Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where did you grow up?
I was born in Hong Kong as a British National Overseas citizen—sadly, no British accent. Spent most of my time growing up watching Friends in the suburbs of L.A.
Q: How did you get into design? In what way does design thinking contribute to creating a successful career?
Being born during the dotcom boom, I started by coding one-off virtual doodads when I was 9, and that’s when I began to understand the synergy that could happen between technology and design. Granted, I had no idea what I was coding, but the mistakes themselves produced serendipitous outcomes and I was addicted to that.
Q: Why did you choose to study at Art Center College of Design?
When choosing between Art Center and another school, my sister made a point that even her co-workers at (then) IndyMac Bank had heard of Art Center.
Q: What was the most important challenge you faced? How did you overcome it?
The most important challenge is knowing how to constantly overcome challenges when they come in waves. Yes, you will run into problems. And yes, your brain is messing with you, and yes, this may sound like a trite answer. But it’s so real. All you have to do is snap out of it, make yourself a smoothie, and spend of most of your time managing your time.
Q: An important ritual at the end of each term is the final presentation for each class. Sometimes, these presentations can be exhilarating. Any project that stands out?
I can say that they all have been exhilarating! Lately, I’ve really been chipping away at a drawbot for Brian Eno. Industry peeps came in to our final for that one, which always amps up the room a bit.
Q: Is there a school project you felt so passionate about that you pushed yourself the most?
As a creative, I am so reliant on sight, and when I step back and think about it in a broad sense, I find myself taking it for granted. I wanted to change that about me, and chose to do so through design. I decided to partner up with my good friend and fellow Art Center student, the amazing product designer Christina Hsu, to tackle this challenge.
Over the course of two terms, we had the absolute pleasure of working alongside students and mobility instructors at the Braille Institute to pick their brains on both a packaging and UI/UX design challenge we took on. As we were interviewing people along the way, I had the honor of speaking with YouTube sensation Tommy Edison over the phone to learn about his daily commute. What came about was Intelligo, a hypothetical packaging for a smart cane accompanied by a navigation app.
What I personally loved about working on Intelligo is that it provided a solution for the visually impaired through two different media types. The packaging component had raised patterns, specific to Intelligo, to act as a physical brand signifier, as opposed to the visual signifiers (logos, etc.) that we’re used to. Once the package arrives at a person’s doorstep, the receiver is confident that they can trust what’s inside because they can feel the distinct embossed surface specific to Intelligo. On the other hand, the app component allowed me to experience how the process of in-depth user testing drives improved user flows. The real challenge was designing an app with an interface that would also work when interface-less.
Man, I can really say this project truly changed me. A big thank you to Dan Hoy for his expertise on Packaging Design, and to Joy Liu and Dave Bullock for theirs on the app.
Q: The Department of Graphic Design is a leader in transmedia education. Transmedia is important for us because we believe that, in order to master the present, we must explore the future. How did transmedia help you in your professional life?
Transmedia is an open-minded gateway to exploring how technologies, new or old, can be appropriated through graphic design. Graphic design might be based in the realm of 2D, but its strength lies in serving as the connective tissue between 2D, 3D and even 4D. I see transmedia being the way in which an overarching story is carried across different media types (screen-based interaction, print, motion). As one, they weave together a synchronized system, because each component reveals a different aspect of the story that is best told through the integration of that medium.
With that, you can see how it can be amazing conversation fuel for the workplace!
Q: Pushing this idea further, how does transmedia thinking influence your creative process? Do you have an example?
Recently, in Brad Bartlett’s Advanced Transmedia course, I adapted Sandy Noble’s version of a drawbot into a story I was telling about Brian Eno’s life, which became encapsulated in a 150+ page book that accompanied an exhibition/lecture on Eno. It really came to life when our trusty T.A. Phil Enzler (IXD) was able to help me troubleshoot a few things to make the bot come alive. (I swear this thing has a life of its own.) For the exhibition, the spatial piece I designed surrounded the idea that the ambient sounds of the room would influence the way that the drawbot would sketch Eno’s portrait. After discussing a few ideas with Brad, it felt right conceptually to have the portraits be ephemera that people could take away and that could ultimately be used as the dust jacket for the book. Transmedia design is all about how one media type seamlessly permeates through to another.
Q: Do you think that the structure of the curriculum has helped you learn and master the skills needed for the real world?
Oh, it’s a rite of passage alright. It was during my first term when I was curious about how the physical act of drawing typography would lead me to setting it on the screen—and those hours of staring and chipping away at those curves really make a difference later on. Persevere, everybody!
Q: On a personal level, what was for you the most important thing you’ve learned at Art Center?
How leadership encompasses every aspect of how you choose to live life.
Q: What advice would you have for a student considering applying for admission? What should they know to get the best out of the Art Center experience?
Take that one thing you love to do in your free time and have that be your story. Carry its flame through every project that you approach at Art Center. Drive with a purpose.
Q: What are your goals for the future?
To become a visionary in the realm of transmedia design.
Q: What interests you now? Is there a book, an idea, a quote, or something cool you want to share with us?
Lately, Ieadership. Studying the road that transforms designers, inherently makers, into visionaries. I’ve recently taken the dive into publishing my first LinkedIn article (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20140921233807-166362261-stewart-d-friedman-s-lens-upon-leadership-as-told-by-a-designer) and am currently in the process of bringing another TEDx to Art Center with my fellow business club members (http://www.artcenterbusinessclub.org).
Type 2: Structure
Advanced VxD Studio
A mobile app that helps the blind and visually impaired navigate with ease.
Type 5: Transmedia
An interactive tryptic, draw-bot, and book, all centered around the life of Brian Eno.