This is the first in a series of interviews with SAP employees in a variety of roles in the area of user experience and design.
Timo Bess is a visual designer for the SAP Business Suite and works at SAP headquarters in Walldorf, Germany. Since winning the internal design contest to create a responsive and beautiful design for the SAP User Experience Community, Timo is also responsible for the design of this site.
Timo, can you please briefly explain what you do at SAP as a visual designer.
At SAP I see my work more as digital product design with a focus on visual design. For me it’s not only about visuals, but also how users experience our products and services. That includes everything from buying the software, installing it, testing it, working with it and even hopefully telling friends and colleagues about it. For my daily work, that means to first listen carefully and try to understand what we want to design and even more importantly, why. Asking the most fundamental questions, challenging opinions and trying not to lose sight of the big picture and the final experience are key for me. And then, and only then, if I fully understand why and how something should work, do I start to design it. After I start designing something it is all about creating, iterating, throwing away, trying again and presenting my work. My primary tools for that – imagination, drawing, Adobe Creative Suite, and PowerPoint. For me usability, performance, and aesthetics combined in a useful way, are the three cornerstones for designing a good experience. Giving products an outstanding aesthetic appeal is very important because pretty things sell better than ugly things. It’s that simple. As a visual designer I do that by bringing structure and clarity to the interface. Using the right typography in the right size, choosing the right colors in a meaning way and structuring elements with enough whitespace are the ingredients to achieve a good and highly aesthetic product.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I really enjoy the moment when people see what a product could look like. Visualizing what a product could be in a realistic way generates new ideas and opens up new possibilities in people’s minds. I think this is one of the most powerful aspects of visual design.
What are the most challenging aspects of your work?
In design you face challenges all the time. But maybe keeping things simple is often the most challenging part of design work. In the heat of a project, it seems that the original goal of making the experience for the user as simple as possible can get lost. I try to remind myself and other members of the project throughout the design and development process that our ultimate goal is to deliver the best, and simplest, experience we can.
What did you study?
I studied fine arts for three years and then communication design for four more years at the University of Applied Sciences in Mannheim, where I got my M.A.
Before joining SAP in 2013, you worked for nearly 10 years for various design and communication agencies. What aspects of that work did you enjoy most?
The strong teamwork and the fact that everything is driven by design without any compromise. Absolute perfection is required, especially when you are presenting the work to the client. In agencies you often stay on the front lines and have to sell your design to the client personally. You experience the client’s response and directly see the impact your work has on the agency’s bottom-line. These are very valuable experiences.
What has been the most personally rewarding project at SAP that you have worked on and why?
Definitely the redesign of the SAP User Experience Community. It was a great experience to work in such a small and agile project team. Design and development worked side by side to get the job done. In this constellation we could really try out a lot of iterations and implement the new design in record time, often without needing a high fidelity mockup at hand. This helps making the right decisions which way to go with the final user experience and the overall visual style. We worked very result driven and in the end we had the satisfaction to launch and experience our own product. Great.
Do you have a design motto or something that is core to the way you work?
Good design touches our hearts.
Thank you for the interview, Timo.
Are you a visual designer? Why not join the conversation and tell us about yourself and your job?