Many tech companies now use design to communicate with their customers by bringing innovative products to market and creating a stronger identity for their brand.
But in technical fields, focusing solely on design won't get you far enough; design needs to come together with engineering to create a seamless and enjoyable user experience.
In this episode of Thanks for Making It, host Beth Altringer Eagle interviews Jamar Bromley, a Senior Graphic Designer at Samsung Electronics America. They chat about the differences between good design and great design, how to use haptic and tactile design to create magical experiences, and why self-expression matters in the design world.
Thanks for Making It Podcast
Episode Guest: Jamar Bromley of Samsung
[00:00:00] Beth Altringer Eagle: Well, hi Jamar, how are you?
[00:00:03] Jamar Bromley: I'm good.
[00:00:05] Beth Altringer Eagle: Haven't seen you.
[00:00:06] Jamar Bromley: It's a little cold day, but it's good.
[00:00:07] Beth Altringer Eagle: Are you in New York right now?
[00:00:09] Jamar Bromley: Yeah.
[00:00:10] It's like 50 degrees. I'm like, "What?"
[00:00:14] Beth Altringer Eagle: Okay. It looks, it doesn't look... Wow.
[00:00:17] Jamar Bromley: It looks warm.
[00:00:18] It's not warm.
[00:00:20] Beth Altringer Eagle: Yeah. Well, Gosh, I mean, a whole pandemic has happened since I've seen you, and you and I used to work together at, um, Piaggio Fast Forward, making some cargo robots. Very different. I'm sure we'll get into that in some way, if that makes sense.
[00:00:41] But, now you're at Samsung, right?
[00:00:44] Jamar Bromley: Yes.
[00:00:45] Beth Altringer Eagle: And did you go directly from PFF to Samsung?
[00:00:49] Jamar Bromley: Yep.
[00:00:50] Beth Altringer Eagle: Alright, cool.
[00:00:51] Jamar Bromley: I think the thing that specifies, like, I'm not part of Samsung Electronics America. I'm, like, actually part of, like, I'm a subset, like innovation group inside of HQ. So, I work…
[00:01:03] ...pretty much directly with Sol and the teams there. Yeah, my team is like 13 or so people, it's pretty small.
[00:01:14] Yeah. So, that's where I am right now.
[00:01:16] Jamar Bromley: And our office is in New York, Chelsea.
[00:01:19] Beth Altringer Eagle: Awesome. Well, let's back up and learn a little bit about you. So, where are you from? Let's start there.
[00:01:27] Jamar Bromley: So, in terms of where I'm from, this is always a tricky question because, uh, well, I grew up in Tokyo, Japan 'cause I'm half Japanese. So, my dad was in the military, the air force. So, we did, even though I spent a lot of time in Japan, we did a lot of moving. So, we'd been to places like Germany, Florida, Texas, Virginia.
[00:01:53] So, did a lot of moving. And then, like, even though I would say, like, formative years, like middle school, high school I spent in Florida I've now, I don't want to, like, age myself, but I've lived in the Northeast longer. So, I don't know. I don't, I don't think I would call myself Floridian per se, but, that's like a quick, I don't even think I answered your question, but I don't know.
[00:02:19] Jamar Bromley: I don't know what the answer is. I, just like...
[00:02:21] Beth Altringer Eagle: That's okay, that's okay.
[00:02:24] From many places. I mean, it's kind of funny that we answer that question generally based on where we were born and, like, you're actually kind of from all of the places you've spent a lot of time. So, it's, it is a little artificial that that one is, like, the tag, the data tag, um.
[00:02:49] Jamar Bromley: It's like, "Does that define me?" I'm not sure. I don't know.
[00:02:53] Beth Altringer Eagle: It's just to let people get to know you. So, a good, like, medley where you're from.
[00:03:01] Jamar Bromley: Yes, a medley is a good way to describe it.
[00:03:05] Beth Altringer Eagle: And then, you were saying a little bit about your role at Samsung. It sounds like there's a, it's a global innovation unit that you joined. You tell us a little bit more about what you do, what the unit does.
[00:03:17] Jamar Bromley: Sure. So, our studio was created back in summer of 2019. So, right before the pandemic and my boss at the time, she was very, like, ardent about bringing engineering and design together into kind of like this co-creative space. And this concept hadn't been done yet at Samsung. So, it was a really big venture.
[00:03:43] And she, she wanted it to be in New York, mainly as a cultural capital and just a place where a lot of ideas and people are just mixing. And so, I was recruited for that, and the studio serves to pretty much, like, incubate and create new ideas for mobile. I forgot. Let me rewind real quick. We're part of the mobile division.
[00:04:06] Jamar Bromley: So, that involves phones, AR, VR headsets, wearables, hearables, laptops, all that kind of stuff. So, all of our projects are based in that sector. And then, we kind of incubate these new ideas. We do research, we do design-led projects, and then we kind of just present those to HQ and see which ideas get traction, which seemed interesting to them. And then, they figure out how they can incorporate it in their product pipeline or maybe they just become, like, overall design principles for them. So, we're like part of the company, but also kind of like a consultant. So, it's like this really fun space to innovate and not necessarily be too grounded by, like, what tradition Samsung runs on, in terms of their design process and things like that. So, we have that flexibility, so.
[00:05:02] Beth Altringer Eagle: Yeah, that sounds like a lot of fun. So, what other kinds of people, do they, you know, work in this unit? Like, they all similar backgrounds to you or a little bit different?
[00:05:13] Jamar Bromley: No, very different. So, a very multi, multi-disciplinary. So, we have researchers, we have creative technologists, and we have designers and everyone in these fields, they come from a different or, like, a very specific type of designer, specific type of engineering. So, we have electrical engineers, furniture designers, for design we have a UX/UI designers, things like that, like, sound designers, things like that.
