For Henry Chu, it’s an exciting time to be a designer in Vancouver. The recent Digital Design grad credits the local user experience community for creating a fun and welcoming environment for new talent. The same community honoured Henry at the 2015 Vancouver User Experience Awards last month. He took home the “UX by Students” award for his project called Kinform – a program that makes the process of caring for loved ones (separated by geography) much easier.
We had a chance to ask Henry about his time at Vancouver Film School and what his professional experiences have been like. Read on!
Where are you from originally? What made you decide to come to VFS?
I’m originally from Hong Kong, but I was raised in Vancouver, British Columbia.
I wanted to learn interactive design and VFS’s one year Digital Design program seemed to be the right fit.
What was your time like in the Digital Design program? What was the best thing about it? What was the most challenging part(s)?
Time just flew by during my year in Digital Design. Everyone was so friendly, passionate, and skillful. It was an environment that really helped me excel in school.
The best thing about the program was that students got to work on a large variety of design projects that matched industry trends. Not to mention, we did a project that actually included real clients – a way to imitate real world experience.
To be honest, the Digital Design program was very challenging with the amount of work needed to be done in a little amount of time – but that doesn’t mean it was a negative experience. The faculty and instructors did a great job in pushing students to achieve more and go beyond their limits.
What was your post-graduation journey like? What did you do? Where did you go?
Post-graduation was a lot like the school year. I tried to refine my projects to be presentable, build a solid portfolio, and scout for job opportunities with companies that resonated with me. I was lucky enough to meet a lot of industry professionals at our graduation showcase, and I kept in contact with them until a job opportunity surfaced.
We heard you won “UX by Students” at the 2015 UX Awards – congrats! Can you tell us about your winning project? What inspired the idea? How did you execute it?
Thanks! I’m absolutely humbled to be recognized by the UX professions in the industry.
The initial idea of the project came from a personal struggle that I experienced daily: trying to provide care for my parents who live overseas without disrupting my daily schedule. Through initial research and analysis, I found that there was a lack of attention on this subject. By talking to people on the streets, I found that this problem actually affected more Vancouverites than I had imagined. Hence, I was set on creating a solution that provided subtle notices to caregivers who are caring for parents who are living far away, geographically.
By utilizing the skills I learned in the program, I developed documents that covered user flows, wireframes, prototypes, interface design, and the overall branding for Kinform.
In addition to winning for Kinform, you’re also part of the team at Big Park that was a finalist in the “UX for Marketing” category for “NFL on Xbox One”. Can you tell us what it was like working on that project?
Being involved in that project was a great learning opportunity. NFL on Xbox One is a platform that enhances any NFL fan’s experience. As a sport fan and gamer myself, designing for NFL on Xbox One was the best experience I could have ever asked for right out of school. I’d often collaborate with other designers, artists, project managers, and engineers to better polish the experience of the app.
What’s a typical day like for you?
A typical day for me revolves around creative meetings, coming up with ideas for new concepts, developing feature design briefs, logic flows, and screen wireframes to uphold an easy yet delightful user experience for our users. Mix that up with a lot of coffee and you’ll get a very interesting day at work.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received and how does it apply to your current work?
I’ve received great advice throughout the years, but I guess the one that stuck with me the most is to always design with empathy for the users. Try to live the life of your audiences -- you’ll see how your ideas impact the user.
Any advice you’d like to pass down to students interested in design?
Stay true to your goals, be passionate about the things that excite you in design, and always be curious about trying new things. These ideas are what led me to create Kinform in the first place.
What are some exciting things about the user experience community in Vancouver?
In my opinion, the user experience community in Vancouver is in a special time right now. Companies from large corporations to small start-ups place a lot more attention within the user experience field, and it makes it extra fun and exciting to be working in this industry. In my experience, the UX community here is also very friendly and welcoming to new talents, which makes it even more comfortable to learn and develop here in Vancouver.
Anything else you’d like to say?
Thanks for the interview! It’s exciting times to be working in design in Vancouver. I hope this interview is helpful for anyone thinking about design as a career.
Congratulations, Henry! All the best!