Redlines, Trampolines and special sauce

Standing in the elevator going up to Ratio for the first time, I just about threw up. I was a nervous wreck. I had my laptop, iPad, backup external hard drive, backup backup flash drive, and backup backup backup paper-bound portfolio, just in case something happened. I was on my way for an interview with Ratio’s Interactive Design Directors, Aaron and Andrea. When I walked into the lobby I met Tiffany, Ratio’s recruiter. She gave me a tour around the office, and took me to the third floor where the conference room and interview waited. The rest was a jumble of nerves and attempted intelligent descriptions of my work. However, I must have made some impression because two weeks later I moved to Seattle and started at Ratio.

As a student in the BFA Design program at Western Washington University in little o’l Bellingham, moving to Seattle was a big change and once again, I was nervously standing in the elevator, this time on my way to meet Miles, the head of HR. Miles quickly put me at ease with his friendly manner and passion for building community within the company. I began to see that community was a big part of what Ratio is. Every Monday, Ratio starts out with an all-hands kickoff, announcing news then breaking into practice teams, providing the opportunity to talk about what each person is working on specifically. Every Tuesday, the CRUX (Creative UX) team gets together to eat lunch and give designers time to present what they have been working on, discuss design trends, or share inspirational content.

Every other Friday, team members meet at an all-hands lunch, where teams present new technology or talk about how the company is doing as a whole. For new hires who are trying to figure out who’s who, and even some not-so-new hires, CRUX team members created a photo wall, displaying head shots of all the Ratio employees with some fun facts. Each person is labeled with their name, practice and the answers to two random survey questions, like ‘what is your favorite animal,’ or ‘what is your favorite viral video.’ Some of my favorite are : Matthias’s favorite device is hyperbole, Jon’s favorite ice cream is free, Hexar’s favorite thing about Ratio is Mile’s shorts, and Brian’s favorite neighborhood is Mr. Rogers’.

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In addition to a general camaraderie between coworkers, Ratio employees can demonstrate their collective athleticism in a co-ed summer soccer league. Nothing builds community like sweating, labored breathing, and an occasional victory.

I also enjoyed getting to know my co-workers more specifically. I learned I could always turn around at my desk and count on Scott for a lively and entertaining discussion about anything sci-fi or game related; from Star Trek to the not so fictional colonization of Mars in 2028, to 90’s video games. I found that Joe, who sat right behind me, knows Indonesian, the language of where I grew up. We would spend time practicing the phrases we could remember like, “Apa kabar?” [How are you?], “Baik baik saja, terima kasih dan kamu bagaimana?” [I’m fine, thank you, how are you?]  and “Selamat malam” [Good night].

Jake, our strategy intern, has a passion for doodling corn, yes corn. There was scuba corn, soccer corn, surfing corn, dancing corn, and my favorite space corn. I learned that if was looking for the best food spot in town or something fun to do, I asked Caylee. She gave me lists and lists of activities and places to eat. She introduced me to two of my new favorite places; Il Corvo, which has the best pasta in town, and the Zig Zag Cafe, a fantastic shnazy restaurant underneath Pike’s Place Market. Andrea is full of travel advice and fun things to do. Aside from living and visiting a variety of different places in the world, she knows how to find the the best deals on flights and places to stay. Caylee, Andrea and I also spent time putting their knowledge of fun activities around Seattle to work.  We decided to go trampolining on a 90° day and ten minutes in we were roasting, exhausted, sitting next to a huge fan and giggling. There are photos and videos to prove it. The next time we opted for something less hot and went paddle boarding on Lake Union.

raito-inter-blog-fun    ratio-design-intern-Julianne-jumping

From the moment I stepped into Ratio, I started learning. College professes to prepare its students to get jobs, however, nothing prepares someone for a job like seeing that job first hand. I could probably take up ten blog posts just with all of the minutiae of things that I have learned over the past twelve weeks that I have been at Ratio but there are a few specifics that stand out. A large portion of what I have learned has been design related. I have learned about the joys of redlining, estimating project hours and designing within hourly deadlines. Most importantly and unique to my experience at Ratio, I learned about designing for different platforms and the pros and cons of each.

While I have learned so much pertaining to design, I have learned possibly even more about the other aspects of the inner workings of a company. I now understand what a Project Life Cycle is, and specifically Ratio’s PLC . I have learned about the Agile process, sprint planning, and estimation. I have also learned about the different aspects of an agency from strategy and sales, to design and development, to QA and delivery.  I got to be a part of usability testing first hand, participating in the preparation, user testing and the post-testing analysis. This included initial meetings, where we discussed what kind of experiences we wanted to measure, by establishing tasks the participants should perform and how those tasks should be worded. We also discussed what kind of equipment would be needed and the logistics of setting up the testing space. On the day of, I helped film, interview participants, and reset the testing devices. During post-user testing, I collected and documented all of our findings and analyzed many hours of video footage, noting when unusual or interesting things occurred during interviews.

During my very first CRUX meeting, everyone introduced themselves and described their “special sauce.” Now this isn’t their great grandma’s marinara recipe, “special sauce” is what they are especially good at. Some people said ‘hand lettering’, others said ‘film and motion graphics’. When it was my turn, I couldn’t decide what my special sauce was. I decided that it was still in development. While twelve weeks have gone by, I haven’t yet decided what my ‘special sauce’ is, but I have figured out what Ratio’s is. Ratio’s ‘special sauce’ is a passion for community and not just any community, a community of people who are passionate and really good at the work that they do. I’m glad I got to experience it.