Justin Hanson has mentored over 60 students with Designlab. His favorite things are doing handstands and eating pho, and he’s a huge advocate in designing for good. As a Sr. Product Designer at Classy, he supports nonprofits working tirelessly towards creating a better world.
Hey, Justin! So what does an ordinary day look like for you?
I don’t really have an ordinary day. That is, my days really depend on the projects I’m working on. Chances are, though, if you pop in randomly you’ll find me rapidly ideating through designs either on paper, sketch or on whiteboards with teammates and/or people we serve. Throw in some regular team meetings throughout the week to catch up on what everyone is doing, collaborate on improving our processes and methodologies, and then sprinkle in design workshops and it’s a pretty decent picture of what I’m up to. Oh, my team likes to laugh a lot, so there’s that!
That’s sweet. What projects have you worked on at Classy that you’re proud of?
There isn’t one project I’m most proud of, but it’s a culmination of all the work we’ve done and continue to do that puts smiles on the faces of our customers. This includes all the mistakes we’ve made.
Mistakes are part of the learning process. Where are you located?
I’ve been based out of Boston for the past two years because my wife took a research position at Harvard Medical School, however, we are currently traveling throughout Brazil for a couple months—perks of working remotely!
Wow, Brazil! What do you like to do in your free time?
Surfing, running, hiking, taking photos, meditating, wondering why life is the way it is, doing handstands, and looking for the next bowl of pho. 🤤
What’s your favorite design or designed product of yours?
Probably the lasso thingy-ma-bob that lets my sunglasses hang around my neck. I either lost or destroyed countless sunglasses before being awakened to the magic powers of these things.
I just bought one of those, #gamechanger. How many students have you worked with at Designlab?
I actively mentor around 5-6 students, and have worked with about 60.
That’s a lot of students you’ve helped learn UX design. What attracted you to becoming a mentor?
I’ve had a lot of amazing experiences thanks to my design career, and I wanted to help people with the transition, because it’s an incredible profession.
What do you find most exciting or rewarding in mentoring?
The most rewarding part is when students get their first design job. Oftentimes this milestone completely changes the trajectory of their lives.
We love helping students find jobs. What has surprised you most about the students you’ve worked with?
The dedication and persistence to learn a ton, produce great work and get through a pretty demanding course.
What do you think makes a good mentor?
Great communication, support and empathy... while balancing the ability to push students beyond their threshold. 💕
What do you think makes a good student?
Someone with a beginner’s mind who’s excited to learn and continuously improve their work.
What is your most important tip for students who are just starting out in design?
Design is a collaborative and iterative process. Have patience and get excited about making as many variations and iterations as possible. The more designers ideate, the better their work becomes.
Always be ideating! We’ve been talking a lot about “design for good”—what does it mean to you?
Design for good, to me, means using our magic powers to educate and give control to the people we serve, lean towards transparency and never attempt to deceive, and work with a team that is truly making the world a better place... this means looking beyond their sales pitch, putting down the Kool-Aid, and really analyzing the impact they create.
In what ways do you design for good at Classy?
We serve nonprofits who work tirelessly towards creating a better world. That’s pretty awesome. In day-to-day practice, though, it’s all about putting people first. It’s that simple. ♻️
Do you talk to your students about designing for good?
Yes! I always try to encourage them to choose a team that is positively impacting people’s lives over money. It’s important to take time to deeply understand your values so you know what to look for. Once you’re able to align work with your values, it makes life way more enjoyable.
What do you think the future holds for the design industry?
I have no idea, but I’ll be first in line to adapt to the changes!
Do you have any personal goals for 2020?
Run a 100 mile foot race. 🏃🏼♂️