Interview with Sizhe Huang from United States

Matthew Arquette | London Design Awards
Interview with Matthew Arquette for Ray
October 31, 2023
E Three Five | MUSE Design Awards
Interview with E Three Five from Singapore
October 31, 2023

Sizhe Huang

Sizhe Huang is an interdisciplinary designer with a focus on shaping the future of user experiences. She is making valuable contributions to Lucid Motors, where her passion lies in integrating seamless experiences into users' interconnected lifestyles, ensuring that each interaction is both intuitive and enriching.

Interview With The 2023 MUSE Design Awards Winner – Sizhe Huang

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

I am an interdisciplinary designer, specializing in forging the future of user experiences. Currently, I am contributing to Lucid Motors where I am passionate about weaving seamless experiences into the user's interconnected lifestyle, ensuring that every interaction is intuitive and enriching.

With a foundation in Industrial Design from my undergraduate studies and a Master’s Degree in Media Design from the ArtCenter College of Design, I navigate skillfully between physical and digital mediums, crafting immersive experiences that resonate with users. My design approach is staunchly user-centric, ensuring that every creation is not only functional and innovative but also emotionally impactful and aligned with user needs and expectations.

My interests span across mobility, IoT (Internet of Things) and social platforms, always with an aim to explore how these domains can intersect to create novel, meaningful, and integrated user experiences. At the core of my work lies a belief in the transformative power of design, bridging technological advancements with deeply human experiences.

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

From a young age, painting became a powerful medium for me to express myself, allowing me to communicate through aesthetic visuals. As I matured, my fascination grew in merging aesthetics with emerging technology, exploring how these elements could intertwine to create something innovative and impactful.

My innate qualities of being a keen observer and an active listener catalyzed my excitement about utilizing design as a tool to resolve issues and enhance people’s lives. This enthusiasm propelled me to pursue academic journeys in both undergraduate and graduate studies, where I immersed myself in design theory while also unleashing my creativity.

Upon graduation, I embraced the role of a designer with zeal, applying my academic learnings to real-world scenarios. I derive immense satisfaction from collaborating with others, bringing designs to life that not only embody aesthetic and technological integration but also have the power to positively alter everyday experiences for people.

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

At Lucid Motors, where I'm positioned as a product designer, I immerse myself daily in crafting the nexus between physical and digital interactions, especially within in-vehicle interfaces. My designs encompass various elements from screens and gestures to the comprehensive user journey, ensuring a seamless integration into various facets of the user's life.

I'm deeply involved in curating experiences within mobility, focusing on ensuring that each interaction is intuitive, enjoyable, and innovative. What fuels my pride and passion in my work is witnessing how it actively shapes the future of mobility, contributing to not just a connected, but also a sustainably cleaner future.

4What does “design” mean to you?

'Design' is a profound symphony of art, science, and empathy. It's not merely about creating visually pleasing artifacts, but about crafting solutions that resonate deeply with human needs and emotions. Design is a dialogue between the creator and the user, wherein every line, color, and texture communicates a message, tells a story, or solves a problem. It's a relentless pursuit of balance between aesthetics and functionality, where innovation meets intuition.

Ultimately, design is a commitment to enhancing lives, whether it's simplifying complex tasks, evoking emotions, or just adding a touch of beauty to the everyday. In its essence, design is a testament to human ingenuity and the desire to leave the world a touch more harmonious than we found it.

5To you, what makes a “good” design?

A 'good' design is one that effortlessly blends into the user’s life, offering intuitive and accessible interactions while providing distinctive and delightful experiences. It should be user-centric, ensuring simplicity and ease of use, yet innovative enough to offer a unique, memorable engagement.

Moreover, sustainability and inclusivity are pivotal, guaranteeing that the design is ethical and environmentally conscious, respecting all users and our planet alike.

6Describe your design style and its main characteristics.

My design style is deeply rooted in user empathy. I prioritize understanding and connecting with the user's perspective, ensuring that my designs resonate emotionally and functionally with them. Furthermore, I actively integrate emerging technologies into my work.

For me, technology isn't merely a tool—it's a medium to drive positive societal change and enhance the quality of life for users. In essence, my designs bridge human emotion with the transformative power of technology.

7Tell us about your design process.

My design process, inspired by the double-diamond method, intertwines systematic strategy and creative exploration to craft solutions that are not only innovative but also deeply resonant with user needs.

Discovery: Beginning with identifying the problem or experience that requires enhancement, I immerse myself in user research, meticulously analyzing use cases and defining pain points to gain an empathetic understanding of user needs and contexts.

Ideation: Leveraging insights from the discovery phase, I identify and weigh design opportunities, ensuring that generated ideas are thoughtfully aligned with identified pain points and user expectations.

Design: This phase involves bringing ideas to life. I develop multiple ideations into detailed designs and interactive prototypes, ensuring they’re robust enough to be critically assessed in the subsequent phase.

Testing: Engaging with users, I rigorously test the proposed design solutions, gathering invaluable feedback that is then funneled back into refinements and enhancements.

Crucially, my design process is not linear but cyclical - constantly iterating and refining based on ongoing learnings and feedback, thereby ensuring solutions that are continually evolving and user-centric.

8Do you think your country and its cultural heritage has an impact on your design process?

Undoubtedly, my country, China, and its profound cultural heritage significantly shape my design process, providing me with a rich palette from which to draw inspiration and guiding principles.

One notable aspect is minimalism and functionality that is deeply rooted in the Taoist philosophy which venerates simplicity and believes that 'less is more.' This principle is woven into my designs, wherein I seek to craft solutions that are not only aesthetically minimalist but also highly functional, adhering to an ethos where every element serves a purpose and nothing is superfluous.

