Interview with Ziyu ‘Robert’ Ye From the United States

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Ziyu 'Robert' Ye

Ziyu is a Product Designer specialising in user-centered design and AI applications. Having led multiple projects and owned the design of several applications, he continues to enhance user experiences and improving efficiency through innovative design solutions. Motivated by concern for the planet's future, he started a passion project called "Save Exit Glacier", focusing on reducing carbon emissions through everyday actions.

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

Hi! I'm Ziyu 'Robert' Ye, a Product Designer specialising in user-centered design and AI applications. I was born in China and then moved to the US for college six years ago. I graduated from New York University's Tisch School of the Arts with a degree in Interactive Media Arts.

Currently, I work at C3 AI, where I focus on designing enterprise AI applications such as inventory optimisation and production scheduling. Over the past two years, I've led multiple projects and owned the design of several applications, enhancing user experiences and improving efficiency through innovative design solutions.

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

My journey into design started with an interest in photography, which evolved into video creation, animation, and digital media. Studying Interactive Media Arts at NYU allowed me to explore various fields such as VR, 3D modeling, installation design, and UX design.

During my internship at Quext Technology, I realised my passion for UX design. This experience solidified my decision to pursue a career in product design, ultimately leading me to my current role at C3 AI.

3Tell us more about your agency/company, job profile, and what you do.
I work at C3 AI as a Product Designer. C3 AI is an enterprise AI company delivering machine learning applications to customers worldwide. My day-to-day responsibilities include conducting user interviews to understand requirements, creating low-fidelity wireframes for stakeholder alignment and quick iteration, and developing high-fidelity workflows for engineers to implement. My role ensures that user needs are met through thoughtful and effective design solutions.
4What does “design” mean to you?
Design means solving real-world problems in the most effective, elegant, and buildable way. Design is not just about aesthetics or self-expression; it's about helping others achieve their goals and enhancing their experiences.
5What’s your favorite kind of design and why?
My favorite kind of design is UX design because it sits at the intersection of design and technology. It allows me to combine creativity with practical problem-solving to create user-centered solutions that have a real impact on people's lives.
6To you, what makes a “good” design?
A good design is always user-centric, originating from a deep understanding of user needs. It is intuitive, functional, and aesthetically pleasing, effectively addressing the problem it was designed to solve.
7How did you come up with the idea for your award-winning design?

In 2008, I traveled to Exit Glacier, Alaska, which is a visible indicator of glacial recession due to climate change. Witnessing its rapid retreat struck me deeply, and I realised the urgency of addressing climate change.

Motivated by concern for our planet's future, I started a passion project called "Save Exit Glacier," focusing on reducing carbon emissions through everyday actions.

8What was your main source of inspiration for this design?
One of my inspirations was the simplicity and effectiveness of the Nest home temperature control system. Its design requires little to no effort to operate, which aligns with my goal of creating an accessible and impactful solution for reducing carbon emissions.
9Do you think your country and its cultural heritage has an impact on your design process?
My cultural background has certainly influenced how I understand the world and approach problem-solving. The values and perspectives I gained from my heritage shape my design process, helping me create solutions that are both innovative and culturally sensitive.
10Congratulations! As the winner of the London Design Awards, what does it mean to you and your company and team to receive this award distinction?
Thanks! Winning this award is a significant validation of my work and creativity. It gives me confidence to continue pursuing my passion projects and reinforces the value of our efforts at C3 AI. It also highlights the importance of our mission to address climate change through design.
11Can you explain a bit about the winning work you entered into the London Design Awards, and why you chose to enter this project?
My winning project, "Save Exit Glacier," is a personal passion project aimed at raising awareness about climate change and promoting sustainable living. I chose to enter this project to showcase my work to a broader audience and emphasise the critical need for environmental protection.
12What were the main challenges you faced during the design process, and how did you overcome them?
The main challenge was making the concept of CO2 consumption tangible for users. I overcame this by iteratively brainstorming, creating low-fidelity wireframes, and conducting user testing to refine the design until it effectively communicated the impact of everyday actions on carbon emissions.
13How do you think winning this award will impact your future as a designer?
Winning this award boosts my confidence and credibility as a designer. It encourages me to continue pushing the boundaries of design and to pursue more innovative and impactful projects.
14What are your top three (3) favorite things about the design industry?

The supportive community: Designers are always willing to help each other, which fosters a collaborative and nurturing environment.

The problem-solving aspect: I love tackling complex problems and coming up with creative solutions.

The opportunity to make a positive impact: Design has the power to improve lives and address important issues, which is incredibly fulfilling.

15What sets your design apart from others in the same category?
My design stands out due to its high quality and creativity. I focus on creating solutions that are not only functional and user-centric but also innovative and impactful.
16Where do you see the evolution of design industry going over the next 5-10 years?
I believe AI will take over many repetitive tasks, allowing designers to focus more on strategic design thinking and creativity. The industry will likely see more integration of AI and advanced technologies, pushing the boundaries of what's possible in design.
17Who has inspired you in your life and why?
My father has been my greatest inspiration. As a production line designer/engineer, his dedication and passion for his work inspired me to pursue a career in design. Watching him create and innovate instilled in me a desire to draw, design, and make a living from my creativity.
18What is your key to success? Any parting words of wisdom?
My key to success is perseverance and a genuine passion for design. Always stay curious, never stop learning, and be open to feedback and collaboration. Trust the process, and remember that every challenge is an opportunity for growth.

Winning Entry

Save Exit Glacier | 2024 London Design Awards

"Save Exit Glacier" is an AI-powered smart home application dedicated to combating climate change through tangible, everyday actions. Inspired by witnessing the rapid retreat of Alaska's Exit Glacier in 2008, Zhiyu embarked on a mission to empower... (read more here.)


Ziyu

Ziyu is a Product Designer specialising in user-centered design and AI applications. Having led multiple projects and owned the design of several applications, enhancing user experiences and improving efficiency through innovative design solutions. Motivated by concern for the planet's future, he started a passion project called "Save Exit Glacier", focusing on reducing carbon emissions through everyday actions.


Read about the Interview with Ting Chen from the United States here.

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