Interview with Ray Sun from China

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Ray Sun

Ray Sun travelled to the United States to pursue her education to specialize in industrial design with hopes to expand her skillsets in the field. Concurrently, she is a treasured UX designer at Citi Shanghai!

Interview With The 2023 NY Product Design Awards Winner – Ray Sun

1Please give us a brief bio of yourself and your background.
I was born and raised in China, and I ventured to the United States to pursue my college education. There, I specialized in industrial design and dedicated myself to expanding my skills and knowledge in this field. Presently, I am employed as a UX designer at Citi Shanghai where I utilize my expertise to create exceptional user experiences.
2What made you become/why did you choose to become a product designer?

From an early age, I have nurtured a deep fascination for the worlds of art, technology, and societal progress, with a strong focus on advocating for disadvantaged individuals. These passions have significantly shaped my career path and guided me towards the field of design.

During my junior year in college, I embarked on a meaningful venture: regularly visiting the residences of elderly stroke patients to gain first-hand understanding of the challenges they face during their rehabilitation journey. Immersed in this experience, I realized the utmost importance of preserving the dignity of elderly users and seeking innovative approaches to enhance their overall well-being. This captivating challenge within the realm of service design truly captivated my attention.

As I look ahead, I envision an ongoing expedition immersed in the realms of digital experience design, exploring the fascinating convergence of tangible product development. By constantly pushing boundaries and venturing into uncharted territories, my goal is to make a lasting impact in these domains and contribute to improving user experiences for everyone.

3Tell us more about your business/company, job profile, and what you do.
In my role as a senior UX designer at Citi Shanghai, I am entrusted with the responsibility of overseeing the design aspect of Citi PBWM's ToB transaction system. This involves managing the entire process of delivering digital products, starting from understanding user requirements, refining wireframes, crafting meticulous UI designs, and ensuring effective communication with all stakeholders across the Product line.
4What does “design” mean to you?

Design, to me, is the art of creating purposeful and meaningful solutions that improve and enrich people's lives. It goes beyond aesthetics and encompasses the thoughtful consideration of user needs, functionality, and usability. Design is about finding creative and innovative ways to solve problems, whether it's through tangible products, digital experiences, or even systems and processes.

It involves understanding the context, empathizing with the users, and balancing aesthetics with functionality to create solutions that are not only visually appealing but also intuitive and user-friendly. Design, ultimately, is a powerful tool that has the potential to positively impact individuals, communities, and society as a whole.

5What’s your favorite kind of design and why?

My favorite kind of design is the fusion of innovative technology with traditional materials, particularly in products like wearable garments and rehabilitation wearables. I find this combination fascinating because it bridges the gap between the physical and digital worlds, creating new opportunities for functionality and user experiences. By integrating cutting-edge technology seamlessly into everyday items, it opens up possibilities for enhancing comfort, performance, and even health.

Additionally, combining traditional materials with technology adds a unique aesthetic appeal and cultural significance to the design, resulting in a harmonious blend of the old and the new. This type of design exemplifies the power of innovation and creativity to transform and elevate our interactions with products, ultimately enriching our lives.

6To you, what makes a “good” design?

To me, a "good" design is one that successfully brings happiness and satisfaction to the intended user. It goes beyond merely fulfilling a functional need and strives to create a positive emotional connection. A good design understands and anticipates the user's desires, preferences, and pain points, and addresses them in a thoughtful and intuitive way.

Aesthetics play a crucial role in good design as well. Visual appeal, balance and coherence contribute to an enjoyable and engaging user experience. However, a good design is not solely about appearances; it also encompasses usability and functionality. The design should be intuitive, easy to navigate and provide a seamless interaction that enhances the user's overall experience.

Additionally, a good design takes into account the context in which it will be used. It considers factors such as cultural norms, accessibility, and environmental sustainability. It demonstrates a deep understanding of the user's needs and the broader impact of the design on society.

Ultimately, a good design is successful when it brings joy, satisfaction, and a sense of delight to the user. It is a harmonious combination of aesthetics, usability and empathy that enriches lives and creates a positive impact.

7Describe your design style and its main characteristics.

My design style can be described as a harmonious blend of modern aesthetics and vintage charm. It embodies a timeless elegance while incorporating practicality and intuitiveness. Here are the main characteristics of my design style:

Modern aesthetics:I embrace clean lines, minimalism, and a contemporary visual language. I believe in the power of simplicity and strive to create designs that are visually appealing, sleek, and up-to-date with current trends.

