PennDesign News

Posted March 17, 2017

Talking Design with Julie Lorch (IPD'12)

Julie Lorch came to PennDesign after freelance writing and publishing a book about cycling. She currently works as a Director of Product Design at Olark, a startup in San Francisco.

What does a typical day as Julie look like?

Because Olark is a distributed team, I have a lot of geographic flexibility. It's anyone's guess if I'm actually wearing pants. I tend to keep East Coast hours and am usually up and on my computer by 7am, followed by a series of video calls with my cross functional teammates, including designers, developers, and product managers. Olark prides itself on an efficient remote culture; teams are project-oriented and we ship new features on six week cycles. 

What’s been your favorite professional project so far?

My first software job out of grad school was with an organization called DoSomething.org in New York. We were relaunching the website, with the goal of getting more young people involved in volunteering. As a UX designer, I had the opportunity to run a user research lab, develop a series of design challenges, and generate product solutions. It was rad, and as we worked, our team began to build our own culture of design. Following the relaunch, we grew our member base to over 5 million young people. 

What do you miss most about your time at PennDesign?

I spent a lot of time working in the Fablab. Software is a great way to engage in and refine your design process, but I miss hanging out with Dennis and working on physical products. 

What was the best advice you’ve received and who was it from?

Dennis at the Fablab told me to take lunch every day. It's a good thing and helps your brain relax.

If you could go backward or forward in time, what era would you choose and why?

Oh this is a difficult one! I don't know if I'd like to go backwards or forward, but I would like to go to a parallel universe where women made up 85% of technical employees at large companies, rather than men. Would tech culture evolve differently? Would there be a focus on different kinds of products? Would we design and ship drastically different products, or would it look the same?

What did you want to be when you grew up?

A park ranger. I thought the most horrible thing in the world would be to have to sit inside all day and work on computers, which is what I now do for about 8 hours a day.

What’s your favorite place in Philly?

The trail from Boathouse Row through Manayunk and on to Valley Forge was always a favorite, with lots of great places to stop along the way. I used to love to pack a lunch and see how far I could make it before dark.

Favorite book or movie about art/design? 

My brother gave me a copy of Dogs and Chairs, Designer Pairs by Cristina Amodeo and it never fails to put a smile on my face. It's a goofy series of side by side illustrations of famous chairs and adorable pooches, who share various traits in form and color. Probably Corbusier's LC4 and a Spanish Greyhound is my favorite.

Design hero, living or dead?

Marion Donovan. She's best known for developing the first waterproof disposable diaper, but she holds over 20 patents for products that improve everyday life. I envision her tired of dealing with dirty diapers, wondering why it had to be so annoying, and deciding to design a better solution. She sold the rights for $1 million in 1951 and then earned a masters in architecture from Yale in 1958, along with only two other women. 

Who’s had the most influence on your work?

My fiancé, Alan, who is also a product designer. This is the only audience in the world who might find this next fact endearing, but Alan proposed to me last summer at the Eames House in Santa Monica. We spend an awful lot of time talking about ideas for new products. We also build software together and often critique each other's work, which is hugely helpful and not at all weird. 

Who’s on your current playlist?

Whatever my Spotify discover weekly serves up - today it looks like Rhye, Pomona Dream, Lo-Fang, Baio.

Pretzel or cheesesteak?

Cheesesteaks, specifically Jim's on South Street.  

Paris or London?

Actually, I'd rather be in Miami.