Designer Portraits: Design Entrepreneur
Meet Joleen Hsu, a designer working on her own startup to promote BIPOC owned small businesses
Being a design mentor for several years, I had the great fortune to meet and work with so many talented people and hear about their stories. Most of these stories are fascinating, and I often thought they are worth sharing with a broader audience for entertainment and learning purposes. Therefore, I came up with the idea to start a new series of articles called Designer Portraits.
Designer Portraits is an article series that tells stories from user experience designers. Each “portrait” aims to uncover unique stories behind a designer’s background, projects, process, and more.
Today, I like to share stories from Joleen Hsu, who is a designer from the San Francisco Bay Area. The rest of the article will feature a set of interview-like questions with responses in Joleen’s own words.
Can you share a little bit about yourself?
I grew up in San Diego and attended UC Irvine, where I graduated with a degree in Business Information Management in 2018. I’m currently a Consultant at Deloitte, working for clients in the Financial Services industry. Since most of my clients were based in the East Coast, I actually traveled cross-country for two years and lived out of my suitcase before quarantine started. These days, I’m working virtually from Southern California, focused on designing meaningful experiences and building mission-driven products!
How did you get into UX Design?
I knew I wanted to pursue UX after working on a design project at Deloitte. I helped to design a conversational AI web application, allowing our clients to draw insights from complex sets of data through a voice-activated chatbot interface. I realized that UX was the perfect intersection of all of my interests: technology, design, and human behavior, so to further supplement my design education, I enrolled in DesignLab’s UX Academy. Through the course of the program, I developed a strong design foundation and worked on projects in a variety of industries, allowing me to see how impactful design is in bridging human connection.
What are you currently working on?
I’m currently working on a few freelance UX projects and my passion project, untold! untold is a gift company that highlights BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color)-owned small businesses to help tackle the racial wealth gap. I started untold in July 2020 with my Co-Founder, Jackie Kao, after seeing a lack of representation for entrepreneurs of color. untold uses curated gift boxes to tell the stories behind these businesses, adding more purpose and intention behind products that we consume. We just launched our first gift box in November 2020 and are working on new products for 2021!
If you’re interested, follow our journey on Instagram: @untold_co and our website at untoldstore.co!
As a designer, what is the most important part of the process for you and why?
When I go through a typical UX project, I usually start by understanding the needs of all the key players: the business, the stakeholders, and the target audience. After identifying the goals of the project, I can prioritize requirements and define which features to implement. As I dive into creating the wireframes and prototypes, I’m a huge proponent of continual user testing to inform iterative improvements for the final design.
The most important phase of the design process for me is the user research. Without data-driven insights to back up your design decisions, how are you able to truly improve the user experience? Whether it’s quantifying feedback from user interviews or using demographic data from market research, there always needs to be a solid why to inform the what.
Based on what you went through, do you have any advice for designers who are thinking about starting his/her own thing?
Honestly, just do it. There can be so many self-limiting thoughts, but the biggest hurdle to jump over is your own self-doubt. If you never try, how will you know whether you’ll succeed? I love this quote from Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Big Magic:
“Be brave. Without bravery, you will never know the world as richly as it longs to be known. Without bravery, your life will remain small — far smaller than you probably wanted your life to be.”
Ultimately, it’s the journey of getting somewhere that makes the end goal worthwhile. In this age of instant gratification, it’s rare to see people act on their passions and remain consistent with their practice, even when the results aren’t optimal. Make consistent measures to hone your craft, and then share it with the world. It’s always better done than perfect.
Let’s end on a more casual note. What do you enjoy doing outside of design?
Before COVID, I spent most of my weekends on the road, traveling and exploring new cities. These days, I’ve started to enjoy the quiet routines at home: the comforts of reading a good book (I’m currently reading The Power of Now, by Eckhart Tolle) and playing board games (Catan, anyone?). I also spend a good chunk of the weekend working on new ideas for untold!