Lea Alcantara: Design with sass and class

pic_alcantara-leaLea Alcantara is the design power behind Lealea Design. We’ve been admiring Lea’s design for a while now and are very happy to have her as part of our designer interview series. Make sure and follow her on Twitter: @lealea.

How or where do you find inspiration?
It depends on the task at hand. Often times, finding inspiration means leaving the computer and office. There’s a place for web galleries as well, but I think just flipping through an interior design magazine can sometimes be inspirational because it’s essentially two sources of inspiration: print design in the magazine itself, as well as colour, pattern, and spacial compositions in living areas.

Who is the biggest influence on your work right now?
Hard to say because I feel like influence is really multi-faceted. There are several designers I admire a lot, but I take bits and pieces from each that influence my work. For example, Jason Santa Maria has really helped me rethink art direction on the web and just generally speaking, the “grid movement” on the web has helped me formalize some of my design processes lately, but I wouldn’t say Khoi Vinh or Mark Boulton were giant influences because their aesthetic is so different from mine, but their appreciation for alignment and typography is definitely kept in mind.

Where are your “design roots”? Print or Web?
Is it a cop-out answer to say “both”? I started designing websites when I was a teenager, but I went to college and left with a big print portfolio. But I didn’t really understand design as we know now without my print background.

How important is it to know the history of design?
As a professional, I think it depends. The more design knowledge we have, the more tools we technically have in our arsenal. However, you need to understand its context to be able to know how to use it. And also, knowing something to have happened in the past doesn’t make it relevant for future use. I think it’s as important if it helps build your own, original aesthetic and if it calls for it for a project.

Serif or Sans?
This is totally like the design roots question. It depends on my mood! In fact, I’m going to even go further and say that I prefer sans-serif with occasional “flourishes” that look like serifs.

Do you code and design? Are you a “Hybrid”?
I think it’s extremely important to be SOME level of hybrid in this industry. At the end of the day it’s about understanding the medium. I am more of a designer than a coder, as that is my strength, but knowing how the design will be portrayed in code can only help.

What’s your favorite part of the creative process?
When you know you’re “on”. Basically, once you get through the initial hump, then the design just flows out of you and onto the screen. It’s a relief, really.

What makes your creative process different from everybody else?
I’m probably as less structured as some people. I really don’t subscribe to one particular process versus another. I often start on a colour palette before I even deal with layout, and I think that definitely shows. Kind of like how people would pick out wall colours before furniture, or decide that you want to wear “red” instead of whether it’s a blouse vs t-shirt.

What do you see as the single biggest shift in the evolution of design over the past 5 years?
I think the biggest shift is that more people are finally taking process and meaning into account when designing a site. Before, it seemed to be okay to have a site subjectively look nice, basically mimic a brochure, but now we are thinking more about user experience and ROI.

What’s the difference between User Experience and User Interface design?
UX deals with more than just the interface. An “experience” is designing for human emotions which deals with more than just the web, more than just design. User interface design specific deals with how to translate the user experience for a particular interface, whether it’s virtual or live.

What makes one a web design professional?
Someone who takes it seriously, treats it like a business, and not just a hobby.

What are designers/developers doing right (or wrong) in the web 2.0 world?
What’s right is the push to see beyond the obvious, to make this more procedural, to push for reasons for decisions. What’s wrong is the fact that we’re still referring to certain things as Web 2.0

What’s your favorite flavor of design or development programs/languages?


What is your favorite book?
I don’t have one favorite book. I just finished Emergency by Neil Strauss ad found it highly entertaining!

What is your favorite movie?
Don’t have one penultimate fave. I have a fave from every genre, however. I will plug Before Sunrise and its sequel, Before Sunset for those who like intelligent and unconventional romantic films.

Who is your favorite musical artist (or What musical artist are you listening to the most right now?)
Again, like the above favorite questions, I really don’t have one. I enjoy music from all genres (from Megadeth to Michael Giacchino to Beyonce). I enjoy Lady Gaga these days; her beats are fun and she’s a zany personality.


Gene Crawford

With over a decade of experience in the industry he has overseen the design and architecture of hundreds of web sites and applications. An active member in the design community, he's the editor & producer of unmatchedstyle.com, the ConvergeSE, ConvergeFL, ConvergeRVA and the Breaking Development conference series.