Creative.7 - Pedro Sampaio
A Product Design titan for your next project.
I have to be honest… In a lack of other words, today's interview feels legendary!
Not only because the invited creative is a true Hercules of product design but also because Pedro was the first personal friend and reference who inspired me very early in my career, to reach for international horizons.
Pedro carries a Bachelor’s degree in Graphic Design and a Postgraduate program in User-Centered Design, while, experience-wise, he has navigated through many different titans of companies within the tech industry.
In addition to such an inspiring background, Pedro also cultivates a very inspiring hobby that not only feels vintage but also extremely exclusive. He is a music collector with a portfolio of some of the most iconic albums out there, not only in vinyl format though, but also in mind-blowingly, forever burned and read-only, CD-ROMs!
Welcome, Pedro! Can you share a little bit of your background with us? Where are you from and how old are you? You have lived for a long time in the US, right? What are some of your favorite cities there?
Thank you for having me, Thiago! Absolutely. I’m 29, born and raised in Foz do Iguaçu, in Brazil and I’m one of your older brother’s good old friends. I’ve been working as a designer for 11 years, and currently, I’m a Product Designer at Realtor.com.
Yeah, I lived in the US. After spending 6 awesome years in Curitiba, graduating, and working with great people, I got the opportunity I always had dreamed of in early 2020 and landed in San Francisco. Boom! 2 weeks later COVID hit. It sucked, I started working from home, but I still had a great time and learned a bunch. When the COVID restrictions went down I got to go to places I always wanted to go and see the bands I always wanted to see. Not bad. Favorite cities: Seattle and Austin.
Now regarding your academic journey, have you always been interested in Graphic Design? When did you realize that was the choice for your career and how was the process of getting your first degree?
I remember being very interested in Graphic Design when I was little. I did not know that was a thing or had any idea what went behind it. I liked logos, seeing them, memorizing them, knowing them. Anything visual had some kind of amusement to me: packaging labels, football club badges, country flags, and computer interfaces (I’m talking Windows XP). I even had some imaginary brands and used to draw their logos.
At 16 I started earning some money with Graphic and Web design and I realized that was my career. After a couple years, I decided it was important to get a Graphics Design degree, and I was right. I graduated from Universidade Positivo in 2018. It helped me learn and try things I would probably not do on my own. It introduced me to amazing people. Those 4 years really made me grow as a designer.
Why studying and working with creativity and communication felt essential to you back then? After these many years of experience, do you see the field in a different way?
I felt good doing it. I felt inspired by other people’s work and from time to time felt proud of mine. I couldn’t have chosen anything else, really.
Yeah, I think especially now with the rise of AI, VR headsets, ultra fancy wearables, a lot is changing and a lot will change dramatically in just a few years. I know some people fear it, and I don’t actually blame them for feeling this way. Black Mirror is a success, right? I must confess, though, I’m kinda excited to see what’s coming up and maybe even be a part of it.
What is it about graphic design that captivates you so much?
Hell, that’s a good one. I don’t know. It’s such a unique form of language. You just get it when you see it. You get the story they’re trying to tell, by pictures, shapes, and colors. And that’s even if it’s an ugly design. It’s very powerful.
Among the many different categories within the field, you found a passion in product design, what are some particular aspects of this craft that always keeps you challenged and also engaged?
You know, drawing rectangles and pushing pixels around has always been my thing. My career flowed very naturally to more of a digital product design approach. As a kid, I liked interfaces and technology. Started out working by doing mostly web design, as it was the thing I felt most comfortable at.
While I feel good about my UI skills, Product Design is much more than that, and being in that role requires a lot more from me. You gotta know your user, your company, your data, your team, your resources, your technical constraints, and your competitors. You gotta own your design and your decisions. And last but not least, you gotta know how to communicate all those things. After a handful of years, I’m still figuring it out.
Perhaps you might be the best possible person to answer this question. There are many doubts in the industry in regard to the roles of a Product Manager, a Product Designer, and a UX/UI Designer. Could you describe in your own words how you see the difference between these terms and positions?
A Product Manager is a whole different animal than a Product Designer or a UX/UI Designer. PMs are essential. They are the maestros that conduct the product. But designing stuff is not their duty. With that out of the way, yeah the other two can be confusing. Here’s how I see it: Product Design is very broad, and it requires both the experience (UX) and the interface (UI) expertise. I mean, you'd have to identify problems, come up with solutions, design, and test, and that's all UX/UI design, but not limited to it. You can have a role only as a UX designer or as a UI designer and not be a Product Designer - you’d just have to worry about fewer things. It happens in bigger companies, where you have dedicated designers for each role for a more in-depth focus.
Throughout the many different achievements in your professional journey in tech companies, is there a particular experience that you could highlight to our readers?
I joined UpNest, a small real estate startup a little more than 3 years ago and was the only designer on the team. I helped improve the overall product, being responsible for several successful iterations that made the product evolve and draw some attention. We were acquired in 2022 by Realtor.com one of the first dot coms, a truly dinosaur of the internet, founded in 1997 and still up and running today as one of the major real estate listing websites in the US. It’s been a ride!
Can you mention some of your favorite references today? Who are some professionals or artists that you follow that keep you nurtured with ideas and inspiration?
To be honest, my favorite references are the folks that I work with every day. They’re excellent designers and great communicators. All I can do is play catch-up.
I actually don’t follow a lot of designers like I used to, but there’s one in particular that I really like when scrolling the feed. It’s Soren Iverson. This guy absolutely delivers. He basically created “UI comedy”, with satirical mockups of unhinged, absurd ideas. Here’s one of my favorites.
On a personal and professional level, are there other design fields or forms of expression that you enjoy consuming or even exploring creatively and artistically?
Yeah, absolutely. I occasionally take some photos here and there and recently I started writing songs again. I don’t know where this is going but I’m having fun. It’s just stuff I do in my free time, and I try to keep it commitment free so I don’t get too perfectionist and hard with myself.
Let’s talk about music, shall we? As I mentioned in a previous publication, you are a true Seether fan, right? When it comes to music, what are the main genres (or sub-genres) in which you find some good delight?
Well, overall I’m all about the 90s and the 2000s alternative rock/metal scene. Everything in-between, really. Going deeper into that, I do carry a fondness for the early 90s Seattle’s grunge scene and anything that came from it or got directly influenced by it later.
I must confess that I’m quite jealous of your live show's background, can you list to our reader an average of how many bands you have seen play live? Amidst those, which ones do you carry the strongest memories?
I do keep a count! 58, and I saw a bunch of them more than once. My strongest memories: Chris Cornell, Seether, System of a Down, Cold, Sevendust, just to name a few.
You know I have to ask this… What is the size of your music album collection? Is there a particular album that you don’t let anyone touch?
A little over 300 albums, with the majority being CDs, while I’m focusing now on expanding my LP collection. I have signed copies of albums that I love, which I met personally with the artist and handled over for them to sign. These are really special to me, as they carry different memories.
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