For Black History Month this year, TechSPARK has teamed up with B in Bath to shine a light on some of the established and emerging Black tech and digital leaders in our community. This time we’re talking to UX & graphic designer and brand strategist Marissa Lewis-Peart.
What is your job?
I’m a freelance Graphic Designer and Brand Strategist currently transitioning into the area of UX Design. My workday generally consists of communicating with clients, undertaking market or user/audience research, ideating design concepts, designing in Adobe Creative Suite and some admin.
Outside of my 9-5 work I’m a natural hair care influencer and the founder of an early-stage startup to help women through their natural hair care journeys.
Your path into the sector?
I began to develop an interest in human behaviour when I went to college, however, I had always been more creative rather than academic growing up and so I studied Graphic Communication, Media Studies and Communication & Culture at A-Level, before progressing onto study BA (Hons) Graphic Communication at university.
Towards the end of my second year at university, I began to learn about the role of strategy in design, which satisfied both my natural creative interests and fascination with research and psychology. In my final year at university, I won the Ben Martin Apprentice Award in collaboration with Bristol Creative Industries (formerly Bristol Media), Babbasa and The IPA which flew me to Texas for South By Southwest (SXSW), the world’s largest interactive media conference festival, where I immersed myself into the world of creative tech. This trip changed the future of my career as I came back to the UK and completed 14 internships in various Bristol-based Marketing, Design and Digital agencies where I began developing my design skills and taking a keen interest in UX/UI design.
Upon completion of my internships, I began freelancing at a branding & packaging design agency however COVID-19 led me to start taking on more personal client projects, which confirmed for me that I would like to pursue more of a strategic and digital design path rather than traditional graphic design. I began facilitating strategy workshops with clients as well as taking on branding and website design projects for small businesses.
What interests you about tech/digital?
My favourite thing about pursuing a career in tech/digital is the ability to influence how people experience services, brands and general life, and how I can hopefully make these experiences more enjoyable.
As my passion for design is quite broad and centred around serving people through creative solutions rather than a specific skillset, I found it quite hard to figure out whether I wanted to pursue a career as a Strategist, Graphic Designer or a UX/UI Designer, however, after experiencing all three I believe that Experience Design is a sweet spot for me.
Your career? What is the most interesting/fun/challenging thing you have worked on up to this point?
The most interesting project I’ve worked on so far was an App for the Royal Navy during my internship programme where I had the opportunity to facilitate a few user testing sessions. One of our users had dyslexia, and it was interesting to see how he struggled to navigate the user interface in ways we hadn’t previously considered, which required us to analyse our findings and come to a design solution. It reinforced to me how important it is to consider the user or consumer in design and how insightful testing can be.
What would you like to do in the future/how would you like your career to develop?
In the future, I would like to be designing experiences for brands for people to use or consume. In regards to my startup, I would like to have a successful business which is self-sufficient and helps women through the journey of learning to care for textured hair.
Do you have any thoughts on diversity in the tech/digital industries?
Winning the Ben Martin Apprentice Award, which was aimed at helping under-represented people break into the tech and creative industries, definitely opened my eyes to what careers are available in the sector, provided me with access into the industry and allowed me to gain a lot of knowledge in a short space of time.
I also believe that the exposure to different career paths helped me to figure out what I want to do a lot sooner than I otherwise would have. Without that opportunity, I don’t think I would be doing as well as I am one year out of university, and I believe that more schemes like the BMA award are needed in order to bridge the gap and increase the number of people from diverse backgrounds working in the sector. I think it’s a good example of not just talking about diversity, inclusion and intersectionality but actually doing something about it by giving people from underrepresented backgrounds support and access. The BMA award has only been going for a few years and so it’s still developing, but I believe that a scheme like this on a larger scale would be great.
You can get in touch with Marissa at her website: https://www.mlpdesigns.co.uk
Renée Jacobs is a Project Manager at Actual Experience and the Founder of B in Bath. She is passionate about empowering and supporting people from underrepresented backgrounds in the workplace, and she recognises the importance of ensuring diversity of thought and experience in those people who create the technology that permeates all of our lives. Through B in Bath she hopes to enable employers and employees to cultivate a sense of belonging in the workplace; creating an environment where everyone, from all backgrounds, can grow, thrive and belong.