[00:05:37] So, it's a mix of people and then we, the way we do projects is, it's pretty much our volitions. It's like whatever we want to tackle, or whatever we find interesting, we kind of propose these project plans and just start working on them. And then, other times, HQ will come to us and be like, "Hey, we have this thing that we've been cooking.
[00:06:00] Could we get your eyes on it?" So, that's kind of like the flexibility and the fluidity that the studio offers. We do our best to, like, create small, team project to have, like, a mixture of, like, a researcher, a CTE, a designer. And that allows us to only, like, work with, like, a small group of people, but also mingle in other groups when projects end and when new ones start and things like that.
[00:06:25] Jamar Bromley: So, there's a lot of flexibility in the process, and we are a very flat organization, so there's not really, like, a leader that necessarily tells us what to do. It's more project basis. So, whoever's leading the project is kind of like the owner of that project, and it switches and changes quarterly, depending on, like, when projects end and when new ones start..
[00:06:51] Beth Altringer Eagle: Cool. So, I mean, as you know, I'm based at Brown University and the Rhode Island, Rhode Island School of Design, RISD. And I lead our first joint master's degree. It's a Master of Arts in Design Engineering. But you, of course, graduated from RISD. Then, maybe tell us a little bit about your career path.
[00:07:14] How did you decide what to do after graduating from RISD in Graphic Design, right? That's your field.
[00:07:20] Jamar Bromley: Yes. And then, how did you decide to move to where you are now, from there?
[00:07:28] Ooh. Okay. I'm trying to remember. 'Cause that was, it wasn't too far ago. It was far enough. I think, so this is also, like, a question of, like, design pedagogy too. So, the way RISD is structured, compared to other art schools, it's a very theoretical school. So, even though you do get like the vocational training of graphic design, and I'm speaking purely for graphic design,
[00:07:53] Jamar Bromley: like you, you understand, like, how to create books, how to make posters, how to set type and all of that,
[00:07:58] as well as the theoretical part of, like, understanding art and its critique society and the medium and things like that. And so, for, I was in the graduate program, so graduate program is much more theory-heavy whereas undergraduate, I feel and at the time it was more focused on making and specifically like app design and things like that.
[00:08:22] Jamar Bromley: So, a lot of the undergrad class just naturally transitioned into going to San Francisco for major tech companies like Google, Facebook, Apple, whereas the graduate class would either kind of spin into academia or more museum curatorial work, just by the nature of the type of work that we did. And I started RISD straight out of undergrad, so I didn't really have that understanding of the workspace. I didn't, I never had a job at that time in design, necessarily, so I didn't know the industry. So, I was really interested in jumping into tech. I thought it was, like, a fun space to kind of play and work with. So, in my time at RISD, I did an internship in San Francisco at Lit Motors, which was an automotive startup.
[00:09:20] And there were like, actually a bunch of other RISD people there too, which was kind of cool. And so, we were making like cargo scooters, self-balancing vehicles. And I worked on the interfaces for those, and as well as the branding. And I was like, "Oh, this is so much fun." Like, being able to work on, like the product design for...
[00:09:41] Beth Altringer Eagle: Yeah.
[00:09:42] Jamar Bromley: ...something that someone will actually use. I thought it was really fascinating. And funny thing is, like, in high school, I didn't know that was a career. I didn't know you could be...
[00:09:52]...anything other than, like, a lawyer, doctor or scientist, writer. Like that, in my mind, like, that was it. So, entering that space and seeing the possibilities of art and technology, I was like, "Oh, this is so much like, this is so fascinating.
[00:10:08] It's really fun." So, that was, like, my first engagement with the tech community. And then, at graduation, I got in touch with Jeffrey Schnapp, as you know, and heard of Piaggio Fast Forward as like an innovation startup. And I was like, "Oh, okay, let's try that." And I didn't
[00:10:27] Beth Altringer Eagle: Yeah.
[00:10:28] Jamar Bromley: have any, and this might be a privilege of mine,
[00:10:30] I was just like, "There's no, I mean, there might be a risk, but I don't really sense it." Or I was like, "I don't care.
[00:10:37] Beth Altringer Eagle: Yeah, yeah,
[00:10:38] Jamar Bromley: Let's just do it. Let's just find out what it is. And if we don't like it, we move on. But, I
[00:10:44] Beth Altringer Eagle: Yeah.
[00:10:44] Jamar Bromley: might as well try it."
[00:10:45] Beth Altringer Eagle: Might as well try it, yeah.
[00:10:47] Jamar Bromley: Might as well try it. So, I thought, yeah, working at PFF was very formative for me.
[00:10:53] Just being able to develop my own skills that I really hadn't. I mean, I worked on it in grad school, but I didn't really have the time to, like, really put it into my craft. So, the four years I spent at PFF was very formative and just like honing and training myself and also being able to explore
[00:11:14] Jamar Bromley: just understand what it is to work on a team or in a company. And then, from there, got recruited for Samsung. Also, the, the head at that time, or my boss at that time, she was also a RISD grad.
[00:11:30] Beth Altringer Eagle: Oh, cool.
[00:11:31] Jamar Bromley: I think, I forget exactly which, she might've been in industrial design. So, yeah, she told me about the whole thing. I was like, "Yeah. Let's do it. Let's try it again."
[00:11:39] So, once again, just jumping into a space that I'm not necessarily familiar with, but it's just interesting to explore.
