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2022 UX Speaker Series

In winter quarter, the Department of Human Centered Design & Engineering hosts a 10-week seminar series on User Experience (UX), where we welcome industry experts to speak about current issues and research in the field. The below presentations were recorded in Winter 2022.

2022 UX Speaker Series

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Design strategy for a changing industry

The past 15-20 years have driven significant change across the tech industry, and along with many other changes, the role of UX work has shifted. Today, UX practitioners have the opportunity to provide strategic direction in ways that would not have been possible 20 years ago. A keener understanding of the importance of user needs and how that can drive strategic decision-making opens up new possibilities for UX practitioners in industry. In this talk, Ario will discuss some of his roles in the past 15 years and how his work in UX has intersected with product development in industries ranging from search to games.

Ario Jafarzadeh is a versatile product designer with 21 years of experience working in Fortune 500 companies and startups. He holds an MS in Human Centered Design & Engineering from the University of Washington and a BS in Computer Science from Baylor University.


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Learnings from a design-led approach in Pathways

The Pathways project is an interdisciplinary design-led project aimed at identifying and deepening the understanding of the social and environmental factors that predict health risks and influence health care seeking and service uptake-related behaviors of families across the journey of a woman getting married to her child turning 5 years old. The project aims to answer four key questions:

1) What constitutes the social and environmental vulnerability of women and their children under 5 years within their household and community context in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, India, Northern Nigeria and Kenya?

2) How and when do social vulnerability and related domestic and familial dimensions impact health behaviors and uptake of health services?

3) How can the insights and data generated inform health systems design?

4) What kind of model can be derived from the data and insights to help BMGF partners and country governments assess a context’s social and environmental vulnerability and apply strategies to strengthen a community’s health related behaviors and improve service implementation?

The design led program utilizes an interdisciplinary approach bringing design thinking, behavioral science, anthropology and advanced statistical and modeling expertise together. The ultimate goal of the project is to provide new categorizations and new pathways to care and thus improve MNCH outcomes. The goal is to enable more holistic risk-mitigation interventions for the health of vulnerable women, U5 children and their families. However, implementing this novel approach in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the field of global public health was not without challenges. In this talk we’ll share how the project was structured, challenges faced by the team, and the solutions put in place to overcome these challenges.

Tracy Pilar Johnson, PhD is a Senior Program Officer on the Global Delivery Programs’ Insights Team, where she leads a portfolio of investments designed to bring an interdisciplinary approach – combining human-centered design and behavioral and social sciences – to illuminate the why behind how people, particularly women and their families, seek, receive and provide health care as a means to facilitate the behavior change necessary to improve people’s health and wellbeing. Tracy joined the foundation in 2015 on the Integrated Delivery Team, where she was tasked with developing and integrating a vision for incorporating a more human-centered design perspective into the foundation’s efforts. In this role she provided support across a number of Global Delivery and Global Health Program Strategy Teams and developed human-centered design tools for use in the foundation and among our partners. Tracy came to the foundation bringing experience from leadership roles in private sector consulting and design firms, as well as the public sector where she was a Chief of Party for a USAID-funded Anti-trafficking in Persons Task Order. She has extensive experience translating market and consumer insights to inform policy and strategy in environments and subjects as varied as digital technology, health care industries, consumer research, maternal and child health, sexual reproductive health, frontline health worker platforms, education, and human rights. She is a design leader for a contributor to the award-winning LEAP Dialogues: Career Pathways in Design for Social Innovation, and editor of a special supplement to Global Health: Science and Practice, Design for Health: Human-Centered Design Looks to the Future. She received her PhD in social and cultural anthropology from Columbia University, and her BA in Psychology and Women’s Studies from Wesleyan University.

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Building Organizations That Learn

If you want to build products that serve a global audience, you need to regularly challenge the biases that you hold as an organization and engage with the people you are trying to serve. Many organizations centralize and silo the responsibility of "learning" to a single team or group, which limits the organization's ability to adapt to the world appropriately. In this talk, Behzod draws on his experiences as a consultant, advisor, and research leader at companies like Facebook and Slack to reinforce the idea that resilient organizations cultivate intentional practices of learning that enable everyone to participate in meaningful ways. He traces these practices back to his time in HCDE and shares ideas that current students can bring to the organizations they contribute to.

