How a Designer Landed a Job at Tinder and Achieved International Recognition

28 Jun 2024

Yaroslav Zubko has crafted a remarkable international career, creating designs for Boeing, Markit, Deloitte, and Tinder. His exceptional work has earned him prestigious accolades, including the DotComm Award and the Clio Awards, one of the oldest creative awards in the US. The latter was received for one of Tinder's most famous projects, Swipe Night. How did he achieve such impressive feats in the competitive world of design?

From Law to Designs

Zubko’s journey began in the heart of Ukraine, a burgeoning hub for IT and design. Initially, he studied business law at a local college but decided to follow his passion and started studying graphic design online. In 2012, he landed his first job as a web designer at a Ukrainian fitness retail company, Terrasport. That work, along with some other early projects, laid the foundation for his work philosophy, characterized by a harmonious blend of aesthetics and functionality.

In 2017, he assumed the role of product design director at UpTop, a New York-based property management startup. There, he was in charge of choosing which product features to research and test and deciding how they would be implemented. “There were nights when I couldn't fall asleep because I was thinking about ideas for the product,” Zubko recalls.

Concurrently, he dedicated his time to “Interaction Library,” an ambitious project he had been nurturing since 2016. The initiative aimed to curate a comprehensive collection of interaction samples and interface behaviors, serving as a valuable resource for designers and stakeholders.

American Odyssey

The library's publication on platforms like Dribbble not only earned Zubko industry recognition but also captured the attention of business leaders. Among them was Tinder's Jonathan Badeen, who extended an offer to the designer, marking the beginning of a new chapter in Zubko’s professional life as the lead product designer at the dating giant in 2018.

Zubko was entrusted with reshaping Tinder's user experience, with a focus on monetization and engagement. “I animated and presented over 20 versions of Tinder's app, and used A/B testing methods to understand what ideas were worth implementing,” he recalls. One of the standout achievements during his tenure was the restyling of subscription packages in alignment with Apple Store guidelines. This initiative not only enhanced the user experience but also paved the way for sustainable revenue growth.

Zubko’s ability to balance user-centric design and revenue optimization was a testament to his holistic approach to product design. He often noted that his goal was to align Tinder's business objectives with user needs, creating a win-win scenario for the company and its users. His original design solutions helped reinvigorate Tinder's premium offerings, catapulting the app's revenue to new heights.

Learning Solutions

Transitioning from the realm of dating apps to educational technology and leveraging his previous experience, Zubko launched Fluently in 2019—a mobile application dedicated to immersive language exchange. In 2020, he was commissioned by Riiid Labs, which builds AI-based personalized learning solutions. It is one of the major players in the EdTech field, backed by $250 million in investment funding. At the company, Zubko took on the role of director of product design, contributing to Riiid's mission of revolutionizing personalized learning through AI and gamification.

Drawing from his insights into UX/UI design, user engagement, and gamification strategies, Zubko led several notable projects. For instance, he worked on an application that helped American students to prepare for the SAT, a standardized test widely used for college admissions in the United States. He also developed the mobile app DE Saber for Colombian students preparing for the Saber 11, a high school exit examination for college admission.

Further, Zubko was invited to join Shiftsmart, a company that developed a platform assisting with team onboarding and training, performance management, scheduling and shift dispatch, and more. Shiftsmart raised a total of $117 million in funding, attracting prominent investment firms such as D1 Capital, Spieker Partners, Oakridge Management Group, and S12F, among others. Zubko served as a Senior Designer at the company and worked on the creation of the mobile app and branding.

Towards Rewards

Zubko’s original designs have earned prestigious international awards and industry acclaim. For instance, he was recognized as Designer of the Year 2019 by the Ukrainian IT Awards. He also won an international competition, the dotCOMM Awards, and the Italian A' Design Award for one of his freelance projects, FameLab. FameLab is a leading social marketing cloud that delivers authentic engagement on Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook Pages. Zubko created interactive designs for the company’s app.

He also contributed ideas and concepts to the Swipe Night initiative created for Tinder by the advertising agency 72andSunny in 2019. This was an interactive mini-series about friends trying to save themselves from the apocalypse. Users could participate in the series by swiping, thereby making decisions for the main characters. Based on users' choices, Tinder would then offer potential matches. In 2020, this project won a Clios, one of the oldest awards in the US, recognizing innovation and creative excellence in advertising, design, and communication. In 2021, Swipe Night was awarded the Entertainment Grand Prix at Cannes and was nominated for a Daytime Emmy Award for Interactive Media.