Vintage charm:I draw inspiration from the past and incorporate elements that evoke a sense of nostalgia and timeless beauty. This can include vintage typography, subtle textures, or retro color palettes. By infusing these elements, I add warmth, character, and a unique touch to my designs.

Elegance:I prioritize creating designs that exude sophistication and refinement. I pay careful attention to detail, ensuring that every aspect of the design, from typography to layout, is meticulously crafted to create a polished and visually pleasing result.

Practicality:While aesthetics are important, I believe that design should always serve a purpose and be functional. I focus on creating designs that are user-centered, intuitive, and seamlessly integrated into the user's experience. Practicality is key to ensuring that the design not only looks good but also enhances usability and provides value to the user.

Intuitiveness:I strive to create designs that are intuitive and easy to understand and interact with. By employing familiar design patterns and user-friendly interfaces, I aim to minimize the learning curve and enable users to navigate and interact with the design effortlessly.

In summary, my design style combines modern aesthetics with vintage charm, emphasizing elegance, practicality, and intuitiveness. It is a balance between contemporary trends and timeless elements, resulting in designs that are visually appealing, functional, and evoke a sense of delight and sophistication.

8Tell us about your design process.

Before embarking on the practical process, I prioritize conducting thorough observations. Allowing ample time for contemplation enables me to leverage my expertise in analyzing and gathering insights into the ultimate needs and pain points of the users.

Once the observation phase is complete, I proceed to create rapid prototypes in both digital and tangible formats. These prototypes serve as the foundation for initial feedback sessions with the target users or clients.

Subsequently, I iterate on the design based on the feedback received, continuously refining and enhancing it.

The final stage entails delivering the design, where I optimize the presentation approach, tailoring it to the preferences of the users and the nature of the product.

9Do you think your country and its cultural heritage has an impact on your design process?

Drawing inspiration from Daoism, I integrate its principles into my design process. Daoism emphasizes the significance of harmonious coexistence between humans and nature. In order to establish a closer connection to the natural world, I consistently incorporate natural materials such as wood, bamboo, and stone into my products.

Moreover, I draw inspiration from the organic shapes and forms found in nature, integrating flowing lines, curves, and asymmetry into my designs. By embracing these elements, I aim to create designs that embody the essence of Daoism and evoke a sense of harmony and balance between humans and their environment.

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

I am extremely grateful and humbled to have been bestowed with an internationally recognized award. Participating in the competition as an independent designer and emerging as a winner is a remarkable validation of my skills and dedication. This prestigious accolade holds immense significance and serves as a testament to the hard work and effort I have put into my craft.

Winning this award not only brings a sense of personal fulfillment but also presents exciting prospects for increased visibility and recognition within the professional design community. It opens doors to new opportunities, collaborations, and connections with fellow designers, experts and industry leaders.

I am truly honored and motivated by this achievement and I look forward to utilizing this recognition as a springboard for further growth and success in my design career.

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

I have a vivid memory of my grandfather's struggle with a stroke during my childhood. This personal experience has instilled in me a deep understanding of the challenging and lengthy journey that stroke recovery entails for both the individual and their family. Motivated by this, I embarked on a year-long endeavor, visiting three public rehab centers in San Francisco, where I immersed myself in understanding the daily pain points and mental state of elderly stroke patients.

Driven by a desire to enhance the quality of life and self-recognition for these individuals, I conceptualized and designed a solution called Vibe.

Vibe is an intelligent wearable specifically designed for elderly stroke patients. The device can be securely fastened to their limbs using Velcro, while its innovative fabric interface displays the real-time muscle activity of the user. When the user is at rest or the device is powered off, the fabric remains in a neutral gray state. However, when the user contracts their muscles, the fabric covering the active muscle parts instantly transforms into a vibrant green color, providing immediate and intuitive feedback on their physical activity.

The purpose of Vibe is twofold. Firstly, it serves as a visual cue for the user, encouraging and motivating them to engage in muscle activation exercises and physical therapy. The real-time display helps them track their progress and maintain consistency in their rehabilitation journey.

Secondly, Vibe aims to promote self-recognition and empowerment for elderly stroke patients. By visually showcasing their muscle activity, it fosters a sense of accomplishment and reinforces their agency in the recovery process.

Through the design of Vibe, I aspire to make a meaningful impact on the lives of elderly stroke patients, supporting them in their rehabilitation efforts, and helping them regain their independence and quality of life.

12What was the biggest challenge with this project?

The biggest challenge encountered in this project was finding effective solutions to address the factors that hinder stroke victims from persisting in their rehabilitation, with the ultimate goal of increasing their chances of successful recovery.

Determining the most suitable sleeve structure that enables elderly stroke patients to easily put it on by themselves was a crucial consideration in the project.

