Q&A with Henry Chu

We had a chance to speak to Henry Chu, UX Designer @ BigPark Microsoft Game Studio and DD alumnus, about his design process and his advice on graduate projects at VFS.

What is your approach to solving a design problem?
My approach varies depending on what the problem is, who it’s for and why is it a problem in the first place.  In general, I’d usually gather research, do interviews and ask questions to validate the problem we’re solving.  Once we have data that backs up the problem statement, then the creative process happens in ideating a solution, but that’s another long answer for another question.

How do you define success for a project and how do you measure it?
I believe a success of a project is defined by its impact on the users, user’s delightfulness using the product and how easy it was for them to use your features as designed.  Of course, there’s many more KPI’s that’ll determine a product’s success.

Did you, at any point while working on a project, feet lost and unsure on how to proceed? If so, what helped you get back on track?
While working on my graduate project at VFS, I was once doubtful if my design was the right solution for the problem.  However, with the process of quick prototyping and user testing, I was able to dismiss that concern.

Where do you find inspiration for your creative design process?
Inspiration comes from many different things for me.  I like to keep myself informed on many different industries that are semi-related to mine.  For example, I’d follow publications and posts about the latest tech and art trend, startup ideas and business strategies.  I look to other disciplinary work, such as industrial, architecture and motion design to fuel my inspiration and I have this weird habit of eyeing out bad (digital and analog) experience design in the world and thinking how to solve them.

What are some of the tools you used? Are there any tools you would recommend?
Mostly the usual Adobe creative suite programs.  Currently I’m learning Unity for mixed reality purposes and it’s a great tool for designing multi-reality experiences.

Do you have any advice for current students when it comes to choosing a topic for their grad project?
Be true to yourself and work on a project idea that inspires you.  Nothing sucks more than working on a project you don’t truly believe in yourself.  However, remember your graduate project is THE project to showcase all the skills you’ve learned during that one year in school.  So just make sure the topic you’ve chosen has a breadth of unexplored creative space for you to innovate and solve for.

Thanks, Henry!

Vancouver User Experience Awards 2016

(guest post by Ziwei Wang)

The third annual event Vancouver UX Awards was hosted by Vancouver User Experience Group on Wednesday, Nov 16th at Imperial. Professionals in the industry and students joined together, excited to see what projects the talents would bring to the table this time.

After amazing food and drinks, the gala kicked off with a presentation from Kharis O’Connell, the Head of Product at ARCHIAT, UX for the Future. He talked about his experience in designing for mixed reality, and dived into the difference between prototyping for 3d space to the known approaches of designing for 2d interfaces. While there are pages of results when people google prototyping tools, there are not many answers for prototyping for Virtual Reality or Augmented Reality; how current designers tackle this problem is through theatre acting and paper prototyping. Successful UX designers will combine this emerging model with a new type of development mentality.

(photo credits: VanUE and photographer Jef Gibbons)

The awards highlight outstanding work across several categories: Enterprise, Marketing, Non-for-profit, Products, Students, Emerging Experiences, People’s Choice, and Best UX. All solutions were evaluated and scored by the judges on how they satisfied these five criteria: Joy, Elegance, Clarity, Innovation, and Impact. Throughout the night, the panel of judges shared their insights into great user experiences. User experience isn’t just about designing a great interface: It digs deeper into researching users’ needs and defining the right problems. Winners of this year emphasized the Vancouver lifestyle and demonstrated the ability to focus on user problems, from Burnkit’s interactive touch-screen solution that created an educational and fun experience for visitors at The Port of Vancouver Discovery Centre, to student online platform IKEA STAY that gives IKEA customers the chance to test products through an immersive Airbnb stay and web experience.

The event was excellent, well-organized, encouraged young talents to join the industry. It’s great to see the importance of UX has been fully embraced in Vancouver, I look forward to attend more events like this.

