Interview with Sizhe Huang for Umi and MakeupAlley Website

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Sizhe Huang

Sizhe Huang is a designer with a diverse background, focusing on shaping the future of user experiences. Her interests encompass a range of areas, such as mobility, IoT, and social platforms, as she consistently explores the intersections of these fields to elevate user experiences.

Interview with the 2023 MUSE Creative Awards Winner -
Sizhe Huang

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

I am a designer with a diverse background, specializing in shaping the future of user experiences. Currently, I am applying my expertise at Lucid Motors, dedicatedly integrating seamless experiences into users' connected lives through thoughtful design.

My design philosophy revolves around prioritizing users, ensuring that every creation is not only intuitive and engaging but also adds significant value to their journey. My interests span various areas, including mobility, IoT, and social platforms, as I continually explore how these fields can converge to enhance user experiences.

My educational journey began with a degree in Industrial Design, followed by a Master's Degree in Media Design from the ArtCenter College of Design. These academic experiences have equipped me to seamlessly merge physical and digital elements in my work, delivering immersive experiences that capture and resonate with users. I am committed to leveraging this multidisciplinary approach to explore innovative intersections between technology, design, and user experience.

2What made you become/why did you choose to become a creative?

Since childhood, painting has been my means of self-expression. This initial engagement with aesthetics developed into a profound fascination with integrating art and emerging technology. My natural abilities in observation and listening led me to recognize the power of design as a transformative tool capable of addressing challenges and enhancing people's lives.

Through my educational endeavors in both undergraduate and graduate studies, I delved deeper into design theory, amplifying my creativity. As a creative professional today, I derive great satisfaction from translating academic insights into tangible designs and collaborating with others to bring these visions to fruition.

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

At Lucid Motors, I serve as a Product Designer, and my daily responsibilities revolve around innovating in-vehicle interfaces. I focus on shaping both physical and digital interactions to enhance the overall mobility experience. My design scope encompasses screens, gesture controls, and orchestrating a comprehensive user journey that seamlessly integrates various aspects of a user's life.

What excites me about my role is not only the opportunity to influence the future of mobility but also how my work contributes to connected living and advocates for a cleaner, sustainable future. I take pride in my contributions to solutions that go beyond mere functionality and aesthetics, aiming to have a positive impact on our environment and society.

4What does “creativity” mean to you?

To me, 'creative' is the innate human drive to venture beyond the seen and the known. It’s the ability to perceive the world in new ways, to find hidden patterns, to make connections between seemingly unrelated phenomena, and to generate novel solutions. Creativity isn’t just about producing art or design; it’s about challenging conventions, reframing problems, and seeing potential where others see limits. It's the spark that propels us forward, allowing us to evolve, adapt, and envision futures yet unimagined.

In essence, to be creative is to breathe life into ideas, transforming abstract thoughts into tangible realities that have the power to touch souls, provoke thought, and inspire change.

5To you, what makes a “creative” idea and/or design?

To me, a 'creative' idea or design is one that effortlessly marries originality with purpose. It starts with an unexpected, novel approach or perspective that challenges conventional paradigms. But true creativity isn’t just about novelty for its own sake; it’s about meaningful innovation. A truly creative design addresses a need, solves a problem, or evokes emotion in a way that hasn't been seen or felt before. It transcends the familiar, pushing boundaries, yet remains grounded in relevance and functionality.

In essence, a creative idea is both a breath of fresh air and a beacon, lighting the path toward new possibilities while staying deeply connected to its intended audience or purpose.

6Tell us about your creative and/or design process.

My creative process is a harmonious blend of exploration, ideation, realization, and refinement.

Exploration: Every great design begins with understanding. Here, I delve into the problem at hand, seeking to improve specific experiences. By conducting rigorous user research, I gain insights into various use cases and pinpoint the underlying pain points. This stage lays the foundation for what's to come, ensuring my designs are deeply rooted in real-world needs.

Ideation: With a clear understanding of user needs, I transition into a phase of brainstorming and synthesis. Drawing from the insights garnered in the exploration phase, I uncover potential design opportunities and prioritize key elements. This is where possibilities begin to take form.

Realization: Armed with a bank of ideas, I move into the design phase. Typically, I flesh out 3-4 comprehensive ideations, transforming them into detailed designs complemented by tangible prototypes. It’s a phase of concretizing the abstract, giving life to the solutions.

Refinement: No design is complete without validation. I introduce my solutions to actual users, testing their efficacy and resonance. Feedback is crucial; it not only unveils areas of improvement but often provides unforeseen insights.

It's worth noting that this process is cyclical rather than linear. As I progress, I often loop back, ensuring that each stage informs and refines the next, resulting in designs that are both innovative and deeply empathetic.

