My journey into Digital Product Design


Hi! I am João - 21 years-old and currently living in Braga. I am graduated in Economics at University of Minho and also Chairman of the AIESEC UMinho’s Board of Directors.

I love to ask questions, understand how people work and experiencing new things that scare me.

Here you'll find more about the reason I am applying to The New Digital School and what I've been doing so far to pursue my passion for design.

How I Got Into Design

Building experiences with AIESEC

Back at University, I had the lifetime pleasure of joining AIESEC, a youth-run organization. The organization focuses on developing young leaders by providing cross-cultural experiences abroad. We believe that if you see the world, then you are one step closer to understand it in a different way and change it. I meet crazy, weird, and visionary people with whom I immediately identified.

Throughout my term my perception of the experiences we were providing started to change. It was not only about sending or receiving people from all over the world; I was having direct impact in one of the most important experiences of their lives.

Marketing campaigns, meetings with people interested in travelling to Egypt, dealing with VISA issues, solving problems with other committees from all over the world - it all played a part in people’s lives. Sometimes it could dictate how much they could take from the experience itself.

Honest design happens if the choice to acknowledge that design without a rationale is a mere aesthetic exercise is to be made.

— Ricardo Baeta

Technology as a playground

Stepping a few years back - way before joining university - I was already in contact with digital technology. Music, photography and web development did occupy a lot of my time back when I was a kid.

Somehow this maze led me to design websites in Wordpress. Even though these were not professionally built, they gave me an insight on how technology is able to provide concrete spaces that allow for the creation of experiences. Yet, back then for me design was all about making things pretty and sexy.

It was not until I came across the right people, insightful books and resources that I understood I was blind by the design stigma. There’s rationality and arguments behind design decisions. They are based in foundations and defy the way we connect and experience products. These are combined with creativity, technology, research, testing and a solution-oriented mindset to produce experiences that, in the end, can have a major impact in people’s lives.

Mixing both my past building life changing experiences with AIESEC and technology that introduced me to a whole new world, I found Digital Product Design.


The New Digital School's concept and values are aligned with the way I see the future of education. It is the place where I envision my own learning experience for the next year.

My vision on learning
Expectations towards TNDS
After TNDS

My journey so far

My vision and experience so far could not be what they are right now if it weren't for all the people that contributed - each in a very unique way - to my growth as a person and as a designer.

People and meetups
On the field

The Design of Everyday Things

Don Norman

The impact design has on everyday experience is incredible. Don Norman makes this point very clear, as well as the responsibility designers have towards end users. The connection between designer and user behaviour is essential to create solutions focused on needs.

This book should have a disclaimer: you’ll get sick. You will not look at the world the same way you used to. If you have the sensitivity to absorb the content and apply it to the real world, you’ll start to see patterns. In the end, you’ll find yourself in a loop you cannot turn your eyes away from. Products will reveal the thought process behind them. Reasons for “why was this made this way?” will unveil.

Discussing Design

Adam Connor + Aaron Irizarry

This book played a huge role on changing my perspective on how to give critiques. Despite being focused on design, this can actually apply to any field of work.

When discussing any project, our eyes should strip any personal bias and be only focused on the functionality being discussed. Even though we’re often tempted to share ideas and thoughts, we can’t see (at first sight) how influenced we might be by personal taste and experiences.

I’ve been training my speech to create solution-oriented discussions, rather than opinion based ones.

The Art of Learning

Josh Waitzkin

It only took me 50 pages of this book to realize this would be one of the most important pieces of reading I would ever come across.

As someone new to a lot of subjects (design, development, business), this book has helped me develop awareness to the way I perceive things and learn new topics. Learning skills played an important role in allowing me to pursue my passions in the last year.

This book is eye opening at every imagined level. It gave me hope and reinforced something I’ve always believed in: you can learn everything.

Lean UX

Jeff Gothelf + Josh Seiden

After joining Upframe, I was advised to read Lean UX by Jeff Gothelf and Josh Seiden. It led to a shift in my mind from “prepare, deliver” to “prepare, ship, iterate, repeat”.

Aligned with the importance of user behaviour, Lean UX made me realize how crucial it is to ship products as soon as an MVP is ready, and learn from there. Because previous to that, you might as well be working blind.

In a world where change and technology allow faster iterations, it’s a very interesting strategy when creating experiences.

Don't Make Me Think

Steve Krug

Using a very simple and relatable writing, Steve Krug introduced me to the importance of experiences that create a continuous flow.

With a great focus on mobile and web development, this book influenced the way I designed webpages when working as a freelancer. It allowed me to develop a different taste for how people connected and used my products. The less trouble for them, the better.

Something the author also alerts to is: you do not need to reinvent the wheel if it is already invented. Soon I started applying UX and UI patterns to my designs, taking advantage of already proven successful elements.

João is an extremely talented designer. His skills are tremendously broad and the way he thinks about design, with his age, it’s at least pretty much outstanding. Moreover, what makes him a hot shot is not about his skills, but rather his ambition, values, attitude, dedication, and drive. João is an inspiration to me. Most importantly, his future, is yet to be set in stone. I’m pretty sure that with this endeavour at the New Digital School all the dots will be solidly grounded and wisely connected. I have no doubts that João will make any given teacher very proud.

Ricardo Baeta

Designer @ sourced

João is a self-taught designer with a growth mindset who never ceases to amaze me. He’s always reaching for the stars when working on any project. Also, he has great social skills that contribute immensely to nurture a great work environment. I wouldn't hesitate for a second to work with him again. Highly recommended.

Gustavo Pimenta

Designer @ senseslab

Summing up

I want to grow in a real environment, take ownership of my own roadmap and be in a place where it is up to me to decide how much I want to evolve.

I believe I match The New Digital School's student profile and I am applying for the 2018 class under the Fresh Start scholarship.