Name: Name: Laura Seach
Hometown: West Palm Beach, FL
Position: Lead Project Manager
How long have you been working for IB5k?
Almost exactly a year.
What background do you bring to IB5k?
My background is in graphic design and architecture. Going way back, in high school, I went to a magnet school for the arts where I was in the communications department which was journalism, film and graphic design. So in general, I’ve been on this media and communications track for a long time. I think that a lot of that media experience has been useful here at IB5k.
Any examples of what you’ve used your media experience for?
A lot of publication design, and a lot of writing. I think that for my position now as project manager, putting together sales decks, team communication and proposals, those baseline skills are useful. They influence my general sense of organization and attention to detail in the media field, since we at IB5k are a such a wide-ranging digital agency.
Any hobbies outside of work?
Yeah! I farm. I work at a farm in my neighborhood (Bushwick) that is in partnership with a program that provides work and skills training for it’s residents. I’ve always been interested in urban infrastructure and agriculture; I think New York’s lack of these types of productive and remediary spaces catalyzed my interest in ecological urban design. My undergrad senior thesis was a structural study for a rooftop farm, and I’ve enjoyed working on my own projects and other community farms since. I’m from Florida and have a primal need to always be outside. Farming is my way to carve out that sense of nature, space and outdoors in the city.
If you could make a data visualization about anything, what would it be?
Since I’m really interested in urban agriculture, I’d like to see or work on a data visualization of underused infrastructure such as buildings, rooftops, empty lots and spaces in New York City. The goal here would be a visualization demonstrating the viability of those spaces for ecological innovations and social programs. I think it would be interesting to identify where these spaces are and to understand the feasibility of progressive, ecological interventions in these spaces. Say, if you’re filtering to analyze rooftops, I’d want to see a visual representation of the load-bearing capacity of each roof in order to figure out whether it could be a simple sedum green roof or if it can actually be the type of rooftop farm that supports people and structures.
Who are your biggest influences in your field?
I became interested in architecture and design through researching this scholar, Rachel Armstrong, who works in biological design as it relates to architecture. She’s now an architecture professor. Her work is really interesting to me because she’s trying to implement biological remediation in architecture and infrastructure, not necessarily bio-mimicry, but more of an attempt to implement physical and dynamic interventions in static or non-living architecture. So her interest is in living buildings. But the reason that I like her work so much is that she’s able to synthesize two very different fields to solve difficult problems.
How have you been able to synthesize your disparate interests to solve problems?
I think that I’m organized and I have a lot of experience being the project manager in whatever I’m doing. Even as a kid, I used to wrangle my friends to make films or work on projects. Also, my interest and experience in design has led me to visualize things in a short- and long-term way, and it allows me to own the granular level of detail when working on projects and also think long-term to make sure those granular tasks fit into a longer goal or vision.
Some projects are really design-heavy, and that lets me be creative, and then there are projects that are more back-end heavy or data-heavy and not necessarily even need to be a user-facing. So being able to have that diversity of technical, high-level projects contrasted with, say, two-week app design sprints helps me learn how to bring skills over to different projects or to new projects.
What is a creative way you’ve solved a problem through design?
The way to solve problems through design, I believe, is through iteration and implementation. That’s what’s so fun about design, that it’s really iterative and collaborative, especially when you’re interacting with developers, because you’re able to come up with something, implement it, test it and use it and see if it actually validates your expectations about how that design is going to work.
For example, the other day, I was working with Justin (Wyss-Gallifent) on some new widgets he was building. They were simple visualizations, but we wanted to make sure the design allowed the user to read the analytics correctly. So we played around with the opacity values of some of the graphics so we could indicate a threshold and range rather than a static value in order to give the user a better idea of how their analytics met or surpassed their own, set goals. It was a simple fix, but fun to work with Justin and come up with ideas on how to use color and line values to make the analytics clearest on the user end.
Who are your favorite designers? Why?
Some of my favorite graphic designers are people that don’t necessarily have a set style. I’m really drawn to architects whose work is very minimal in aesthetic but in practice and implementation is really well thought-out such as when the infrastructure or the systems of that building, its social and environmental impacts, are simple but do a lot. I feel the same way with web design and 2D UX. I’m drawn to things that look simple and clean, but have been through multiple rounds of work and testing to make sure it’s not only the most thorough UX, but that it’s the simplest path for all user actions from one page to another.
One of my favorite artists, Ryoji Ikeda, who is really interested in math and data, uses sound and space to explore his ideas. The aesthetics of the work are always extremely simple, often monochromatic, and beautiful explorations on the ideas of mass and void. He uses those kinds of experiential spaces to manipulate the viewer’s experience of mathematical ideas.
What defines your unique balance of aesthetic and UX?
It definitely depends on the client and the project. There are some companies where the branding and the design itself can be more involved, busier and heavier on ID. For me, the proper use of white space is really rare and something that I enjoy. UX and design aesthetic are really intimately linked, and the misconception that they’re separate can lead to a homogenous or overdone work. The real trick is letting the UX inform your aesthetic decisions and vice versa. A lot of people assume that how something looks won’t affect how it’s going to act for the user. And that’s not necessarily true. You can make both simple and beautiful when they work together.
What platforms and software are most useful to you in the design process?
I grew up on the Adobe Creative Suite and I’ve been working with that for a long time. I’m also practiced with 3D modeling softwares from my architecture days. Recently I’ve really started to enjoy using some prototyping software tools. Recently I’ve started using InVision, which is an amazing prototyping software that allows you to use the static wireframes or static pages you create for website mock-ups in order to create realistic click-throughs. You can also download your prototypes to your phone so it appears how the app would or should. It’s a fun way to validate ideas because it allows you to view that design as it would feel, act and look. Rather than some abstract wireframe and a PDF that you send via email, it allows you and the clients to have a deeper connection with how the product would be used on the platform it’s meant to be used on.
What has working at IB5k taught you?
It’s taught me how to collaborate really well with a small team of dedicated, talented and disparate people. Everyone comes from a different background, so it’s been fun to learn new things from other people and figure out where my skill set fits in with that group of people. I’ve learned a lot about web development and design. Everyone’s been incredibly welcoming and I’ve learned a lot that I couldn’t anywhere else.
My background was in print graphic design initially, and from there I was working in architecture, so I’ve always been interested in these physical artifacts when it comes to design. It’s really interesting to translate physical space into a virtual physical space: information architecture rather than architecture itself. I’ve learned how to collapse that idea of 3D space and turn it into a mental, logic-based space in order to create better wireframes and site designs.
Name: Name: Laura Seach