Identifying the preferred and well-received materials and styles by elderly stroke patients played a significant role in designing a wearable garment that catered to their needs and preferences.

Creating an ideal combination of technology and materials to monitor muscle mobility and instantly display the results in the form of a wearable garment required careful consideration and innovation.

13How has winning an award developed your practice/career?
Winning an award not only elevates my public visibility and exposure but it also provides me with the privilege to appreciate nominated designs spanning various categories.
14What are your top three (3) favorite things about our industry?

The first aspect pertains to the unwavering pursuit of innovative art formats, continuously pushing the limits of creativity.

The second aspect revolves around the diverse perspectives and extensive knowledge base of the jury members, enabling them to provide valuable feedback on participants' designs.

The third aspect encompasses the exposure and business opportunities that this competition affords its winners. It serves as a platform for recognition and promotion of their work, opening doors to potential ventures and collaborations.

15What makes your country specifically, unique in the design industry?
The Chinese design community is renowned for its remarkable competitiveness and unwavering dedication to attaining excellence throughout the design process. Consequently, certain Chinese designs transcend being mere delicate art pieces; they act as windows, unveiling the very essence of culture, civilization, and the timeless passage of time.
16Where do you see the evolution of design industry going over the next 5-10 years?

Artificial intelligence (AI) is poised to become a prevalent tool in generating ideas and augmenting knowledge for designers. While AI offers tremendous potential, the craftsmanship aspect will retain its distinctiveness and significance. AI may be able to assist in certain aspects of the creative process, but it lacks the ability to replicate the intricacies and uniqueness that human craftsmanship brings.

The human touch, with its creativity, intuition, and ability to imbue designs with emotion and meaning, will continue to be an essential and irreplaceable element in the world of design. The combination of AI and human craftsmanship has the potential to unlock new levels of innovation and excellence, as each brings its own strengths to the creative process.

17If you were a student entering this industry or an aspiring NY Product Design Awards submitter, what advice would you give them?

It is crucial to allocate time to meticulously observe the accomplishments of previous winners, especially within the category in which you are submitting your design. Analyzing their successes can provide valuable insights and inspiration for your own work.

Remaining attuned to design trends is equally important. Staying updated on the latest developments in the design field allows you to incorporate contemporary elements into your design. Furthermore, emphasizing the value of creating social impact in your design can greatly enhance its significance and relevance.

Additionally, it is worthwhile to contemplate how you can leverage your design if given additional time and opportunities. Reflect on ways to expand and refine your concept, considering potential avenues for growth, implementation, and collaboration.

By integrating these practices into your design process, you can enhance the quality and impact of your work, increasing your chances of success in the competition.

18What resources would you recommend to someone who wants to improve their skills in the design industry?

In addition to researching articles about design within your specific industry online, actively seeking mentorship from professionals in your immediate network can be highly advantageous. This could involve reaching out to your design leader, seeking guidance from a skilled colleague, or seeking advice from a friend who has self-taught and gained expertise in certain design specialties.

Their mentorship can provide valuable insights, practical knowledge, and guidance that can significantly contribute to your growth and development as a designer. Leveraging the experience and expertise of mentors can help you refine your skills, gain industry insights, and navigate challenges more effectively.

19Tell us something you have never told anyone else.
I possess the extraordinary capability to perceive an individual's aura, a gift or superpower that I personally cherish and take great pride in.
20Who has inspired you in your life and why?

Both my professional and personal life have been profoundly influenced by my former professor. Not only did he impart upon me the significance of prioritizing user experience and employing observation techniques to refine design strategies, but he also drew my attention to individuals who face disadvantages.

Through his teachings, I learned that design possesses the incredible capacity to not only improve the lives of ordinary people but also to empower and support those encountering hardships, granting them essential abilities and solace. This invaluable lesson remains ingrained in me thanks to the teachings of my esteemed professor.

21What is your key to success? Any parting words of wisdom?
Uncover your unique strengths, passions, and aspirations, and dedicate yourself wholeheartedly and diligently to their pursuit. Through unwavering determination and persistent effort, you will naturally harvest the fruits of your labor and attain the heights of success.

Winning Entry

Vibe | 2023

Stroke rehabilitation can be a challenging and lengthy process, particularly for elderly patients who may face a variety of physical and cognitive obstacles. To …
(Read more at NY Product Design Awards)

Ray Sun

Ray Sun travelled to the United States to pursue her education to specialize in industrial design with hopes to expand her skillsets in the field. Concurrently, she is a treasured UX designer at Citi Shanghai!

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