UX Designer to Watch: Meet Léo Chazalon of Castle Lab
Léo Chazalon is one of Adobe’s UX Designers to Watch. The list, unveiled on World Interaction Design Day (September 24), features up-and-coming designers who are breaking creative boundaries. Follow the Creative Cloud blog and @adobedesigners to meet more UX Designers to Watch throughout October.
Léo Chazalon used UX design to make his mark on his Vancouver community before he even graduated university. A passionate entrepreneur, Léo founded his first tech startup in his third year of university with two anonymous Reddit users (yes, anonymous!). This venture pushed him to take on an unfamiliar role – designer.
Having spent quite some time at university, earning dual degrees in business and political science, Leo loves the environment of working alongside fellow students. He often collaborates with them over client projects, encouraging many to follow their passion for design, regardless of what they’re studying.
We talked to Léo to learn more about what he is most excited about, his goals for the future and what led him to UX design.
Thanks for joining us, Léo. How did you get started in design?
In my third year at university, my friends and I decided we wanted to build a startup. We decided on providing listings feed technology (MLS) to real estate agents across Vancouver. We had a developer and a marketer, but we were missing a designer. I decided to take on that role, and in my spare time, I learned the fundamentals of web design from YouTube tutorials. After only a year, our startup had pivoted into a proper design studio and was drawing attention from other professions. As we got our first interface to the design phase, I decided it was time to get more serious about UX.
That’s quite a journey! What is your favorite project that you’ve created so far?
I recently designed the new visual identity and web application for an incredibly innovative company called, Sinitic, which develops artificial intelligence for multilingual customer support. It was one of the longest and largest projects I had ever managed, and required pulling from talent across the globe. We collaborated with two foreign illustrators, a graphic designer and another local development studio to make this happen, resulting in the creation of a bold technology brand and an intuitive platform.
Coming from a non-design educational background, what do you think are the keys to driving the industry forward? And how can people of non-design backgrounds get started in design?
I truly believe UX design benefits from a diverse workforce. That’s why we often collaborate with university students on projects that require thinking outside the box. Coming from non-design majors like philosophy and electrical engineering, these students bring honest and fresh perspectives to the table. They don’t think like designers but, rather, as users. We are currently trying to set up a partnership between the University of British Columbia and our studio, which would involve them sending us a few students every semester to train on real client projects.
Who (or what) inspires you day-to-day?
I find my inspiration in the people I work with, rather than their online artwork. Behance has been my favorite playground for that. Every week, I message featured users, big and small, and push for collaboration on as many projects as possible. The last designer I worked with, Abdellah Rohlem, ended up teaching me the fundamentals of project management in the graphic design industry. Since then, we’ve continued to collaborate on more projects.
Outside of work, how are you involved in the design community?
Having founded the studio at The University of British Columbia’s incubator, I benefited from a very supportive and dynamic environment where both mentors and students were willing to give each other honest feedback. The hype and the incessant push for innovation led me to iterate the company vision and improve my designs.
Additionally, the numerous design talks organized by the local UX Club only pushed me to further collaborate with their community and go on to work with their current president, Yuki Nishida, on several client projects. To this day, I stay very close to the institution as we continue recruiting and training students throughout the year, working with the best rising talent.
We’re chatting today because of UX Designers to Watch. What does the list mean to you?
It means a lot. First off, it means that somewhere, someone noticed my designs and appreciated how much effort I put into each project. Second, and most importantly, being a “UX Designer to Watch” is a step toward a personal goal of mine, which is inspiring youth to venture into unknown territory. I studied law and business, not design. Now, I want to empower kids to believe in a vision for at least a year or two before changing plans.
Speaking of future plans, what are some of your upcoming career goals? Where do you see yourself in five years?
In the near future, I would like to see Castle Lab grow into an innovative studio and a hub for aspiring students looking for advice, training or case studies before diving into the web design industry.
In the long-term, I started working as a consulting analyst for Accenture as of September, providing me with a better understanding of the technical aspects of product design, while tackling larger problems. I hope to use this experience to craft new user experiences for future devices and spaces, in the same style as IDEO.