Alumni Update: Interview with Zack Seuberling
Zack Seuberling | Graphic Design BFA 2009
Design Technologist | zackseuberling.com
Seattle based BGSU graduate Zack Seuberling designs “surprising and thoughtful user experiences.” Former Lead Developer and Designer at Portland, Oregon’s Rumors, Zack now works for Alaska Airlines as a Design Technologist.
Why did you choose Bowling Green State University
I did not know much about graphic design (or art, really) before I started my education. I had been building websites as a hobby and thought that I might go into technology or computer science, so it made sense for me to go to a university over an art school. Truth be told, Bowling Green was far enough away from my family and I could still benefit from in-state tuition, so it seemed logical as a teenager applying for school.
Any Advice for current students?
From personal experience, I think students get easily hung up on one aspect of a project. An idea may be excellent with poor execution, or a project is made well but with very little thought. In both cases, the final project is probably not very good. It’s really a hard thing to do, but maintaining a balance of *good enough* is important. To put it in a way that would irritate fewer professors: don’t let one aspect suffer in spite of another.
It sounds cheesy, but read as much as you can. Not just about design, but fiction, non-fiction and poetry alike. Expand your horizons without going anywhere. I wish I had read more when I was in school, not only for my personal growth, but I know for certain it would have made my work better.
And finally, find a peer who shares your passions. Push each other. I still talk daily with some peers from undergrad, and we’re constantly learning from each other. We share our working experiences, news articles, etc., It has been the single most beneficial aspect of *going to school*. You can learn a lot without a formal education, but it’s much harder to build meaningful relationships without a community.
What gets you excited about designing for the user experience?
There are a couple things that I really love about interaction design and user experience design. One is that it is constantly changing. Gaining insights and data about how a website or an app is used allows designers and technologists to make real-time changes. It’s a unique aspect that is not possible to implement when designing printed material or for video. Another unique aspect that I enjoy is the non-linearity of the interface. Certainly, we design for ideal funnels and other boring things, but users get to decide how they use the thing we make. This is less unique, as there’s certainly some interesting ways to introduce that kind of thinking with printed material, but it’s baked right in to interaction design.
Talk about the difference between working at Rumors and working at Alaska Airlines.
For a long time, I worked at a small, full-service agency. Every person wore many different hats. Sometimes you’re the lead designer, sometimes production assistant, sometimes book-keeper (or other non-design related role). I didn’t realize it when I started working, but you really sign up for the unglamorous stuff, and you don’t get much support. The flip side of that is that the working hours are flexible and in a nice environment, you get to work on some really interesting projects, and learn a lot of different aspects of design really quickly.
At Alaska Airlines, I have one job: I am a design technologist. That doesn’t mean I only work on one thing at a time, but I don’t have to save any mental space for hiring a contractor, or getting another job, etc. We also have a large team to pull in when we need specific help. If I’m working on something, I can ask one of the dozen or so UX designers about an interaction, or ask a developer if there’s a new technology we’re going to implement. That being said, the scope of what I’m working on is *very limited* in comparison to my work with Rumors. Everything I work on is for Alaska Airlines.
Any side projects or hobbies?
I started roasting my own coffee a couple years ago. I’m, of course, reading a lot (but not as much as I’d like). I have a couple projects in the pipeline that I wish I had more time to develop, with the most mature being a resource for designers in Seattle (students, freelancers, hiring managers): seattledesign. It’s still a work in progress, but I wanted to start sharing data (that was not as easy to find as I wanted it to be) and at the same time explore some new technologies. I also spend a lot of time with my (not quite) 2 year old, Wyatt.
Interviewed by Jeff Hartzell