Design Director at Contra


RyMagno (Design Director at Contra)

Ry is a Filipino designer helping shape the future of flexible work.

Los Angeles, United States • August 7, 2021

What led you into design?

As a kid, I loved to draw and really enjoyed taking art classes. I was super curious about how electronics/gadgets worked (aka I broke a lot of things) and always thought of ways to improve on their designs.

However, when it came to college, I ended up going with a more "practical" route and graduated with a Software Engineering degree. For a few years, I worked in engineering, got my M.S. in Software Engineering, but made a pretty quick shift to product and design. I may not have felt it at the time, but looking back I appreciate the winding path I took and how it made me more well-rounded.

What does a typical day look like?

Every morning, I kick off the day helping my daughter get ready for her online classes. We'll have breakfast together, then I'll make sure her desk and devices are good to go.

Once she's all set, I'll hop into work mode. At Contra, we're all remote so it's a lot of collaborating via Slack, Figma, Notion/Coda, etc. The team does a great job balancing async work and syncing up when folks need to align. Currently, my role can shift from working with cross-functional teams on helping nail down requirements for upcoming features, giving feedback/direction to our amazingly talented design team, working with external partners on launch initiatives, designing out user flows, brand design work, and more.

Since the kiddo is currently home for school, we get to have family lunch! In the late afternoon/early evening, I'll take a break and have a homework/learning session with my daughter, and then hop back into work mode in the evening to wrap up remaining work for the day (gotta love the flexibility).

What's your workstation setup?

Where do you go to get inspired?

I try to find time to be inspired daily – with such a talented team, it's pretty easy. When I'm intentional about it, I'll browse typical inspo sites like Typewolf (clean typography is my jam) and Awwwards, trending apps, consumer brands, album covers, etc. But more importantly, the family enjoys spending time outdoors. We bike around town a lot, take the dog to parks, and try to hit the beach regularly – all perfect times to feel inspired!

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

My daughter is a huge Minecraft fan. Every day, I am more and more blown away at the complexity of what she builds. For a game to be designed so that a child can easily pick up on it, but also allow you to build a functional work of art with code/logic is amazing to me.

What pieces of work are you most proud of?

I can't pinpoint one piece of work that I'd say I'm most proud of. I think having had the chance to work with so many different, amazing brands/clients in various spaces (tech, entertainment, commerce, defense, etc.) across different roles (design, product, tech/development) is what I'm most proud of.

With that being said, if I had the tools we're currently building at Contra early on in my independent journey, it would've been a godsend. Knowing that we're guiding independents to unlock high-quality opportunities leading to a more flexible life is something I'm very proud of.

What design challenges do you face at your company?

Contra's mission is to help folks find flexible work that fits their lifestyle. Going independent is one way to do this, however other platforms' approach leads to a race to the bottom (whoever charges the lowest fees gets hired). The goal of our platform is to guide independents to unlock higher-quality opportunities, with folks they love working with, while providing clients :fire: work.

What music do you listen to while designing?

Any advice for ambitious designers?

Strive to collab with smart, talented folks. In my experience, this is the most effective way to level up your craft and build a solid network. Couple this with working on things you enjoy/are passionate about (rather than picking a path just for $, for example) and work will likely be super fulfilling. That's the beauty of going independent – it gives you the chance to work on projects that align with your values, with folks that are talented in the field you're interested in.

Anything you want to promote or plug?

Check out Contra's first State of Independence report! In collaboration with Li Jin, we surveyed 10k+ successful independents and gathered helpful insights for folks interested in independent work. Additionally, while partnering with Green Chameleon, we really put in work to make this a fun, creative web experience.