 

THE ROOKIES: WEB & MOBILE WINNER

Ainara_Rookies

We had a chance to speak to Ainara Sáinz Gutierrez about winning the Web & Mobile category of The Rookies, an international competition for young designers, creators, innovators, and artists.

Can you briefly summarize what your project is about?

FRAME is a space that showcases artisans in Vancouver, presents an intimate look into their creative process and strengthens the local art community. It keeps you updated about upcoming events, local businesses promotions, and encourages you to translate the digital experience into a tangible one by promoting art crawls around the city.

What was your 1st thought after finding out you won the Rookie of the Year in the Web & Mobile category?

I got super excited, and my first thought was that all the hard work paid off.

What do you think set your project apart from the rest of the nominees?

That’s a tough question… I want to believe that it was because the project was born from a real need inside a small community in Vancouver. Besides, I tried to stay focused on delivering a feasible solution that would really strengthen and spread the word about our local art scene.

What inspired you to create Frame?

FRAME is a project that was born from the difficulty of discovering Vancouver’s local art scene. I moved from Mexico, a country with strong folklore culture, and found that looking for artisans here wasn’t easy. After talking with them, I realized that they are more focused on creating their pieces than in advertising themselves and that opportunity is what made me create FRAME.

FRAME Case Study from Ainara on Vimeo.

What is your approach to solving a design problem?

I believe that it depends on the goals of every project but my general approach is to start with research, competitive analysis and interviews in order to understand the user needs. After that I will start exploring different solutions, I will test and refine until the design offers a clear solution.

How did you define success for the project and how did you measure it?

Success for me in this project meant to learn as much as I could while I was presenting high quality deliverables of every stage of the project. I went out and learned from my user research, implemented strategy and logical thinking in the user experience and had a lot of fun with the branding and the interface design.

Did you, at any point during the making of Frame, felt lost and unsure on how to proceed? If so, what helped you get back on track?

Yes, and it becomes very difficult to have an objective point of view about the project’s different stages when you’re working on it every day during 4 months. Every time I felt lost I tried to take a step back to ask for feedback, look for design inspiration and review the earlier stages on the project to understand how I needed to move forward.

Where do you find inspiration for your creative design process?


Everywhere. I’m an art addict so I constantly go to museums, art galleries, conferences and read a lot about artistic movements. I listen to design podcasts and get lost in Behance, Pinterest and Vimeo.

What are some of the tools you used? Are there any tools you would recommend?

I mainly used Adobe Creative Suite software: Photoshop, Illustrator and After Effects. I highly recommend to use a prototype tool to test the project throughout the entire process such as Axure or Invision and, if I could go back, I would definitely use Sketch to create the entire interface design because of its precision and efficiency.

Looking back, what would be one part of your project you would have done differently?

I would have devoted more time interviewing potential users and testing low fidelity prototypes instead of adding precise and refined details on every wireframe I created.

Do you have any advice for current students when it comes to choosing a topic for their grad project?

Choose a project that comes out of a real need and that challenges you. A topic that you love and that reflects the passion that you have for what you do.

What is next for you?

Right now I’m working as an interactive designer at Unbounce and I love it! At the same time, I’m in search of joining a non-profit to help the community through my career. I would really like to stay in Vancouver for a couple of years and then move to another city to continue improving my professional skills.

Thanks, Ainara!

 

INDUSTRY IQ STUDIO TOUR: GIANT ANT

(guest post by James Mulligan, DD36)

On a Sunny afternoon, September 29th our class, the DD36s, left school to go on an industry visit to the renowned Giant Ant studio. We walked excitedly through the streets of historic Chinatown until we eventually came to their building, a storefront off the beaten path.

