Name: Annie Beier
Hometown: Newtown, Connecticut
Education: Brown University, Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Engineering
Work Experience: Research & Usability Team Intern, Ximedica; Life Sciences Analyst, ClearView Healthcare Partners
Current Title/Team: Design Researcher, Innovation Strategy
So, you’re a Human Factors Researcher on our team. Why is research such an important part of design?
The research team is involved in a number of project stages, and we provide insights about users -- what they really want, need, and can use, safely and effectively. Our focus is to deeply understand the people we are designing for, to ensure that we’re not only designing something great but also something that is great for the user. This is an important distinction.
The difference between a thoroughly-researched product and a poorly-researched one is night-and-day. These insights have an outstanding impact on usability and efficiency, and ultimately, the entire product and system’s capacity for success. Particularly, in healthcare, the research process is critical to the FDA approval of medical devices.
What are your favorite aspects of the role?
So much about Essential Design resonates with me... I was drawn in by the dynamic, creative, smart people and vibrant team culture. Essential works with a wide variety of clients and industries; I love that my role gives me the opportunity to contribute to medically-focused Human Factors Research as well as other design research projects.
You studied biomedical engineering at Brown, but from a very "human-centered" perspective. How did this play out in your coursework?
Looking back, I realize I used many of my elective courses to explore the intersection of health and humanity. Courses such as Culture + Health and Modern Science + Human Values were fascinating to me; we explored (through philosophical/anthropological lenses) the relationship between modern medicine and individuals with different values, belief systems, and ways of thinking. The nuances of each individual’s experiences make it impossible to evaluate or implement a technology or treatment on a generic, widespread basis. On another note, I was equally impassioned by a course I took abroad about Punishment and Social Control in the Australian Justice System.
A beautiful view along the urban coastal walk from Coogee to Bondi Beach in Sydney, Australia, where Annie studied abroad. She took courses in Punishment & Social Control, Food for a Healthy Planet, and Cognitive Psychology at the University of Melbourne.
What interface/product/experience would you love to get your hands on/ love to redesign? How would you fix it?
I would love to redesign a food processor! I often gravitate toward recipes that require a food processor, but often dread using mine since it requires having to take apart and wash so many difficult-to-clean pieces, including the very sharp blade. I know the industry is moving toward offering smaller processors with fewer parts, but it would be great to streamline the design of the larger models too. Perhaps a redesign could involve a protective covering to allow for safer cleaning of the blade or pieces that can easily come apart to wash the inside chambers.
Cookies Annie made and decorated as a gift to her boyfriend. They didn’t require a food processor, but they’re much prettier than most things that have gone into one!
What are you reading right now?
I love fast-paced plots and sometimes find myself jumping to the climax to learn how the entire plot unravels. On my recent reading list: Where the Crawdads Sing, Delia Owens; Little Fires Everywhere, Celeste Ng; All the Missing Girls, Megan Miranda; Firefly Lane, Kristin Hannah; Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell.
What might people not know about you?
I’d really like to get into the comedy scene one day! I once performed a stand-up comedy set during an open mic event, and I’ve tried my hand at a few satire articles. While I’m not stage- or publish-ready at the moment, I hope to maintain it in my life as a hobby to bring some laughs in the future!