Interview with User Experience Superstar Sara Salevati – Part 1 of 3

Function Point recently interviewed User Experience Designer and SFU Ph.D candidate, Sara Salevati, regarding her approach to design and the projects she is working on with fp. This is part 1 of a 3 part interview.

Sara Salevati

How would you describe yourself? As a graphic designer, a user-interface designer or neither? 

Neither and both! Design for me is interdisciplinary. It is not bound solely to the arts and crafts training within a confined space. It is a type of approach – doing and thinking. As I progress deeper into the Design field, it has become harder for me to define a silo I belong to. I am by training an interaction/user experience designer, by passion a visual designer, by work a design researcher and by nature a creative thinker.

You have received a lot of recognition in the Vancouver design community for the work you’ve done, why do you think that is?

I think the commonalities across all my work are storytelling and empathy. Although varied across different disciplines and sectors from creative, education, business to healthcare and government; those are the key elements that make my work have an impact and easy to relate to.

Can you talk a bit more about what you mean when you say you think are well known because of your storytelling and empathy?

Storytelling is an activity that supports social interaction in designing for an experience. I use storytelling within various stages of my design process and that in itself translates into the product experience. For me, storytelling provokes empathy, facilitates communication through a common language understood and accessed by all, promotes collaboration and active participation of everyone involved in the design project and supports the design conversations and the non-linear nature of experience. I always focus on the dialogue between people and the thing they are interacting with and telling a story through motion creates that meaningful connection.

One of my most recent projects was a collaboration with Fraser Health. The goal of this research initiative was to engage and empower patients by designing technologies that support patient-clinician communication and provide individualized health education through storytelling. Our findings revealed that emotion and personal narratives in design of health technologies can affect lasting behavioral change – empower patients to learn about their condition and feel confident in their health decisions.

What are some of the most important design principles that you adhere to in your work?

Process and creating a dialogue with everyone involved in and affected by the project. It is about establishing a common understanding of the nature of the design problem and letting the process shape that.

You speak of achieving balance in the relationship between all parties in the design process.  What does balance look/feel like in these relationships?

It is about balancing client’s wants and needs with what’s technologically feasible, what makes business sense and ultimately pleasurable and intuitive. I think this highlights the vital need for design research, which establishes a relationship between empathizing with customers and building something that resonates. It is designers’ role as facilitator and mitigator that provokes the creative power and drive innovation. This is challenging and is achieved by synthesizing, making sense and juggling the many voices involved.

Check out Part 2 and Part 3.

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