re talking or thinking about a million other things? Like, it’s just it doesn’t have to be like that, you know, like hectic in your head like…
Katty: Yeah, yeah. Hectic in your head. That’s a great statement. You know, it may not look hectic around you, but if it’s hectic in your head, then it’s hectic.
Joni: And the thing is, like, nobody knows that, it’s like what’s going on in there. It’s just you. So like, really, you’re just creating, you’re creating all this noise and all this, like, you know, chaos?
Katty: Yeah, and what happens to you from a creative standpoint, when you have that chaos and that noise in your head?
Joni: Well, I feel like usually when that happens, and I feel like insane inside. Like, my work suffers, because I’m not in the work, right? Like, I’m like, in a million other places. Like, I’m not just focusing on, you know, whatever job at hand like– so it takes me longer to like, churn out or like, find, like the correct, or the best solution, you know? Because I’m thinking about a million other things, but when you’re present, and when you’re just in that project, or you know, in that—, trying to find that one solution to one problem, then you’re so much like –your productivity increases exponentially, right? Because you’re just there. Doing this one thing at this one time, which is so hard. To get there in the first place, right?
Katty: How do you bring that mindfulness practice to work?
Joni: Well, I mean, I have like a morning routine that includes meditation, and you know, moving my body, I like to exercise and get a little sweaty and stuff and that kind of just like, you know, carries out the kinks. And, you know, I like, like to dance party and whatever, like, break up the day with a little like, body movement. Like, I just feel like, sometimes you just gotta like, shake it out, you know. Like, once you get the crazies out, physically, mentally it also, permeates you know, getting that just access bullshit, like layer, just skimming the fat off and just being able to, like, be present and get into the work. Like, it really just helps like to shake it out sometimes. And be a little crazy, because like, once you’re crazy, like, and you get that out — because everyone’s nuts and you get off the crazy. And then you could just do the work, get the work done. Because you’re not afraid of being weird, because you just are. Everyone is and it’s fine. Like, the more that you are afraid of like what other people think about you like, the more I think your work suffers, because you’re like, oh, like the client only wants like this. And I know that, you know, like, this is too crazy or whatever. As a creative person, you want to test the boundaries, right? You want your work to reflect your creativity. So once you just push through that barrier of like, not caring what other — if other people are going to judge your work, then I think your work really will bloom, blossom after that.
Katty: Oh my gosh, that’s such words of wisdom especially I think for people who are just starting out in their path. You know kind of mistaking the feedback on the work with the feedback on themselves, right?
Joni: Yeah, totally. Yeah. Which is like, I mean, as a new designer, really just as a, as a younger person, you always take things really personally, especially about your work. And definitely as creatives like we do that, because it is such a personal process creating, you know, a design or anything like it’s, you know, it’s your baby, it’s your child. So like, when someone critiques that, you kind of immediately take that as a personal affront, but it’s really not. It’s just work, you know, like, and once you’re able to, like, you know, cut yourself off from the personal attack cause it’s like you once you’re able to disengage that and just listen to the person, whoever’s critiquing your work and listen objectively and hear them out. Like your work also will reflect that and it will grow as a designer.
Joni: But see, this is the thing too it’s like a process, right? And if it’s not perfect, it’s fine. Like we’ve talked about that a lot to you know, like, you can’t just release something because it’s not perfect or give it to you know, your client or who will give it to your boss, because you feel like it should be better. But like, it’s never going to be perfect, right? So just get it out there. And like once you just start going and you lose that fear, like the better your work will be because you’re just like, “I need like — I’m going to get out there. I want the feedback. Like I want to get better, like, just kind of get the momentum going.” Right.
Katty: So from your design kind of your iteration process, maybe you could talk a little bit about that, like, at what point do you feel that it’s good enough that I can show it and get some feedback?
Joni: Well, as a perfectionist, I like always never feel like it’s good enough. But you have to just forget that right?
Katty: You work through it.
