Welcome to our brand new series, Breaking Barriers. These are the women who are independent thinkers, the coders, the content creatives and above all taking that next step in their life to create their own schedules and navigate their own creative jobs.
Meet interaction design lead and creative mentor/coach, Tündi Szasz. As a Transylvanina-American who is obsessed with design, Tündi has been working as a design director in NYC for over a decade, half of that time working independently as a consultant. Her clients include the Google Creative Lab, the Oscars, Royal Caribbean Innovation Lab, IBM Watson, NEW INC among many others.
We were able to chat with this amazing woman who we are highlighting for the first ever Breaking Barriers series. Stay tuned this fall for a lot more action coming your way.
As a creative, Tündi specializes in digital product design and emerging technology. Since she was little, her interests have revolved around empathy and making the world a little more mindful. She is interested in bringing the beauty of ease into digital and physical spaces, and extending human potential into the world with honesty, thoughtfulness and simplicity.
When not designing you can find Tündi traveling the world or meditating and getting her zen on with Headspace. Below check out some questions from the amazing Tündi Szász.
The most interesting journeys are the unexpected ones. Tell us a bit about your career journey and how you got here?
I’ve had an amazing career journey thus far. I’ve spent over a decade working in the digital design, media and tech space after studying Communications at BU and graduating early during the recession.
When I started out, I hustled really hard and was the only person in my class to get a job. I applied to over 100 jobs before even hearing back from one place for a part-time role. That snowballed to now having worked with Google Creative Lab, Fantasy Interactive, the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures and more. I also now mentor entrepreneurs and creative people on a regular basis either through calls or personal coaching. Separately, I’m very interested in harnessing human potential through well-being, and I want to focus on bringing that to people.
My interest in wellness started at a young age and grew after going through a series of personal health challenges. I realized I can combine the two worlds when when a few colleagues and I formed a small innovation technology lab. We would meet after work to focus on bringing health into our design studio in new ways. Our goal was to encourage people to exercise more over taking the elevators. To do this, we created a magical experience by having a light beam follow alongside employees using the stairs. The results were staggering: in one week’s time, nearly 15% more people used the stairs simply because it was a more joyful and curious experience. Seeing firsthand how technology could improve people’s health, even if on the smallest scale, blew me away. It’s projects like these that I’m looking to continue doing.
You have an impressive portfolio of clients and projects you’ve worked on, what’s the common thread?
A sense of minimalism and focus on UX. I think all the visual design I’ve done over the years directly responds to UX challenges. I’m doing my best to make things as simple as possible. My goal is always to help people fight overwhelm while simultaneously making things as beautiful and inspiring as possible. I’m a very systematic thinker and somewhat think like an engineer in that sense, so my designs reflect that.
You work at the intersection of design and technology, how has your relationship with the field changed over the years?
I feel the role of technology is best used as a tool to spread messages and create play. I’m interested in applying design to the wellness space using a combination of programming and art, and I’ll be using technology to do that. Everything I do is basically internet based, so there will always be a digital component as well. I also cannot underestimate how much AI will effect our lives and how much ethics will come to play with tech. Taking care of our personal and collective well-being during these times will be an important conversations.
We love it when women are not afraid to talk about their accomplishments. What are some of your proudest moments or works?
Definitely the highlight of my career was earlier this year when I collaborated with the Google Creative Lab and the USO (Army). My mission was to help military personnel who are deployed overseas read bedtime stories to their children using Google Home (the voice assistant) to help with separation anxiety. The product was featured at the I/O Google Developer Conference this year, and was also featured in the news (CNET). I designed the visual interface system and voice product from scratch in conjunction with working with a full development team. It will be launching next month. The project has been extended to help any family member read to their children while away from home.
Tell us about your decision to pursue a self-designed Masters curriculum at the convergence of technology, wellness, meditation, and mindfulness. Why is this important?
I’ve decided to pursue the deep study and development of converging the worlds of emerging technology with holistic wellness, meditation and mindfulness to aid people and this planet. This fall, I’ll design my own Master’s curriculum at NYU ITP’s Tisch School of the Arts housed within the Tandon School of Engineering. I’ll be mashing the worlds of code, machine learning, art and design for the purpose of deep seated well-being under the umbrella of my own creative studio practice. This has been made possible by a very generous scholarship awarded by the Tisch School of the Arts. I’m deeply grateful and very excited (and nervous in a good way!) about this next chapter!
Well-being has always been important, but I think now people are more likely to talk about it publicly. There’s more anxiety and depression now than ever. Burnout is super real. Tech companies are monopolizing off our data. We passively consume things that are not helping us grow. This is our reality. We’re now in an age of hustle and distraction, and it’s harder than ever to find the space within ourselves to be our best self.
That being said, it’s never been a better time to embrace technology if it’s used as a vehicle for good, and use this time to learn to help ourselves and really question what’s going on. I’m looking to bridge that gap in simultaneously protecting people from being taken advantage of tech, and giving people avenues to become better through the use of helpful technology. I believe it’s up to us to design life well.
You are working on something called Design Life Well. What was the inspiration behind this and what does a well-designed life look like for you?
Design Life Well is the philosophy I’ve been practicing for about 5 years now for my coaching practice. It’s a mix between business and life design to help people to become the best version of themselves. It’s also the art of designing technology to literally create better lives for people.
In a business sense, it’s a way to help creatives create work and a livelihood that is abundant, smart and efficient through mindset shifts and practical tips (from negotiation to having the right web presence). And from a life perspective, it’s making choices that help you over time: daily morning and evening meditation, a prayer or gratitude practice, and developing an abundant mindset. It will also serve as the basis of my work in years to come, employing technology to continue helping people whether that is in the hardware or software space. The art and tech I’m creating will help people achieve increased well-being and sense of ownership over their health. You can check out my work at www.tundiszasz.com. Thanks so much for your time!