In Fall 2014, I undertook a three month internship at AKQA's San Francisco office that pushed the limits of my thinking in user experience.

While at AKQA, I was able to work on projects for both existing clients and new business. I embraced the opportunity to learn the ropes of user experience design as the bridge between strategy and creative in an agency environment.

With guidance from senior designers and management, I made major contributions to pitches and concept work that delighted and excited clients. While I cannot write in detail about each project I was involved in, I can speak to my experiences working on them.

In my first project, I was placed in a team and tasked in proposing a training experience for Air Jordan's CP3 and Superfly product launches at the Howard Hughes Hangar in Los Angeles. The experience needed to speak to the unique qualities of each shoe and the playstyles they were designed for in a delightful way.

My team recognized that the culture surrounding basketball was just as important as the game itself.

We opted to go challenge the bounds of the brief so we could tie in culturally-appropriate musical and visual elements essential to our concept. I saw that the music and visuals could be in conversation with the exhibit's participants to enhance the quality of the experience.

With only a week to develop before presenting to the client, we knew that a technology demonstration would not be feasible to present to the client. Instead, we pushed on delight and told a story of our vision and used accompanying visual queues to highlight key components.

The client praised our concept and the emotional energy that charged our presentation; however, they opted to use another team's idea due to the tight timeline of the project. They also expressed interest in using our concept in future installations where time and budget would be less constraining.

I was invited to join another team in a user experience capacity help them develop a vision for the future of entertainment for a new client. The project was to incorporate ideas that had been proposed during an intern-featured hackathon into a single cohesive concept.

We had a strict two month timeline to complete the project, so speed and efficiency were integral to our process. Despite the final product only existing in video form, funtionality proposed is rooted in real-world user experience principles.

The team's research led to several insights that would guide the direction of the project. Early on into my involvement, I proposed to the team ideas relating to cross-device functionality and locational considerations. Each idea was born from my understanding of, and in turn, validated by each insight.

In addition to participating in larger system design discussions, I was responsible for wireframing out user flows for these features and devices as dictated by our video's storyboard. I ensured that screen and interaction design mapped to what we conceived for our larger system. I met regularly with the team for feedback and discussion, which I incorporated in subsequent iterations.

Motion is a key way of showing feedback to user action—it became one of my core considerations even as early as the wireframing stages.

One of the challenges of developing our concept piece laid in how to employ prototyping to validate our assumptions and design. I produced low-to-medium fidelity prototypes for our team to test the logic and usability of our navigation system against. Though only intended for our own internal use, the prototype was ultimately presented to and well-received by the client.

I adapted to many different roles in order to meet the demands we set out for our deliverable. With no copywriter on our team, I was asked to write a draft for our video narration. I collaborated with our project lead on future drafts, developing much of the language and terminology for our concept.

With only one visual designer on our team, I was asked assist in a visual design capacity as well. I prepared video-ready assets for major sections of the video and delivered them to our motion designer.

Three months in San Francisco came and went quickly. In the projects that I worked on, I developed my presentation skills to an art, and thoroughly enjoyed interfacing with clients and AKQA's senior management when explaining my ideas and contributions. I also learned the true value in being a T-shaped individual through the multiple hats I wore on the entertainment project. I also kept my sense of humour throughout the entire process, which my coworkers found to be refreshing during stressful patches.

Most importantly, I learned that bravery plays an important role in vision definition, planning, and execution. My contributions were driven by my own personal observations and assumptions, as well as our strategic insights, and my team encouraged me to stand behind what I believed and to see my ideas through to the end. It was tough, but it was also incredibly rewarding.

  • Dan Nanasi, Renna Al-Yassini, Oriol Bella, Simon Davey, Chris Guest, Fabio Maffe, Enya Persson, Aida Rezaei (on Air Jordan), JP Zundel
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