7What's your favorite part of the creative process and why?

My favorite part of the creative process is the ideation phase. There's a palpable magic in this stage where the constraints of the real world momentarily fade, giving way to a universe of possibilities. It’s akin to standing at the edge of a vast ocean of ideas, where every ripple, every wave, represents a potential solution.

During ideation, I find myself fully immersed, allowing my intuition to dance freely with the insights I’ve gathered. It's in this space that serendipity often strikes, leading to those 'eureka' moments that transform good designs into great ones. Moreover, ideation fosters collaboration and diverse thinking, as I often brainstorm with peers, drawing from their perspectives and experiences. In essence, this phase encapsulates the very heart of creativity for me – limitless exploration underpinned by purpose.

8Describe your creative style and its main characteristics.

My creative style is deeply rooted in user-centric empathy. At its core, every design I craft seeks to resonate profoundly with the end user, striving for both emotional and functional resonance. I pride myself on my ability to deeply empathize, ensuring that my designs aren't just aesthetically pleasing but genuinely 'felt' by those who interact with them.

Furthermore, I'm passionately forward-thinking. I consistently integrate emerging technologies into my creations, not just for the sake of novelty but with a genuine ambition to harness their potential for broader societal impact. To me, technology is more than just a tool—it's a powerful medium that, when wielded with care and creativity, has the capacity to enhance lives, reshape experiences, and drive meaningful change.

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

Absolutely, my cultural roots in China deeply influence my creative process. At the heart of Chinese design lies a profound appreciation for minimalism and functionality, echoing the Taoist philosophy where 'less is more'. This isn’t just a design style; it’s a worldview that I incorporate, striving for simplicity and purpose in every solution I craft.

Furthermore, Confucian principles emphasizing harmony and balance resonate deeply with me. My designs frequently aim to foster a sense of serenity and equilibrium. Whether it's in the interplay between digital content and physical objects or the subtle nuances that connect users with their environment, I continually seek to create designs that not only facilitate interactions but also promote inner peace and harmony.

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

Being honored with the 2023 MUSE Creative Awards is both humbling and exhilarating. To me, this distinction is more than just an acknowledgment of a single project—it signifies a recognition of the dedication, innovative thinking, and countless hours that go into every design endeavor. MUSE represents the pinnacle of creative excellence, and to be associated with such a standard is a powerful affirmation of my commitment to pushing the boundaries in design.

It serves as a reminder that when creativity is combined with purpose, it can resonate deeply and leave a lasting impact. Beyond personal validation, this award fuels my motivation to keep exploring, learning, and contributing meaningfully to the world of design.

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

I have two projects winning 2023 MUSE Creative Awards: one is MakeupAlley Website, the other one is Umi.

MakeupAlley Website: It is a digital platform designed to simplify the beauty buying process. Users create detailed profiles based on their skin needs, ensuring they receive personalized and relevant product recommendations. A standout feature is our Product Ingredient Analyzer, which deciphers complex ingredient lists. Further fostering community, our forums provide spaces for users to discuss trends and share insights.

MakeupAlley stands apart due to its unwavering commitment to authenticity and education. We champion unbiased reviews, allowing users to trust the advice they receive. By merging personalized guidance with enriching content, I believed MakeupAlley represented a holistic approach to beauty, making it a perfect candidate for the 2023 MUSE Creative Awards.

Umi: In our digital age, technology facilitates communication yet often lacks warmth. Recognizing this emotional void, Umi aims to transform long-distance communication, reigniting personal bonds and intimacy. Umi blends the tangible product - Pebble & Nest, with a versatile app for mobiles & watches. The Pebble and Nest duo act as personal avatars, embodying the presence of each friend or loved one. The users can touch, feel, and even rub it, physically embodying the bond they share with others.

The Umi mobile app and the Apple Watch app form the digital pulse of the Umi experience, creating an immersive platform for transmitting virtual hugs and voices, and nurturing emotional bonds on the go.

I chose Umi to enter because I think it’s not just a product but a human-centric innovation. Umi seamlessly blends tactile, auditory, and visual elements to nurture meaningful connections. It reimagines the future of emotional connectivity, making digital interactions as real and resonant as physical ones. I believed this human-centric innovation deserved a broader platform, both to showcase its uniqueness and to inspire others to think deeply about the emotional facet of design.

12What was the biggest challenge with this project?

Designing Umi posed intriguing challenges, emblematic of the nuanced dance between technology, human experience, and emotional expression.

Diverse Scenario Adaptability: At the forefront was the challenge of versatility. The Umi design needed to be adaptive, suitable for a spectrum of environments and situations, from indoor settings to outdoor adventures, from moments of stillness while seated to active instances of walking. The design process constantly revolved around the user, ensuring that no matter the posture or scenario, the user felt connected, aiming to alleviate the pangs of isolation and longing precisely when these emotions surfaced.

