Meet Bureau Blank’s New A-team!
With this week marking John’s official transition into the role of President & COO (check out what he had to say in last week’s blog post ), we thought we’d continue our BB team blog series to introduce our new front-end developer and art director– Alana Farkas and Alessandro Contes! John said it best when he wrote that a key tenet of our newly refined focus is forming a team strong in both their expertise and commitment to the mission of improving the experience and quality of life for people living in cities. With these two folks newly on board, we can proudly check that box and get to work!
I sat down with Alana and Alessandro to pick their brains on what drew them to Bureau Blank, their first impressions of working here and how their experiences as city dwellers of NYC and beyond have inspired them to seek the means to improving the city experience through digital design.
Q: First and foremost–why Bureau Blank?
Alana: What immediately piqued my interest was the GAIN sector focus, which I see as the pillars that sustain a city. The idea of working with the nonprofits and institutions that ensure that the wide range of communities are engaged and informed about the services tailored to their needs was an instant draw.
Alessandro: I came across Bureau Blank in the midst of trying to find a fit in the US after transitioning from life and work in Brazil. Bureau Blank offered the potential to collaborate on truly meaningful work as well as a platform to expand my professional expertise beyond traditional marketing into the digital realm.
Q: What do you love most about working here?
Alana: The environment here is wonderful – welcoming, collaborative, and positive, even in the midst of taking on serious work. To me, a balance in the workplace is very important and I feel like that we’re all on the same page about that. We’ll find ourselves addressing the critical issues while Beyoncé plays (and empowers us) in the background.
Alessandro: What immediately impressed me about working here that is exceptional is the dedication and focus to planning, executing and refining our process to deliver a project that best addresses clients’ needs. That level of collaboration leaves no room for ego and establishes a “yes and…” mentality that not only improves the quality of work but is a constant lesson in professional development. Having the opportunity to be more hands-on with projects and work in a more strategic capacity present the kind of challenge that I was looking for, and I’m excited to see where that takes me.
Q: What would you consider your expertise?
Alana: I’ve always considered myself as a solutions-oriented thinker with a determination to achieve efficiency in what I do. Coming from my role in the public sector, I hope to leverage the experiences and insights gained there to discover the way to make the information architecture of the city’s web experiences the best it can be. All resources should be a click away and that is a principle of BB’s that I strongly believe in.
Alessandro: Being a good listener, which is the crux of what we now call UX design. Throughout my time in marketing and advertising, I’ve put into practice the principles that we’ve seen renamed and updated over the years. What has kept me going is the motivation to be as successful as I can be in getting the right idea and message across for each client, which in turn has kept me open-minded and curious.
Q: What previous experience do you have that is important to your work here?
Alana: As a former tour director at the Municipal Art Society (MAS), I had the opportunity to explore the five distinct boroughs of NYC and craft the user’s (or in this case, sight-seer’s) experience in the physical world. As I began working in front-end web development, the importance of facilitating wayfinding in a human-centered way emerged as an immediate extension of that role in the digital realm. One example of that shared need came with my realization of the age demographic that primarily took tours at MAS, which happened to skew older. Just as we tailored our tours to that group of participants, web experiences require the same (if not more) tailoring to accommodate non-native users.
Alessandro: The role of art director is not just about design but more so the ability to establish a vision and long-term goal for an engagement, which one can then mobilize a team of designers around while challenging them to think in different ways. I look forward to utilizing my past experiences as an individual designer and team member to ensure that we are all constantly learning and building on one another’s ideas.
Q: What does GAIN mean to you?
Alana: GAIN are the sectors that make up a city. The work of GAIN organizations in a city is never done–it’s always in motion and evolving. With that need for constant refinement and sustained impact, the people running the programming and services in that sector might not have the time to build or improve their digital presence. The way I see it, I’ve joined a consultancy that serves as a steward of the city and its supporting organizations, wherein I get to ensure that the information architecture is accessible and inclusive to help further the impact of the work they do.
Alessandro: For me, GAIN presents an endless learning experience that taps into the systems that impact my day-to-day life. Whenever I’m asked “Why are you going to work with cities?”, I always take pride in saying that it’s not something that you see every day yet it’s something that is becoming increasingly important. I see this as an opportunity to be proactive in coming up with innovative ideas around user experience for the public sector instead of addressing it as just an afterthought.
Q: How have cities shaped your own life?
Alana: Growing up just outside the city in Westchester, NYC has always been the destination I set my sights on. To me, the city embodies the idea of mobility and independence, from public transit accessibility to the opportunities afforded to navigate within social, economic, political space. Even after 10 years living here, I never seem to get tired of it. There’s a momentum and excitement that is fueled by innovation and ideas that can come to fruition here, which is inspiring to say the least.
Alessandro: Every city has its own atmosphere and opportunities for one to grow in a variety of ways. When I first moved to the capital of my home state in Brazil (Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul), that was the first step in growing beyond the confines of my home town and realize my independence. It was when I moved to Orlando years later that I was first exposed to the tremendous amount of care that can be taken to maintain public systems. The attention city governments in the US give to improving quality of life for its residents has been inspiring and amazing to see. To be a part of a team that works to support those efforts is pretty incredible.
Q: What Bureau Blank project has intrigued you most?
Alana: The NYC Digital Playbook definitely stood out as one of my favorites. It’s a beautifully designed digital tool that I think encompasses Bureau Blank’s sweet spot at the intersection of civic technology and design.
Alessandro: I remember first coming across Bureau Blank’s redesign of the Amtrak NEC site and being in awe of how they were able to take something like transportation infrastructure, which is a topic known for being more dense than “sexy”, and transform the website into a visually engaging resource with the functionality to match.