Smashing Spotlight: Katy Harrison, Designer

Ever wonder what makes Smashing Ideas so smashing? Our people! We sat down with Katy Harrison, Designer, to talk shop, what the role of designers could be in a world when Artificial Intelligence becomes mainstream, the correlation between value creation and value propositions, and why she just can’t resist the urge to stop what she’s doing and dance.

 

How does creativity and process tie together? One feels more rigid and the other more fluid. Is there a perfect synergy between the two?

The first thing that comes to mind here is how I define creativity itself. Though the dictionary may say it’s a noun, creativity is also a verb in my world. The synergy here is that creativity is the process. How is it the process itself? I find my most creative moments in that flow-state between iterations, designing without judgement, or worrying about the miniscule details. Sometimes I’ll come out on the other end with something you could call “creative” and sometimes I need to sleep on it and come back to try again the next day. That is the beauty of the process!

 

Value creation. Thoughts?

Value creation is something we do by designing with specific intentions. Our clients are creating value for users through their products, and, as designers, we are here to design and facilitate those product experiences so the client and the user may find the most value. Every design choice we make can be traced back to an argument that supports our clients’ value proposition.

 

One of your expertise is Smashing’s own brand. From your perspective, how have you seen the agency evolve over the past several years that you’ve worked here?

We’ve become more sophisticated. Not to say we are sophisticated in an up-turned-nose kind of way — but that we’ve matured. I’ve been here two and a half years (feels like five!) and I can tell you we’ve come a long way in that short time…taking care of our own visual brand in the way we take care of our clients and their users is on the upswing. Evolution is a constant. I am looking forward to this next iteration of Smashing!

 

What inspires you?

What inspires me: Vibrant colors. Nature. Movement. Human connections. Community. Art! I love to go to the museum and see a piece of art hanging two inches or 20 feet from my nose. There’s something about the vibrancy of art in-person that inspires me to use my own creativity in my work.

 

You lead some impactful health and wellness initiatives in the office. What drives this passion of yours?

It’s a mashup of two things: first, after about two years of working at Smashing I realized one of my strengths — and a place I thrive and find the most joy — is in supporting the teams I’m on and being a positive voice when things get tough. Secondly, and on a more personal level, I’ve become quite keen on this idea from good ol’ Hippocrates, that food is medicine and medicine is food. So, I took these two ideas and put them together in the Health Challenge to bring people together who have a common interest in their own health and wellness. I think what drives me the most is the idea that we can take charge of our health when we take our body-, mind- and spirit-fuel seriously. Not only can we avoid those rampant office colds, kick the afternoon slump to the curb, and have more physical energy and sleep better, but we can show up to work and to life with a new vigor and sense of clarity. This is my version of making things that matter.

 

What do you think the role of a designer will be in 10 years?

When robots become designers, I better have a new career. Ha! Okay but really, us human designers will be required to take it a step further into value creation. What can we do that A.I. might not be able to for our clients and users? I have this curiosity of A.I. and how it will design for us. Will we teach it to be non-judgmental of aesthetics and therefore, will be more creative than a human could ever be? I look at the Google Deep Dream generator and see these strange masterpieces. Perhaps I will be dictating design principles to a computer who physically creates the design…

Whatever happens, should A.I. not take over the world, the role of a designer will still be just that — designer. The mediums we design for and what we are designing will change. Even how we design will probably change. Today we can design a voice experience; in 10 years, we might be designing strictly for augmented reality or some other unforeseen future technology.

 

What creative interests do you pursue outside of Smashing?

I just picked up a new pad of watercolor paper to take on a road trip! I took a class at Seattle Central to explore some new skills and found watercolor to be a wonderfully challenging creative outlet I can step into and find my flow. I also dabble a bit in mixed-media doodling which is a combination of collaging abstract paper or magazine cutouts and doodling. I also dance.

 

How do you describe your design style?

Organized. Prioritized. Detailed. Balanced. Rhythmic. Am I allowed to call my own design tasteful? Okay, okay. It’s what I like. If I were to step away from my desk at Smashing I could say it would remain the same at home too.

 

What does your dream day off in the summer look like?

It’s 85 degrees. I am wake-surfing behind a boat on Lake Cavanaugh; my Dad is driving and the rest of my family is piled in the back so I can enjoy a smooth, buttery wake. Later I eat delicious homemade food, laugh with my family, and take a nap in my hammock underneath the trees.

 

Funny enough you mentioned dancing earlier, because rumor has it you dance to blow off steam. Favorite beat to get down to?

What style are we talking here? I could spend a significant amount of time talking about this one so I will make it quick and tell you about the last time I went bonkers over a tune. I was in my kitchen listening to Moon Hooch, and I literally had to stop chopping vegetables because I was overtaken by the need to dance.

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