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Meet Henry Truong of FeelGood Design

Today we’d like to introduce you to Henry Truong.

Hi Henry, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start maybe you can share some of your backstory with our readers?
After college, I knew I wanted my career to be in tech but wasn’t sure what I had to offer in the industry. My first “big boy” gig was at a third-party recruiting agency helping start-up companies fill challenging job positions. I appreciated this route early in my career as I wanted to learn what people in the tech industries do, ranging from Software Engineers to Design roles. Fast forward about 1.5 years in, I came across User Experience (UX) Design as one of the jobs I had to fill and quickly learned how beneficial this role was not just to the client but for the general public and everyday use of technology. I was then contracted at a creative agency called HUGE Inc. as a recruitment coordinator and that’s when I truly learned the benefits of good user experience design. I left the agency, went back to being a recruiter for a different company, but this time, we had the luxury of working from home. I reaped the benefits of working from home by asking UX design candidates how they got into the field, what they enjoy about UX Design, and if they had any advice to someone who wants to get in the field. It was at this time I realized that I no longer cared for recruiting, in fact, I was terrible at it and wanted something more in the creative space. I guess we can say that working at HUGE Inc. inspired me to be a designer. Thank you HUGE Inc. and John Hanks, my manager, for the opportunity.

Luckily, while being a failed recruiter, my sister had just opened up an optometry office and needed a website. I quickly jumped the gun and asked if I could take on the responsibility of it — and I loved every minute of it. I knew this to be true because I would stay up late in the night learning design tools, learning basic design principles, and trying out new things in the creative space. It was an awful website at first, but I was happy to have even launched something and to say I created something. I knew I wanted more design projects so I started looking for design programs to get myself educated. I stumbled upon a UX event by HUGE Inc. in Santa Monica, called up a friend, and off we went to attend the talk. My old boss from HUGE was there and told me that if I wanted to be a UX Designer, then consider taking a course at General Assembly, a bootcamp program known for their User Experience cohort, which was -ironically- where the UX event was hosted at. I grabbed a pamphlet, checked my options, and crunched some numbers to figure out the budget. My choices were either a 3-year Master’s program for UX or 3-month immersive program with General Assembly. I did my interview with General Assembly front lines, spoke with the Instructors to learn more about the program and expectations, and asked tons of people about their experience with similar bootcamp programs. I’m not sure what compelled the instructors to do this, but I was offered a small grant (aka discount) to join the program as they must have seen something in me during my interview. I agreed to join the three months program knowing that the Master’s program will always be there in case things don’t pan out at General Assembly. So I pivoted my career, quit my job as a recruiter, and went full force into the immersive program — and it was the best decision of my life. The 3-month, User Experience immersive program was a rigorous Monday through Friday, 9-5pm class based in Santa Monica. This program taught me the basic fundamentals of User Experience Design ranging from user research, ideating solutions, wireframing, visual design, and prototyping mobile and web design. Along with learning those skill-sets, I took advantage of the opportunity to network with peers, instructors, and companies to further my practice.

Shortly after graduating from General Assembly, I was now able to call myself a UX Designer and I quickly landed a few gigs at small boutique design agencies where I was exposed to awesome projects, all the way down to not-so awesome projects. But I didn’t care at the time, I was just happy to have jumped ship in my career and do something I love. “Make something you love”, a motto by HUGE Inc that I live by till this day. After working in the field as a UX Designer for about a year, I was poached by Disney Parks and Resorts Digital and was hired for an Interaction Design job. It’s been 6-years (and still counting) working for the mouse on various projects ranging from Disneyland dot com, Disney World, Disney Cruise Line, runDisney, Disney Springs, Disney Vacation Club, Disney Youth, Play Disney Parks, I can go on, but I wanted more outside the organization. During my time at Disney, I’ve learned so much from some of the best designers in the world and I knew it was time for me to flex outside the organization. That’s when I thought of starting my own agency and here we are. I own an agency called FeelGood Design, where I help small to medium-size businesses with their website or mobile app design needs.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
For the most part, ever since starting FeelGood Design, it has been a smooth road for me as I knew the roadmap to success in the design space. I knew it wasn’t going to happen overnight, so I took baby steps to figure out my process for clients ranging from pitching myself, RFP process, packages, and deliverables. I tested the waters by helping a friend with his website (free of charge) and was trying different tactics to get projects to the finish line. I took on clients for little-to-free just to build my portfolio outside of Disney projects. I often think of my services in the analogy of an ice-cream shop: you want a free sample before you buy, right? So here’s a sample of my work and if you like it, let’s talk on how we can create something for you. I guess the struggle that I found out quickly was that clients not only want a [design] proof-of-concept, they wanted the real thing and a workable product.