[00:11:48] Beth Altringer Eagle: With Lit Motors, it was kind of, like, taking a leap from a sort of a traditional degree within design and graphic design into tech. Right? And then, from Lit Motors, the next leap is, like, still in products, still in kind of automotive adjacent. But you kind of become, you're kind of, like, the in-house designer and I know, yeah, of course, we had some other designers, like, you, you were sort of doing a lot of a very different design, different areas of design within the company.
[00:12:30] And so, when you say, you know, let you kind of branch out, I just want to highlight that, that, like, it's different than being on a team of lots of designers who are all kind of sharing that and, but, being kind of the go-to and graphic and motion and video designer within a very design-heavy company, it's like, kind of bleed into all sorts of different areas, and that's kind of exciting.
[00:12:58] And then, going from there to, the next, is it kind of like design meets strategy? I mean, how would you describe the leap from there to where you are now?
[00:13:13] Jamar Bromley: Yeah. The work at Samsung is, it's more conceptual, but it's branching, or it's bridging both design strategies
[00:13:21] Beth Altringer Eagle: Yeah.
[00:13:22] Jamar Bromley: and actual, like, product design 'cause we're forecasting more of where current products can go for Samsung. And so,
[00:13:32] even though we can come up with really cool tech demos and things like that, we have to have some reasoning behind why
[00:13:39] Beth Altringer Eagle: Yeah.
[00:13:39] Jamar Bromley: is that we want to create this thing and
[00:13:42] Beth Altringer Eagle: Yeah.
[00:13:43] Jamar Bromley: why that makes sense for them.
[00:13:44] That's the hard part because it's always
[00:13:45] Beth Altringer Eagle: Yeah.
[00:13:46] Jamar Bromley: easy to come up with fun, innovative, like, creative ideas
[00:13:50] that are just, like, purely for joy and amusement.
[00:13:53] But, not all stakeholders will see the value in that. So, knowing what to cut and what to foster is kind of the secret ingredient or the secret skill to kind of perfect. It's also important to take risks, too. So, with my work, I try to be very like left field, very, not necessarily random or unexpected, but try to do something that, you know, a lot of the designers at HQ wouldn't necessarily do themselves.
[00:14:32] Jamar Bromley: So, taking that risk to show like, "Oh, at, like, how this could be," is also really important, so.
[00:14:40] Beth Altringer Eagle: Nice. So, like the, know, when you say knowing what to cut, it's so important, it's kind of like the, you know, Dieter Rams, as little design as possible, you know, principle and that takes a lot of work to simplify something down to be so elegant, to be just the, just the smallest amount needed. But then, that that must be balanced with thinking kind of bigger than everyone else sort of purposefully because you have the bandwidth to start there and then the, the idea is going to narrow it down over time.
[00:15:14] So, you have to start really big in order to end up somewhere interesting after of those cuts and changes are made. So, I wonder, you would describe the difference between good and great design?
[00:15:28] Great design, for me, is something, erm, I'm going to rewind real quick. Sometimes I think the most useful in terms of, like, the utility also, ease of use doesn't necessarily equate to great design, for me. Like, something that's complicated kind of cumbersome can also be really great, in its own mysterious ways.
[00:15:54] Jamar Bromley: So, good design is something that is, like, everyday use. It's kind of there, you don't really notice it, but when you do, and you're like, "Oh, yeah, that's a really good, good design."
[00:16:05] Whereas great design. It's just invisible. It's kind of this a daily thing whereas great is like, there's some weird nostalgic or emotional attachment to the thing that we can't really quantify or like really explain why it just hits a different way that I don't know, like, it, maybe it's a time in our life where it was like, "This really helped me, or this reminds me of X."
[00:16:32] So, that to me is what is great design, and it's always, it can be something really, like, inconsequential, just like really minor. It's just like, "Oh, this is a wonderful object."
[00:16:45] Beth Altringer Eagle: So, what are
[00:16:46] Beth Altringer Eagle: some of your favorite examples that embody, you know, great design?
[00:16:51] So, I look, for me, like, in terms of, oh, yeah, we have the question of like magical or a gray, I love, love, love musical instruments. I think a lot of creative interfacing with the human body happens in musical instruments. And not just, like, traditional, like string or pianos or drums, I think those are also great designs that are so common or ubiquitous now that we don't realize how amazing they are. But in terms of, like, synthesizers and new types of interfacing, I can't remember the name, but there's like this one mini controller that is ring, so you could use hand gesture to create sound, which I think is really magical just to be able to, and it kind of stems from like the theremin, which is all about changing the electromagnetic are exactly how it works, but, like, when you put your hand near it changes the sound, and the theremin is different depending on, um, proximity to it.
[00:17:52] Jamar Bromley: So, it's moments like that, where technology and art me to like really push expression, which I think is the most delightful thing. I also have, I have some props too. So, one of my favorite, one of my favorite, favorite devices is
[00:18:14] doohickey. It is a
[00:18:15] Beth Altringer Eagle: Okay. Yeah.
[00:18:17] Jamar Bromley: handheld, portable device, and it kind of died, sadly.
[00:18:23] Beth Altringer Eagle: Hm.
[00:18:24] Jamar Bromley: I guess it might've been like wrong place, wrong time. The way it was marketed might've been wrong. But one of the things that was really innovative with this thing is like, this back panel is a touch screen. It's not really noticeable.
[00:18:36] Beth Altringer Eagle: Oh, cool. Interesting
[00:18:39] Jamar Bromley: So, you can, like, tap it and things like that.
[00:18:42] And there were some games that required you
[00:18:45] Jamar Bromley: to like,
[00:18:46] Beth Altringer Eagle: to do the back part and front part.
[00:18:48] Jamar Bromley: Yeah, were like
[00:18:49] Beth Altringer Eagle: That's wild. Yeah.
