(guest post by Julien Herras)

“It’s an exciting time to be a designer.” We’ve had this thought since we started not too long ago, and our recent trip to Axiom Zen just made it clearer. It was a sunny Friday afternoon and everyone was eager to relax and unwind; however, none of us thought our day could get any more exciting.

It was a short walk from VFS to their office that was located right beside BC Place. As we took a class photo outside their doors while waiting, we were welcomed by a glorious photobomb from Amy Ngai, a UX designer for Axiom Zen. They quickly ushered us into what seemed to be a huge coffee lounge with an island of computers in the middle and whiteboards all around. This turned out to be a big chunk of their office, and it was exciting to see the environment in which these individuals cultivated their ideas.

After each of us grabbed a gigantic beanbag, Amy began the session by doing a round of introductions, asking each of us what stream we wanted to go into. It was cool to know that despite Axiom Zen being a mostly interactive studio, they had jobs for motion and communication design majors as well. Amy started her presentation with a game where she asked us to match a popular app with a certain target audience. This, she said, was a game they always played to be able to come up with fresh ideas, think within an imaginary box, and go beyond those boundaries.

The rest of the presentation focused on their design process starting from ideation to completion. They showed us how they created products, the whole prototyping and wireframing process, and their focus on profitability through market research. It was also really nice to find out the tools that they used and why they used those tools. However, the biggest takeaway we had from the session was their design thinking and their strategies. It always began with finding a certain market, observing their patterns, finding problems and creating solutions.

After the presentation we had a lively Q&A where we talked a lot about what the industry was currently doing and where it was headed. We talked about the newest tools and the freshest innovations in the industry and how we factored into all of that. We found out how new gestures and UIs were developed and how the evolution of technology was related to human thinking. It was really eye-opening to know that the widespread usage of new technology depended on how ready the market was. Google Glass was a great example of that. It wasn’t bad technology, people were just not ready for it yet. The last topic of discussion was the big world of wearables and Internet of Things (IoT). It was an intense conversation and they asked questions that made us think. I think that it was an excellent learning experience.

We ended our trip with a quick tour around their office, which was much larger than we thought. We met more people from the team — designers, developers and a bunch more. It was really cool to talk to Steve Gao, one of the developers. He talked about how they created an Axiom Zen version of GitHub, an automated scoring application, and a bathroom sensor, to know if anyone was in the washroom before they went. It may sound funny, but all of these solutions started from small problems, and they used design to solve them.

Overall, the trip was such a great experience. It was sad to leave, as the team made our visit a really fun experience. It definitely gave us a wider view of the industry and it just made us much, much more thrilled to be entering this line of work. Yes, indeed, it is an exciting time to be a designer.

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