So I learned to code in HTML and CSS, played around with different website platforms, and figured out quickly that I can offer design + development, but the challenge was that everyone wanted an app built-in iOS or Android native– which is something I admittedly don’t do. They call it a “unicorn” if you can design and develop -a term that I hated to hear- but I wanted to stick to a design first mindset and have been working with other development agencies to help build digital products. Luckily, with my past skill-set as a recruiter, I am able to find freelance developers and agencies to partner with me from a technology standpoint, so it seemed like a good idea to not play imposter syndrome and just let the pros handle that front. Another struggle that I found, albeit not much of a hurdle but a time consumption, was educating my clients on the return of investments on good User Experience Design. A lot of clients believe design is a straightforward path, but oftentimes, it’s about learning about your users and audience and designing for the right experience, at the right time, and at the right place (in relation to the page or screen we are designing). At the end of the day, a lot of clients believe it’s about how the product looks rather than how it should work and function– so part of our job at FeelGood Design is to give the client what they want, but also give them what they need.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your business?
FeelGood Design is a small micro-agency helping small to medium size businesses with marketing and digital needs ranging from website to mobile app design & development. Technology is a fast-paced world and a lot of businesses are not getting a slice of the digital pie, therefore, missing out on opportunities from the online space, social media, and having a digital presence. 63% percent of the online traffic comes from mobile users, so if businesses are not thinking about a mobile-first digital approach, they may fail in the long run. FeelGood Design is about creating a space for your business in the digital mass, where we learn about your business, learn about your customers, and provide a digital design strategy on how we might provide relevant content at the relevant time, all while thinking about supporting your business needs and leveraging available technology.

What quality or characteristic do you feel is most important to your success?
It’s really about helping everyone win in this space. FeelGood is here not only to help businesses grow in the digital space but also allow young designers to flex and grow in this space. I didn’t cover it in earlier questions and answers, and if you made it this far down the interview, thank you for hearing my story, but I also teach User Experience Design at General Assembly part-time, and I sometimes allow my students to help with client projects. I like to think of myself as the Chief Experience Officer at FeelGood Design, where I am the middle man between the design support and the client. Young designers get experience, while clients get what they need at a more efficient and timely manner. I know that it can be difficult for a young, newly graduated design student to get a job in the design space, so I’m here to help offer a burst of small contract work here and there as client work comes in. There’s no difference in design quality as I will be reviewing all work that comes in.

We’re fully aware of where we stand as an agency, but to be more specific, we are a User Experience Design agency that fits in between three major pillars: user needs, business goals (that’s you as the client), and technical abilities. While anything is possible in the digital space, admittedly, we may or may not have the technical development skills in-house to give you what you need. But, if there’s a will, there’s a way, and we will find you the right development team to make your dream a reality. Honesty and transparency we’re terrible liars, and we’re not big on salesmanship either. So we just don’t do it at all. Instead, we offer you the honest truth about what you need and what we’re capable of doing. We’ll listen, evaluate, and come back with honest feedback on what we think is the best approach for you and your business. We’ll offer suggestions, a roadmap, and full transparency on everything to move the project forward. We’ll never up-sale you on something we don’t think you need. We’ll also keep you in the loop on all details made throughout the design journey so that there are no surprises on your end.

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