Joni: Yeah you work through it. Yeah, you’re like you hear that voice, saying that it should be better. And then you’re like, you know what, it’s fine. I’m going to send it off and see what they say, because they will tell me how to make it better. You know, like, you just have to like, you see how your mind will go to that place to make you stop? And then you’re like, Well, why, why do I feel like I should stop? Like, should I stop? Like, no, it’s just me telling myself that it’s not good enough. So you just, I just have to power through it usually when that voice turns on, because I know it’s just a voice, right? So, I mean, sometimes, you know, you just have to like close your laptop, and just come back into the next day. When you’re feeling frustrated. You feel like you’ve you’ve tried all the iterations that you possibly could and you move on.
Katty: You dance all the dance moves that you can.
Joni: You dance all the dance moves you can. Always more dance moves. Yeah, yeah. You know, in the morning, you come back and you see what you’ve done. And you’re like, Okay, you know, it’s always, it’s never as bad as it was before. You know what I mean? Like, you’re, I mean, at least for me, I’m like, I’m always my hardest critic. So I look at it in the morning and I’m like, “Well, it’s not bad. Like, let’s see what they say”. You know, so you kind of just have to listen to yourself with caution.
Katty: Yeah, that’s good. Listen to yourself with caution. And know yourself, right? I think that’s part of it, as well as if you’re feeling solid with yourself at the core. Yeah, you can trust yourself.
Joni: For sure. Yeah, definitely. Definitely. And but know also that, like, you know, you’ve been hired for a reason, like you are totally capable, like, you know, like, a lot of the times, you know, at least in the field that I’m in like doing a lot of UI / UX stuff. Like there’s not a right answer for everything. There’s, there’s like a better answer. And there’s a like, you know, a lesser answer, but that there– there’s a lot of like, a million ways to do the same thing. You know, you could go on and on and on, like deciding where to put a button. But it doesn’t mean like, one is like, there’s a right answer. Right? Like, you could always search for the right answer. But like, you have to stop at some point. Because there’s not always like a right answer. And a lot of the things that we do as designers. It’s subjective, right? And it’s all about perspective and, you know, like, just taste levels, where people like, what, what people prefer. So, yeah, that’s the thing like knowing that there’s never a right answer to what we do, which is frustrating, but also great, because we’re able to like, mold that ourselves, right?
Katty: Yeah, and it’s limitless, right?
Joni: Yeah, yeah. That part.
Katty: And I think the space that you’re in, you know, it’s a new space. Right? We’re constantly innovating. We’re constantly pushing the boundaries and it may not be an answer, because it hasn’t been done before. So you’re in that process of discovering it.Yeah, exactly.
Joni: Yeah. Which is awesome. It’s, it’s fun to be like, that’s why I love this field, because it’s always changing, and there’s always going to be something new and a new technology to figure out and a new program to, you know, try and it’s just, it’s like constantly room–there’s constantly room for growth, right? Which, which is exciting, and awesome.
Katty: Would you share a little bit about the UI / UX space, just in case, we have listeners who are not too familiar with it?
Joni: Yeah, of course. So, I work at a startup that we have an app and also like an admin tool, and like a client dashboard. So there’s a lot of like backend designs to do for in terms of like, you know, how to upload images and, you know, where we have — so I work with drones and drone imagery and data. And so pilots, drone pilots will use our app to fly and collect the imagery and data. So there’s a lot of, you know, integrations with, like drone technology and the software capable of capturing that imagery and data. So there’s a lot of, you know, technological, like choices to make and integration to understand and platforms to know, which is awesome. So like, it’s all about creating something that’s usable for the user, for drone pilots, I guess, in our case. So getting into the mind of those people and people that are using our platform, and figuring out how they’re going to best, you know, what’s the best way to enhance that user experience? Yeah. It’s fun.
Katty: I remember you saying the other when we were talking. You were saying the other day, just in terms of working with product, you said, you know, every time you pick up your phone, you realize that there’s a person behind that. That someone did that, someone put those buttons there….
Joni: Yeah, there’s a designer behind everything, right. There’s a designer behind the computer that you made there’s a designer behind the website that you use, there’s you know — designers create this landscape and the way that we experience the world and like, it’s a really powerful experience. It’s a really powerful platform to be on, you know, like, when we kind of take it for granted, you know, yeah, like, it’s kind of like a weird, creating this experience for someone else to use. And to not to take that for granted, you know?