The start of an exploration

Authors: Lauren Chapman Ruiz
Posted: Tue, February 26, 2013 - 12:00:11

Welcome to my first blog post for the interactions website. I am honored to have the opportunity to contribute, and my aim is to bring a unique perspective among the amazing contributors already posting here.

I’m a designer and researcher for the Human Sciences Group at MAYA Design in Pittsburgh, and I fell into design by accident. Through a variety of comic-anime-related interests and a tech-driven dad, I grew up being introduced to computers and P2P sharing via Napster, building fan sites hosted by Geocities, sketching my own comics, and writing fan fiction. 

There you have it—my confession—I am a nerd. 

These passions drove me to pursue a BA in English, with two minors in graphic arts and journalism at Loyola Marymount University. At the same time, as I watched my grandmother battle cancer for 10 years, I developed a strong dedication to healthcare. During my junior year, I battled my own life-threatening illness. This sealed my personal mission to improve healthcare and the patient experience. Still, when I graduated from LMU, I wasn’t sure where someone with my interests really fit. I briefly worked as a freelance graphic designer, focusing on print identity systems before continuing on to a master of design at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU). The program allowed me to explore courses across design, English, and human-computer interaction (HCI). Looking back, I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but I jumped in with a belief that if you follow what you enjoy, it just might work out. My eyes were opened to an entirely new discipline, which took on many names (interaction design, user experience, design thinking, human-computer interaction, etc.), and I drank the Kool-Aid.

Between my first and second year, I was thrilled to intern at Second Road, a strategy and innovation consultancy based out of Sydney, Australia. They use design thinking to solve major business and management problems, with a range of methods from user-based design to conversation. (Shout-out to Tim Fife!) Suddenly I saw how journalism supported my explorations into user research, the importance of storytelling to designing a product, and the necessity of rhetoric and conversation in helping a client develop their strategy. And I found a way to improve healthcare—using my newfound “design skills” to problem solve in the healthcare domain. My graduate thesis explored a technology-based peer mentoring service that assists with the diagnosis and management of type 2 diabetes.

After graduating from CMU, I was recruited by MAYA Design—a design consultancy and technology research lab. Founded in 1989 by Peter Lucas (cognitive psychologist), Joe Ballay (industrial designer), and Jim Morris (computer scientist), MAYA practices human-centered design through interdisciplinary teams. MAYA’s practitioners come from three core groups: human sciences, engineering, and visual design, and every project is staffed with a mix of disciplines. We also have a strong research focus in pervasive and information-centric computing, which has led to several spin-off companies (GD-Viz, Rhiza Labs, and the LUMA Institute—an education company that teaches people how to be more innovative through the practice human-centered design). Recently, our founders Pete and Joe, along with our CEO Mickey McManus, published a book that distills their thinking around this research called Trillions: Thriving in the Emerging Information Ecology.

Most of my time is spent working with our clients to understand the people who will use their products or services so that our design matches the users mental model. At the same time, MAYA is focused on future-proofing our clients’ products by building a scalable, comprehensive information architecture into the design. That’s important because as we look to the future, we see a trillion-node network just over the horizon—trillions of computing devices connected to each other and to us. Right now there are more computing devices in the world than there are people, and when they start to “speak” to each other, the complexity and power of that network will exceed anything we’ve experienced to date. 

My hope is to explore these topics in this blog. What are the implications of the “trillion-node network” on healthcare? How can we always keep the human at the center of our work? How can we incorporate design in education to ensure we are raising a generation that can cope with the complex wicked problems we face? 

And these are not questions to be answered alone—please share your thoughts and opinions, with the aim to start a dialogue. Thank you for reading—let’s start this journey together!

Lauren Chapman is a designer and researcher at MAYA Design in Pittsburgh, PA. She is also an adjunct faculty member at Carnegie Mellon University.

Posted in: on Tue, February 26, 2013 - 12:00:11

Lauren Chapman Ruiz

Lauren Chapman Ruiz is a Senior Interaction Designer at Cooper in San Francisco, CA, and is an adjunct faculty member at CCA .
View All Lauren Chapman Ruiz's Posts

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