Interview with Gaëtan Ark, senior UX/UI Designer at Kosmos and lecturer at the school on web standards.
What’s your background?
I come from a literary background - I did a baccalaureate combining philosophy and visual arts.
I was interested in design and all its disciplines (particularly one that would help me find a job), so I headed for Pivaut school in Nantes (L’École de design didn’t exist at the time) and followed a very traditional graphic design course. We practiced drawing, hyper-realistic illustration and typography (we were still drawing Futura or Garamond in Indian ink) but above all we learnt how to observe the world we live in, to understand shapes and see colors that we’d never imagined existed.
In my final year, I suggested to my somewhat overcautious school that I present the first thesis incorporating digital technology as a central element with a catalog of typefaces in the form of a "multimedia” application, which is what led me to digital tools at a time when agencies were still presenting rough sketches of their models to clients.
Are you more UX or UI?
Both, obviously! We’ve all seen an image on social networks which tries to demonstrate that they are two different paths, but in reality, UI and the feeling it procures is simply part of the user experience.
What is the activity of Kosmos, the company you work for, and what is your role?
Kosmos is a software editor, a team of experts in the field of education which offers a wide range of tools (digital workspaces) ranging from primary, secondary and high schools, to universities and graduate schools.
At Kosmos, I bring my design culture and understanding of the user – essential tools in the effort to democratize the use of digital technology in education.
Why do you come back to teach year after year at L’École de design?
Having been a student in a school of applied arts, after a few years’ experience I saw the limits and shortcomings of what I had been taught, and that’s what I try to give to my students
As a professional, what do you get out of teaching at L’École de design?
Expanding my expertise, questioning certain kinds of knowledge or practices which need to be passed on and explained to students who, for the most part, are just starting. I teach a technical field at the school which also means ensuring access to knowledge that is sometimes complex from the designer’s viewpoint. Most importantly, teaching has taught me to constantly question myself and my methods.
If you had to define web design in 3 lines?
Web design is a field where knowledge is never set in stone. It’s a very fast-moving and dynamic world where you learn something new every day. That’s why I still enjoy it today.
Could you tell us a few sites you particularly admire and why?
1. alistapart.com, run by Jeffrey Zeldman, a renowned interaction designer, this site showed me what is great about the internet: curiosity and knowledge. Zeldman now writes for authors (most of whom are web-based) to introduce us to their working methods or the routes they take to resolve a design question.
2. Wikipedia (knowledge at the lowest price): proof that the internet can be a beautiful thing through the existence of communities wishing to share their knowledge. We should all take the time to read (or create) a page on Wikipedia.
3. Lynn Fisher’s homepage: lynnandtonic.com a very recent discovery in which Lynn Fisher demonstrates her understanding of responsive design. (Resize your window and you’ll see what I mean).
How do you keep abreast of the latest trends in web design?
I look at the work my students are doing! Otherwise social networks do a good job as long as you follow the right people ☺
What advice do you give students to help them prepare for the Worldskills Competition?
“At my signal, unleash hell…” (Gladiator, the film)