To Grant Cavaluzzi, UI and UX strategy isn’t confined to what you see in digital display.
It’s a way of thinking, an approach that permeates into every pixel of life’s complex mosaic. To Grant, his job title is secondary to what he actually does—a masterclass in dissection and analysis, a refreshing spin on problem solving.
“I love psychology, sociology. And to me, UI/UX is where psychology and design meet. It’s all about creating the best possible experience—for anything.”
He’s the UI/UX Strategist at 321, and as Mufasa might muse, he’s involved with everything that the light touches. He’s an artist at heart, a vibrating spectre of caffeinated conversation, a self-loathing but pretty decent painter, a UCF graduate with two degrees (“sometimes I forget that I even have those”) and a penchant for easy laughter.
Mostly, he’s a likeable guy.
We sat down with Grant to discuss his journey into the soul of UI/UX.
You are 321’s UI/UX Strategist. What does that mean, in a nutshell?
Well, everything encompassing both UI and UX. I mean, they are two sides to a single coin—UI being the user interface, everything visual, making sure everything is repeatable, the colors, the brand, the UI really encompasses the art direction.
The UX—you could be colorblind and do UX—it’s more about the strategy, it’s about the experience. It’s about creating site maps, you know, what’s the problem that we’re trying to solve and what’s the solution?
Basically, UX is everything that happens before you get the palate of paint (which would be the UI bit). You can’t just show up with paint and say ‘alright, let’s get started!’
I mean, you can, but you’re setting yourself up for failure. UX is really the gameplan.
How’d you get into this?
I started off wanting to graphic design—maybe as far back as middle school—because my dad is actually a digital artist, so I was using photoshop at like eight years old.
I realized that design is sort of like where art and business logic mash together. So from the get-go, I was like yeah, graphic design! and so that’s what I majored in in college. I didn’t get accepted into the program right away because I’m a terrible artist with pencil and paper and paint—a lot of my focus was just doing digital stuff.
I got in eventually and the entire first year didn’t include computers. It was horrible.
And the Emerging Media Management?
So, it’s when you combine the study of art and business—so I ended up taking a ton of business classes that I didn’t know I would care about. They’ve been incredibly helpful in my career, from basic terminology to useful business practices.
So which is it then, are you more business-focused or creatively driven?
I think my roots are definitely creative. Thinking outside the box, going crazy, that kind of thing. But as I progress through my career I get more into the analytical part of it. I think I’m both left and right brained–full of nonsense creativity and analytics.
And then how’d you get into UI/UX?
I’d say I’ve been doing UI/UX since my first real job out of college.
In the field, all these names are interchangeable. Interactive designer, digital designer, UI/UX designer—it’s all the same thing. This was my first job that was completely digital, and to me digital design is synonymous with the user experience. You can be the greatest digital artist in the world, but it won’t matter if someone can’t use or understand your design.
So how are things different at 321?
At my first agency, we were all designers.
At 321, I’m specialized and my niche is getting even more narrow. Now I only do UI/UX—but all the people around me work in other creative departments. I work with a social strategist now, developers, a copywriter—it’s just a different atmosphere. I’m learning so much from the people next to me.
What about the flip side? How can the rest of us take your role into consideration?
The number one thing I tell people is to ask questions.
A lot of people hesitate—if you’re not crystal clear on what’s going on, you better ask some darn questions. If I’m not clear on something? I’ll bug the heck out of you until we both understand.
When we’re all on the same page, there’s so much less wasted time.
I like collaboration. If there’s copy, I want the copywriter in there immediately. Wherever someone else can contribute or help shape the direction of work, I want them involved in a team effort. I like to avoid working in a silo.
There are things about the design that I might not know without input from the other departments. Even though my title is UI/UX, I spend more time with UX. When the UI designer gets a hold of my work, they need to live, breathe and understand what I’ve created before they start.
What’s your favorite thing you’ve learned about yourself in the past year?
Life is a double-edged sword! I realized I work faster at home because I’m not chatting with everyone.
But I’ve also realized that going back into the office, talking with people, that’s my thing, man! That’s how I collaborate, I just talk with people.
What do you do better than anyone else?
I think I’m really good at dissecting a problem, at finding the root of an issue. You know how people will struggle to find words for something? I’m the guy that puts problems into words and makes them easy to understand.