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Siobhan Kennedy

Siobhan Kennedy

Senior Designer

What Makes the Akendi Team Tick?

­­Today, we’re celebrating our talented team of researchers and designers by providing a glimpse into how they got started, and what fuels and inspires them.

After four years of working as a designer at Akendi, I couldn’t be more proud to work with such a talented and wholehearted group of people. In this post, I’m focusing in on some of the “doers” here at the Toronto office. The people crunching data, pulling valuable insights and putting them into action through compelling design work.

In order to capture a peek at our inner workings, I posed a series of 4 questions to 7 of our team members (myself included). Some of us come from a research background and some of us from design.

Here are the resulting stories…

Meet Michelle Brown, Experience Architect

Was there a time or moment in life that made you decide to become a researcher/designer?

I’ve always been very curious about the world and other humans in particular. As a kid, I wanted to be a detective and even set up my own private investigation agency in my front yard. Business was slow though, so when I took the human-computer interaction course in my undergraduate, I realized there was another career path for me. From the moment I took that course, my fate was sealed. I absolutely love this area of work and am glad that I chose to enter this field.

Is there a habit or routine you’ve developed that helps you in your work?

I usually take a little bit of time in the morning responding to emails and crafting out a plan for the day. I find the little bit of planning more than pays off in keeping me on track and focused on what I wanted to accomplish each day.

What is your favourite research or design tool, and why?

I love Optimal Sort’s card sorting software. It takes what would be a very tedious manual task of collecting and analyzing groupings and does a lot of the work automatically. Thank you Optimal Sort for giving me dendrograms and similarity matrixes that I didn’t have to calculate myself.

What is your favourite office snack?

Chocolate. Always chocolate.

Meet Amanda Billark, Visual Designer

Was there a time or moment in life that made you decide to become a researcher/designer?

I’ve always wanted to be a “designer” from as far back as I can remember. However, it wasn’t until university and studying product design that I realized I wanted to be in this field of design. I came to the realization when taking a few first-year classes and learned about user research, designing to fill needs and to solve everyday problems. I knew then that I didn’t just want to design “pretty” things, I wanted to design things with purpose based on real user needs.

Is there a habit or routine you’ve developed that helps you in your work?

Staying inspired is a big one. I try to go to as many industry events as I can, read tons of blogs, books and listen to podcasts. I also reach outside of design for inspiration – going to museums, travelling and experiencing different cultures. I also try to make a habit of sketching and doing as much work as I can off the computer – even for just a few minutes at a time. I find it allows me to let my ideas flow more easily and fluidly when I work with a pen and paper.

What is your favourite research or design tool, and why?

Hmmm… I don’t know about this one…. my brain? That plus good old fashioned pen and paper can’t be beat.

What is your favourite office snack?

When I’m feeling snacky, I love making a little cheese plate with aged cheddar, sliced apple and some nuts.

Meet Dan Iaboni, Principal Experience Architect

Was there a time or moment in life that made you decide to become a researcher/designer?

I was studying to be a mechtronics engineer when I did a co-op term at a company that designs large-scale immersive virtual reality systems. While there were interesting challenges from a computer hardware perspective, it became obvious to me that the bigger challenge was designing for the human component. So, I decided to change my academic path and focus on the user rather than the technology.

Is there a habit or routine you’ve developed that helps you in your work?

Stepping back from time to time helps give me a different perspective of the research data, or new ways of approaching a design. Time pressures to get work done can result in tunnel vision, so taking a few minutes to re-evaluate can help course correct or just validate that the current approach is the best approach.

What is your favourite research or design tool, and why?

Google. There is so much existing knowledge that is already available – from academic research on human behaviour to systems that have experimented with different interactions – that we shouldn’t have to redesign the wheel from scratch every time.

What is your favourite office snack?

Popcorn, preferably lightly buttered and salted, none of that fancy chicago style or kettle corn stuff.

Meet Hamilton Hernandez, Senior Experience Architect

Was there a time or moment in life that made you decide to become a researcher/designer?

I don’t think there was a particular moment where my interest of research started. Ever since I can remember, I felt intrigued to understand how things worked and had a strong drive to try things out to see what would happen. I did multiple experiments as a kid, sometimes even some dangerous ones that got me in trouble. But I do remember that my interest in design started with playing! With my mom, sometimes play sessions were actually game and toy design sessions. Later on, I began to really enjoy playing videogames. I started loving the idea of creating things that people could enjoy in the same way I did.

Is there a habit or routine you’ve developed that helps you in your work?

I like writing things on whiteboards, I find that it helps to have goals and tasks always present. The feeling of seeing a whiteboard filling up pushes me try to complete tasks as quickly as possible. When I don’t have a whiteboard available, I fill my desk and/or computer screen with stickies. The feeling of tossing “completed” stickies or clearing the whiteboard is great!

