Over the last few years I've developed self-initiated side projects in procedural design (Houdini), creative coding (Processing) and experiential / real-time installations (Arduino, TouchDesigner, Unity). These projects have led to amazing opportunities: from traveling the world to produce 360VR videos starring Bill Gates & friends, to developing an interactive book presented at the United Nations General Assembly (which now lives in Gates' home library) and creating a 3D projection-mapped interactive experience for visitors at the NHL Seattle Preview Center.
Not knowing any better, all of my prior side projects subscribed to the "move fast and break things" model. Fast results with surface-level domain knowledge, which has served me really well in my field of art direction and visual design. Fortunately, over time and experience, I've made certain realizations in regards to interactive projects (my blanket term for anything outside of static deliverables like an image or a video) and, more importantly, the role I want to play in the process. This coincides with an emerging field I'm very interested in - product design prototyping, particularly in XR.
However, having no direct formal experience in the fields of UI/UX, I've decided to start a pair of side projects to guide me through the "product designer" journey. And, I've decided to blog about them to document the process.
My goal is to gain practical and domain knowledge. That means having a theoretical understanding of best practices as well as working experience. So, naturally, I've broken up this journey into two parts: theory and application.
I plan on working through various books, articles and talks related to the general product design field. I'm a diligent note-taker: for retention purposes as well as to clarify my own thoughts/observations. I'll continue to update and expand on these resources which will be available here:
Having practical, working experience is invaluable. There's so much to be gained from real-world applications of theoretical knowledge beyond books and tutorials. That's why I always, almost to a fault, dive into actual side-projects immediately whenever I'm learning something new. For this journey, I'm tackling two projects: a formal iOS application to learn the "traditional" software lifecycle and a "creative" VR experience to explore emerging processes and experiment with my own concepts.
Cycler is an iPhone app for tracking bicycling and running workouts. I'm collaborating with a web developer interested in iOS who is handling all of the "backend" data modeling. My primary goal is to learn and develop wireframes/prototypes/UI in Figma and implement UI/UX using SwiftUI. I'm also leading the concepting/feature-scope for this MVP.
AnomalyXR is a creative IP I'm developing independently as an "immersive anthology". VRMP0100, or Virtual Reality Mixtape Prototype 0100, is a VR experience that unfolds in the world of AnomalyXR: it's a proof-of-concept "vertical slice" story for the type of immersive, narrative-based projects I want to develop in the future.
I've been quietly making progress on these two projects and plan to update this post as well as make new entries for each one of them in the near future to document certain milestones in the process. My hope is that at the end of this journey I'll have a solid case study for each, shared resources, open source code/design and gained knowledge as well as "final" working iOS and VR applicatons that I can share.