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Designing for digital with Lauralee Sheehan

Photo of Lauralee Sheehan

I always look at digital design as a way to augment and support IRL connection.

- Lauralee Sheehan

Lauralee Sheehan is a design thinker and digital addict, but above all, an artist. In advance of her session at DesignThinkers Toronto, we asked her a few questions about her talk, switching careers and how you can stay grounded when the rate of change in the industry gets overwhelming.


You worked in the music industry for a number of years before moving into design. What prompted the switch?

I was realizing that experience design was something we were doing in the band. Digital and design were becoming a huge part of band life in 2015ish (digital posters, vid’s, web assets, social media, etc) and that opened up a lot of doors. Coming from an extremely creative and wild industry like music, I had an edge in how I thought about digital experience design and the concepting that goes along with it. AND … I needed a break from music. Sometimes you have to break up with your passion to rediscover and reimagine it for yourself.

Your talk is titled, “Design and Create Like an Indie Band, Circa 2008.” Without giving too much away, what can attendees expect from your talk?

Around 2012, the music industry was drastically changing with major digital disruptions. It maybe started with Napster back in the day and then MySpace, etc. I think musicians had to think about their art in a whole new way, and that meant from process to format to sustainability to intent. The digital and design space seems to be going through something similar now, with online content and consumption blowing up, as well as the impact of design communication. There are a lot of lessons to think about when being on the producing side, so I will give away some of my key lessons that helped me weather major disruption in music and keep my art process agile and responsive.

A common criticism of our hyper-digital world is that our connection on a human level gets lost. Do you agree? How can designers create in a way that’s human-centered yet digitally compelling?

This is a great, big question. And one that I think about a lot, having a digital company. Digital is great, but it’s not great for everything, always. Kind of like in film, I’m always trying to figure out how to “break the fourth wall” in our digital builds and design systems/visual communication. My team is really fantastic about what the experience will be for the user, and we think about how to layer in and embed connection, even in an asynchronous experience. It’s not easy and especially now, there is a lot of digital fatigue, but I always look at digital design as a way to augment and support IRL connection.

What would you say to someone who’s feeling overwhelmed about the amount of change and adaptation the industry is asking of us?

Keep your creative vision close to your heart and mind always. Through massive change, you can easily forget about your unique design style and perspective. Use your vision as a bit of an anchor, but also as a point of iteration. Maybe there are things you can try that you didn’t think about before that don’t take away from your design perspective but maybe, in fact, add more to that perspective and push you out of your comfort zone.

What are you looking forward to about coming to DesignThinkers in Toronto?

Everything! But mostly being in the room with people who really, really <3 design. There’s a buzz that happens when you gather to think about things, big and little, and DesignThinkers Toronto is always such a classy and thought-provoking space to do so!


Catch Lauralee’s talk on October 27 at 11:00 a.m.

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