STUDIO Story is a new series of interviews to talented creatives, designers, entrepreneurs who love STUDIO.
Today we have the pleasure to interview Xin Koepsell, a Product Designer based in Silicon Valley who created her first portfolio on STUDIO, landing a job soon after.
From Therapist to Product Designer
How did you come to be a Product Designer after being a professional therapist?
Originally, I chose to specialize in Psychology and later to become a therapist because I wanted to do something that involved interacting with people and helping those who struggle to get where they want to be. However, somewhere down the line I realized that being therapy a one-on-one interaction, it is not scalable: you can only help one person at a time. Also in many situations, people get stuck in large systems and I don’t have enough power to change that for them, which makes me feel powerless. At that point, I discovered Product Design: a field where I could apply my skills in establishing connections with people to create products that would help not one but many people around the world. I participated to a Product Design bootcamp called Tradecraft and after a few freelance projects and creating my portfolio I landed my current full time job as Product Designer at Limbix, a company that use Virtual Reality and Prescription Digital Therapeutics to help people who experience mental health symptoms.
How does your background in therapy influence your design process?
It helps a lot! Product Design involves understanding people’s pain points and needs, and using research and data to create solutions that can help solve the problem. Thanks to my experience as a therapist, I’m comfortable asking questions and conducting interviews to collect the information that I really need. For example, I try to avoid asking ‘leading questions’: questions that lead the person to give the answer that you want to hear, rather than their real thoughts. Additionally, I do not only rely on words, but I also observe other cues such as body language to interpret feedback.
Designing products that create an emotional bond with people
You aim at designing products that create emotional bonds with people. How do you go about achieving that result?
An emotional bond is an invisible connection between people involving a sense of trust and understanding. A product that creates an emotional bond feels trustworthy, a safe and empathetic space. A good product is not the one that only gets the job done, but one that creates an emotional experience with people.
A good example is a Meditation app called Headspace. The product is designed in a way that makes the user feel understood in their daily frustrations. Similarly, I am currently working on an app for teenagers with depression at Limbix. I have to really spend time to understand what is like to be a teenager who struggles with depression, thinking of questions such as: how someone who is experiencing depression feels when they look and interact with the screens I designed; how can I make the design more engaging so someone who experiences anhedonia [symptom of depression] can still find motivation to use the product.
What are some of the projects you are working on that you care about the most?
One of the projects I care about the most is Project Fred, which I developed during a Mental Health Hackaton. It is an app made for VR aimed at people who are experiencing depression, thus have a hard time externalizing and dealing with their emotions. Within the app, the user is asked to externalized their depression through painting in VR, and give it a name.People will then interact with the externalized depression through the interactions I designed in VR. One of the people who tested the app named his depression Fred, which became the name of the project. This exercise helps people realize that the depression they are experiencing is something they have control over and something that doesn’t define who they are.
Designing the Portfolio on STUDIO
What was the goal of your portfolio and why did you create it with STUDIO?
I wanted to tell a story through my portfolio, and to use it as a means to start a conversation with people. I did so by including articles I have written on Medium, to attract people who share my same interests; while also making sure that the visual design was appealing enough to make people stay. I friend recommended STUDIO to me and I was so happy to have found it! I firstly tried to create the portfolio with Squarespace and Webflow, but never managed to complete the project. I found STUDIO very intuitive and smooth to use, it was easy to learn compared to other services out there.
What was it like to design on STUDIO?
It only took me two hours to design the homepage and under one week to complete the whole portfolio: super fast! The design process on STUDIO was very straightforward: the canvas and tools reminded me a lot of Sketch, and the Youtube videos helped me get comfortable with the basic tools available. Additionally, the presence of a Slack community where people can give feedback and ask for features show me that STUDIO puts our needs at the core of the product.
Who would you recommend it to?
I have already recommended it to all of my designer friends! It is a great option especially for portfolios. As more advanced animations will become available, I will recommended it more experienced designers for a variety of projects, too.