Introducing Advance Party’s First Research Resident

We’d like to introduce you to Lucie Liew, the inaugural resident for our first Advance Party Research Residency, which kicks off next week. Selected from an incredible pool of candidates from a vast array of backgrounds, Lucie brings exciting design skills and experience to the table.

This research residency is supported by the School of Communication and Creative Arts at Deakin University and explores the topic of Interior Networking. During the six-week residency, Lucie will research issues such as privacy, security and trust within a family or share-house environment, and develop a prototype of a network that incorporates her findings.

In anticipation for the residency, I caught up with Lucie and asked her some questions to hear about what she’s been up to and gain some perspective on what she hopes to achieve from her residency.

Welcome Lucie, we’re super excited to have you on the team and see what awesome ideas you come up with!

1. Tell us a bit about your background.

I studied bachelor of science in Information Technology, with a specialism in Business Information Systems in Malaysia, which is where home is, eventually I then developed an interest in system design and development.

Immediately after my bachelor degree course ended, I was employed as an Enterprise Architecture Management Associate by an IT subsidiary of one of the leading automotive companies in Malaysia. During my period of employment, I was thankfully being exposed to a myriad of experiences, including but not limited to business proposal, requirement gathering, system planning and analysis, Proof Of Concept (POC), User Acceptance Testing (UAT), system roll-outs and go lives. Working in the client side of business, those aforementioned experiences, in particular POC and UAT made me to take a shine to the creative and design aspects of the projects I was involved in. I realised that user interface holds more than just aesthetic value; that a well-designed user interface is just as important as a good system design; that a good user interface knows its users well. Having learnt majorly data flow and system design/planning for 3 years in university, I suddenly felt a void.

That said, since I was young I have always been passionate about psychology and enjoy reading and watching psychology books, movies, and documentaries. One day, I stumbled upon a master degree course on Monash’s website that will allow me to bring together my strong passion for psychology and system design interest. Ergo, half a year later, I left my job with support from my supervisors and only recent (as of June 2017), I have completed my Master degree of Interaction Design in Melbourne, Australia.

2. What are your goals and ambitions for your design career?

I aim to create elegant digital and/or physical designs for real social issues that are often disregarded due to their intrinsic qualities and complexity. For the past 2 years of my master’s study, I have been proposing and prototyping concepts and ideas collectively targeted at the emotional intelligence development of the digital natives. In future, I also envision myself to come up with designs that empower and inspire people, such as one that helps reinstill confidence in disabled people, or one that encourages connectedness in real life.

Three overarching principles that I have grown to believe in and have become the pillars of my drive for my design career are:

  1. Meaningful and purposeful design.
  2. User empathy.
  3. Always ask: Why?

3. What fascinates you most about the research residency topic?

The Y2 2017 research residency encompasses rethinking and designing for an interior community to address ongoing internet related social issues that takes interpersonal issues into consideration. I am personally excited and fascinated by the nature of the challenge itself as it is closely related to my area of interest. As technology advances and things becoming more connected and smarter than ever, for an example smart house technology, it is interesting to take a different point of view and design to address family’s interpersonal issues influenced by technology.

4. What would you most like to get out of this project?

I have been bothered by the scene of a family eating out at a restaurant where parents and children were individually entertaining themselves with their smart devices, or of children needing to have an iPad placed in front of them during mealtime. The social use of technology by families have reached a point in which when I simply questioned my friends: “What is one major internet-related social issue your family is facing that you are aware of?”, it turned out that device addiction, lack of physical interaction, and disrupted commensality were the most popular responses. Therefore, other than to hone my research and design capabilities, I hope to make use of this opportunity to explore the depth of those social issues in families, such as the “disconnected connectedness”, and ultimately invite families to evaluate the impacts of their technology use on family bonds.

5. Talk me through what different research and ideation methodologies and processes you might use?

I think that there is no one perfect methodology for interaction design, because to me, the motivation behind the project is of greater importance in comparison. When you can find your motivation for doing a project, which is, more often than not, user empathy for my case, you will have the desire to discover more and go deeper into the subject matter. Firstly, sources that I adopt are fundamentally from primary and secondary research methods, ranging from observations and interviews to published papers, journals, articles, websites, books, and videos. I particularly find forums and user comments useful in putting things in context and in helping me to put myself in their shoes so that I can empathise with the target users better. Also, sometimes I make discoveries from there that would not have been easily unearthed otherwise.

Divergent thinking is critical for this stage of preliminary research to establish the scope of the challenge that then informs the direction of other researches that may follow, such as user need and behaviour analysis, competitor analysis, and environment analysis (information, technology, market, sociological). Each piece of useful information found is recorded, arranged, and logically linked to one another to ensure relevance and appropriateness. Then, all information collected from the beginning until this stage is converged and graphically presented as a contextual diagram that provides a bird’s-eye view of the challenge. I find this diagram to be very important in maintaining mental clarity so that I do not subconsciously steer away from the intended direction as the project progresses. The likeliness for this situation to happen is unbelievably high considering the amount of information needed to be taken into account when making any design decision in the process.

Lastly, through past experiences I learnt that having the right mindset will definitely facilitate the ideation and creative process in entirety. My take on this is to not think of an issue as a problem, but a challenge. Being an interaction designer, I see my responsibilities as not to design solutions for problems, but to design possibilities for challenges. Knowing that there is no ultimate solution to one issue helps with lateral thinking when it comes to designing new interactions and concepts, or analysing competitors. This way of thinking also opens up a whole new level of possibilities and promotes thinking out of the box, not obsessing over one idea. Also, think of sustainable design when ideating. Good designs are designs that last. Think service design, with target user as the core, spiralling outward touching other aspects of user’s life and how your design influences those aspects with what kind of touchpoints or triggers.

If you’re interested to see Lucie’s work, you can check out her previous projects here.

Louise Richards
Program Manager, Advance Party