I started my career as an industrial designer. By making products and watching people use them, I discovered I'm mostly interested in human behavior in relation to the products I create. Shifting from core hardware design to designing experiences, regardless of the medium, felt natural.
As I was graduating in 2005, I was fortunate to be picked by one of my professors to join his tech startup. That is how I became a User Experience designer, which at that time was a relatively new profession, one that could not yet be learned as a degree.
While still in college, I designed two award winning projects that examine the relationship between products and humans. I explain about them below.
The first, Booklifier (combining the words book + amplifier), brings excitement to book reading by artificially creating atmosphere which intensifies our emotions while we read. The problem - Television, the Internet, and other new media, have caused many people to spend less time reading. (* This project was done before e-books and audio books were popular). In response to this concern, there are various products that attempt to bring stories to life.
The fast pace of today's modern lifestyle does not leave room for the slowness of reading.
Booklifier gives new meaning to the experience of reading, making it relevant again. It collects information from the reader's body, and translates it to an audio visual display using amplifiers and Led lights. Picture yourself traveling in the woods (in the book), in a dark forest, and you are frightened. Your feeling of fear would normally be X. The booklifier measures that feeling and increases it to be X+5. In this way, your reactions while reading reach an extreme and a new reading experience is created.
Playful, Useful Tableware
The second project is a set of tableware that responds to our basic need as humans to touch, feel, and explore objects at hand. Hair twirling, ﬁnger tapping, nail biting, or pen ﬂicking are common examples.
This set of tableware offers a solution to this need, by offering a fun way of serving and drinking coffee, which creates a conversation between the drinking utensil and the user. In order for these items to "respond", one has to act on them. To each familiar object I've added a new function, which is at once fun to play with and has an important role when drinking.
During the pandemic, I started giving mentorship support to middle and high school students from underserved and underrepresented communities around the country, through a program called Amazon Future Engineer.
Many talented students may doubt their ability to pursue a career in tech, because it’s too hard, too competitive, too male dominated, too embarrassing to fail. I used to be one of those kids. In these meetups, I talk to students and teachers about my non-traditional pathway into tech, with a goal to inspire students from all kinds of different backgrounds to pursue a job they’ll love, and get them excited about what the future holds.
If you're interested, here's an example of a panel conversation we held for the students of Teach for America.