Student Spotlight | Rafael Vázquez | UX Design

By Trilby Goouch July 23, 2015
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Want to learn more about User Experience Design? Find out how one student, Rafael, made the leap to set himself apart.

What educational/career path brought you to where you are today?

I started off as a robotics engineer back in my native Mexico. I’ve always like analyzing systems and seeing how wildly different elements work together to achieve a single result. Very engineer-y, I know. The problem was though that as much as we learned how to bring electronics, mechanics, control and programming together, the human element (the ‘user’ as the UX course has taught me to call them) was always missing. Robots are not worth anything if they aren’t doing something for someone….and I believed that understanding that someone was very important.

This led me to video games. I know it sounds like quite the jump, but in the end games are also systems made out of wildly different elements that work together to achieve a single result….in this case mostly entertainment. I worked with one of Mexico’s largest (at the time) gaming companies called Xibalba Studios as a game designer. In this role not only was I describing the game world in mathematical terms, but also started to learn and understand how it affects the player psyche, and how we create an experience around that.

What made you decide to take UX Design with BrainStation?

Feeling I needed a bit more formal training (books and wikipedia articles can only give so much knowledge) I made my way to Vancouver to get a Master’s degree in Digital Media at the Center for Digital Media. This was an amazing experience, with tons of interesting projects that definitely placed me outside my comfort zone ranging from gamified medical applications for dementia care to research into the affordances given by hand recognition interfaces. I learned a lot and found out that game design principles apply to a variety of fields. In characteristically obsessive fashion, I wanted to learn more about each of these fields, and have a foot in each one.

Currently I’m a interactive technology consultant which allows me to do just that. I’ve worked with educational, medical, cultural, entertainment and technology companies assisting them in idea validation, prototyping and iteration and development pipeline improvement. In other words, I help them make informed decisions to give their clients the best experience possible.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I love the variety of it; every day its a new challenge with a different project. It can also be a bit stressful to be honest, but it’s worth it. Every client has different needs and exist in a different context, meaning that the same solution will not apply. It forces you to be adaptable and to come up with tailor-made solutions instead of just looking them up in a cookbook. That’s amazingly fun!

Again there is only so much you can learn from wikipedia and the internet, so I realized I needed a bit more formal training in UX. The field has always interested me a lot; I think of it as game design’s more serious cousin. Looking online, I found BrainStation and saw they had a very interesting concept for teaching. My plan joining the course was to steal everything I could from UX and transform it to the different fields I work in.

What is your favourite hidden gem in Vancouver?

Phom Phen.  Its a cambodian restaurant in Georgia st in old chinatown. It is AMAZINGLY good, and although quite hidden, it is always full. You will have to wait a good while to get in, but that is definitely worth it. If you ever do go, you must try their fried chicken and their beef carpaccio. They are beyond belief!

Where can we find you on a sunny weekend?

I try to keep my weekends sacred and work-free (with various levels of success). My perfect nice sunny Vancouver summer would go like this: sleep in, have a late brunch (egg’s Benedict in case you’re wondering), catch up on interesting web articles, lunch (Phom Phen of course), spend some time at the beach reading a book, and then go back home to play some video games before dinner (watch a movie afterwards).

Think you’d like to take User Experience Design? Check out our course page for upcoming dates in your city.