[00:18:51] Jamar Bromley: you had a character on a floor, and you had to, like, hit them up in the air, so you would, like, hit the back of the floor
[00:18:57] Beth Altringer Eagle: Yeah.
[00:18:58] Jamar Bromley: and
[00:18:58] Beth Altringer Eagle: That is so cool.
[00:19:00] Jamar Bromley: it was really innovative and very
[00:19:01] Beth Altringer Eagle: Yeah.
[00:19:02] Jamar Bromley: few games, like, utilized it. But, it was just like this magical moment, which is like, "Oh, there's something happening in the back."
[00:19:07] And then, the next one, I also, I just love, I really love PlayStation stuff, but, like, control of the newest one, sense controller, just like, you wouldn't think there could be any more innovation in a controller. Um.
[00:19:21] Beth Altringer Eagle: It always can.
[00:19:23] Jamar Bromley: There always can be. Somehow you figure
[00:19:24] Beth Altringer Eagle: Yeah.
[00:19:24] Jamar Bromley: it out. And this, mainly it's really inspiring for me,
[00:19:27] just working in, like, AR, VR stuff and figuring out how haptic and tactility can be further, like, pushed, in terms of just creating a more immersive environment. And this particular controller has, like, a new generation of haptic feedback really captures what's happening on screen. So, like, if your character is walking on, like, a metallic surface, it has, like, this, like, very acute, pinging sensation on the controller.
[00:19:57] Jamar Bromley: Whereas if you're driving over, like, gravel, it has, like, that feel of, like, rough texture. It's weird. 'Cause I was like, "Okay." Like, rumble, like we've had rumbles since Like, we knew how
[00:20:10] Beth Altringer Eagle: Yeah,
[00:20:11] Jamar Bromley: that feels like. So, to have something that was actually new or just like a new way of telling that story through tactility and vibration, I thought was like, "Wow, that's magical."
[00:20:24] Beth Altringer Eagle: I remember, like, there are a couple of things that, so your first example of the gestural control, I just saw this the other day, a guy was taking, we were on holiday for spring break, and this guy took a selfie with a gesture. I'm not sure what phone it was, but it's a different, as far as I know, I don't have that on mine, um, it was like, "Why has it taken so long?"
[00:20:54] It's so obvious that you would do that instead of the, like, complicated double button, you know? I was just like, such an elegant solution that he could just go like, bop on it. Yeah.
[00:21:09] Anyway, and then, I remember the first time I experienced that rumble, do you remember in malls, they used to have this, like, it was like a little, it was like a vehicle that you go into,
[00:21:22] Jamar Bromley: Yes.
[00:21:23] Beth Altringer Eagle: and you'd watch, like, a little mini-movie. Do you remember? Like you're strapped in, and you're like rumbling.
[00:21:29] Jamar Bromley: It was like rumbling.
[00:21:30] Beth Altringer Eagle: Yeah, it was like a tiny...
[00:21:31] Jamar Bromley: Like the original 40 experience.
[00:21:34] Beth Altringer Eagle: I was like, that was, I mean, in terms of magical, I was like, "What? I can feel this. I can feel the pictures, basically." That was cool.
[00:21:47] That was a long time ago. Fun. So, if we think of other examples, we can chat about those as they come up. So, we talked a little bit about design and engineering, how, like, to create these kinds of magical experiences often you really need the best of both skills to come together, you know, in that product category.
[00:22:10] So that it's a seamless, fully integrated experience. And so, I just wonder, you know, in general, how you see that kind of emergent, I don't know if field is the right thing to call it, but there's, like, a growing space between the disciplines where there's more interactivity, and there's more importance, perhaps, to get it right in a business.
[00:22:40] Definitely. And I think, like, when we were talking about this before, I just think, like, the power of Apple and branding and things like that, it's really noticeable in the rest of the industry, in terms of just like, you have to really present things in a way that makes it feel luxurious or special or just like the sensibility is there.
[00:23:05] And, I think, now, a lot of companies are seeing the benefit of design, and so probably their initial reaction is, "We just need to hire designers."
[00:23:14] Beth Altringer Eagle: Yeah. I don't think that's, I also, like that's not the solution, either. It's more, like, how do you integrate design in the core competency of the business where you think not only just aesthetically, but also, you know, empathetically for the people that are using those products, like, do you want them to feel on an emotional level and how do you make that a principle that is then distributed on every facet of creation
[00:23:46] Jamar Bromley: for whatever product that you're making. So, to me, companies that create divisions that are able to do that, I think, will be the most successful.
[00:23:56] Beth Altringer Eagle: Yeah.
[00:23:57] Jamar Bromley: But I do think any company that does hire designer wants to get more consultation.
[00:24:01] That's always a good thing, too.
[00:24:04] Beth Altringer Eagle: Yeah.
[00:24:05] Jamar Bromley: It's like, but, for, at least for Samsung, like Dhyan, who was our at the time, she knew the value of bringing these two, like engineering and design together, to create, like, kind of like a beacon or like a Lighthouse,
[00:24:19] the rest of the company. Because a lot of times it's, when we see the product on the shelf, we don't realize, like, how much labor and toil goes into these things.
[00:24:30] And for a lot of companies that are, I don't know, like, who can't necessarily expand their innovation or research division, specifically for design, they don't have the time or the bandwidth
[00:24:44] Jamar Bromley: to have personnel be dedicated to understanding how to critically think about what comes next. So, when we kind of, like, interface with HQ, like a lot of times they're strapped on pumping out what has to come out in, like, six months' time. So, they can't really, they don't have the time to really think enough for future product. So, that's kind of, like, where we step in to help out, any type of, like, assistance that we could do to be like, "Hey, this is like, we, we noticed these trends, these signals that are happening of user behavior
[00:25:19] and we're applying it to your devices." Like, "This is how we think we could help in creating that new trajectory for product design." So, companies that can figure that out and hire the right people,
[00:25:32] Jamar Bromley: I think will be really successful. But, I think that's kind of where the industry is going. And I know every company has a different method of doing this.
