'On the water I get the best ideas'


Aafke Croockewit - UX Designer

As a freelancer to NN

'I started at NN as a freelance UX designer. I really value freedom, creativity and responsibility and they aren’t things you immediately associate with a large corporate. That prejudice was quickly dispelled. I work in a team with other designers and developers. We’re like an independent unit in the organisation. We set our own work and are given lots of room to innovate. The projects are very varied and you can decide whether you spend more time on concept development or on implementation. And because we all get on so well together as a team there’s a great atmosphere. All in all, reason enough for me to give up the freelance life. And I’ve got a lot of benefits in return.’

​​​​​​​‘As a UX designer, you design the user experience. So, the process always starts with the user, usually a customer or group of customers. To design a properly functioning product, you really have to put yourself in another’s person’s shoes: Who is the person? What does he or she do? What does he or she need? That intrigues me. We’re currently working on a product that aims to reduce stress and burn-outs. This involves speaking to people experiencing these issues as well as to experts. I observe or question to find out how we can help. We then devise potential solutions, visualise them by sketching them, we test and adapt them and gradually we create the solution. It’s a fascinating job and it gives me a lot of satisfaction to design something that genuinely helps people.’

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Freedom on the water

‘The ultimate design of a product depends on many factors. In that sense, the process is a bit like my second love: kitesurfing. If it’s windy, I often head straight to the beach after work. My head is full of information and random ideas, but as soon as I’m on my surfboard, I just focus on the wind, how the waves are breaking and the best way of surfing them. You use this to try to recognise patterns and take decisions, relying on your own knowledge, expertise and strength. The great thing is that if everything comes together perfectly, you get a real kick out of it.’

‘Kite surfing gives me a huge sense of freedom. You get on the board and after a couple of metres you don’t hear or see anything that’s happening on the beach. You literally leave everything behind and are alone with the sea, the wind, the seagulls and sometimes a seal. For me, it’s pure relaxation. It empties my head, which creates headspace for new insights and ideas.’

From surfboard to decks

‘If I really think about it, my work is essentially reflected in everything I do. A friend and I sometimes DJ at parties. Just like on the water and in my work, I’m also constantly observing what works and what doesn’t. As a DJ you determine the atmosphere and you can see straight away from the public how things are going. It means that you get immediate feedback on your choices according to how crazy the crowd is going. It’s similar to creating the right user experience in my work as a designer.’

‘Essentially, it all comes back to the freedom, creativity and responsibility I mentioned earlier. These three things are really important to me in everything I do. That’s what I experience on the water, behind the decks and in my work at NN. So, I really feel at home here.’

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