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Interview with Alex Lopez – Senior Design Manager at Microsoft

Alex Lopez is Senior Design Manager with the AI + Research & Search Studio at Microsoft – this year’s Platinum Sponsor of Seattle Design Festival. Make sure to join Microsoft for their panel discussion in this year’s festival: What Day is It? on August 2o, 9-10am.

Alex’s bio in his words: I’m currently Design Manager at Microsoft leading our enterprise search efforts across Microsoft. Previous to this I was director of UX & Design at an incubation startup that focused on designing process products for enterprises, ran my own design consultancy, and worked for various design agencies and non-profits doing graphic and web design work before that. My learned background is in psychology from Cal State University Channel Islands, and my earned background is in hustling design from the age of 14 (thank you pre-internet design magazines, public libraries, and bands who needed posters, Album Art, and Merch). Outside of work, my passions are my family (two boys ages 5 and 7, and my amazing high-school sweetheart-turned lifetime partner), mountain biking all-the-trails in the PNW, and using my hands to build, break, and fix things (old cars and houses mostly).

Question (Q.): Where have you found About Time in design?
Alex Lopez (AL): I found About Time in design when I was learning about how Microsoft approached this concept of inclusive design. There’s a lot of great insight about what that means to create for the world, but the most impactful thing for me was learning that it wasn’t just about time for the products themselves to change, but how we create them as well. How we create impacts the what and why of what we create. Are we inclusive about how we brainstorm, learn, explore? Do we make decisions that are implicitly biased or assume too much? Do we enter our work expecting who we’re creating for to just get it and be upset when they don’t? Much of design used to be about being the most creative, or the most stimulating, or making the most desirable object only to serve those motivated to buy because they would have that thing that no one else has. But life has a way of eroding the sheen away from even the shiniest things to reveal its true nature.

Q: Who or what inspires you?
AL: I’m inspired by objects of resilience–trees that cycle through the seasons, streams that always find a way to carve a route, people that choose to thrive and hope, despite their opposition. Maybe it’s because of what 2020 has brought, but that essence that’s in both human nature, and nature around us humbles me and pushes me to become more elastic in my thinking and expression of design both in work and life.

Q: My favorite thing about my city is…
The trails! I love riding my bike and before all of this pandemic stuff I was riding to-and-from work. It’s amazing what our community does with things like old railway lines and spaces like Duthie hill bike park.

Q: Tell us about a project that you completed that you are most proud of.
My proudest moment to date has been the launch of our enterprise search product Microsoft Search. We have a saying that we’re One Microsoft and I was amazed at the amount of teamwork and collaboration that happened to launch it. This product touches about every major organization and for it to work at all, requires multiple teams (as big as individual corporations) to come together. I was so proud of my team and all of our partners when we shipped the product worldwide last year, and I’ve made some amazing friendships and learned A LOT along the way.

Q: What design object or story most strongly influenced your interest in design?
I’d have to say that LEGO strongly influenced me (and still does) in my interest of design. With a select (albeit growing) set of objects you’re able to combine them to make a car, a tool, an entire world of creations. I have two children (5 and 7) so LEGO are EVERYWHERE in our home. I am amazed at how these little building blocks empower them to express themselves and their personality.

Q: What is your ultimate goal when it comes to your work? What do you want to contribute?
My ultimate goal is to make things that people deem useful enough to make into something else. Be it a thought, a design, or even a mistake.

Alex can be found on his website here.