A Conversation with Adam Zeiner


Adam Zeiner joined the Design Institute for Health in July 2018. Adam has extensive experience in many realms of design, holding positions as a Product Designer, Visual Designer, UX Designer, and Experience Designer before working as an Interaction Designer here at the Design Institute. In this role, Adam considers how people can interact with systems and services to create a more seamless health care experience. I spoke with Adam to learn more about his background and experience so far at the Design Institute for Health.


Q: What is Interaction Design? What is your background as an Interaction Designer?

Adam: There are a lot of  different definitions for Interaction Design. I think the official definition is something along the lines of improving the human experience, and that’s far too vague.

I come from a software design background, figuring out patterns, metaphors, and ways to help people become familiar with digital environments, so they can make use of those products and services to achieve their goals. Design in the software space involves a lot of what we call artifact creation with a focus on coherence, consistency, and doing our best to avoid confusing our audience. My primary focus is on the mental models someone might be inhabiting when they approach a software-based product or a service.


Q: How did your background lead you to the Design Institute?

Adam: Gradually throughout each position, I found more and more that I was drawn to system-focused work. Whether it was figuring out how a system works, or establishing systems of components that people can interact with when they are using various software products. The strong draw to keep working on systems, along with a desire to be more involved in the strategic aspects of design rather than doing production work, led me to the Design Institute.


Q: How did health come into the picture?

Adam: It’s kind of curious that health wasn’t necessarily one of the primary factors that brought me here. I was drawn to the Design Institute because of its focus on systems and service design work. Getting closer to people and wanting to actually be involved in the community I live in was a big draw as well. Health seemed like the avenue that could get me closest to people. You don’t get much closer to people than their health.


Q: How do you define design?

Adam: Everyone who works in design has a different definition of design — especially here at the Design Institute since we all come from such different backgrounds. Design is a creative endeavor, but not creative like art is creative. We take creative approaches to make for other people, not for ourselves.

Design is a broad discipline that I think is very much in flux right now as it is growing and maturing. I see design as a process for problem solving. It tends to be a bit more creative and a bit more contextual and nuanced than other forms of problem solving. The process is comprised of various methods, methodologies, frameworks and tools that we utilize to better understand something that we then try to improve upon.


Q: How do you explain your job to friends and family?

Adam: My parents definitely don’t know what I do, and most of my friends don’t know what I do. Even a lot of the designers I’m friends with don’t quite get what I do as an Interaction Designer, especially as one working in a medical school.

How I’ve started to describe it comes from a very systematic approach and mindset. There are agents interacting in a system, how can I make it as frictionless as possible, or how do I not break people’s reality when they are interacting with anything I've had a hand in designing.    

Katherine Jones