UI/UX Designer Hilde Tholens followed her passion for creative expression to design for players at Guerrilla
We speak to Hilde Tholens about how her love of video games and various other hobbies have shaped her career path to UI/UX Designer.
Hi Hilde! To start, can you tell us a bit about your background?
Hello! I’m Hilde and I’ve been working as a Senior UI/UX Designer at Guerrilla for two years. I was born and raised in a village in Noord-Brabant, a southern province of the Netherlands. I enjoy drawing, dancing, going out with friends and of course playing board games. Like most people, I also love to travel and am currently planning a trip to Iceland!
Wow, you have a lot of great hobbies! How did you decide to follow them to create your dream career?
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been interested in art and expressing myself through illustration, painting and other creative mediums. So it was not surprising that after high school, I chose to study Art, Communication and Design at Fontys, School of Arts in Tilburg. This school was also home to the more known Rock Academy and also housed the Conservatory, Dance Academy and even had a Circus course.
It sounds like a great place to get your creative education! What kind of things did you learn in your program?
During my time at Fontys, I was taught design in different mediums ranging from animation, audio design by creating my own short films, to interaction and graphic design in interactive installations. We even did VJ (video jockey) shows and fashion design. One of my favorite subjects was Illustration, but I was so grateful that I was able to experience all the other mediums, as they have all contributed to me becoming a UI/UX Designer.
Have you always wanted to be in games? How did you get into the industry?
My interest in games was sparked relatively late compared to some of my peers. It wasn’t until the end of high school that I started playing Skyrim on a PlayStation 3, and it was truly an amazing experience. This was the start of my interest in playing more games and eventually thinking about working for a game company. I love fantasy RPGs like The Witcher 3, God of War, Assassin’s Creed, and of course – the Horizon games!
So how did your newfound love of video games lead to the start of your gaming career?
Initially, I was hoping to work as a concept artist. As I’ve always been creating illustrations in my free time, it sounded amazing to actually do that for a living. But it was through an internship at Little Chicken Game Company in Amsterdam in my final year of school that I was introduced to UI and UX design instead. And that’s how I dove into the world of game development as a UI/UX designer!
I’ve since shipped over 17 games ranging across console, VR, mobile and web.
You have a lot of cool interests. What is it that you enjoy about UI/UX design in gaming?
I love that UI and UX design has a balance between two worlds; User Experience design provides the opportunity to get to know your players, build designs based on the playtest data and you actively assess the psychology and design patterns that will help make their experiences more enjoyable.
User Interface design, on the other hand, is more about the visual aspect and making sure that the visual language fits with the story or brand of the experience you’re designing. Its goal is to help the players be fully immersed by creating amazing visuals and by enhancing the feedback they receive.
Aside from the design aspect, working on a team with different designers and disciplines is such a great experience. Learning their strengths and collaborating to create the best player experience is a great feeling. This allows me to guide the design process from A to Z and it brings me a lot of joy!
That makes sense – it’s great you get to take different approaches to both directions. How do you apply your UI and UX knowledge specifically in your role at Guerrilla?
The projects at Guerrilla are on quite a large scale that are developed over the timespan of a few years. The UI/UX Design team needs to cover a lot of different features and provide design solutions throughout the development, which means that we are collaborating with other disciplines on a regular basis: Game Design, UI Development, QA, Quest Design, Art Direction and Narrative to name a few.
I imagine your day-to-day tasks are never the same, then!
Yes, as UI/UX design has a lot of different aspects, the day-to-day can be quite different – especially as it depends on the phase of the project. In one phase, you might focus more on UX design: setting up different wireframes and prototypes to test. In another phase, you are developing a visual style and creating assets and animations in the engine.
You’ve had a great path to your career so far. What would you tell someone who’s interested in considering UI/UX design or just starting out in the discipline?
I recommend thinking about the players and platforms you’d like to design for. It’s a different job to design a website or a mobile app than it is to design for an AAA game. Each direction has its own unique users and challenges to solve. As a UI/UX Designer, you need to keep learning about new interactions, design patterns and explore new possibilities!
Once you know which direction you want to pursue, start looking into building your portfolio and gain experience. The best way is to have an internship or do courses online. But if that's not possible for you, start by finding inspiration; what kind of UI designs spark your interest? What kind of interactions and animations do you feel work well? Then re-design a game or app that you like by making an analysis and applying the things you gathered before. Start building your portfolio bit by bit, polish your vision and most of all; have fun experimenting with your style.
If you’re a UI/UX Designer and are looking to get into designing for AAA games, don’t hesitate to reach out to Guerrilla. We’d love to meet you and who knows – we can welcome you to our team!