Behzod Sirjani (HCDE MS ’12) is the founder of Yet Another Studio, where he works with organizations of all sizes to build intentional, responsible, and sustainable practices of learning. He is also an Executive-in-Residence at Reforge, where he built and leads the "User Insights for Product Decisions" program and a Partner at HmntyCntrd, where he works with organizations to build more trauma-informed and equity-centered workplaces. Prior to the Studio, Behzod led Research Operations at Slack and was a Senior UX Researcher at Facebook, where he co-founded the Research Associates Program.


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Messy in the Extremes: Embracing Entropy in Design for Human Socio-Technical Systems

As human-centric designers, we need to embrace the messiness of humanity – there is more we can learn from the cluttered environment of Central Perk Café in the sitcom Friends than in the whitespace and gently beveled corners of an Apple product. Today, we are faced with post-human technology disguised as disruptive; users are abstracted from their environment, community, and even themselves. This abstraction promises gains in efficiency and quality all while packaged in a clean, seductive format. We need to re-examine these productivity oriented ideals and re-evaluate solutions that are technological opiates from the everyday mess of being a human. By leaning in to human emotion, connection, and biophilia, we can create new paradigms that not only fulfill human needs but serve in civilization building activities.

Erin McLean is a design strategist passionate about solving wicked problems that impact humans in extreme environments. Her work focuses on objects, environments, and systems that improve productivity, safety, and desirability of human spaceflight. She is currently the Human-Centered Services Lead for Blue Origin’s Orbital Reef; a next generation commercial space station. Erin graduated from the UW in 2015 with her bachelors in HCDE and also holds a Masters of Design Engineering from Harvard University.

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Seeing AI: a case study in inclusive and ethically responsible innovation.

Seeing AI is a free mobile application that leverages AI and computer vision to describe people, text and objects. P-VI can switch between channels to receive computer-generated descriptions of signs, documents, products, people, currency and scenery captured via their mobile device camera. Seeing AI aims to make the visual world more accessible. By applying Microsoft’s Responsible Innovation framework, our team made sure that accessibility didn’t come at the price of user - and bystander - privacy and safety.

Oscar Murillo: born in New York City, and raised in Bogota, Colombia, Oscar is the VP of Design at The Athletic, a subsidiary of the New York Times. Prior to joining The Athletic, Oscar was a Product Design Manager at Meta (Facebook Reality Lab), where he drove the experience narrative for Project Nazare. During his fifteen year tenure at Microsoft, Oscar helped reinvent the way people interact with technology through innovations across HoloLens, XBOX, Kinect, wearables, connected vehicles, and smart home technologies. He's also an alumni of Microsoft's "Inclusive Design" and "Ethics & Society" teams. Before Microsoft, Oscar was an Art Director at AT&T, InfoSpace, and Clique, where he created digital experiences for T-Mobile, Orange, Sprint, Cingular, Forbes, Renault, People, Cosmo Magazine, Wallpaper, and the Wall Street Journal. Oscar is a member of numerous design organizations and has served as Design Director for the Computer Human Interaction conference (CHI). Currently, Oscar is a guest lecturer at the University of Washington's School of Art, Art History and Design, and has taught at NYU ITP and the Illinois Institute of Technology. Oscar has been awarded over 20 patents with close to 50 still pending. Most recently, Oscar joined Dojo Partners as an advisory partner and board chair.


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Design for people: who gets stuck with the complexity?

Human-centered design means rejecting good excuses for failure.  We will present lessons learned about keeping the focus on patient outcomes in the design of medical devices for low-resource settings.  We will contrast our work on newborn health, most recently with Doctors without Borders on a newborn warmer for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, with the design of a reusable face shield PPE for American hospitals during the first weeks of the COVID pandemic.

Timothy Prestero is the CEO of Design that Matters (DtM), a 501c3 nonprofit based in Redmond, Washington.  DtM collaborates with international aid agencies and hundreds of superstar volunteers to design breakthrough medical devices for low-resource hospitals in developing countries.  As of Jan 2021, DtM’s Firefly phototherapy device has reached 33 countries, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe--with new installations in Senegal, Niger and Malawi.  Firefly devices have treated 433,000 newborns.  Products that DtM has helped design and launch have treated a total of 1.1M patients worldwide.  In 2012, DtM was named the winner of the National Design Award.  Tim holds graduate mechanical engineering degrees from MIT and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute.