Moreover, harmony and balance which are pivotal in Confucian philosophy, permeate my design thinking. For me, design is not merely about the aesthetic and functional interplay between objects and humans but also about fostering harmonious relationships among people. I prioritize creating designs that not only establish a serene and balanced interaction between humans and objects but also enhance interpersonal harmony and facilitate positive social interactions through thoughtful design.

It's a continual journey where I seek to intertwine the timeless wisdom embedded in our culture with the contemporary needs of society, thus crafting designs that are both deeply rooted in our cultural context and relevant in the modern era.

9Congratulations! As the winner of the 2023 MUSE Design Awards, what does it mean to you and your company and team to receive this award distinction?

Winning the 2023 MUSE Design Awards is profoundly meaningful and is a moment of both celebration and reflection for me. This accolade is a recognition of the hard work, creativity, and innovation that have been steadfast companions on my design journey. It's incredibly rewarding to be acknowledged by a platform that celebrates design excellence, and being distinguished among a pool of such talented individuals and innovative designs amplifies this honor.

The award, to me, is not merely a milestone but a reminder and a motivator to continue pushing boundaries, to explore uncharted territories in design, and to persistently contribute towards enhancing user experiences and advancing the design field. It's an affirmation that the path I’m treading is impactful and it encourages me to forge ahead with renewed vigor and passion.

10Can you explain a bit about the winning work you entered into the 2023 MUSE Design Awards, and why you chose to enter this project?

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.

11What 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.

12How has winning an Award developed your practice/career?
Winning the award has been a pivotal moment in my design career. It not only affirmed the quality of my work but also elevated my visibility in the design community, opening doors to new collaborations and opportunities. The recognition has driven me to introspect, refine, and continually innovate in my practice. While it's a testament to past achievements, it's also a motivator for future growth.
13What are your top three (3) favorite things about our industry?

My top three favorite aspects of the design industry encapsulate creativity, impact, and perpetual evolution.

Firstly, the boundless creativity is exhilarating. Design is a field where you are constantly encouraged to think outside the box, pushing imaginative boundaries to create solutions that are not only aesthetic but also functional.

Secondly, the tangible impact of design on everyday life is immensely rewarding. It’s a space where innovative ideas transform into real-world applications, enhancing user experiences, and even solving intricate problems in unexpected ways.

Lastly, the ceaseless evolution of the industry keeps it perpetually fresh and exciting. The design world is never stagnant; it continuously adapts, absorbing influences from societal changes, technological advancements, and emerging trends, ensuring that there’s always something new to learn, explore, and incorporate into your practice.

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

Rich History: China's millennia-old history has cultivated a distinct aesthetic involving calligraphy, symbolism, and a deep respect for nature, which are often incorporated into modern designs.

Rapid Modernization: The striking contrast and coexistence of ancient traditions and cutting-edge modernity in China contribute to a unique juxtaposition in its design paradigms.

Technology Integration: China's advancements in technology impact its design industry by facilitating innovative approaches and integrating smart technology into design solutions.

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

Sustainability and Circular Design: With increasing global awareness of environmental issues, designers will prioritize sustainable materials, processes, and end-of-life considerations. Circular design – which focuses on creating products with a closed-loop lifecycle – will gain more prominence.

Inclusive and Universal Design: The industry will see a more significant shift towards designing for all, regardless of age, gender, ability, or background. This approach will ensure products, spaces, and digital experiences are accessible to the broadest range of people.

Digital and Physical Integration: The line between the physical and digital realms will blur further. With the rise of augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and mixed reality (MR), designers will craft integrated experiences that bridge both domains.

Artificial Intelligence in Design: AI will play a more significant role, from automating repetitive tasks to aiding in design decisions and providing predictive insights. Tools like generative design, where AI suggests optimal designs based on specific parameters, will become more mainstream.

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

User-Centricity is Key: Always place the user at the heart of your designs. Understand their needs, behaviors, and desires through research and empathy, and ensure your designs genuinely address their requirements.

Diversify Your Skill Set: While specializing is beneficial, having a broad skill set makes you versatile and more adaptable to various projects. Try to learn about adjacent fields, like coding, motion design, or even business strategy.

Prepare for MUSE Design Awards: If you're aiming for the MUSE Design Awards, research past winners to understand the standard of excellence. Always showcase the uniqueness of your designs, the story behind them, and the problem they solve.

17What resources would you recommend to someone who wants to improve their skills in the design industry?

Coursera: Offer courses on a plethora of topics related to design, from beginner to advanced levels.

AIGA Eye on Design: Offers insightful articles about the world of design.

Design Matters Podcast with Debbie Millman: Interviews with industry leaders.

NNGroup (Nielsen Norman Group): Offers evidence-based user experience (UX) research, training, and consulting.

18Who has inspired you in your life and why?

Naoto Fukasawa has been a significant influence on my design approach, particularly due to his philosophy of 'Design without Thought'. Fukasawa's ethos revolves around the idea that the best designs are those that seamlessly integrate into our lives, becoming almost invisible because of their intuitive nature.

This principle resonates with me deeply. It has encouraged me to always strive for simplicity and to design solutions that effortlessly resonate with users, ensuring that they don’t have to think – they can just feel and use. His work serves as a constant reminder that design should not be intrusive but rather an innate extension of human behavior and environment.

19What 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 Entry

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 …
(Read more at MUSE Design Awards)

Sizhe Huang

Sizhe Huang is an interdisciplinary designer with a focus on shaping the future of user experiences. She is making valuable contributions to Lucid Motors, where her passion lies in integrating seamless experiences into users' interconnected lifestyles, ensuring that each interaction is both intuitive and enriching.

Read more about this interview with E Three Five from Singapore, the Gold Winners of the 2023 MUSE Design Awards.