The story of Robert Mion

Robert with his wife Laura

Robert fell in love with storytelling at a young age.

I saw Toy Story when I was eight years old. It is my earliest memory of making a very real emotional connection with characters that don't physically exist.

Pixar are masters of using animation to tell emotionally-charged, visually rich stories disguised as powerful life lessons for children and parents alike. It is this commitment to storytelling and near-limitless depth that Robert seeks to embed in each project of which he is a contributing member.

Robert learned to listen before he learned to draw.

I would play along on my guitar - matching notes, chords and tone - repeating tracks over and over until I committed enough to muscle memory. The rest would magically come back when I heard the song again.

His first instrument was the recorder in third grade. A year later, Robert started taking piano lessons. He participated in several recitals, reaching his peak with a performance of Fur Elise sometime in middle school. His interest in piano faded after Robert played a guitar in his middle school music class. After much pleading, Robert's parents bought him one for Christmas. Unlike with the piano, Robert did not want professional training: guitar was to be a hobby, not a profession. Interacting with his guitar was a reward, not a chore. Unbeknownst to him then, the process of listening to music, tuning his guitar, finding the right chords, looking up user-submitted tablature, and committing repeated patterns found in a majority of songs, would all prepare him well for life as a career as a user experience designer.

Robert studied human anatomy and design theory in tandem.

I was taught by my favorite art instructor to judge an artist by her use of temperature and ability to convey a sense of command over her subject's form and composition. Luckily, both concepts are translatable to - and equally as important when measuring - the viability and usefulness of a business's product.

While working towards a Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Arizona, Robert completed several courses, including illustration, painting and story-booking. Robert was mesmerized by the inherent motion of the human figure and drawn to the limitless ways light could bring out a vast spectrum of colors from each surface it hit. But beyond rendering still life and human anatomy, Robert quickly found inspiration from history's notable typographers, architects, industrial (and all other classes of) designers. In fact, his story-booking class offered the only institutional outlet for Robert to express his passion for both practices: telling stories through picture and text within the constrained frame of the page.

Robert used his design and illustration abilities to make money.

The ability to quickly sketch an idea - or make sense of someone else's sketch - paid off immensely in my earliest jobs, and continues to be one of my most cherished skills when working with clients to discuss an idea or prototype a new product or feature.

During his Junior and Senior years in college, Robert held several jobs simultaneously. He worked between classes for the University's official newspaper as an advertisement designer. He worked on days with no classes and during the summer for a family-owned print shop. And he interned at the city's newspaper as a cover illustrator for one of their monthly publications. In each role, Robert was expected to communicate effectively with other team members, often indirectly. Advertisements were often to be designed based solely on hand-drawn notes and sketches captured by salespeople during client meetings. Print specification documents were drafted by the front desk clerk and left on his work station to complete. And Robert had to visually convey his ideas and progress for any given month's cover illustration so the internal team could approve or provide critique.

Robert brought his employers success by using every opportunity to learn.

I enjoy failure. It's what helps me learn the fastest. And it makes success an even greater victory than had I stumbled upon it by pure luck much sooner. Failure is a core ingredient in design. If someone isn't failing early in a product's design, everyone risks failing when it's too late to recover.

After graduating, Robert was contracted to work amongst a small team within a large organization, designing multimedia for several internal groups throughout the organization. Months before his contract ended, Robert found inspiration from the work of his newly re-located co-worker, a developer. Robert's first purchase was a book teaching HTML and CSS. There were many books that followed. At his next job - as the lead designer for a small marketing agency - Robert's newfound web development skills enabled the agency to bring work otherwise rewarded to third-party vendors in-house. In a later role with a startup, Robert finessed his skills in design, development and marketing to support the company's rapid growth into new states across the country.

Robert took a big risk to seek much greater - but far more rewarding - challenges.

I am very lucky to find time for many of the meet-ups around Charlotte. And I commute from South of Charlotte to Uptown, so I ride public transportation at least twice per day. I'd wager the best part about this city is each person has a remarkable story. All that's usually missing is someone who wants to listen.

Robert and his wife moved to Charlotte in the summer of 2013 to start the next chapter of their lives together. Robert quickly met like-minded peers, some of whom he taught design and development. Since moving, he has consulted co-workers, business owners and the occasional stranger on how to think smarter about design. Robert continues to seek and provide education in the hopes that design is viewed less as a barrier and more as a bridge: it may be used to separate people, but it is best used to connect people.

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