Tiffany Larsen, MS, Class of 2007

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

In one of her projects at Sweatshop Designworks, HCDE MS alumna Tiffany Larsen designed the Xbox Gamertag Generator for Microsoft’s Xbox console.Tiffany Larsen received her MS in Human Centered Design & Engineering in 2007. She launched her own design firm at the beginning of 2012, Sweatshop Designworks. Tiffany Larsen began her career with a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) from UC-Davis as a web designer, creating a website for Ricoh Camera in 1996—her first client—and then moving to Sanrio (Hello Kitty) to build their first website and e-commerce site. Larsen then ran her own business, gaining expertise in what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur.

While her art degree was invaluable, Larsen says, "After almost ten years of creating interfaces, flows, and architectures, I began to question my process. I lacked formal training and had been operating on instinct."

That's where Larsen's graduate work came in. As part of her graduate research, Larsen worked with HCDE Professors David Farkas, Judy Ramey, and Jan Spyridakis.

In Ramey's Usability Testing course, Larsen worked on a team that evaluated MEdianet, a live Infospace product and pre-smartphone service for delivering content to mobile phones. This was Larsen's first opportunity to construct and conduct a formal usability study, and she reflected on the project, saying, "It was exciting to see my assumptions about user pain-points and confusing interaction being validated by both qualitative and measurable quantitative results."

Larsen continued to work with clients such as Microsoft and Amazon after graduation, and she says that the most exciting project she's worked on to date was as part of the Xbox Shell & Platform Team before the launch of Kinect. Her team spent weeks brainstorming on the natural user interface (NUI) interaction model and interesting ways it could applied to core areas. Larsen says that it was very fulfilling to see NUI slowly becoming a reality with each new build.

HCDE MS alumna Tiffany Larsen launched her design firm, Sweatshop Designworks, at the beginning of 2012. Photo courtesy: Tiffany Larsen HCDE MS alumna Tiffany Larsen launched her design firm, Sweatshop Designworks, at the beginning of 2012.

Now ready for her next adventure with the launch of Sweatshop Designworks, Larsen says she's bringing a more diverse portfolio, more professional connections, and a better understanding of what it takes to run a successful business to the table. Commenting on her experience at the University of Washington, Larsen says, "The HCDE program provided me with the academic vocabulary, process, rigor, and theoretical foundation that I had lacked. I left the program ready to take on any project, armed with a well-rounded education and years of fantastic work experience."

This profile originally appeared in the 2012 issue of Designing Up.