Designing Understanding

This week Monkey Mastermind Lee-Sean Huang had a conversation with Andrew Benedict of the Insight Labs about UX for Good in Rwanda this June. Lee-Sean will be taking part in the week-long design challenge as a team captain.

Full interview below: (Source) 

One of our “team captains” for this year’s UX for Good Annual Challenge will be Lee-Sean Huang. Huang is co-founder and creative director at Foossa, a New York-based design group. We exchanged a few questions with him about this year’s UX for Good challenge via e-mail.

You’ve been part of the team for two previous UX for Good team challenges and will now serve as a team captain. What are some of the unique capabilities you think UX for Good brings out of designers that you’ll be draw upon as one of their leaders this year in Rwanda? What additional capabilities would you like to see them demonstrate as they take on this challenge?

Unique capabilities? The ability to design and redesign the process as needed. UX for Good has a short and rigidly defined timeline, but the process for work is fairly fluid. Over the last two years’ challenges, I have seen designers intervene and redesign the collaborative design process based on the needs of the contexts. That’s a great ability to have in your toolkit.

Additional capabilities? Rapid prototyping. We have a bit more time for this year’s challenge compared to previous years, so it would be great to see solutions move a bit past the conceptual stage.

This challenge would be a huge undertaking for people from any background. What do you think makes UX design a particularly good fit to take it on?

I think of UX design as both applied craft and liberal art, which makes it a particularly good fit for this kind of challenge. UX designers have the ability to craft and make things in their particular area of expertise: web, mobile, etc., but the discipline is fundamentally about people in social and environmental contexts, which is what I meant by “liberal art.” UX design is sort of like rhetoric in a classical liberal arts education. It builds ways to frame our understanding of something with the aim of motivating and persuading people (“users”) around a certain point of view.

What will you personally be doing over the next few weeks to prepare for this challenge?

Well, I went to the doctor and got my immunizations and malaria pills today!

I have been reading up and viewing videos about Rwanda. France 24 did this fascinating interactive documentary about Rwanda 20 years after the genocide. The Guardian had this heartwarming story about the first ice cream shop in Rwanda, which is owned by its employees, women who were widowed or orphaned by the genocide. I like to learn a bit of the local lingo wherever I go, so I have been memorizing a few basic phrases in Kinyarwanda.

For more of Lee-Sean’s thoughts on how designers think about context, check out this interview on the Insight Labs site.