As you enter the nondescript front, you enter a small hive buzzing with activity. The world we entered was warm and inviting. It was well-lit and the hardwood surfaces were polished. Staff were busy at their Macintosh workstations. We were welcomed by Jay who had a friendly casual demeanor and we didn’t realize until he told us that he is the co-founder and partner of Giant Ant. He ushered us into what looked like a glass-fronted log cabin nested into the larger room. Once inside, Jay showed us some of their projects and spoke about their creative processes including the inspiration and direction that went into each piece.

As he showed us some of their recent work, some themes emerged. Giant Ant uses positive framing, and they incorporate aesthetic beauty. They have a unique and original way of framing their subject matter; this allows them to prioritize creativity over following trends. Giant Ant has earned its reputation among clients, and this keeps the phones ringing. Many of their clients are from Silicon Valley and they have to turn many down. Giant Ant is a self-described family of animators and creatives who pick and choose their work, they are happy with the size of their team and feel no need to expand.

“Everything we put into the world is a statement of our taste,” Jay told us. He and his wife got into this business by making videos on YouTube originally. They showed us one of their charming originals. Seeing their skill level develop in earlier work was inspirational for the motionographers in our class.

As we left the building, I think we shared a general impression that Giant Ant is what a successful business can look like. They can be choosy with their clients, the workplace subs in as a family, and they get to use their creative skills. It gave our class something to aspire to.

 

INDUSTRY IQ STUDIO TOUR: TRIBAL DDB

(guest post by Mihaela Kandeva, DD36)

On a beautiful Wednesday afternoon, the DD36’s made their way to the office of one of the more well-known historical advertising and digital design agencies in the business, DDB. Once on the 16th floor of a typical business district building near West Georgia St, we were slightly overwhelmed to be greeted at the front desk by a very professional receptionist, who offered us a seat at their lounge area while we waited.

As we began to talk in hushed voices, afraid to disrupt the atmosphere, we were lead up a staircase covered in vibrant graffiti. Any first impressions we had begun to formulate went straight out the wall to wall, floor to ceiling windows: What a view overlooking downtown! The entire open floor plan was an amalgamation of meeting spaces, several bright kitchenettes, and modular computer desk areas, all done in minimalist fashion with a clean white and grey palette. Even the magnetic whiteboards covered in printouts and erasable marker somehow looked organized.

Doyle Dane Bernbach, also known as DDB Worldwide Communications Group Inc, is mainly a marketing and advertising agency, but they have two subsidiaries: Tribal, the digital arm, and Karacters, their brand identity shop. Despite having over 150 worldwide locations (4 in Canada), the Vancouver location of about 65 employees somehow manages to keep a very comfortable, non-corporate vibe.

They’ve created some innovative campaigns for many major companies, including Netflix, McDonald’s, and locals like BCLC, BCAA, and Destination Canada. We had the privilege to see case studies behind three more recent projects, two for Adidas, the other for Canadian Dairy. The true value of this visit really came from the insights into their process and how they manage to leverage existing platforms in intriguing ways.

We were told they hold two things in the highest regard: creativity and humanity. Usually those are words which most companies list as obligatory values, but DDB actually lives them. Half the desks at the office sat empty, people being encouraged to go out and work together at coffee shops, parks, anywhere they can be inspired for a couple hours. Hardly anyone was head down at their desk. Those meeting spaces all around us were occupied by people collaborating. We started noticing things like the ping pong table being used to brainstorm on, the kitchenette counters stocked with endless Tazo Teas and Starbucks Coffee. Surely, the Stella Artois fountain and unlimited ice cream supply must get the creative juices flowing.

Our trip to DDB left us feeling like kids who’d just come from a brand new shiny toy and candy store all wrapped up in one, literally leaving with ice cream bars in hand, smiles on our faces, enjoying the sun on the journey back to VFS.

This could not have been possible without Louise Lee organizing the tour, Danny Chan, our fearless leader, and Jamie Moon, our accomplice. Many thank yous to Charisse, HR Director, Stéphane, Associate Creative Director, and Gabriel, Sr Designer, for showing us around and for the free ice cream.