Jonas Kelstrup, the accidental product designer

I talked with Jonas Kelstrup, UNSILO’s new UX and product designer.

How did you get into UX?

It was kind of accidental! I started out as a graphic designer in the advertising world – I did an apprenticeship in this area, but after 4 years I realised that trying to convince people to do something they didn’t want to do wasn’t for me.

I am technically minded, so I moved to Copenhagen to start on a BSc in software development. Meanwhile I worked as an illustrator at a company called Billy’s Billing (which does accountancy software). But when they asked me to do a complete redesign of the app, I ended up leaving university to focus on UI/UX full time. And I’ve never looked back since.

At Billy I was the only product designer, and I had to learn for myself, but when I moved on to Zendesk, I got a lot of very skilled colleagues across the world, and I learned a great deal from working with them.

What’s your approach to UX?

First of all, I believe that gut feel and intuition is very important. But it can only take you so far. That’s why I like talking with end users. I have fairly good ideas, but I also know that every time I come up with a solution and put it in front of users, we can improve it with their input! Talk to just one or two users, and you get some very useful feedback.

And what size company do you prefer?

I’ve worked with both large and small companies. When I worked for Billy, they were a startup with around 10-15 people, and a start. After that, I moved to Zendesk, which had around 40-50 people in the Copenhagen office, and worldwide more than 1,000. I like startups. Between 20 and 40 where you can actually know all the names, and all the people, but if it is a bit smaller, around 10, it’s a little too startup! The startup vibe can be fun and interesting, but tiresome, if you aren’t able to focus on your real skills – for example at one small company I had to maintain the software, set up email accounts, manage the DNS, and so on. Bear in mind, I was a designer. I could do all these, but they aren’t my strengths, and not what I wanted to focus on. It’s all about finding the sweet spot!

Now you are back in Aarhus after several years in Copenhagen?

Yes, I grew up in Aarhus, and my close family is here, and I wanted to be closer to them. I spent around five years in Copenhagen, and I appreciated being there, but I prefer the smaller version. While Copenhagen is way more international, which is quite exciting, Aarhus is just more homely, I guess. Of course, I have had a lot of American colleagues, and for them a three-hour journey is close. Here, however, it’s a big thing being three hours away.

What’s your view of AI?

Some of the products in Zendesk used machine learning, although not the ones I worked directly on. I’m a bit technical, I program a bit for fun, because it is interesting. Not any machine learning though. Not yet at least! My view of AI, when it comes to presenting it to end users, is not to focus on the technology but what you can achieve with it – there’s a risk that people get scared if they don’t understand. If we can convince people that it works and works well, it’s like the TV set: TVs work, even though we don’t understand everything about how they work. We just accept it.One thing that people tend to be scared of about AI is job security. Through AI, day-to-day tasks will change, but I don’t think people will get fired. Instead, they will have more interesting jobs.

Thanks, Jonas!

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