[00:25:41] If you are a designer, I think your skillset can be applied, especially if you think critically about, just people in general, that's really all it is. Just, like, how you think about people. You can be a very, like, a really good asset for these companies in terms of how you think about this space.
[00:26:01] Beth Altringer Eagle: Yeah. I was just thinking like, when, one of the things you were saying, is, it, a, yes, seems like every company does this a little differently even within a company, it changes over time. But, one thing that is interesting that I've heard elsewhere, as well, is like, uh, you almost divide by time.
[00:26:24] So, you have some people who are at that intersection, you know, within the six months to launch horizon. And then, you have some people, like, embedded in the teams, you know, where design and engineering are particularly connected. And then, you also have this, like, kind of far out, sort of five-plus year horizon team.
[00:26:49] And that they're then, you know, kind of sharing information on key points that can influence one another's trajectory. One of the things that I've seen, though, in that pattern that's a little challenging, is like a lot of people don't really like to inherit ideas that came from other parts of an organization.
[00:27:12] And so, it can be a little challenging to say, 'Here's what we think that you should be doing, you know, six months from now." Like, are your thoughts on the best way for that to work versus get kind of sidelined?
[00:27:30] Jamar Bromley: That might be more of a cultural thing. I think maybe, that's just my speculation, like, that might be a more American idea, but, at least in Samsung, they're very, like, hungry for what we can offer, like what our thoughts are. So, it's very nice. I think, "Oh, I feel appreciated."
[00:27:53] Beth Altringer Eagle: Yeah, but,
[00:27:54] Jamar Bromley: Uh.
[00:27:55] Beth Altringer Eagle: I mean, you've, you've experienced some other companies, so do you kind of know what I'm talking about? There's, sometimes there's a reluctance.
[00:28:03] Yeah. Because they already, in their mind, they've already decided what they want to do.
[00:28:08] Jamar Bromley: So it's like,
[00:28:10] Beth Altringer Eagle: Kind of changing course for them.
[00:28:12] Jamar Bromley: Yeah. It's like, "Oh, here's an opposite idea." And I just think...
[00:28:17] Beth Altringer Eagle: Yeah.
[00:28:19] Jamar Bromley: Honestly, like, not to be political at all, but I do think it's like a, that might just be, like, an archetype, like a very male dominant archetype that's like, "We're going to do this. This is the game plan. This is how we're going to tackle it." And not, necessarily, thinking about the broader implications of what this design means, or just like, you know, "What are we even making?"
[00:28:45] Beth Altringer Eagle: Yeah.
[00:28:45] Jamar Bromley: It's always a good question to ask, it's just, "What about it?" is important and valuable.
[00:28:49] Beth Altringer Eagle: Yeah, I think it really depends and what Samsung, it's such a big company, like, thousands and thousands of teams. I don't, I've only interfaced with 20 or so people from HQ, and that's just like,
[00:29:05] Jamar Bromley: like a tiny subset. So, with companies this big, like, there's so many people pulling in different directions, that you do need some direction from like, whatever space you're in, you do need some type of guidance.
[00:29:22] So, I think that's kind of why they look to our team for help in innovation, specifically for mobile. So, hopefully, that answers your question. But, I think it's a scale, a scale in the culture
[00:29:34] Beth Altringer Eagle: Yeah, yeah, yeah,
[00:29:36] Jamar Bromley: that really dictates, like, whose opinions get heard or whose opinions are valued and things like that.
[00:29:44] Beth Altringer Eagle: Yeah. And what kind of, you know, evidence needs to back them up. So, is there, I guess, like, I have a couple of questions, so maybe one, one at a time. So, is there a particular product that you think is a great example of, like, a design or feature coming together that represents that kind of magical potential when that's done really, really well?
[00:30:07] This could be at Samsung, or it could be elsewhere if you want.
[00:30:12] Jamar Bromley: Oh, yeah, because that's like, everything's secret that I work on.
[00:30:19] Yeah, it is okay. You can skip the question, too, if something doesn't come to mind. I think so for PFF, at least,
[00:30:27] since the product is out in the open. I thought the most joyful thing for me in that experience was, like, when we brought Gita the robot out in the public and let people play with the robot and, like, see how it moves and follows them, there was a lot of, like, facial reactions, immediate reactions that you could just see.
[00:30:51] And I thought, ooh, that's like, that's a wonderful moment to capture and to feel like, "Oh, I made, like, I was a part of this product." Or like, "I had a hand in creating some design for this, and people are reacting to it very positively." Like, that felt really good. And so, I think that that merge, and engineering where it's like design wants one thing, engineering says we have to do it one way and meeting, like, the middle ground of compromise and also acceptance.
[00:31:21] Jamar Bromley: But, eventually to a, either an interface or a product that makes people happy, is kind of, like, the thing I strive for at least seek
[00:31:32] Beth Altringer Eagle: Yeah.
[00:31:33] Jamar Bromley: in the work that I do. I hope I answered your question.
[00:31:37] Beth Altringer Eagle: Yeah, no. Like, I, I remember, you know, I remember those, um, those moments too, you know, those kind of early moments when we took Gita out, for the first time in public and it was like wonder. I mean, people would be like, it was like magic, you know? And then, later, they're kind of figuring out, "Well, how would this fit into my life?" And but, the initial reaction was like, "Wow," like, "What is that thing?" You know? And that was really cool, especially for kids. Right? 'Cause, it was just, be like, "What?"