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Co-Designing Equitable STEM Learning Experiences with and for Youth who are Marginalized

When young people are recognized as experts in STEM education, and not just end users, researchers gain a deeper understanding of how to design meaningful learning experiences. Additionally, giving young people the tools and opportunities to design experiences for their peers allows them to deepen their own understanding while empowering them to pursue higher education and careers in STEM.

I’ll share my experiences from the past 4 years co-designing with different groups of youth, educators, and youth development specialists to create meaningful STEM learning experiences. In particular, I’ll highlight three case studies: the South Boston Boys and Girls Club, the 2018 International Clubhouse Teen Summit, and the Propel STEM Program with high school students in Tacoma, WA. I’ll share my design methods, successes, and challenges, as well as what it meant to move to a virtual space during the pandemic. I will also share how I leveraged my positionality as a member of each of these communities to be able to conduct this research.

Jaleesa Trapp is a third year PhD student and graduate research assistant at the MIT Media Lab in the Lifelong Kindergarten research group. Her research explores the different ways youth from marginalized backgrounds interact with technology, in an effort to design playful technologies with and for them. Prior to graduate school Jaleesa was the Coordinator at the Computer Clubhouse in Tacoma, WA and a high school computer science teacher at SAMI and IDEA. She is also an organizer with the Tacoma Action Collective where she's helped bring awareness to issues such as health disparities, gun violence, housing inequalities, inequity in education and other issues that impact marginalized people in the community. Jaleesa received her bachelor's degree from the University of Washington in HCDE with a concentration in HCI.

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Data for Social Justice: Representation, Relevance and Ownership

A by-product of enhanced digitization are the data and records generated by people, either through choice or as an unavoidable aspect of technology advancement and modern global citizenship. The analysis and use of personal data can have significant consequences for nearly any aspect of life – economic, education, health and the many other systems that affect communities and nations. The specific types of data used in a given context, how it is collected, its meaning, the consent to access, and the human rights outcomes resulting from it require significant consideration from human, policy, and ethical perspectives.

This discussion will focus on the affordances that “big data” can offer social justice (racial, social, environmental) and the participatory methods and partnerships necessary to ensure that data can be used to advance these issues. We will overview two projects that are in development, a data platform for social justice nonprofits and environmental justice mapping.

Lauren Thomas Quigley, PhD is a Research Scientist focused on the development of responsible and inclusive technology. Specifically, she researches practical approaches for fairness and inclusion in AI, data representation, and projecting technology’s impact on society and the environment through a lens of social justice. Her secondary area of research is the use of critical theories in engineering education.

In nearly 10 years of professional experience, Dr. Quigley has led education at scale efforts in government, higher education, nonprofits, and the tech industry, many of which have focused on learning outside of the traditional classroom. These learning experiences, whether for a cohort of 24 or for tens of thousands of learners globally, were designed and implemented with a research baseline and an aim to improve interdisciplinary and intersectional pathways into STEM. Lauren is currently a Research Scientist at IBM Research and an Affiliate Assistant Professor at the University of Washington, Department of Human Centered Design & Engineering. She also serves as a curriculum and strategy advisor for Hack the Hood.

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Human nature meets the workplace— counterintuitive findings for a happier career

Connie Missimer began her career as a philosophy instructor, becoming influential in the emerging field of critical thinking. She took a professional turn when she moved to Seattle, receiving an MS in HCDE in 2002. This training proved invaluable for her corporate journey, encompassing small companies as well as Microsoft and AT&T, where she did user research and advised cell phone partners on making their apps more user-friendly. In the past five years, her career has come full circle, as she applies data from the social and brain sciences through a critical thinking lens to the corporate experience. She conducts several workshops on the O’Reilly Media learning platform.


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UX Research Strategies for Products that Support Groups

Different UX research strategies are required for products that support groups and communities than for products that are for individual use. Products for groups require studying multiple users interacting together, and resulting UX research artifacts must include different user perspectives. In this talk, I will discuss techniques for capturing and explaining group workflows, with examples that draw from research on enterprise software and social consumer apps.

Carolyn Wei is a UX researcher at Meta where she has been leading strategic research on communities for the Facebook app. She has over 15 years experience conducting research and finding opportunities for social and collaborative computing products for large technology companies. She holds MS and PhD degrees in Technical Communication from the University of Washington.