Smashing Spotlight: Amber Manuguid, Senior Designer

Wonder what makes Smashing Ideas so smashing? Our people! We sat down with Amber Manuguid, Senior Designer, to talk shop, how digital design and visual storytelling differs from traditional graphic design, and why Chris Pratt  just might be the best person to play her in a biographical movie about her life.


First things first…what led you to the world of design?

I always enjoyed being creative. I grew up mostly doing fine art. I was always a painter, but I also constantly jumped around from medium to medium learning pottery, jewelry making, airbrushing and so on.  I was also no stranger to technology. When I was eight or nine my family got a new computer and I began playing with MS paint and later Photoshop.  I became obsessed with working on my geocities Sailor Moon website.  Creating through so many channels was a lot of fun, and at the time, I really didn’t have an ultimate goal for my art.

It wasn’t until after college that I realized that what I wanted to do had nothing to with any specific medium or technology, but with a desire to explore and to solve problems unrestrained.  This realization led me into the world of design.


How does design in a digital agency differ from, say, a traditional graphic design role?

This question has always been a little tricky for me.  I supposed it depends on definitions.  I’ve always viewed graphic design as static visual design, such as an icon, a logo, or a poster — something that is meant to be viewed and understood without asking or requiring any more of the viewer.  The skills and processes required for this are still needed when designing at a digital agency like Smashing; however, the difference lies in the journey.  Unlike graphic design where the goal is how to understand A, at Smashing the goal is to understand how A can lead to B, then to C, and D, etc. The designer must always think about the user’s comprehension and experience, as well as motion, and an overarching journey that is easy for the user to navigate.  At the end of the day both try to communicate something to the user, the difference is really in how one gets there.


How do you define creativity and what inspires yours?

Creativity has always been hard for me to define, but I guess for myself, it’s being propelled by your own imagination to explore and create.

I can find inspiration in anything…it’s simply the combination of what I’m thinking about at the moment, timed perfectly with what I’m seeing and hearing.  That wonderful and spontaneous combination is what helps me find inspiration.


You’re known to be quite the foodie. What is the best restaurant you’ve ever been to, and best dish ever?

I wouldn’t call myself a foodie. I’m Filipino and Filipinos just love to eat. I’ve been to many really wonderful restaurants, but my most memorable dining experience was at Alinea in Chicago.  Best user experience ever!  For dishes, hands down my all time favorite dish is my dad’s Palabok.


Who are some of your design heroes?

They’re not all exactly designers, but my heroes are El Lissitzky, Ray and Charles Eames, Picasso, Hayao Miyazaki, Wes Anderson, and what’s a heroes list without Beyonce?!

What emerging technology are you most excited about from a creative perspective?

Virtual reality and all the amazing things that people are doing with technology in clothing. I’m both excited and scared of cars that can drive themselves.


Favorite piece of technology that you just can’t live without?



You’re a pro at taking relatively disjointed concepts and bringing them together through visual storytelling. What role do you see design as having in helping execute the overall vision of a project?

Visual design plays a huge role. Oftentimes people will assume design’s job is to simply makes things pretty, but design is so much more than that.  Visual design is how we communicate with a user. It not only directs and helps guide a user, but also establishes a feeling and mood, impacting how a user reacts to or interacts with a product.


How would you describe your design style?

Bold, light, and joyful.


You’re a natural in front of the camera, so there will most likely be a movie made about your life one day. What will the title be and who will play you?

It will be called “I AM BER” and it will be starring me of course.  If I can’t star in it I’d like Mindy Kaling to do it, and if she won’t do it then Chris Pratt.

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