In anticipation of Device Design Day 2011, we've partnered with Kicker Studio to bring you a series where speakers from this year's conference reflect on six questions about design and their practice. D3 brings together visual, interaction and industrial designers for a multi-disciplinary conversation about the design of consumer electronics and objects with embedded technology.
In anticipation of this year's Device Design Day, Kicker Studio is profiling their line up of speakers, asking them each our Six Questions. We kicked off the series last week with Six Questions for Branko Lukic—today we're chatting with Cori Schauer, an ethnographer in the User Centered Technologies group at NASA Ames Research Center. Most of her projects focus on helping the flight controllers NASA Johnson Space Center understand and visualize their processes, culture, and position in the aerospace market so they can prepare for future missions. Currently, Cori is working with the Planetary Data System, the archive for all NASA funded planetary science missions, to help them understand and serve their customers better.
Read on to discover more about the importance of storytelling, why Schauer doesn't consider herself a designer and her love for Swiffer.
Kicker Studio: What is the most cherished product in your life? Why?
Cori Schauer: I'm not sure I have one thing that I cherish above all others. However, something I use everyday is my double-headed watch that Barbara Flanagan designed for MoMA in 2004. I love it because I don't have to do time zone conversions in my head—I set one face to the time where I am traveling and keep the other face at pacific time. And, I've beat the hell out of that thing and it keeps ticking. It is one of my best purchases.
What's the one product you wish you'd designed, and why?
The Swiffer. Harnessing the power of static electricity for cleaning? Genius! We have hardwood floors stained black, a gray cat, and a toddler, so Swiffering is a MUST on a daily basis. And, it's totally fun. I enjoy cleaning, so maybe this just feeds into my Monica Geller-ness, but I like seeing the progress I'm making with my cleaning.
What excites you about being a designer? Why do you keep doing it?
I don't consider myself a designer. I'm a storyteller, but try putting that on a business card—especially one from NASA/UC Santa Cruz. My title at NASA is ethnographer, and even that is a bit of a misnomer. But at the end of the day I am a storyteller, and that's why I keep doing it. How cool is it that I spend my days hanging out (in a very organized and planned way) with end-users, hearing their ideas and issues, watching decision making and trouble shooting in real-time, and gaining knowledge of their behavioral patterns and cultural contexts? Then, I get to make sense of all that data and tell the story to my development team who use those stories to make design decisions and build software. It all comes down to storytelling.
When do you first remember thinking of yourself as a designer?
I have been around design and designers for as long as I can remember. My dad is a design professor, and my sister and I grew up in studio with his design students at Carnegie Mellon. In 2000 we made our dad proud by graduating together from the School of Design at CMU—me with a Masters of Design in Communication Planning & Information Design, and my sister with a BA in Communication Design. Our dad handed us our diplomas—it was a family affair, and a very sweet moment for me. Yet, I still don't consider myself a designer. Maybe that's wrong of me.
What's the most important lesson you've learned, and who taught it to you?
Wow. There are multiple, but here are my top two:
1. Do the best you can do.
From my parents. It was especially encouraging after a bad grade in geometry in 10th grade.
2. Be true to yourself.
Self taught. I decided to follow my gut and move to New York to take a job after graduate school instead of following my longtime boyfriend to Washington DC. It was one of the toughest and best decisions I ever made. I ended up starting my career in design research and meeting my future husband, Brandon—both at Sapient.
What are 5 things all designers should know?
1. Design is a means to an end, not the end itself.
2. Tell stories.
3. There is more to users than personas.
4. Developers don't hate you; they just don't get you. If you work with a development team, spend time learning how developers think- what it means to be creative, and co-create a process that works for both the design and development sides.
5. Know how to sketch.
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