Product Designer Slava Karablikov Recalls the Beginnings of Award-Winning 415Agency
Slava Karablikov didn’t set out to become an in-demand product designer. He followed his interests, aiming to be a part of the whole picture of customers’ businesses, ultimately as a product designer before the term began to be used in the industry.
“Curiosity made me a product designer. It still helps me to progress in my profession,” he said.
Karablikov has had a formidable career that many can only aspire to. He has been pivotal to the success of many award-winning companies, such as InData Labs, RadiumOne and Captiv8, where he is currently the Director of Design. Working with these companies, he plays a crucial role in marketing of major brands, including Verizon, Nissan, and Twitter. Despite not initially knowing he was on this path when he began his career, he is doing what he loves and making a name for himself in the industry.
His first time with the title of Product Designer was while working with 415Agency, a full-service digital design firm from San Francisco, CA. Agency has collaborated with over 70 companies, including DuPont Tate & Lyle Bio Products, Polaroid, Sony, Aspire Lifestyles, and more, to solve product design challenges, create deep connections and evoke meaningful emotions.
“When I decided to join the 415Agency, mobile applications were getting trendy. I had gained experience in web design and was looking for a way of practicing mobile design. There were just a few studios that were working in this domain. I reviewed them and found the projects of 415Agency most interesting for me,” said Karablikov.
Karablikov recalls the atmosphere in the studio as magnificent. He worked together with a tight team of strong designers and describes it as creative and collaborative madness. He would collaborate directly with Product Management, Engineering, and other stakeholders to define experience strategies. These strategies made a difference to the overall product with intuitive, cohesive, and effective results, and ensured that the product logically flowed from one step to the next while performing regular testing to ensure all assumptions were validated with evidence. He also created lean deliverables and documentation, including project briefs, research plans and synthesis, personas, user scenarios, flows, IA, sitemaps, wireframes, prototypes, etc., and of course, prototyped design ideas for team communication and early usability testing.
“Usually, everything starts with input from a customer. After brainstorming, we created a mood board and defined creative directions. From there, I could start working with informational architecture, user flows and journeys, which I agreed on later with customers. When it was done, I worked on a high-fidelity prototype and prepared visual artifacts for passing into development,” he described.
During his time at 415Agency, Karablikov worked with many key customers, such as Veritamo, iCracked, and DeliTreat. He assisted other designers with building informational architecture and customer journey maps, using his superior user-centered design skills, one of his many assets that made him vital to the company’s success. He also would participate in presales, where he could chat with possible customers and answer their questions, which set 415Agency apart and greatly contributed to their rapid growth.
“I am happy to have had a chance to work with such talented designers. It allows me to improve my visual design skills and define my creative process. Another side of working at 415Agency was working with many international customers. I immersed many customers’ businesses from different countries, so this work had never been monotonous,” he said.
The foundation that Karablikov helped build led to great success for 415Agency. The company took home first place at the Apps World 2015 conference Hackathon in both Berlin and San Francisco, was shortlisted in Design Innovation for Quality Improvement at the 2017 European Healthcare Design Awards, was an Honorable Mention in Digital Experience and Interaction for Healthcare at the 2017 Awwwards, and it was the Experience That Makes a Difference at the 2016 UX Magazine Award. On top of this, the company was Featured in AIGA (American Institute of Graphic Arts) by Graphic Design USA Mag when it took home the 2016 Web Design Award, was listed as Digital Marketing & Design Agencies Global Leaders 2017 and won the 2017 A’Design Golden Award in the A’ Mobile Technologies, Applications, and Software Design Category.
“All completed projects felt like a personal win. It was so exciting to see the happy faces of the customers. It’s like magic in some sense. After a long period of communication and many debates, you got something tangible and appreciated. The studio was getting more prominent and more famous, so it was cool to see that all your hard work paid off,” he concluded.