Interview with Luna Chen, an interaction designer at Google

Luna took this photo when she started work at Google HQ

Luna Chen is an interaction designer who works for google. She got an architecture degree from Harbin Institute of Technology and later she got her master’s degree from UCB. During her time at Salesforce, Luna got an HCI certification from MIT. The reason why I chose to interview her is that she has a rich and diverse background which I share a similar experience. I’m curious how this transition affects her and how everything eventually works out. Here is the interview script:

Q1: Could you tell me more about how you change your career path from architecture to UX?

When I studied at UC Berkeley, I was influenced by silicon valley’s lifestyle. I was bathed in the atmosphere of technology. It made me wonder that though architecture is a great subject to learn, I may want to join a different field, where I could focus on new technologies. However, I know that I still have a passion for design. Therefore, after I discovered more in this direction, I choose to be a UX designer. And then, I took on the design and cs classes, also change my thesis to a VR project. Eventually, I got my first job as a UX designer at Salesforce.

Q2: What team do you currently work for, and what is your role within the team?

I work for the google search team now and before that, I worked for the google assistant team. In addition, I worked on a food delivery project for a while. My team focuses on the growth of Google search. It’s a bit challenging to work for such a mature product when you have billions of users already. Thus, we are working on how to improve user engagement. As for me, I’m the interaction designer of the team.

Q3: How do you make decisions as a group, and how do you collaborate with other designers and developers?

When you work for a company of this size, everyone has their precise role in the design process. For example, I’m the interaction designer, I will make the decision on wireframe and prototype design. Then, there are user researchers who make decisions on user studies; there are UX writers who will decide on content writing; there are usability test experts who will be responsible for the usability tests. Finally, there are developers. Though we could suggest and argue on different decisions, I believe in my teammates’ expertise. Meanwhile, I believe as UED I will drive the decision-making, especially the design process as a whole.

Q4: How do you come up with new design ideas?

Working is quite different from the learning process. We rarely had the chance to come up with something from sketch. Using my current project as an example, driving new ideas for google search growth is challenging. Therefore, the most important part is to find out what kind of problem is there waiting for us to solve. It is even more important for me to solve the right problem than to find a new problem to solve. Then, when we find the right problem, we will spend time planning the goal and find out how many users may have the same problem. Normally, that is the beginning of ideation. And if I am looking for daily design inspirations, I’ll try everything, even architecture design, and movies.

Q5: What are some principles you aim for in your designs? 

I think there is an intuitive answer, which is user-center design. I always put this on my mind when working.

Q6: Have you faced any surprising usability test results? How do you handle situations like this?

Yes, of courses, though it depends on which part of the design is tested. We may test one feature many times and the surprising result only shows in the beginning. However, I am more experienced with qualitative usability tests at work. For example, normally we will conduct a usability test with a sample size of 16 participants. Therefore, we are not asking questions like do you prefer version A vs Version B. There is no statistical significance there. We will ask why. Why users think of the feature. What works or not and what’s confusing.

Q7: What tools do you work with for design, project management, and collaboration within and outside design teams daily?

I used Figma all the time. I love how it saves me from uploading things. I also use other prototype tools such as Principle and Protopie. The reason why I use other prototype tools is the lack of micro-interaction on Figma. I try to avoid using after effect for interaction but sometimes it is necessary to use it too. One more thing that I want to mention is the accessibility plugin on Figma. We should always take that into consideration.

Q8: What was a project that you really enjoyed working on? Would you like to tell me a bit about your design process for this product/project? 

I couldn’t talk about my current project at this moment, so I’ll share a previous experience with you. When I worked for Salesforce, I was assigned to a design team that works on a B to C product. My stakeholders are from the financial service and healthcare industry. It’s very hard to ask them to participate in user studies due to time schedule. Therefore, I actually make 20+ appointments with different financial services to study how financial advisor works. Since I’m actually in charge of the booking feature, I got enough research from my experience. I applied the same experience with healthcare service too. I almost got a full medical examination and it’s quite an experience. In the meantime, working with business is different from the consumer. I once got a chance to interview the CFO of Chase, but I rarely had the chance to directly contact my end user. To be honest, it is harder to get useful responses from the management level. Therefore, we will need to think deeper and dig deeper to get the real problem.

Q9: Do you have any tips for aspiring Product and UX designers for job hunting or career path planning?

As we talked about before, there are many directions in the UX area. Therefore, finding a job that you really interested in is the key. Think more about your skill and what you can do too. Also, take your personality into consideration. For example, if you are not good at interviews or writing, then maybe pay more effort to design or even programming.