Contributor Spotlight: Daata.co
When design and function meet, there is a moment of clarity. When information meets visualisation, there is Daata.co. Hilla Oren is the Israel-based creative director of Daata.co, as well as a templates contributor with Adobe Stock. Her unique and measured perfectionism can be seen through her useful sense of design. Daata.co focuses on using the power of Illustrator to create data-enriched templates. We had the pleasure of chatting with Hilla about her process, the future of her design work and most significantly, how she balances work, family and life and everything in between.
Image source: Daata.co / Adobe Stock.
Where did your company name Daata.co stem from?
In Hebrew, the sound of the word ‘da-ata’ (דעתה) translates to “her opinion.“ It refers to my professional opinion regarding the work I do for clients. In our office, we have a sign saying: “Without data, you’re just another person with an opinion” by W. Edwards Deming. Though nowadays, we realised it actually goes both ways: without an opinion, you’re just another person with data. We need data visualisation to help us gather opinions around data and to close the gap between the endless metadata around us and data-driven decision making.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background in design?
Since I can remember, I loved art. As a kid, my mum used to send me to various classes like dancing, singing, painting; I also played the piano for 11 years. In school, I loved “designing” the layout of my notebook spread much more than working on its content. I used to design the main title and subtitle typography in a ‘handwritten’ style long before I knew what ‘H1’ and ‘H2’ meant. Thinking back on those moments, I just grew up to be a designer rather than consciously choosing to be one. After my army service, I moved to Tel Aviv and started four years of design school – and I loved it! I got the practical tools that translated my “design senses” into a set of rules and guidelines. By the end of my second year, I started working on the Israeli economic newspaper, in the infographic department, and that was my first real-life-dead-serious deadline-driven experience.
How did you move from design and art to information design?
My professor told me I was a pixel perfectionist and that designing for information could be a good route for me, it was mathematical. I told her I was a graphic designer, an artist. She then explained it was designing for information, so I started working, and it opened up another way of thinking. I now know that it is more than just boring bar graphs, and that it is a huge factor for businesses and startups. Data is the new gold, and being able to give numbers to support your opinion helps everything become actionable.
Image source: Daata.co / Adobe Stock.
What was life like after studying design and your first job?
At my graduation exhibition, I got a proposal that changed my life. I moved to Qingdao, China to work as a package designer for the biggest market in the world, the gifting market. After three years I moved to New York and worked in an infographic studio for my number one guru, Tommy McCall, which taught me everything I needed to know to become a next-level information designer. Through these experiences I was able to gain a global work view and discover how it affects design. Simultaneously, I started taking projects in data visualisation, and soon founded Daata.co with my partner in life and business, Ron Oren. After our time in New York, we moved back to Israel and brought the information design revolution back home with us.
What gives you inspiration, through work and life?
In one word: everything. In detail, the obvious is information design publications and blogs, and new UI designs that come my way. The non-obvious inspirations are fashion (for texture), nature (for colours and gradients), architecture (for look and feel), street art (for vision), photography (for composition and concept), interior design (for shape and aesthetics), and technology (for innovation). I feel inspiration sparks when creative thinking occurs, and if you’re ready to capture these moments, great design will follow.
A really important aspect of being a creative person is balancing work and family. How do you do all of this?
Balance is a fragile thing – though I am trying to keep it on the reasonable spectrum, the truth is, life can keep you unbalanced quite a lot. Motherhood was one of my biggest influences in the equation; it took me a while before I started to make important decisions in Daata.co again. In general, I keep my schedule clear after I pick my daughter up from school for our quality time. As a family, we have our planned long weekends in nature, usually for recharging our energy.
Image source: Daata.co / Adobe Stock.
What steps do you take towards self-care?
I try not to take on more that I can handle in the first place, but if I do (and sometimes it happens), I plan ahead to have a stable routine as much as possible. I play the piano as a mode of meditation. I started playing piano as a child, and since my daughter was a baby she would watch me play and just be calm and completely mesmerised. Now she watches me play and will also pound on the keys. I now play every day for two hours (unless it is a hectic day). I also maintain a healthy vegan diet mixed with light sport activity. And most important of all, I forgive myself if things are not going as planned.
How important is forgiveness as a creative?
It is really hard work and it takes time. If my bestie was in the same situation, what would I say to her? I would tell her to put it all in perspective, breathe and let it go. Every time I screw something up, I realise that it is something I can learn from, and keep mistakes from happening again. In Buddhism, they say you first love yourself then everything will follow, and I thought that was very egotistic. But now, I realise my happiness affects others in my family. If I wake up a little cranky, my daughter is like a mirror and it’s a punch in the face – she gets cranky as well. My happiness doesn’t only affect me.
How has Adobe Stock and Template Creation changed the way you approach creative design?
Once I realised designers are actually using my templates it forced me to plan the designs carefully due to the fact that they are mostly based on Illustrator graph tools rather than classic graphic shape elements. At the end of the day, my work is worth nothing if a designer doesn’t understand how to use the template or how it’s built. So, my approach changed to be end-user focused – from the wireframes to the UI, I bear in mind all the scenarios that can get complicated and try to prevent any confusion within the design.
How do you deal with feedback in your line of work?
My friend is a comedian and he gets his feedback on stage, on the spot. As a templates designer I receive feedback by my downloads – I have to compare what is selling well, what is not, and why. We put our energy into these templates and hope that we are doing our best for the end users. It was mind-blowing to know that the work I am doing is being used by someone else. Feedback is the key to our development, this is what makes us better designers.
Any words of wisdom you can share with creatives?
Create unique templates that give value to your audience. The key to productivity and motivation is to do so with love and passion.