[00:32:17] Jamar Bromley: Yeah, it was. 'Cause it's, it's like, what do you expect to find at Disneyland, but now you're just seeing it on the street, like, randomly, when you're not expecting it.
[00:32:30] Beth Altringer Eagle: Yeah. And there aren't a lot of, you know, the team took a lot of risks with that design, you know, there aren't a lot of teams that are willing to do that, right? To go that, that far out make, from the form factor of it's a spiritual rolling robot. It's, like, both a wheel and, and like a carrier.
[00:32:54] Right? And then, the insistence on being a one-touch operation of, like, the simplest possible interaction for the user. Like, those were actually pretty bold design decisions that, I don't know, I guess it's an open question. Like, can you get that sense of wonder without being a little out there?
[00:33:21] Jamar Bromley: Yeah, you do need the spectacle,
[00:33:24] Beth Altringer Eagle: Yeah. There's a spectacle
[00:33:25] Jamar Bromley: for it to be truly magical. But, I think it can happen in, sometimes, the most banal ways, too. Like,
[00:33:33] Jamar Bromley: the mouse, the mouse being a magical object when it first appeared.
[00:33:37] Beth Altringer Eagle: Yeah.
[00:33:38] Jamar Bromley: And like, I
[00:33:40] don't know, like, I feel that, like, design link, it really depends on how it's presented and narrative that you want to craft with it.
[00:33:53] I'm thinking of, like, some of like the, the Japanese industrial designs, like that one, I forget the designer's name, but it's like a, it's a CD player that's wall-mounted the thought of like, "Okay, having a CD player wall-mounted and being able to see the disc spin and
[00:34:11] Beth Altringer Eagle: Yeah.
[00:34:12] Jamar Bromley: of, the new type of art that it creates and visual that it creates
[00:34:16] Beth Altringer Eagle: Yeah.
[00:34:16] Jamar Bromley: from the graphic spinning is like, "That's magical."
[00:34:19] Jamar Bromley: Like, "That's a really nice design."
[00:34:21] Beth Altringer Eagle: Yeah. And taking something that everybody else is hiding and celebrating it. It's cool. Yeah.
[00:34:30] Yeah. So, I wonder, as we talk about, you know, the types of ways that you work internally, as well as some of the types of products that you really, you know, appreciate the seamless integration of design and engineering,
[00:34:47] I wonder, like, if you could wave a magic wand and, and influence the way that the next generation is educated, particularly at that intersection of design and sharing, what would be kind of your wish list of what these students would be graduating with?
[00:35:06] Jamar Bromley: Definitely a sense of self through play. In terms of just, like, seeing, like, other students and some of the students that I've taught, I feel like the most successful ones are the ones who aren't concerned with what their teachers think, like, of their work or how their teachers will kind of view their work. And the ones who are willing to question, you know, the assignment or like "What it is that we're even doing?" That, to me, is the most important, no, I guess not, necessarily, skillset, but just being
[00:35:47] Beth Altringer Eagle: Yeah.
[00:35:48] Jamar Bromley: a decent human being,
[00:35:49] Beth Altringer Eagle: Yeah.
[00:35:50] Jamar Bromley: like being able to understand and not just take what's given to you and just be fine with it, being like, "Oh, I really want to understand, like, why is this way?"
[00:36:00] But also, being playful about it, like, being not too serious. 'Cause, I think, sometimes when we are too serious, then it, it kind of, like, drains the energy of what it is that we're making. And so, we don't, we miss out on this opportunity to really create, either social engagement or just social play that I find, at least for me, is the most exciting part about designing.
[00:36:27] Beth Altringer Eagle: I mean, I think, another thing that happens when people are too serious about their work. 'Cause I, I get, I advise a lot of different people, it makes it a lot harder for people to give you feedback. Like, honest feedback, if you are very obviously, very serious about, like it's, you know what I mean?
[00:36:47] 'Cause then it's, it's like, it's going to hurt you somehow, where if you're being playful, you're also flexible, right, about how, although that'd be a little bit funny to see, child super serious about just. No.
[00:37:05] Jamar Bromley: That defeats the purpose.
[00:37:07] Beth Altringer Eagle: But, yeah, generally, playfulness involves like imagination and some flexibility. And so, yeah, I think there's another benefit in that you'll get more frequent and more honest feedback from people
[00:37:20] if you can be playful about your ideas. There's, and then, the second thing I heard you say was about, you know, students who have, don't take for granted kind of what they're taught and, and that's not exactly it, it's more like, I think you said it in the sense of who challenged their teachers.
[00:37:48] But then, at a different point, you said, it's the students who ask why you're doing something. And I, I hear those as kind of two different ideas, right? One is, you can be challenging without being genuinely curious. Right? Challenging for the sake of it. And I don't
[00:38:09] Jamar Bromley: For the sake of
[00:38:10] Beth Altringer Eagle: know if that's valuable, but if it's, asking in order to understand why you would do it this way and also understand the boundaries of where you might not do it that way, is that which?
[00:38:29] Jamar Bromley: It's more the latter, it's more the latter because, I think, for anything, there's multiple ways to do it. So, not being restricted, be like, "Okay. There's a prior idea, like, of all these people who are doing it a certain way, that seems to work. Like, should I also do it that way?" And it's like, "No, figure it out why it worked for them and then, how does it work for you." And that, this is more, like, from when we think about, like, style and self-expression, like, how we treat graphical imagery and things like that. Like, it's easy to fall into trends or want to mimic or be trendy, essentially, in our design. So, it's like understanding like, "Okay, why is that trendy?"
