Last Updated on September 20, 2021
Multidisciplinary designer Yu Rong, originally from China, has spent more than ten years working for high-profile design agencies, among them Leo Burnett, Astro Studios, and AKQA.
Additionally, she has worked with two of the largest names in tech: Apple and Facebook, as well as performing design work for major brands and companies like Delta Airlines, IBM, and Jiffy Lube.
Rong is now a product design lead at C?Lab, which is a design studio based in San Francisco.
But Rong isn’t just an award-winning designer; she is also a judge for multiple awards programs that focus on digital design.
InspirationFeed interviewed Rong on the topic of her experiences as a judge and how these experiences have informed her own conceptions of design and design trends.
You’ll find the unabridged interview below.
InspirationFeed (IF): You’re currently a judge for both the FWA Awards and the AICP Awards. Can you explain how you were chosen for these roles?
Yu Rong (YR): I won the FWA awards via the IBM Waston health website project that I created at AKQA. I was the Senior Designer on this project and worked on the content strategy, wire framing, art direction, and designing the website.
The entire team was only seven of us including the Creative Director, Design Director, 3D/Animation Artists, and Creative Engineer. After winning the FWA awards, I contacted the founder of FWA. He reviewed my background and experience and also tested me on my critiquing skills, sharing ten websites and asking me to give feedback and critique.
Finally, he included me in the judging panel.
And for AICP, Allen Mask, the founding partner at C?Lab where I currently serve as the product design lead, was the judge last year and he referred me to AICP. After reviewing my background and experience, they invited me to be one of the judges for the AICP awards 2021.
IF: Would you say that each competition prioritizes different things, different aspects of design?
YR: Absolutely. I was invited to judge the innovation category for the AICP awards, its product, and solution-focused, including physical product, software, and new ideas. On the other hand, the FWA award is only for digital experience, which in most cases are websites, apps, and occasionally VR/AR.
Fun fact: FWA stands for Favorite Website Award. So when I was giving critique for AICP awards, I would prioritize the design impact. What are the KPIs, does the project hit the KPIs, do they have a wide range of audiences, has the problem been resolved? And then I would look at the design from a more technical aspect: is the product well designed, is the branding appropriate for the company/product and story?
IF: How often do you examine work submitted for each of these awards programs?
YR: For FWA, it’s between ten and twenty websites per week, and for the AICP awards, it’s about twenty projects that I take a look at once a year.
IF: How would you summarize your approach to judging design work?
YR: I try to be completely neutral. I forget about my personal preferences and prioritize different aspects depending on the different award types which I described previously.
IF: Do you ever consult with other judges?
YR: No, I don’t. FWA is a 100% remote and online process. AICP changed to remote because of COVID, so I didn’t have a chance to connect with other judges. I would definitely love to hear other judges’ thoughts, or maybe connect with a few of them via email.
IF: What are some of the challenges of judging design work?
YR: Individual taste. Some of the back and white aspects are easier to align with most people, such as, does this product resolve XYZ problems, is this product easy to use? But taste can’t be taught and it doesn’t have right or wrong answers.
IF: Is it exciting to be exposed to so many different takes on design?
YR: Yes, it’s always great to be part of the awards. I always see some of the most innovative projects during these events. I personally have been inspired by the candidates, by seeing the projects. It also keeps me on top of current trends, which is important for a professional designer.
IF: Do you see yourself continuing to serve as a judge of design work for the long term?
YR: Definitely. With FWA, I’ve served as a judge for about a year now, and I would love to keep up with it for as long as I can. These have been some incredibly rewarding experiences.