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Liya Zheng

Designer and Social Entrepreneur

Primary design concentration:

Interaction Design, Design Research and Strategy

Most preferred tool for designing:

Markers, Whiteboard, Conversation

How and why did you choose to become a designer?

I’ve wanted to do a lot of things, I never knew what I wanted. My aspirations ranged from becoming a social worker, anthropologist, linguist, to car mechanic. That’s how I knew interaction design was for me, because my job involves learning about people in their environments, understanding their behavior and problems. When I design, I roleplay the people I studied. It’s fascinating to get to live through other people’s lives this way. I think I can do this forever.

Challenges you encounter as a designer and how do you deal with them?

My biggest challenges have been to work with the politics that exist in groups of people and managing the hierarchical nature of the business world, while staying inspired and maintaining a sense of innocence to my creative work.

Your definition of an “elegant solution,” that is, good design?

Elegant solutions are easy to explain to other people, people get it and give you a “ah ha” response, especially those whose problems the solution is solving.

4. From skills to values, what makes a designer successful?

In the business of design, design skills are a given, that alone can only take you so far. You need to have confidence without any arrogance, constant thirst for learning, care about the industry and it moving forward, give back to the next generation, care about making others better, and not just yourself, keep an open mind, stay hopeful, approach every problem with a fresh mindset, open to different perspectives, be a good listener, care about about the team shining than yourself, constantly draw inspirations from things not in the design industry, and most of all work really hard.

How do you stay motivated and grow personally and professionally as a designer?

I look at other people’s work, learn new methods, pay attention to the industry and get involved professionally, attend conferences and try to write original thinking about design that challenges me to do research. Most importantly, I listen to people.

For those aspiring to become a designer, whatever the discipline, what is your advice?

Don’t stop soul-searching, knowing yourself and being comfortable with yourself, wherever you are, is so important. Ask: What makes you happy? Why do you want to be a designer? What do you dream about? What gets you going? And pursue them—nothing is out of your reach, you just have to work hard at it and want it bad enough.

What is your quest in design?

I hope that design becomes a tool for developing countries to evolve in their own way, and not by anyone else’s standards; a tool that helps people maintain their culture, not ruin it. I hope one day, designers really change the world by saving it, and not taking away from it, or adding unnecessary clutter to it. I hope that one day designers can make a living out of goodwill and social work. I hope to be a part of all of this.

Liya Zheng recommends all designers to experience “Butoh Dance (teaches you subtle movement and patience), Stravinsky (teaches you abstraction), Do Des’Kaden (teaches you to use color passionately).”

Image by Idean at Flickr.

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