Emotional Authenticity: The second significant hurdle was capturing the essence of emotion. How do you materialize feelings without losing their core, especially in a world increasingly skewed towards the digital? Umi sought to transform abstract emotions into palpable interactions, ensuring these translations retained their authenticity and did not appear contrived. It was about creating a bridge between the visceral world of feelings and the tangible realm of human interaction.

Tactile-Visual Balance: Lastly, the equilibrium between the tactile and visual became pivotal. Umi wasn't just about touch or sight alone; it was an amalgamation. Striking the right balance meant ensuring that while users felt the warmth of a tangible connection, they weren't detached from the digital realm. The challenge was crafting a harmonious blend where neither tactile nor digital elements overshadowed the other, providing a truly holistic experience.

13What are your top three (3) favorite things about our industry?

Infinite Possibilities: The creative industry isn't bound by rigid formulas or constraints. Every project or challenge is a blank canvas that invites innovative solutions. This freedom to constantly redefine, reimagine, and innovate keeps the work exciting and the outcomes fresh.

Impactful Stories: At its core, the creative industry is about storytelling. Whether it's through design, film, art, or any other medium, we have the power to evoke emotions, inspire actions, and foster deeper human connections. The ability to influence societal narratives and shape cultural dialogues is incredibly fulfilling.

Collaborative Synergy: The industry thrives on collaboration. Working with diverse talents—from writers and designers to strategists and technologists—leads to a cross-pollination of ideas. This collaborative energy not only enhances the final output but also contributes to personal growth and a richer understanding of the world.

14What makes your country specifically, unique in the creative industry?

Global Influence: As a global economic powerhouse, China’s creative trends are influential worldwide, forming a bridge between Eastern and Western aesthetics.

Mass Production and Scalability: The ability to scale creative for mass production, given its extensive manufacturing capabilities, is a notable characteristic of the Chinese creative industry.

Scale & Diversity: The sheer size and diversity of China—with its varied regions, dialects, and sub-cultures—mean that the creative industry here isn't monolithic. It's a blend of regional nuances, offering a vast palette of inspirations and approaches to creative expression.

15Where do you see the evolution of creative industry going over the next 5-10 years?

Cultural Fusion: With globalization and digital connectivity bringing the world closer, we'll see a fusion of artistic styles and narratives. While local cultures will always hold significance, the blending of diverse influences will lead to richer, more eclectic creative expressions.

Holistic Experiences: Instead of isolated touch points, brands and creators will focus on curating holistic, multi-sensory experiences for their audiences. The lines between physical and digital realms will blur, leading to integrated experiences that engage audiences on multiple levels.

16If you were a student entering this industry or an aspiring MUSE Creative Awards submitter, what advice would you give them?

Never Stop Learning: The creative industry is dynamic, with styles, technologies, and user needs constantly evolving. Embrace lifelong learning, whether through formal education, online courses, or self-driven exploration.

Embrace Feedback: Constructive criticism is invaluable for growth. Seek feedback regularly, and view it as an opportunity to refine your work and broaden your perspective.

Stay Updated: Keep abreast of industry trends, technological advancements, and best practices. Engage with creative communities, attend workshops, and read industry publications.

17What is your key to success? Any parting words of wisdom?

My key to success lies in a blend of unyielding curiosity, relentless dedication, and deep empathy. Curiosity drives me to continuously explore, learn, and challenge the status quo, ensuring that I never become complacent. Dedication provides the resilience to push through challenges and iteratively refine my work until it meets my standards of excellence.

Above all, empathy reminds me that design is about people, and the true measure of success is the positive impact I can make on an individual's experience.

Winning Entries

Umi: A Seamless Ecosystem Bridging Emotional Distances | 2023

Umi: A Seamless Ecosystem Bridging Emotional Distances | Sizhe Huang
In the fast-paced, globally interconnected world we inhabit, physical distances often create emotional gaps, making interpersonal connections ...
(Read more at MUSE Creative Awards)

MakeupAlley Website | 2023

MakeupAlley Website | Sizhe Huang
In today's vast beauty and skincare universe, consumers often find themselves overwhelmed by choices and clamoring for clarity. MakeupAlley ...
(Read more at MUSE Creative Awards)

Sizhe Huang

Sizhe Huang is a designer with a diverse background, focusing on shaping the future of user experiences. Her interests encompass a range of areas, such as mobility, IoT, and social platforms, as she consistently explores the intersections of these fields to elevate user experiences.

Read more about this interview with Sizhe Huang from the United States for the 2023 MUSE Design Awards.