[00:39:13] Or like, is this behavior occurring and what, what is my opinion about it, essentially?" It's like, "I want to hear what people have to say about it as opposed to just a regurgitation."
[00:39:23] of what you're taught or what you've.
[00:39:26] Beth Altringer Eagle: Sorry.
[00:39:27] Jamar Bromley: Oh, no, go ahead. Go ahead.
[00:39:28] Beth Altringer Eagle: Sounds like you're having your own point of view, right? And as a designer and being able to other people's point of view and kind of differentiate yours from theirs, is that?
[00:39:41] Jamar Bromley: It's like, what makes you you, like what are you interested in.
[00:39:45] That's, I think, one of the most important things to learn at a young age. 'Cause it's like, and I think the younger generation now is much more sensitive to that
[00:39:56] of being, expressing who they are. So, I think it's in the right direction, and I kinda just wanna see more of that, but I'm always curious of like the students who, who are, like, more reserved or more cautious with how they want to express themselves.
[00:40:11] I'm just like, "Ooh, what, like, what's going on here? I'm curious." Like,
[00:40:14] Beth Altringer Eagle: Yeah.
[00:40:15] Jamar Bromley: "What is this?"
[00:40:15] Beth Altringer Eagle: Yeah, it is. It's kind of common designers to be sort of shy and sometimes really thoughtful, but not very vocal. And were just having a conversation in the program about this, where there's some students who in a, in a journal form really, really thoughtful, you know, probably in some ways, the most talented in terms of, you know, there's the making stuff that you can see, but then, also, it's the quality of thought and reflection that they bring to their work or where they're exceptionally talented, but they say very little, you know, that's like, well, you can, it exists here.
[00:41:00] And it's really important how do you bring that out. Or maybe that's not even the right question, right?
[00:41:07] Jamar Bromley: It’s okay.
[00:41:09] Beth Altringer Eagle: And, and, and organizationally develop the ability to learn from that, from their favorite reflection.
[00:41:20] Jamar Bromley: That, to me, that's the system's fault, not the student's.
[00:41:22] Beth Altringer Eagle: Not really common. Yeah. Yeah.
[00:41:26] There's a lot of work to do, I think. And de-stigmatizing being quiet. Let's see, so I think we could probably move to takeaways if you feel, feel good about that. And I'll ask you a couple of different takeaway questions. So, one is any advice that you have people who are on the job market, looking for design and engineering, integration roles.
[00:41:54] And the other is your advice for who are hoping to get better at design and engineering integration for their business.
[00:42:06] For the first one, ooh.
[00:42:09] Jamar Bromley: I think sometimes when we compare ourselves to others around us, we think that's like, "Oh, I have to get, like, that amazing job first. I have to get, like, that superstar status."
[00:42:22] Um, like, "I want a big paycheck." Like, "I want people to know that I'm doing well."
[00:42:27] Um, and I think if you are able to land that, kudos to you. But, for those who don't get that opportunity, I, it's still not the end of the world, but it might just be a slightly different, maybe tougher road where you have to, just have to start smaller.
[00:42:46] Like, you might have to start either in a startup or just, maybe it might be a company that's not really doing the most innovative or exciting work, but at least get, gives you a place to kind of, like, think about, like, what type of work you want to do. It might give you the time to do side projects and things like that,
[00:43:07] to then, hopefully, elevate. At the same time, it is who you know.
[00:43:12] Jamar Bromley: Like, talented as you are, at the end of the day it's who you know.
[00:43:17] Beth Altringer Eagle: Yeah.
[00:43:18] Jamar Bromley: So getting in touch with the right, it's not necessarily being like a social life or anything, but just, like, especially with social media, like, it might be tagging work with someone can, some, maybe it goes to another person that sees it.
[00:43:32] Jamar Bromley: There's a lot of, like, moments of serendipity that can happen with social media that I think if you have a strong internet presence, that's probably, in this age, the best way to really have a complete agency over your career.
[00:43:50] Beth Altringer Eagle: That's a great tip.
[00:43:52] Jamar Bromley: So, I wouldn't say it's necessarily being an influencer or being mega-popular online. Like, if you can also achieve that, like, "By all means." And you like doing
[00:44:01] that, like, "Please do that." Like, "That's, that's amazing." But, it's more like having a strong online presence. So, if anyone needs to find you, they can easily find your work, they can easily see what you've been up to, things like that,
[00:44:15] in order to, you know, progress where you want to go. And then, the other thing is, there are a lot of grants. Like, there's oddly enough a lot of money that is given out whether it's at a startup incubator or, like, privately funded vendors and things like that. Like, there's money out there for people.
[00:44:35] Jamar Bromley: It's just a matter of, like, "Are you willing to create the business plan? Are you willing to maybe not eat well for a year or so?" Like, there's gives and takes, and there's hardships, and then there's rewards. So, especially in America, it can be quite competitive. It can be quite, like, rough out here. Um, but, at the same time, if you're also willing to travel, like, there's always things overseas, especially in Europe where, like residency programs and things like that, where you could be, you know, well-fed and be able to do the work that you want to do.
[00:45:09] So, it really depends on your personality and what you're able to put up with and what you're willing to sacrifice to, hopefully, have something later on. But.
[00:45:21] Beth Altringer Eagle: Yeah, I think those are, that's really good advice. I mean, you, it's this little side thing that I love. I think I follow your poster on Instagram.
[00:45:33] Jamar Bromley: Oh, yeah.
