Product Designer at Contra


NoelleHoffman (Product Designer at Contra)

Noelle is an independent designer specialized in product design and brand identity. Beyond design, she's passionate about building community through mentorship and interactive workshops.

Austin, United States • June 19, 2021

What led you into design?

It's a funny story and one I could've never predicted. I started as a photographer with big dreams of working for National Geographic one day but quickly realized that wouldn't be my reality during my first year in college. As I was falling out of love with photography, I was watching a lot of Mad Men. While I was familiar with graphic design, I never thought of it as a career path.

Fast forward to moving across the country from Baltimore, MD to Seattle, WA, where I transferred schools and made an unexpected but happy life switch. On the first day at my new college, the tour guide showed a group of us around and told the art majors to go right (that was supposed to be me because I was still majoring in photography) and the design majors to go left.

At that moment, I went left, and my whole life changed. Looking back at my life to when I was a child leading up to this very moment, it is now apparent that I've always been a designer, but now I had a name for it.

What does a typical day look like?

I'm a sucker for routine, so I like to start my day with one. I, of course, wake up and go straight to the bathroom for my morning self-care. I just introduced an ice roller to my regiment, and I'm pleased about it. After some me time, I take my dog, Shadow, for a walk around the neighborhood. I try to take some deep breaths of the fresh air as I walk.

From there, I jump on the computer and start my workday. As an independent who works remotely, I'm able to break up my workday however I want. My brain is most energetic in the morning, so I try to pump out creative work then. I love making lunch, so I take a midday break to veg and recharge.

The afternoon leading into the evening consists of planning, logistical work, and wrapping up tasks from the day. I like to get off the computer at 5:00 and jump into a workout followed by a long afternoon walk with Shadow. After sitting all day, it's nice to move my body; Shadow likes it too.

What's your workstation setup?

Where do you go to get inspired?

Inspiration hits me when I'm simply living life. What does that mean? When I'm taking a walk, looking out the window at nothing, or quietly laying on the couch. One of my favorite activities is to go for a solo lunch and listen to the sounds around me. I also enjoy lying by the local pool and watching people go in and out of the water. When I turn my brain off and listen to the world around me, that's when inspiration hits.

What product have you recently seen that made you think this is great design?

I've been impressed with the Coinbase app ever since I started using it a few years ago. They did a good job inviting the average user in (me) to learn about and participate in cryptocurrency exchange. Their app is simple and never overwhelming. Not only is it visually pleasing but the experience is on point too.

What pieces of work are you most proud of?

When I worked at IBM, I started a monthly workshop series called Spare Time. With Spare Time I was able to bring together IBMers to make something together. The projects included macrame, silk dying, origami, and more.

I'm proud of the brand I created around Spare Time (logo, tee-shirt, packaging, posters, website, etc.), but more importantly, I'm proud of the community I started. Everyone who participated in Spare Time needed a creative outlet once a month, a break from enterprise software, and I'm glad the workshops could give that to them.

What design challenges do you face at your company?

I feel like every emerging company faces the challenge of standing out amongst the crowd. It seems like everyone has a new and exciting idea that they want to make into a reality nowadays, but how do you get noticed? I firmly believe that design (brand, product, web, etc.) can make or break you as a company.

The consumer will gravitate towards the clean logo and visually pleasing easy to use website. If an app is too buggy or is an awful experience to use, the consumer will move on. I'm a part of a fantastic team at Contra that makes sure that our brand and product will not only stand out but the entire experience will be a joy for users.

What music do you listen to while designing?

Any advice for ambitious designers?

Take chances, learn from your mistakes, and try again.

Anything you want to promote or plug?

Contra just released The State of Independence Report, a survey with over 10,000 independents. This report shows that the way we work is changing, including where we work, how we work, and when we work. Contra is passionate about our mission, and we are excited to share this report with the world.