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Nina Boesch is a Manhattan-based interaction designer from Germany. She designs and develops websites, mobile apps and interactive experiences and museum installations by merging her expertise in user interface design, user experience architecture and programming. In 2011, Boesch joined the media group of the exhibit design firm Ralph Appelbaum Associates as senior interaction designer.

06.11.13

Practical Rules to Live By

How did you learn interactive/web design and get started in this profession? After high school, while still living in Bremen, Germany, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I majored in arts and mathematics in 12th and 13th grade, so I combined those interests in 1998, by starting an apprenticeship at a new web design firm in my hometown. Within three years I became an HTML/JavaScript programmer and web designer. Those skills sound lame in today’s terms, but back then I was totally cutting edge with that kind of profession! Really.

What tools do you find indispensable for your work? I probably should say Illustrator, Photoshop, TextMate and a browser, but I’m gonna go with a stack of paper and a bunch of markers. (All good ideas start on paper.)

What personal/pro-bono creative projects are you working on, if any? I have an art venture on the side that went slightly viral last year after the Daily News picked up on it. I collect expired/used MetroCards (NYC subway tickets), cut them up into tiny pieces and create collages from them. I’ve had several exhibits in Brooklyn and Manhattan, and my collages have found new homes all over the world now.

How do you keep yourself inspired? It doesn’t take much for me to be inspired. My city (New York) is one giant inspiration, but really, I could just hang out with friends and colleagues and feel inspired. Actually, even sleep inspires me...my dreams have sparked quite a few real-life ideas in the past.

What sites/blogs do you frequent? My blog-reading habits are not very consistent. The few websites I visit more than others are: New York Times, Design Observer and Visual.ly.

If the Internet didn’t exist, what would you be doing right now? Playing Tetris on my state-of-the-art Gameboy.

What is your favorite app, and why? I’m not much of a gamer and have little time for social apps. Most of the apps I favor are tools, such as DropBox, Google Maps, PS Express. If you live in New York then you don’t want to miss out on Exit Strategy—an app that tells you if you should be in the front, middle or back of a subway train in order to be close to a station exit when you arrive at a station. Very convenient!

What's your favorite quote? “Design is thinking made visual.” —Saul Bass

Whose work do you love and look towards for inspiration? I don’t have a specific designer or design firm that I follow religiously. There are so many great talents and ideas out there, that inspiration can come from anywhere. And thanks to blogs and platforms like youTube, everyone can share everything instantly. One day I may like an interface designed by Frog, the next day I may fall in love with a website that Pentagram designed, and the following day, I see an art-installation by a 19-year-old student that takes my breath away. (I love judging design competitions: you get to see tons of amazing, award-worthy projects that you wouldn’t otherwise have seen.)

What's the best site you’ve seen lately? What so great about it? I have recently come across some engaging parallax websites like whois.wildlife.la or www.ok-studios.de. There is just something very organic in the way these sites behave, with various layers moving at different speeds when a users scrolls the page. Like many visually beautiful sites, the flip side is that deep links can’t be shared, since specific content sections don’t have unique URL paths. You usually need to access these websites at the start so it becomes more of a linear experience.

In the end, the truly “best” websites are the ones I keep revisiting over and over again because they simply get the job done quickly. If I want the news, I go to the New York Times. If I need to transfer files without FTP, I use WeTransfer (nothing but a small upload-form on the page, and no need to login). And if I want entertainment, I go to Hulu Plus.

What well-known site is most desperately in need of a redesign? Gmail. I am a big fan of everything “Google” but the gmail interface is killing me.

What excites you about interactive design right now? The fact that I can think outside of audio/visual terms makes my job more and more interesting. In the pre-smartphone days, a user experience was mostly directed by clicking buttons, tapping a touchscreen, or using simple gestures in an infrared field. The technology we have available today reaches far beyond this. Many smartphones now have an accelerometer, GPS and a gyroscope; it’s these little toolkit innovations that open up thousands of new possibilities for an interaction designer.

What emerging technologies and innovations will have the biggest impact on how you design in the next few years? The latest smartphones, tablets and gadgets (such as Google glasses) will obviously always impact and transform my profession as an interaction and UX designer, but what I always forward to are the improvements in already available technologies, such as the performance of networks, phones, tablets and computers. Can you imagine a world where you don’t have to wait for a computer to start up? Or how about a complex mobile app like Google maps that doesn’t ever need to load because it’s right there, always available in an instant. And how amazing will it be when your smartphone’s battery lasts a whole month instead of a day? I think the concept of a loading-screen or loading-animation will soon be a thing of the past and, for me, this means that I will be able to design more freely without worrying about the limitations we face today.

What’s the best advice you’ve been given in your career? Treat others as you want to be treated. I live by that rule—personally and professionally—and I am convinced that it is the basis for a functional and successful work environment. An intern deserves as much respect as a creative director.