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Interview with Tianyi Qi

Home > Designer Interviews > Tianyi Qi

Editor Frank Scott (FS) from DesignPRWire has interviewed designer Tianyi Qi (TQ) for A’ Design Award and Competition. You can access the full profile of Tianyi Qi by clicking here.

Interview with Tianyi Qi at Saturday 7th of May 2022

FS: Could you please tell us more about your art and design background? What made you become an artist/designer? Have you always wanted to be a designer?
TQ: I realized my passion for art and design when I was a kid. I found out that I enjoyed art classes way more than other school subjects and started applying my skills in school clubs. Following this passion, I chose Industrial Design as my college major, even though I didn't become an Industrial Designer, this education experience brought me into the world of design. I explored other directions for a couple of years, like service design and user experience research, before I decided on a career path in digital product design, as it is a multidisciplinary subject that requires various skills from a professional.

FS: What is "design" for you?
TQ: Design is "problem-solving" for me. Many people consider design as merely making products beautiful, however, that's only part of the outcomes of design practice. As a product designer, I started my process by understanding the problem space, followed by exploring innovative solutions and transferring concepts into digital products that are not only aesthetic but functional and easy to use. The most important part is the connection between all the stages, especially how the final solutions tackle the problems we are aiming to solve.

FS: What kinds of works do you like designing most?
TQ: I enjoy projects that involve complex systems or challenging problems. For example, I worked on a security-related project in my current job, it was very complex and technical. Our team was challenged to understand the domain well enough in a few weeks to come up with a solution. We made it! We were able to let the client understand the problem from a design perspective and even engaged them in the ideation process.

FS: When do you feel the most creative?
TQ: I feel the most creative when I am chatting with other designers. It is extremely helpful when I get stuck in the design process - I get inspired and am able to think of other solutions that I wasn't aware of.

FS: Which aspects of a design do you focus more during designing?
TQ: In retrospect, I have focused more on the problem exploration stage of the design process. I am not a professional researcher, but I do enjoy talking to users or doing literature reviews to get an understanding of the problem. And I believe only when the problem is well defined, can a solution be successful.

FS: What kind of emotions do you feel when you design?
TQ: Anxious? Only a little bit. I am worried that I can't come up with the "best" solution. But I do get very excited when a good idea hit me, which is my favorite moment during design.

FS: What kind of emotions do you feel when your designs are realized?
TQ: As a product designer, I am aware of the importance of teamwork, so when I saw my designs were realized by my amazing teammates, I always thought "Wow, I am so lucky to work with them!"

FS: When judging a design as good or bad, which aspects do you consider first?
TQ: Even though I have emphasized the importance of defining the right problem, when it comes to judging a design, I consider the look and feel of a design first. Aesthetics is as important as the quality of the solution and is way easier to tell. If a design even doesn't look good, it is very unlikely to be liked and used by users. So what's the point of solving the problem right if no one uses it?

FS: From your point of view, what are the responsibilities of a designer for society and environment?
TQ: I worked with organizations in the public sector and the humanitarian industry. I was surprised by the fact that the demands of design in those areas were huge - many organizations were trying to do more design projects but they didn't have the resources. I was also impressed by how much impact design can have when it is applied to social impact areas, which made me feel very rewarding. I would like to do more of this kind of work in the future. And I would encourage other designers to do the same - especially since many organizations have low-demand volunteering opportunities.

FS: Where does the design inspiration for your works come from? How do you feed your creativity? What are your sources of inspirations?
TQ: Everywhere in my life! From an app that I started using recently to a childhood memory. I think this is the fun part of product design - it is truly a field that encourages wild innovations, and there were many examples of crazy ideas being a huge market hit. So the ability to connect unexpected dots and allow innovative solutions to emerging is important, and it starts by not limiting the sources of inspiration you bring to the work.

FS: Where do you live? Do you feel the cultural heritage of your country affects your designs? What are the pros and cons during designing as a result of living in your country?
TQ: I am currently living in New York City but I grew up in China and spent most of my life there. I appreciated my privilege of living in two countries of very different cultures, it made me see the complexity of society, culture, and people. This experience for sure helped me be more empathetic, which is an extremely important skill for a designer.

FS: How do you work with companies?
TQ: I always start with building trust and relationships. I want to know everyone I will be working with and let them know about me. I value collaboration and trust is the foundation of great teamwork. My second step is understanding their design needs - what they want the design to accomplish at the end and along the process. Sometimes, especially if a company that doesn't know much about the design process, will not fully understand what they need from design. In that case, I will have to come up with my suggestions on design outcomes and discuss them with them, hoping to get buy-in. Once the design process officially starts, I always work closely with the team, to conduct design activities together, like research, brainstorming, and quick sketching. I want to leverage everyone's skills in the team, to make the design outcomes truly belong to the client.

FS: Could you please share some pearls of wisdom for young designers? What are your suggestions to young, up and coming designers?
TQ: Find what type of designer you want to be! I have met a lot of different types of designers in my career - some are nerdy in craft skills, some love doing strategic work, etc. Design is a very complex and multidisciplinary subject, it's very normal for a designer to be good at, or more into specific skills. There is no right and wrong answer on what you should be good at, but it all depends on which direction you want to go. And once you figure that out, it's time to plan your career. Or the other way around, try different types of jobs and see what you like the most.

FS: What was your most important job experience?
TQ: I really value my experience working at NYC Opportunity, which is a part of the Mayor's Office. I worked there as a product design fellow for 10 months and it was the experience I built up skills as a product designer. I learned so many things from that experience, including craft skills, software, the product development process, and communication. Without that experience, I would not have landed a job in my current company.

FS: What type of design work do you enjoy the most and why?
TQ: I really enjoy working with nonprofits or community organizations. In most cases, they are so lack design support and my work will have a huge impact on them. I also in general like working with organizations that are working on social good-related projects.

FS: What are your future plans? What is next for you?
TQ: I am working at a design consultancy, my current client is a big tech company. I am helping them with their internal incubator project, helping teams to navigate the design process and create final design deliverables. In the future, I am planning to do more volunteer work with nonprofits or community organizations in my spare time.


FS: Thank you for providing us with this opportunity to interview you.

A’ Design Award and Competitions grants rights to press members and bloggers to use parts of this interview. This interview is provided as it is; DesignPRWire and A' Design Award and Competitions cannot be held responsible for the answers given by participating designers.


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