Interview with Bowen Shen from United States

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Bowen Shen

Bowen Shen is a Product Designer in New York City. She grew up in China with a love for visual arts. Bowen Shen's career path shifted to digital design after discovering her interest in coding during her undergraduate years.

1Please give us a brief bio of yourself and your design background.

Hi, I'm Bowen Shen. I design, doodle, and code. I currently work as a Product Designer in New York City.

My creative journey spans a variety of disciplines and countries. Growing up in China, I was always drawn to visual arts, dreaming of becoming a painter. I then went to study Communication Design in Australia to channel my artistic talent into more practical uses. This, by chance, led me to explore creative coding, web development, and UI/UX design. I pursued further studies in Interaction Design in the United States, and this brings me to my current role as a Product Designer.

2What made you become/why did you choose to become a digital designer/artist?

Originally trained in art and graphic design, I mainly worked with physical output. However, my path gradually shifted to the digital realm when I discovered my interest in coding during my undergraduate years. The realization that I could create interactive art with code sparked my journey. Since then, I've been exploring how static design can evolve into engaging and participatory communication, involving both the designer and the viewer. That's the beauty of digital design.

3Tell us more about your business/company, job profile, and what you do.

I'm currently a product designer on a cross-functional team, crafting web and mobile experiences that align with both user and business needs. My role involves conducting research, identifying opportunities and user pain points, bringing concepts to life through design mockups and prototypes, and testing with users. It's a collaborative effort, working with product managers, engineers, and various stakeholders to ensure optimal and feasible designs.

4What’s your favorite kind of digital design and why?

I'm obsessed with experimental interactive digital designs, especially those websites where you can poke around and trigger fun interactions. It's fascinating to see how designers and developers express creativity with novel web technologies.

5To you, what makes a “good” design?

Good design starts with good intentions and is delivered in a way that either delights people or is intentionally unobtrusive and effortless. Most importantly, it should fulfill the purpose it was set out to achieve.

6Describe your design style and its main characteristics.

In my professional design process, which involves understanding user and business needs and ensuring consistent UX, I rely on rational, analytical, and systematic thinking. On the flip side, I also enjoy injecting playfulness and delightful moments that enhance the user experience.

In personal projects, where compromises are not necessary, I let my inner artist and inner child run free! It's a space for maximum playfulness and experimentation with different techniques.

7Tell us about your design process.

My projects usually start with a client or product manager asking for new designs or enhancements. I delve deeper into the problem space, gaining a fuller picture: who I'm designing for, their wants and needs, the market landscape, and most crucially, the problem I'm solving. I ideate, create design concepts, evaluate, test with users, gather feedback, and iterate until the design aligns with stakeholders' expectations. Once developed and launched, we monitor performance, often leaving room for improvement, which can evolve into a new project.

8Where do you draw inspiration from?

Daily interactions with digital experiences help me see things from a regular user's perspective. Moving back to the role of a designer, I use this knowledge to inform my design decisions.

Apart from that, being multicultural also helps me think outside of overused patterns. I use Chinese apps every day and they tend to be very different from the apps I use in the US. I always feel inspired and surprised when I compare them.

9What current trends in digital design (or really anything digital related) are you most excited about?

When Apple announced Vision Pro in 2023, it got me and many of my fellow designers excited about the possibilities of designing interfaces and interactions in a VR setting. It will certainly challenge a lot of established rules for designing flat 2D interfaces.

I'm also very excited about the opportunities AI technologies bring to help designers work more effectively and creatively.

10Congratulations! As the winner of the 2023 Vega Awards, what does it mean to you and your company and team to receive this award distinction?

Winning the Vega Digital Awards 2023 is an incredible honor for our team. It's a testament to the hard work, creativity, and dedication that the team puts into every project. I'm excited about the potential doors this recognition may open for us in the future.

11Can you explain a bit about the winning work you entered into the 2023 Vega Awards, and why you chose to enter this project?

This project was completed in collaboration with the WESTxEAST co-founders. The brand had outdated branding and websites and needed a refreshed look that matched its high-end positioning to attract its target consumer group. As the designer and developer of this project, I feel grateful to be given a lot of freedom to experiment with and implement some creative interactions. The brand image was greatly enhanced by the end of the project. It was a project I'm proud of.

12What was the biggest challenge with this project?

As the sole designer and developer, overcoming implementation-specific challenges required me to tackle or think about workarounds independently. It was a difficult but rewarding learning experience.

13How has winning an Award developed your practice/career?

This is a great recognition of my work. I feel encouraged to continue to deliver quality work and push creative boundaries in the future.

14What are your top three (3) favorite things about the digital industry?

  1. It will remain relevant for the foreseeable future. The digital industry will evolve, but it will not go away.
  2. The digital industry has significantly enhanced global connectivity. Through the Internet, social media, and digital communication tools, individuals and businesses can connect and collaborate on a global scale.
  3. Digital technologies have democratized access to information and resources. The digital industry has empowered individuals to create, share, and access content more easily than ever before.
15What makes your country specifically, unique in the digital industry?

The United States offers a variety of design opportunities in the digital industry. You can work on products that have a significant global impact that is used by tens of millions of people, or you can be part of an entrepreneurial founding team that serves a niche market. I also met people from a variety of professional and cultural backgrounds while working here. It is such an eye-opening experience.

16Where do you see the evolution of digital industry going over the next 5-10 years?

Like the changes seen in many industries due to AI, basic design tasks will become automated. To stay relevant, designers must move beyond repetitive and non-original ways of working. Practicing systematic and analytical thinking will be critical to delivering customized design solutions.

17If you were a student entering this industry or an aspiring Vega Award submitter, what advice would you give them?

Digital design is a constantly evolving industry. The tools and frameworks that are mainstream today may be replaced by more efficient ones in a few years. Stay curious and keep learning!

18What resources would you recommend to someone who wants to improve their skills in the digital industry?
Stay up-to-date with news and trends using blogs and websites like Smash Magazine, Medium, and TechCrunch. Seek mentorship and connect on platforms like ADPList and online design communities.
19Tell us something you have never told anyone else.
Okay, this might sound silly. When I was a student living a frugal lifestyle, printing for assignments could be expensive. So, when given the freedom to choose the medium for certain assignments, I would "cheat" by opting for a digital format like animation or website to avoid printing costs. You could say it contributed to my journey into digital design…
20Who has inspired you in your life and why?

My manager and co-workers were great inspirations. I feel lucky to be surrounded by a sweet and supportive team. I learned not only how to be a good designer but also how to be a caring human being.

21What is your key to success? Any parting words of wisdom?
Find your role models, and be inspired and empowered by them. Believe in yourself, keep honing your creativity, and eventually, you’ll become a role model for others.

Winning Entry | 2023
WESTxEAST is a brand dedicated to serving the South Asian-American community seeking bespoke traditional outfits for special occasions while ...
(read more at Vega Digital Awards)

Bowen Shen

Bowen Shen is a Product Designer in New York City. She grew up in China with a love for visual arts. Bowen Shen's career path shifted to digital design after discovering her interest in coding during her undergraduate years.

Read more about Michele Mardorf's interview for the 2023 Vega Digital Awards!