Creative Lives — Apply your skill set to more than one thing: Digital designer Yuli Serfaty
Juggling a wealth of tech-savvy skills and far-reaching interests, Future Corp’s digital designer Yuli Serfaty has become an exemplary multitasker. Not only well-versed in rolling out website concepts, overseeing wireframing or quality assurance testing, she’s also a talented visual artist, working across illustration, video and photography. Originally from Tel Aviv, Yuli moved to London as a student in 2015, joining Future Corp the same year, after meeting the team at a party by chance. Brought up in a creative household, Yuli explains why it’s been so important to maintain personal work, and shares the know-how she’s acquired as both her career and the industry have evolved.
Designer for Aqua Creations, Tel Aviv (2011)
Freelance Photographer and Illustrator (2011–2015)
BA Design and Interaction, Central Saint Martins (2015–2016)
BA Graphic Design, Shenkar College (2012–2015)
Yuli at work with digital art director Gemma Copeland
How would you describe what you do?
It’s really quite broad – my role varies across most project phases, so my responsibilities shift as pipelines progress. It would range from conceptualising ideas to researching references, constructing information architecture, wireframing, experience and layout design, micro-interactions, animation and quality assurance.
On a broader level I also take part in documenting and presenting our portfolio, and manage some smaller projects. I always collaborate with the rest of the team, so we have each other’s support. It’s a great environment to work and learn in.
What does a typical working day look like?
I’ll usually walk to work and get a bit of fresh air on the way in. A typical working day will include catch-ups, reviews or working sessions dotted between sprints of work for one or two projects a day, and a varying number of tasks.
We have lunch together and sit outside or go up to the roof in summer, but other than that the rest of the day is spent in the office in front of a computer.
The Future Corp team at work
How did you land the job at Future Corp?
In the summer of 2015 I had just moved to London from Tel Aviv and was a student at Central Saint Martins. I was new to London and its design scene. My friend was invited to a birthday party at the Ace Hotel Shoreditch, so we all went and were introduced to a group of people.
Marc, whose birthday it was, was there with the early Future Corp team and other members of Studio 3 [the co-working space that houses Future Corp]. We started chatting about what we do and I showed them my work on Instagram. The next day I looked at their profiles, got to Marc’s portfolio (formerly marckremers.com) and was so inspired, it was really exciting. I reached out asking if he needed an intern, was interviewed the next day, and started working two days after that.
What do you like about working in London?
I feel like London is an incredible place for creatives, especially because of its working culture, industry standards and rich design and art scenes. I have met so many talented people during my time here, a lot of them through Studio 3.
The museums, galleries and music scene are an indispensable source of inspiration to me. But I wouldn’t like to say being in a particular place is essential for a line of work; I think being aware of today’s cultural movements is what’s important, and London is a good place to be exposed to many different fields and cultures. Having said that, coming from a warm country, I still can’t get used to the weather – even after three years here.
“Because I was working during my last year at uni, I learnt everything on the job, and progressed as the industry did.”
Inside the studio
What has been the most exciting recent project you’ve worked on?
Working on The xx’s ‘Night + Day’ festival site was exciting. Young Turks [The xx’s music label] are a great client, so it’s no surprise that it was such a creative project. I worked on my own throughout the process on this one, but unfortunately the festival was canceled and the site never launched.
What skills are essential to your job?
First of all, I wouldn’t have been able to get or do my job without a basic understanding of code and a passion for technology. I dabbled with coding a bit when I was younger but never built anything from scratch, but I still find it extremely useful to be familiar with what’s possible, the limitations and the terms.
Also, time management, meticulous attention, team work and software skills are crucial in any job, but I think the most challenging part is to stay true to your own creativity, and express your own vision within tight deadlines and an ocean of influences.
Yuli with senior digital designer Myles Palmer
Are you currently working on any self-initiated projects?
I keep my own art practice and work across illustration, video, photography and recently have been learning 3D-modelling and animation. I’ve worked with different mediums in the past, so it’s very important for me to keep my practice and thinking diverse.
These projects are a free place for experimentation, outside the bounds of clients or a specific line of work. I find the two continuously feed in to each other, teaching me to stay true to myself at work and be more professional as an artist.
What tools do you use most for your work?
I love brainstorming on paper, but other than that we are completely digital. We use Sketch with an extensive set of plugins, Principle and After Effects for animation, Asana for project management, Keynote for presentations, Github for QA and Mindnode and Omnigraffle for information architecture.
Personal work by Yuli on her site
Yuli’s drawings on her site
How I Got Here
What did you want to be growing up?
I grew up in flux between commercial and non-commercial work, between fine art and design. I don’t think I could ever really leave one or the other, so I don’t really know how to answer that question; can I pick two?
My parents are an artist and a designer who co-owned a lighting design company. Seeing them work hard, fail, succeed and create incredible designs together (and apart) is still the greatest source of inspiration to me.
How (if at all) is the subject you studied useful to your current role?
I studied graphic design in Shenkar, Tel Aviv, then transferred to Central Saint Martins, London, and the two different methods of teaching and learning complemented each other very nicely. Shenkar taught me technical knowledge and work ethics, whilst CSM taught me conceptual thinking and in-depth research, in addition to coding and physical computing workshops.
What helped you most at the start of your career?
Peter Hall and Jaap de Maat were two CSM tutors who really helped me find my voice. Meeting Marc and working for Future Corp after graduation has had a massive effect on who I am as a professional – I am still learning every day.
“Think of your skill set as something that can be applied to more than one thing.”
Work for The xx
What skills have you learnt along the way?
The most important skills I learnt other that technical abilities were how to think systematically, pay attention to detail, not settle for anything less than our goal, how to communicate with clients and present work, and how to work as part of a team.
The industry shift [to increasingly digital] happened while working for Future Corp - because I was working two days a week during my last year at uni I learnt everything on the job, and progressed as the industry did.
What’s been your biggest challenge?
Being patient and trusting processes I need to go through. I tend to be quite eager to jump ahead, to know the answers, which makes me unhappy about where I’m at in the present moment. I push myself hard to be better, without giving myself the credit for making progress or acknowledge the time it should take.
The outside of Studio 3
What would you like to do next?
I think that could be split into two levels. At work I would like to have the opportunity to work with cultural and social organisations I believe in, and be able to help them communicate their message beautifully and efficiently.
I would also really like to create abstract experiential projects which explore representing space in a web environment, or utilise technologies like AR and VR. On a personal level I would like to find a healthy balance between self-initiated projects and work, and be able to sustain both successfully.
What advice would you give to a young creative wanting to get into the same line of work?
Follow your interests, your passions, and think of your skill set as something that can be applied to more than one thing.
Yuli at work