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Hello! My name is Paula Popowski. I am a big picture thinker, I tell stories, and I solve problems that affect millions of people. I do this by designing digital products that are goal-driven, user-centric, and delightful to use.
I’ve worked on a number of large-scale projects at COUNTRY Financial, Jimmy John’s, Wolfram|Alpha, and the University of Illinois that cannot be published. Contact me to discuss how I can convince you that I have the research or product design skillset you need.
I am a full-spectrum designer with degrees in Art History and Graphic Design, an MS in Strategic Brand Communication, and over 15 years of hands-on industry experience designing for higher education, information technology, e-commerce, finance, and arts and culture nonprofits.
I currently work as the Lead UX Designer for agency-facing products at COUNTRY Financial. In this capacity, I define and oversee the end-to-end user experience of digital products used by approximately 2000 Insurance and Financial Reps to make strategic planning decisions for their businesses. I work collaboratively with multi-disciplinary Agile teams to research, design, iterate, and validate rich web applications, and I participate in frequent sessions across the enterprise to define and socialize style guides, design principles, pattern libraries, and asset repositories used to champion and implement user-centered design methodologies across the brand.
My identity as a Product/UI/UX/Visual designer is grounded in a capacity for cognitive empathy, a deep interest in how people connect through verbal and visual communication, and a passion for problem-solving. My superpower is leading clients and project teams from ambiguity to clarity by setting direction that combines user, business, and development goals.
Product Design Lead with over 15 years of diverse experience in Visual, UX, and UI Design, an MS in Strategic Brand Communication, including hands-on industry experience in delivering outstanding products and marketing materials in higher education, IT, insurance, finance, real estate, hospitality, e-commerce, and nonprofits. Proven strengths in creative leadership, including direct supervision, and the recruitment and mentorship of 20 + co-workers and interns with diverse backgrounds and levels of job experience. Have led cross-functional teams through the ins and outs of shipping native and platform-agnostic products that are component-based, goal-driven, user-centric, and delightful to use.
Lead User Experience Designer
COUNTRY Financial (Contract)
I define and oversee the end-to-end user experience of Agency-facing digital products used by approximately 2000 Insurance and Financial Reps to nurture clients, forecast revenue, and make strategic business planning decisions.
User Experience Researcher
COUNTRY Financial (Contract)
Conducted UX Research for Agency-facing digital products in the insurance and financial sector, including research design, stakeholder analysis, participant recruiting, interviewing/prototype testing, user feedback surveys, data collection and analysis, and presentation to stakeholders and leadership.
Lead Product Designer
Jimmy John’s, Inspire Brands
Working in a multi-disciplinary Agile team, I oversaw product design decisions for 5-star native consumer apps that were used by millions of users. During this time I introduced user testing, consumer research, and data-driven design practices; eliminated tools and plugin dependencies by migrating design production, prototyping, and handoff files from Sketch to Figma; introduced best practices for incorporating design into Agile workflows; created user scenarios; performed competitive analyses; developed concept maps; designed static and interactive wireframes and prototypes; and compiled lean specification documents for mobile applications, including iOS, Android, Siri Shortcuts, Android Voice Assistant, and Apple Watch.
Graphic Design Department, Parkland College
I developed curricula, taught Design and Media Principles and co-taught Graphic Design I, two foundational graphic design course that introduced all aspects of communication design including: creative problem solving, applied design principles, proficiency in Adobe Creative Suite, fundamental typography, and visual literacy.
Lead Product Designer
Wolfram Alpha LLC
Working closely with leadership, marketing, business analysis, researchers, developers, and content strategists, I oversaw brand and product design decisions for a knowledge-based computational engine used daily by 1.2 million students, teachers, researchers, and hobbyists around the globe. I was involved in the full creative life cycle of web projects, including the ideation, design, and validation of new products, streamlining of existing user interfaces, and implementation of marketing campaigns that spoke to diverse international audiences.
Strategic Design Specialist
Creative Services, University of Illinois
Taking +80 projects per year from concept development to final execution, I developed innovative and strategic marketing, communications, and branding solutions for a broad range of university audiences; provided leadership, direction, and implementation regarding UI design, usability, UX research, and ADA compliance; guided clients in brand discovery and strategic planning; and developed pattern library and visual standards for websites and apps.
NCSA, University of Illinois
As the lead designer at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign my primary responsibility was to develop, implement, and oversee the visual identity of NCSA through print, web, mobile, video, and social media.
School of Art + Design, University of Illinois
I taught and developed the curriculum for Introduction to Graphic Design, a service-learning graphic design course that used reversed classroom techniques to focus on process, theory, and real-world design issues.
During my stay at Conservatorio I created, developed, and managed bilingual design projects for international markets, collaborating with stakeholders in establishing a unified marketing strategy for the company and its affiliated brands.
I work with clients from a wide range of industries and backgrounds to identify strategic opportunities and solve marketing challenges through print, web, mobile, video, and social media.
Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Elins Eagles-Smith Gallery, sculpturesite.org, BorderZone Arts, and more!
Bay Area, CA
From 2001-2005 I worked for various art galleries, museums, and cultural institutions throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. During this time I acquired increasingly sophisticated design and marketing responsibilities, including designing websites, collateral, ads, environmental art, and identity packages for art galleries as well as coordinating PR campaigns for nationally recognized exhibitions.
Brand Management, Creative Direction, Pitches and Presentations, Mentoring, Project management, People Management, Agile, Excellent Writing and Verbal Skills, Brand Discovery Workshops, User Research, User Insights, Contextual Interviews, Surveys, Card Sorts, Usability Studies, A/B Tests, Storyboarding, Interactive Prototypes, High-fidelity Wireframes, Typography, Illustration, Color Theory, Style Guides, Pattern Libraries, Google Analytics, Integrated Marketing, Promotional Strategy, Messaging Strategy, Content Strategy
Strategic Brand Communication MS, GPA: 4.0
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Nielsen Norman Group
Graphic Design AAS, GPA: 4.0
Art History BA, GPA: 3.97
New Brunswick, NJ
Pens to Lens Screen-Writing Competition
Coordinating Committee Member
University of Illinois Web Conference
Portfolio Reviewer and Mock Interviewer
Parkland College Portfolio Seminar, CUDO Portfolio Review, U of I College of FAA
Inaugural Board of Directors Member
Champaign-Urbana Design Organization (CUDO)
Bilingual in Spanish and English, Intermediate Fluency in Italian and Portuguese
get in touch
Hey, Let’s work together! If you like what you’ve seen so far and would be interested in talking further, please drop me a line. Also, feel free to contact me with any comment, joke, or insight if you so feel inclined. I will get back to you as soon as humanly possible.
Meanwhile, nothing stops you from looking around a bit. Visit my work page to get an overview of my visual design skills. I’ve worked on a number of large-scale projects as an in-house designer at COUNTRY Financial, Jimmy John’s, Wolfram|Alpha, and the University of Illinois that cannot be published. Email me to discuss process or how I can convince you that I have the research or product design skillset you need. Read more about me to discover my philosophy and work history. Or download a .pdf version of my resume.