Industrial Design and Innovation

Graduate Profile: Shannon Hill

We caught up with Shannon Hill, graduate of 2013 to find out what he is up to and how he found transitioning out of university into the industry.

Q: Could you briefly introduce yourself and let us know when you graduated from product design?

SH: I’m Shannon Hill, 24 years old, graduated in December 2013. Came up from Christchurch to spend a year at AUT getting a taste of what’s on offer outside of Graphic Design because I was after something with more depth, which lead to me starting my degree in Industrial Design.

Q: Where are you now, and what is your favourite part of your job?

SH: I’m an Experience Designer at DNA. My role spans Customer Experience and User Experience design, meaning I work from the outset of a project to gain understanding of customers – what they think, feel, do – and tease out the insights within those learnings to define the challenges we need to tackle. From then on it’s about designing the solutions to those challenges – building prototypes, testing, learning and iterating. These could be apps, physical products, websites, services, physical spaces etc. so the work can be quite broad.

I love being involved across the wider process, rather than just a small part of it. The bigger picture is what interests me. It’s fulfilling to discover something early on and carry that insight right through the process until it manifests itself as an end solution, collaborating with all types of people along the way.

Q: What has been your biggest learning experience transitioning from study to practicing design?

SH: That you don’t need experience to make an impact.

I think a lot of students sell themselves short and lack confidence because they lack experience – don’t. Curiosity goes a very long way, and naivety can actually be an advantage as you’re not bound by assumptions around how things ‘should’ be. Thinking outside the box is easier when you’re not inside it to begin with, so use it to your advantage.

Q: What was your most memorable project from your undergraduate degree and why?

Shannon images

SH: Hail (Auckland Transport Project, final year). We had a great team who both worked together and challenged each other, tried to get to the bottom of the problem and then constantly questioned why we were doing anything from there out. When we lost sight of that towards the end of the project, we took a big risk by essentially scrapping the design a couple days before it was due and went back to basics, back to what we learnt. It payed off, and I think that product was the best project to come out of my degree.

A 20 second video of a prototype test in the field with two unsuspecting old ladies was all it took for everyone in the room to completely understand the value in what we were doing. I think design is often at its best when it seems obvious, so that was a high point for me.

Q: What would be your one bit of advice to final year students considering what to do after university?

SH: Look wider than the name of your degree and don’t pigeon hole yourselves. You don’t have to be a classic industrial designer. You can’t all be. Not all of you would love it anyway.

Pay close attention to what you’re passionate about, when you find yourself getting curious. Find a career path that feeds you more of that. And if you can’t find it, build it – this goes back to what I was saying about experience. You’re probably much more capable than you realize.

Q: Favorite designer?

SH: I don’t really pay attention to names. There’s a lot of amazing stuff out there but I couldn’t name the designers of 99% of it. Who started Uber? They’re geniuses. Maybe I should start remembering names.

Q: Philosophy on design? A short summary of what you think design is and why it’s important?

SH: To me, design is essentially problem solving. Therefore in order to be the best designer you can be, you need to really understand the problem, the context, the stakeholders and so on. Everyone wants to innovate, but I think the key to innovation is really laying that foundation before you ever put pen to paper – if you do it well enough it will guide you to the best solution.

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