Staff Interview: Julie Tinker Ward

This blog post is a part of the YTH Staff Interview Series, where we are featuring an in-depth Q&A with each member of our staff. We’re chatting with YTH’s new Design Director, Julie Tinker Ward.

Julie is bringing more than a decade of experience as a multimedia storyteller, designer, animator, and producer to YTH. She is the founder and principal of TinkerCo, a design studio specializing in technology, health, and cause-driven clients. Throughout her career, Julie has focused on the principle of human-centered design, which puts empathy, community and experimentation at the core of the creative process.

In her role as our Design Director, Julie works on a wide range of YTH programs and projects, including digital innovation and mobile products, with one example being our app for transgender-spectrum youth, they2ze.

I spoke to Julie about her entrepreneurial roots, human-centered design, and the upcoming projects she’s looking forward to spearheading at YTH.

 

ERIN: Welcome to YTH! Tell us a little about the work that you do as a design director and your role within our staff. What does a day in the life of your work with us look like?

JULIE: As the Design Director, I take the lead on the visual and creative vision of our YTH projects. I work with the YTH team in the research and development phases to understand the communities we are serving and help to then design and build health products and services that deliver real impact.

Each day is a little different depending on the stage of the project—which is something I love about my role. Some days I am sitting in on brainstorming sessions with our Youth Advisory Board, others I’m combing through feedback about visuals and ideas we’ve gathered from youth communities, or I’m tweaking typography, trying out various color palettes, building interfaces, or designing animation. All of these tasks have the underlying goal of creating impactful design that will help us deliver better health care to youth.

ERIN: You’re the founder of TinkerCo, a design studio that specializes in technology, health, and serving cause-driven clients. What motivated you to become a socially conscious entrepreneur? Did you see a gap in the spaces of tech and health that you wanted to fill?

JULIE: My background is in both social science and design. I have always known with some certainty that I wanted to use my knowledge and skills for good. Early on in my career, I worked in communications and marketing roles for youth-focused non-profits. After I graduated from design school, I had the opportunity to work with design studios in both New York and in the Bay Area, who also put solving social issues at the center of their work. When I struck out on my own, I kept this focus and have had the pleasure of working with some outstanding organizations, big and small.

I have always been passionate about creating thoughtful, visual stories that reflect empathy while also delivering important messages and information. Animation and video are both great tools for that. In the last few years, I’ve become increasingly interested in the intersection of tech and health and how video can be used as a tool to deliver more effective healthcare. The progression from that to other areas of technology evolved naturally. Animation lends itself to thinking about navigation and user interface design for mobile apps. Video can be a driving force in a social media campaign. To me, the possibilities are endless for how we can use tech to deliver better and better health information and better and better care. Oh, and maybe we can make learning about health fun while we’re at it.

ERIN: In addition to your entrepreneurial efforts, you also have an extensive background in design and production, which includes holding a BA in communications from Stanford University and an MFA from the School of Visual Arts. You’ve focused a lot of your work specifically on human-centered design, which is also a core principle of YTH’s youth-centered health design process (along with positive youth development). Why do you think this type of design is so important? How does it stand out to you, as a leader in the tech and health industries?

JULIE: Human-centered design, when done well, results in products and solutions that truly resonate with an audience, which increases the likelihood of engagement. To me, reframing the problem in human-centered terms, means you’ll ask the right questions. And, if you ask the right questions, you can create the best solutions.

While I think human-centered design can be helpful in any industry, I think using this approach within the world of health has the potential to really change lives. I believe we have real potential to design community-driven health solutions that stick.

YTH is a great collaborator because they fully embrace human-centered design with the added-value of including positive youth development. Our interest in using tech as a driving force to develop health solutions for young people stems from connecting with youth directly and understanding how they use technology as a tool in their lives. YTH also stands out to me in the way our organization specifically focuses on youth, who are both early adopters of technology and often just figuring out where they seek health information independently.

ERIN: You’ve created many design assets for our organization- what has been your favorite project to work on? Anything upcoming that you’re excited about?

JULIE: I’ve sincerely enjoyed working with the team at YTH on all projects, but if I had to pick a favorite, I’d say the they2ze mobile app. is at the top of my list so far. There were many stakeholders involved in the brainstorming and design process, which made my role of establishing a visual language for the project clear and fun.

 

Before you go, make sure to download they2ze to see the great resources, community, and services for yourself. You can find the app for both Android and iOS devices, in the Google Play and App Stores.

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