International Conference Showcases DAAP’s New Generation of Innovators
Contact: Brandi Lewis
By: Laura Cook Kroeger
Photos provided by Kit Yue Zhang and Ryan Rosensweig
University of Cincinnati’s College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning plays a major role on the international stage in November when it hosts for the first time in America the International Association of Societies of Design Research (IASDR). If that’s not enough to make Cincinnati proud, two DAAP alumni pioneering design research in the Pacific Northwest are returning to Cincinnati to participate in IASDR. Kit Yue Zhang, a Senior User Experience Designer at Amazon, will be a keynote speaker, and Ryan Rosensweig, a Senior Customer Experience Design Strategist at Premera Blue Cross, will be a special session facilitator.
Zhang, a 2008 DAAP graduate, is one of the world’s premier subject matter experts on incorporating research into design.
Zhang was the lead designer and researcher to launch the first Amazon brick and mortar book store. Now there are 11 stores in various U.S. cities. Called Amazon Books, it was conceived by Zhang’s team as they carefully combined research and a series of tests to perfect the concept and look of the cutting-edge stores. The concept has been so successful that four more stores are set to open in additional highly populated American cities.
“I’m very proud of this and super passionate about the method of work,” Zhang says. “Think of this as three legs of a table: business, design and technology. It can be easy to ignore each other, but the reality is that all three have to stand and work together to promote innovation and a first-class customer experience.”
Zhang credits her DAAP experiences working in interdisciplinary teams that have enabled her to bring out the very best in others. “Everything I have done circles back to my inspirational days at DAAP where Craig Vogel was my biggest influence. We were taught to work together as a team to achieve a shared vision. I learned to push the boundaries and drive innovation. Of course you want your company to make money, but you want the end users, the customers, to be happy with their experience.”
Zhang will primarily discuss her exciting journey at Amazon Fashion, including the recently launched new fashion service “Prime Wardrobe” that enables customers to try products at home before purchasing, with a friction-free return experience. She has also been working on personalizing customer shopping experiences for fashion. She can’t reveal much detail yet, but again her research encompasses every aspect of the customer experience all the way to what the end user visually receives.
Professor Craig Vogel will be at IASDR beaming with pride. He has stayed in touch with many of his students over the past 25 years at DAAP, particularly Zhang and Rosensweig. He currently serves as Associate Dean of Research and Graduate Studies and President and Co-Founder of the Live Well Collaborative. His expertise is in developing cross functional teams to design products and services that will lead businesses to the future. While he is not authoring chapters of books, teaching or overseeing his administrative duties, he consults with some of the top brands in the country, helping them to develop cross functional teams that will lead their businesses into the future.
He recalls, “Kit came from China filled with discipline and ambition, the first of a new kind of student who could transition from a math and science culture into design. She was a true pioneer. About 20 Asian students have followed her lead at DAAP. One just re-designed the website for a major Cincinnati health system.”
As an undergraduate, Rosensweig’s first design studio was as a business student. Dale Murray, Associate Professor of Industrial Design, and Ann Welsh, Professor of Management, led an experimental studio pairing third year business students with fifth year industrial design students. It was through this studio that Dale realized Rosensweig’s knack for connecting business and design. Rosensweig acknowledges him as the mentor who “introduced me to multidisciplinary studios – where I was challenged to explore both fields while working with others.”
The melding of business, design and technology drove him to blend his undergraduate curriculum across disciplines and pursue a Masters in Design with the ultimate goal of a career path merging the three fields. Rosensweig found opportunity and inspiration through over a dozen multidisciplinary studios offered through DAAP and the Live Well Collaborative. Paramount among these was a full campus project that introduced him to his now wife Maria (Hayhow) Rosensweig, BS Communications 2011.
“Ryan is one of those rare individuals who got the right and the left brain,” reveals a still-amazed Vogel. “He was like a walking encyclopedia. If he didn’t know the answer he’d find out. He blazed a trail for a new kind of hybrid student where the business side meets the creative side.”
After DAAP Rosensweig felt grateful to continue working within multidisciplinary teams at The Mayo Clinic, then Nordstrom and now at Premera Blue Cross. He credits his interdisciplinary training at DAAP as sparking his passion and leading to opportunities to learn and contribute within great companies.
As part of the Customer & Digital Experience team at Premera, Rosensweig feels fortunate to work with others who have multidisciplinary backgrounds as they translate customer knowledge into ideas they can test. Their work drives customer-centric thinking and doing within the 84-year-old health insurance company which serves over two million customers.
Recently the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA), a cancer treatment center, and Premera’s Customer & Digital Experience team, collaborated to understand the perspective of their shared customers.
“Our goal was to understand how cancer care can be made simpler, easier and more caring for patients. In the complex and sensitive context of health care, this integrative approach was crucial for producing credible and accurate results. Rather than looking from our perspective at things only we could control, we were able to look from multiple perspectives with the customer at the center.” Representatives from both SCCA and Premera will take the stage at IASDR to introduce their approach to 360 Research and facilitate a discussion to explain how others can replicate it within their industries.
Concludes Professor Vogel, “Ordinarily, when a graduate seeks me out and takes me to dinner, I know they have made it. In this case, headlining sections of an international conference is evidence enough that our DAAP graduates have made an indelible reputation that spans the globe. “