The Road to UX: My Journey to 30 Rock

Our colleagues in the UX industry all come from so many unique backgrounds and stories that we thought it would be fun to start spotlighting our fellow peers and their “Road to UX.” For our first edition in this series, we interviewed NBC Universal’s Matt Wood who is the Director, UX & Design, for Bravo and Oxygen Media.


Matt Wood

Matt Wood

Director, UX & Design, Bravo and Oxygen Media

@mattwoodnyc


Q. Can you tell us a little more about your background and how you got into web design?

WOOD: In highschool, I was convinced I’d grow up to be an artist. I would go to summer camps for art, and took classes at The Corcoran Gallery in DC. Around that time, I got my hands on a copy of Photoshop 2.5.

Once I got to college, I became less interested in traditional media, and became fascinated with publishing little pieces of art online. I saw the web as an almost instantaneous medium, to promote my little drawings and designs. So I started to learn the basics of publishing (HTML and CSS), web design and layout, and the technical aspects of publishing digitally. Eventually learning the functional programming like JavaScript.

Q. How did your career progress in the area?

WOOD: In early 2000, web design wasn’t as sexy of a career. The industry was young, and the designers online were a quirky bunch. I remember obsessing over A List Apart articles, and finding a family in the early authors of web standards.

I thought web design was the red-headed stepchild to traditional print design. Yet, there was something beautiful in the simplicity of early web design: having only a few fonts, being restricted by a contained table, having “web-safe” colors, because monitors couldn’t safely display colors consistently. With those restrictions, there were some really creative designs that were published.

Q. How did you get from being a self taught designer to working at NBC?

My first gig was straight out of highschool at a digital agency in DC, mocking up websites. In college, I started a podcast with some friends, and it was then that I learned about WordPress. The possibility of making my designs dynamic by connecting my static html files to a database encouraged me to take my work seriously, beyond band websites and vanity blogs. I freelanced for a number of years graduating from bigger and bolder projects.

Q. What is your role at NBC? What do you make/build/design there?

I’m the Director of UX/Design at Bravo and Oxygen. Beyond the cable network, the two brands constantly crank out additional digital content. My job is to support all that content by creating artwork and user experiences that we then publish on the web and in our apps. I bounce between artwork for editorial, designing and prototyping new web properties, and helping to brand new franchises.

We’re really busy, and we are hiring, if anyone wants to help. (matt.wood@nbcuni.com)

Mocks of the recently-launched Real Housewives Awards

“We’re really busy, and we are hiring, if anyone wants to help.”

Q: What do you love most about your work?

WOOD: Our audience is massive, and our fans always want more. I love creating and designing something and to see the results, whether our users hate or fall in love with it.

With today’s latest technology, you get to take amazing magazine designs and convert them into beautiful web and mobile products. When HTML5 and CSS came about, everything completely changed and made web design work in new and interesting ways. Responsive and Mobile-first principles have given new life to designers that craft things online.

Q: What is your favorite thing to do when you’re not working?

WOOD: The best thing is being outside. I realized how attached I’ve become to a screen and how valuable the time is when I can be away from a screen—to have my eyes not looking at pixels. For someone who is so visual already, the best thing I’ve done is to put my phone in the living room before I go to bed. The less I look at the screen and can be completely recharged, the better I can design a new screen the next day.

Testing various page layouts

Q: What do you think are the key drivers in the web design industry and what do you think the future holds for us?

WOOD: I saw the web at its ugliest, and now there is no excuse to have an ugly website. I’m incredibly interested in the influence of a mobile-first experience. Responsive design flipped the web on its side.

Now, we’re not just building a website—we’re creating an information portal, which is just a whole other challenge. I love that the web has made designers become so nimble, quick, and efficient. It’s beautiful to see the wide range of designs.

What does the future hold? Let’s just make better shit and push the bar of what we can do.

“I love that the web has made designers become so nimble, quick, and efficient. It’s beautiful to see the wide range of designs.”

Q: What companies are creating great designs?

WOOD: I believe Google is doing good by pushing Material design to the web. I love the interactive features that the New York Times constantly publishes. I love the work that Hello Monday is creating, anything made by Jessica Walsh (@jessicavwalsh)

My current obsession is following painters and other artists on Instagram who post timelapse images — @bags43 or @georgedrawing.

Q: What advice do you have for aspiring designers and developers?

WOOD: I wish more designers coded, and more developers tried to design. Go to museums, experience things. Be influenced by something someone built in Russia. Go and think outside of your box.

Mood board

I also hear rumblings of people concerned about finding work in the future. Stop worrying! About 95% of the web is still disgusting to look at. A good indicator that there will always be people that will pay you to design something for them.


Want to tell us about your career path into UX? Email us!