What is your favourite research or design tool, and why?

I have changed the tools I use for research quite often, and there are some specific tools that I still like for specific activities. But the one(s) I always find myself using and appreciating project after project are spreadsheets.

I like how I can collect, analyze and even visualize data very easily with spreadsheets. I like Microsoft Excel because I am familiar with their scripting language, which allows me to run some custom made macros, and because they offer easy basic graphs and charts. I also like the easy collaboration possibilities that Google Spreadsheets offer.

For design, I haven’t yet found a tool better than pen and paper, or a whiteboard and dry-markers. No matter what tool I use to make digital wireframes; ideation, discussion, and early prototyping just starts better when not bounded by a computer.

What is your favourite office snack?

Sweet & Salty Popcorn is definitely my fav.

Meet Jessica Murray, Visual Designer

Was there a time or moment in life that made you decide to become a researcher/designer?

My path has been more organic rather than a single waking moment, a series of creative successes and failures leading me to design. There has never been a single moment where I didn’t feel like a designer. I’ve always been a creative person, trying my hand at whatever creative thing came my way sculpture, photography, drama, fine arts the list goes on.

Is there a habit or routine you’ve developed that helps you in your work?

I think one habit I have that helps me maintain a high quality of work is asking myself some critical questions about what I am making:

  • Is there another way this could be designed?
  • Is this the best this design can be?
  • Can I try something new with this design, does this look like everything else I’ve made?

 

What is your favourite research or design tool, and why?

My favourite design “tool” has to be constructive criticism, gaining a fresh perspective on something you’ve been working on for hours helps find flaws in the design and also challenges what the design could be.

What is your favourite office snack?

Those “You Love Fruit” fruit leather packs.

Meet Foong Ling, Experience Architect

Was there a time or moment in life that made you decide to become a researcher/designer?

Not really, but there was a moment of declaration. I once proclaimed in front of a group of people that I was going to change the world. Someone asked, “How are you going to impact that many people?”. Without hesitation, I responded, “With design.”

That Fall, I graduated from Psychology and started my first semester in Industrial Design. Upon graduating, I knew I did not want to be a CAD monkey. I wanted to know the work I was doing would have a direct and positive impact. I wanted to know that my effort would be worthwhile. So instead of following the traditional trajectory of a designer, I pivoted and focused on my research skills. And here I am.

Is there a habit or routine you’ve developed that helps you in your work?

Moving around. I’ll scout out areas around the office and set up a temporary camp. I find changing my workspace breathes new or different ways of looking at things.

What is your favourite research or design tool, and why?

I like to use 11” x 17” paper and a whiteboard. Writing ideas and insights down and viewing them up on the wall helps me pull away from the data and see the bigger story that is happening.

What is your favourite office snack?

Spicy seaweed crisps

 Oh hey, it’s me > Siobhan Kennedy, Senior Designer

Was there a time or moment in life that made you decide to become a researcher/designer?

I have a distinct memory of being in grade 2 and working on an art project. The teacher asked us to create a painting of a scene on a letter-sized piece of paper using standard gouache. To start, he had the class paint a background so we could let it dry before moving into the painting of the foreground elements. Everyone in the class created a wash of a single colour but I chose to paint bold diagonal lines of blue and yellow. I’ll never forget the reaction of my classmates to this interpretation of what was asked. They loved it! And I really loved that they had such a positive reaction to something so simple.

In my work now, I still strive for that simple solution that creates an emotional connection.

Is there a habit or routine you’ve developed that helps you in your work?

I always start design work with sketching, no matter what the project is. Sometimes the sketches will be very loose, and often I throw words onto the page to remind myself of the intent of the design. Something about the feel of pencil on paper helps get me into a creative headspace.

What is your favourite research or design tool, and why?

Lately, I’m a big fan of Airtable because we’ve been working on developing an internal library of interaction design inspiration and this tool allows us to collaborate and share knowledge and examples in a flexible and easily searchable format.

What is your favourite office snack?

It’s not really a snack but each morning, like so many others in the world, I have a coffee when I arrive at the office. It’s like a warm welcome! In the afternoon, I like a good orange.

Siobhan Kennedy

Siobhan Kennedy

Senior Designer

A graduate of OCAD University with a degree in Advertising Design, Siobhan brings over 14 years of design experience to her projects. A strong proponent of clean and contemporary design, Siobhan’s work creates tangible results with stunning aesthetic foresight. With a keen eye for detail and a deep awareness of project goals, she strives for targeted and effective communication in everything she does. Her long list of clients include Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, Canadian Filmmakers Distribution Centre, Gallery 44, The Theatre Centre, 407 ETR, Environics, Workers Arts and Heritage Centre and Open Studio among others. Adding to her breadth of skills, Siobhan studied Film at Ryerson University for two years before starting her degree at OCAD U in Toronto, Ontario.


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