Lauren Lu grew up in Orlando, Florida and then made her way up the east coast. She studied Graphic Design with a concentration in User Experience at NC State's College of Design and received a minor in Psychology. After spending some time working as a UX Designer at IBM, she moved to Boston to join Essential 4 years ago. An eager designer of digital experiences, she utilizes a background in psychology to enhance her ability to create elegant, intuitive experiences rooted in strategic user-centered research.
1. What should people know about you?
“As a digital designer, I like to balance out my screen time soaking up the outdoors! I love snowboarding, climbing, cycling and hiking, which means I end up spending a lot of time in New Hampshire on the weekends. I’m also an avid reader, reaching my goal of 30 books last year-- part of my goal to be a lifelong learner.”
2. You recently rock climbed Southern Buttress in Red Rock Canyon - a 550ft climb! What was that like?
“Oh man, climbing at Red Rocks was amazing! I’d never done multi-pitch climbing before, which is when the climb is too tall for one length of rope, so you and your climbing partner have to set anchors along the way and belay from points on the wall instead of from the ground to get to the top. It was pretty exhilarating to have climbed to the top of something so tall, and I liked learning about all of the technical aspects of the climb as well. And the view from the top was pretty great too :)”
Lauren Lu tackling the 550ft Red Rock Canyon in Las Vegas, Nevada.
3. So, you're a Digital Experience (DX) designer on our team. What attracted you to this space?
“Along with studying design, I also felt the pull of wanting to learn more about people-- how they think, what influences them and how they make decisions, which led me to also study Psychology. Designing digital experiences is kind of a perfect pairing of the two fields. I love that in DX, understanding the users comes first and drives the rest of the design process--creating something intuitive and simple that also looks and feels good to use.”
4. Prior to Essential, you were working at IBM. How were you able to draw your experience there to the work you do at Essential?
“IBM has a very solidified and comprehensive design strategy, approach and philosophy that they have worked hard to make a tenet of the company. Valuing design as such a core aspect of a mega company like IBM was really gratifying to be a part of and helped me create a solid foundation for myself of core design principles and practices that I bring into my work at Essential.”
5. Tell us about your role.
“Something I really love about my role is how flexible it is. My official DX role consists of working with clients on projects as diverse as creating an interface for a biosurveillance system to creating a configurator for measuring the flow of liquid through pipes. From our team of designers, we split into smaller groups to tackle each project. We work with the client in workshops to gather project requirements and learn about users and then go into building out a system architecture and visual style. Because of the collaborative nature of the groups here at Essential, I also have gotten to work on projects with the Industrial Design and Research teams, including assisting in conducting field research and working on branding and packaging projects.”
6. Besides the great interfaces that Essential has helped built, are there any brands or companies that you admire for their UX/UI??
“I’ll answer this with some favorite apps of mine right now. Apps that I’m constantly using:
- Dark Sky: Detailed weather reporting that has a glanceable and intuitive interface. I also love the crowd-sourcing data feature that allows users to report the weather where they are for hyperlocal weather accuracy.
- Robinhood: Makes the complex subject matter of investing feel very simple and easy to do (maybe even too easy!) They do a great job pairing clear data graphics with excellent information hierarchy that includes everything you need to know in a way that doesn’t come across as overwhelming.
- Day One: I love all kinds of forms of digital tracking and life-recording, and this app is my favorite. It’s a simple timeline interface where you can upload or record audio, notes or photos from the day. It will fill in the weather, time and location, and even show a map of all the places you’ve been. For the hardcore documenters :)”
7. You spend a lot of time designing interfaces. Do you enjoy any other creative outlets?
“Ah, yes! I really like working with video. Throughout high school and college, I did a lot of independent videos and a bit of documentary work and I really enjoy that kind of creative outlet. I’ve gotten to work on a couple of video projects here as well, which I always like! I also have been getting back into sketching in my free time as well as learning some new skills! Some of our DX team took a woodturning class over a couple of weekends and have some great bowls to show for it!”
Lauren trying her hand in a woodturning class.
8. What’s the most challenging thing about your job that people might not realize?
“I think the best UX experiences are those that most people don’t recognize because they just do what they are supposed to. What people don’t realize is how much work and effort it takes designers to make an experience feel so simple and easy!
9. What your favorite thing about the role?
My favorite thing about my role on the DX team is the amount of ownership I’ve gotten to have within such a diverse range of projects. I’ve gotten an amazing amount of experience here with a small team carrying projects through from concept to visual design with a hand in every part of the process. As a team, we work very closely with our clients which has also provided a great learning opportunity for me.
10. What do you read/listen to / visit / etc...to stay current on design, business, engineering, etc...that you would recommend?
“There are a couple of subscription emails that keep me fresh and in the know. One is called Sidebar, which sends the 5 best design links every day. This can be on topics from cool new technologies to an audit of politicians’ logos, to better ways to organize your Sketch files. I also subscribe to Behavior Designer Nir Eyal’s newsletter, which is a few links a week of how psychology influences behavior. And I love the podcast 99% Invisible, which discusses stories of design and architecture. A couple of my favorite episodes include Children of the Magenta, which talks about the history and some of the consequences of flight automation, and Unpleasant Design and Hostile Urban Architecture, which talks about the paradoxical successes of designs that deter certain activities in an urban environment.”
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