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UX Speaker Series: Erin McLean

Recorded January 28, 2022, as part of the UX Speaker Series in the University of Washington's Department of Human Centered Design & Engineering.


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.