Alumni Spotlight: Barbara de Wilde Digital Design at New York Times, New York City

by Jason R. September 27, 2016

We caught up with Barbara de Wilde for our latest Alumni Spotlight, who told us all about what she's been up to since graduating, working with The New York Times, on county farmhouses in Pennsylvania, and about the inescapable nature of New York.

Catch us up with where you are? Still in New York? Somewhere entirely different? Full-time/Part-time?

Since graduation, I’m still working in New York, full-time, for a large media company, but in a completely new role as a digital product designer. On top of that, my husband and I recently bought a house in Pennsylvania. We’re fixing it up, transforming it from a Bucks County farmhouse into a Norwegian modern cabin. I’m watching a lot of YouTube videos.

Tell us a little about your current work and some other projects you’ve been involved in since graduating? 

I work in the Digital Design Department at The New York Times. Though I’ve had a few big projects across the company, most of my time is spent in the Beta group that launches new digital products. This is a fairly new group, started only three years ago to bring Times journalism to new audiences in new ways (and with new revenue models.) I worked on launching an Opinion product which was an app that aggregated Editorial writing from around the world. It was incredibly interesting, but failed to find a wide audience, so it was sunsetted pretty quickly. I worked on a mobile vision team to re-imagine the news product for a mobile future. That work is still ongoing, but I am now working on the Cooking product. I’ve been designing cooking.nytimes.com and the iOS apps for a year now.

Credit: Barbara de Wilde

What does a typical day look like for you? Are you spending all your time at work, or finding time for personal projects? Do you wish it was more balanced or more intense one way or another? 

I work on a small team, so I do get to have a hand in many phases of the work. A typical day starts with a scrum where everyone talks about their agenda. I may meet with the food editor and discuss a video shoot for a cooking guide, and then spend some time with the product leads planning our next sprint of work. If we’re in a design sprint, I may be making a model for how our team might think about a new feature or design the wireframes or flows that map the users’ interaction. I do get to work on designs from system design to high-fidelity screen designs. I like both, so I’m glad to not have to silo my efforts. 

You have been in New York for a while now! Do you feel like it is still influencing you and your work? Are you thinking of moving or is your heart set here? 

Sigh, the eternal question! New York is still important to me whether I like that fact or not. The Times and conversations with people with whom I work lead to suggestions for books to read or plays to see…the consumption of culture makes New York hard to quit. That’s not to say I don’t love the country and nature — quite the opposite. I’m still seeking both.

Credit: Barbara de Wilde

What were the most telling/important moments since you left graduate school? Have you taken any big risks? Did they pay off the way you imagined? 

Going to graduate school was the biggest risk I’ve taken in the last 10 years. I’m happy that work is not risky, just engaging.

Is there anything/anyone out there really inspiring you right now? A designer? Company? Artist? Musician? How has their work influenced yours? 

I’m inspired by Karl Ove Knausgård. He writes with the goal of achieving presence as opposed to narrative. I find the text compulsively readable and modern, but also beautiful and contemplative…and risky.

Credit: Barbara de Wilde

What type of legacy do you hope for your work to leave? 

I honestly don’t want to leave a legacy. It’s better for a designer to not fuss with legacy and to respond to each problem unfettered by their ideas of others watching them work, judging, criticizing, applauding. I’m happy just to be working, to be focused, to be challenged. Then I drive to Pennsylvania and garden and watch birds. 

What’s next for you?

I’m happy here; it’s a great culture and a wonderful team. The next step is to start the process of monetizing this cross-platform product. 

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