Advice / Career Paths / Career Stories

This Senior Designer Is Thriving in a Job Where Creativity and Tech Meet

Xuefei Zhang, a senior designer at Carta.
Xuefei Zhang, a senior designer at Carta.
| Courtesy of Carta

Growing up in China, Xuefei Zhang was always fascinated by manga and paintings, so it’s no surprise that she pursued a career where she could flex her creativity. While getting a college degree in sociology, Zhang taught herself how to use graphic design tools. After graduating, she was hired to work as a product designer at a social media startup in Shanghai.

After two years, Zhang’s growing passion in the design field led her to New York’s Parsons School of Design, where she got an MFA in design and technology—setting her up nicely as a creative with various tools in the box.

“I had the opportunity to study creative coding and visual design, which broadened my knowledge,” says Zhang, who is now a senior designer at the fintech company Carta where she leads marketing web projects and contributes to the illustration and user interface (UI) component libraries.

Here, Zhang talks about her recent work on Carta’s brand refresh, how she incorporates creativity in her day-to-day tasks, and why NYC is a source of inspiration.

What led to your job at Carta, and how did you know the company would be a good fit?

A friend of mine had been working as a designer at Carta and recommended that I apply because she really enjoyed her job. Throughout the interview process I was really impressed by the kind and smart people at Carta.

Tell us about your work on Carta’s brand refresh. What did the project entail? What made it particularly exciting or fulfilling?

This was the focus for the brand and marketing team in 2022. It marked the next evolution of Carta, and a big part of it involved the visuals. We wanted to deliver a new and modern look through minimalist visual style and isometric illustrations. It was challenging but fulfilling for the whole team.

I led the rebuilding of our design component system, and with the help of two other designers, we created the new landing pages and an atomic illustration system. We also created around 30 marketing landing pages and about 100 illustrations.

In what ways does the design team cultivate its own culture?

Another senior designer and I started the ritual of introducing new design discoveries on our bi-weekly “creative time” call. During this call, we can share anything from new Figma plugins and 3D modeling software to Dall-E experiments. We’re a small design team, so we also save five minutes to talk about what movies and TV shows we’re watching. We really bonded over our love of Star Wars and The Mandolorian.

How do you keep your creative energy strong while also managing day-to-day tasks?

For me, it’s about finding opportunities to get creative in seemingly administrative tasks. We can always do something fun and experimental in the illustrations and prints without breaking the visual guidelines.

Tell us more about what inspires you.

The Twitter community is full of fresh and inspiring ideas. I also get inspired by artists like Bjork and FKA twigs, who are visionaries in both music and visual arts. And living in New York City gives me tons of exposure to museums and art galleries, such as the MoMA and Pace Gallery.

What is your favorite employee perk that Carta offers, and why? How have you benefited from it?

I love the book reimbursement policy at Carta. I have mostly used it to purchase design and art history books, which help me in my work.

If you could invite one of your design heroes to dinner, who would you invite and what would you want to ask them?

I’d love to invite Japanese fashion designer Issey Miyake, who unfortunately passed away last year. His pioneering work in new methods of pleating and geometric calculations is timeless and will continue to inspire designers in every realm.