Designer of the Week Brian Lucid wears many hats, from designer (of course) to researcher to educator. He designs and consults for Fortune 500 companies, design agencies, cultural institutions and startups, and his personal and professional work ranges from traditional communications to generative design and physically interactive artifacts and experiences.
Below, you’ll find his thoughts on interactive designers and programmatic skill, what he believes about the pioneering spirit of interaction design, and his important advice for designers today. And if you want more of Lucid, you can see him in person at HOW Design Live 2016 in Atlanta, where he’ll be delivering a session called Front-End Frameworks and “The Death of the Web.”
Name: Brian Lucid
Location: Wellington, New Zealand
How would you describe your work?
I am a designer focused on building human-centered products, systems, and services. I am also an academic, a researcher, a public speaker, and a peer educator.
Design school attended:
I “attended” several design schools. I received my BFA and MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, Rhode Island. I spent fourteen years as a Professor of Graphic Design at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston, Massachusetts. Today I coordinate the postgraduate design programs at Toi Rauwharangi – The College of Creative Arts, Massey University in Wellington, New Zealand.
Where do you find inspiration?
I am inspired by people. So much of what designers craft—objects, systems, activities, experiences—extend into the personal, political and social lives of human beings. I am inspired by the ways people relate to each other, how people connect with and use products, and how those designed objects and experiences change or manipulate people’s behavior. No matter the deliverable, my design is shaped in response to the needs, desires, abilities and limitations of others.
Who are some of your favorite designers or artists?
I respect teams who work at the intersections or edges of design practice. Charles and Ray Eames, who blended architecture, industrial design, film and graphic design. Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby, who use design to stimulate discussion and debate about the social, cultural and ethical implications of current and emerging technologies. Jessica Rosenkrantz and Jesse Louis-Rosenberg, who craft evocative objects through the marriage of generative design and modern fabrication techniques.
Do you have a favorite among all the projects you’ve worked on?
I was commissioned by Proximity Lab, a user experience and interface design studio, to help redesign the online service used by millions of U.S. Government employees to choose their insurance plans. A compelling question guided this project: How can the complex process of deciding between health insurance policies be made as coherent and comparable as purchasing an airline ticket online?
Is there a project that stands out to you as having been the biggest challenge of your career so far?
As someone who has taught creative coding to designers for more than a decade, I have seen firsthand the unique ways that visually oriented thinkers struggle when learning to program a computer.
Several years ago I was commissioned, again by Proximity Lab, to work on a project for Adobe Systems. They challenged us to ideate upon approaches to visualize abstract programming concepts. Our goal was to envision and prototype tools and techniques that would help make the act of coding more approachable to designers, illustrators and animators.
There remains much to do in this area. There is a charged discussion taking place in both industry and higher education around whether designers should possess the programmatic skill to produce the interactive experiences they propose. While I do not think that every designer needs to become a computer programmer, I share a concern that designers have become disconnected from the production of the things they prototype and plan. Giving designers access to powerful, approachable tools that aid them in constructing algorithmic experiences will lead to the creation of more creative and engaging work.
What do you hope to accomplish in the future?
A blend of commissioned work and exploratory design research. I learn through making, so I relish any opportunity that challenges me to question my design process, question my design values, and question the objects and experiences I put out into the world.
What’s your best advice for designers today?
While interaction design is a relatively young practice, it seems to have lost its pioneering spirit. So much web, mobile and app design published today is derivative—following popular trends, implementing cookie-cutter design patterns, and built upon identical frameworks and codebases. Similarity may breed familiarity, but it does not create engagement or interest. My advice to other designers would be to think beyond the functional. Instead, set your sights upon creating functional experiences that are also thought-provoking, challenging, playful, or poetic. Create moments that will engage and delight users.
Beautiful Users: Designing for People
By Ellen Lupton
Whether you’re familiar with the name or not, Henry Dreyfuss is a figure most prominently remembered as the father of industrial design, as well as the pioneer of a user-centered approach to design. In Beautiful Users by Ellen Lupton, discover various practices of UX design – an approach that prioritizes studying people’s behaviors and attitudes in order to develop successful products.
Since Dreyfuss’s development of UX design in the mid-twentieth century, the practice of user-centered design has evolved and grown to incorporate the needs and desires of differently abled users. This guide to user experience design explores the ever-changing relationship between designers and users, and discusses a variety of design methodologies and practices, from user research to hacking, open source, and the maker culture.