[00:45:35] Beth Altringer Eagle: So, I love, I love that you have, you know, there's, there's like Jamar's regular work that lives over here and that there's Jamar's like, don't know if it's daily, but it's like, it's maybe, you know, it's like pretty frequent or at least they, don't know if it still is, but,
[00:45:54] like, a new post or just for stretching yourself and showing that side of yourself. And I think you used to keep them separate, but now they point to each other or something.
[00:46:05] Jamar Bromley: Yeah.
[00:46:06] Well, weirdly enough, a lot of my job now is to be very playful,
[00:46:11] Beth Altringer Eagle: Yeah.
[00:46:12] Jamar Bromley: like to be very expressive. So, I feel like I used, like, I used to not be that way, like, kept it very separate, but then,
[00:46:20] then I got to the point where I'm like, "But, why? Like,
[00:46:23] Beth Altringer Eagle: Why? I know, I know.
[00:46:27] Jamar Bromley: Like, it doesn't, it really doesn't matter.
[00:46:30] Beth Altringer Eagle: It doesn't matter. It doesn't matter, in fact, it's quite beautiful, you know?
[00:46:33] Jamar Bromley: Yeah.
[00:46:34] Beth Altringer Eagle: Yeah, I think I also had to keep it separate mainly because I want to keep the page clean and it's
[00:46:41] Jamar Bromley: just like art. Like, that's all that's
[00:46:43] Beth Altringer Eagle: Yeah.
[00:46:43] Jamar Bromley: here. It's not, like, what I'm eating. It's not what I bought. It's none of that. It's just
[00:46:48] Beth Altringer Eagle: Yeah.
[00:46:48] Jamar Bromley: art. But I think the more we can bring ourselves into our work or maybe like, I think, this is another question of, like, digital personality versus real personality.
[00:46:59] Like, for some people, these are very different. The digital might be more freeing. It might be more expressive. Like be more you,
[00:47:09] Beth Altringer Eagle: Yeah.
[00:47:10] Jamar Bromley: your real-life personality might be very,
[00:47:13] Beth Altringer Eagle: Super button. No.
[00:47:14] Jamar Bromley: in terms of the environment that you're like
[00:47:15] Beth Altringer Eagle: Yeah, Yeah.
[00:47:17] Jamar Bromley: that you're in, you can't really, you have to close that off.
[00:47:19] So, I think for any job situation, like, if you can find an environment that welcomes you are, it doesn't stigmatize that or, at least, it doesn't shun that, like, that's a healthy place to be.
[00:47:32] Jamar Bromley: And if you can be your authentic self and be comfortable there, then I think that's a good place for whenever time, amount of time that you're there to
[00:47:40] Beth Altringer Eagle: Yeah.
[00:47:40] Jamar Bromley: work.
[00:47:41] For the second question, in terms of, you have to kind of repeat it for me, 'cause you were saying?
[00:47:46] Beth Altringer Eagle: So, this was advice for leaders who, you know, they recognize that maybe their project or their product is, it's good, but it's not great. Right? Like, and, and it, and it's either, you know, very utility-focused, functional, engineering-focused or maybe over-correcting on the aesthetic side, but maybe lacking that full integration.
[00:48:11] Any advice that you would have for improving that in their company?
[00:48:17] Jamar Bromley: In any case, I think diversity in skillset and in people will really do wonders for it. But, the caveat is that you can't just grab random people. You really can't, like, just, like, having a quota or whatever is not going to cut it.
[00:48:38] Beth Altringer Eagle: Yeah.
[00:48:39] Jamar Bromley: So it's really understanding, like, "Does this person vibe with what it is that you're trying to make?
[00:48:45] Is their attitude, like, appropriate for the project? Is their ego appropriate for the project?" Like, can you be transparent with them?" I think, like, settling that with each person and how you recruit people is really important. 'Cause, I think, a lot
[00:49:03] Jamar Bromley: of times, we just want to be like, "I need to get, like, the best talent for this project."
[00:49:07] And, usually, it actually might not suited, in terms of just efficiency and getting something out the door, it really might not work.
[00:49:16] Beth Altringer Eagle: Yeah.
[00:49:17] Jamar Bromley: So it's not really looking at a resume per se, it is important, but, like, of the times in an interview, if you ask the right questions and you get to understand that person well, I think by the end of it, you could have some type of trust them. you can figure out like, "Okay, this might, I think this person could be a really good addition to this project." So, for me, I think it's the interview process. Like, as a recruiter or as, like, a leader in this project, are you even familiar with the project and where, how it scopes and where it can go,
[00:49:51] Jamar Bromley: and the type of questions or the type of talent that you need to even achieve that?
[00:49:55] And sometimes you might have the right people already on your team, you just need better supporters or people who can really bring out the potential in people that are already on your team.
[00:50:06] Beth Altringer Eagle: Yeah.
[00:50:07] Jamar Bromley: So it's kind of like dating. It's like you have to really get to know this person, in, like, that 30 minutes or an hour that you have.
[00:50:16] And I also think, like, taking a risk is better. Like, getting someone that you're not necessarily, like, it doesn't really fit type of persona, that type of person that you normally would look for this position. Like, just take a risk and see how it works." But, I think, yeah,
[00:50:36] Jamar Bromley: figuring out the questionnaire, "How does this person like to work with other people?
[00:50:40] How do they like to take direction? Are they the type of person to initiate? Are they the type of person who waits for an idea to come and then react to it?" So, yeah. Yeah, I think it's an interview process question.
[00:50:56] Beth Altringer Eagle: Yeah. And maybe some organizational processes.
[00:51:01] Jamar Bromley: Yes.
[00:51:03] Beth Altringer Eagle: Well, Jamar, thank you so much for joining me, this has been a great conversation.