Interview: Janus Yuan, Founder at Driver Focused HMI, Illinois

Janus Yuan is a passionate designer who feels that design have more depth into human behavior and user experience. He holds a Master of Fine Arts in Industrial Design from the U.S. and a Bachelor of Engineering from China, the degrees have helped him in gaining a multicultural approach towards design.

His specialties include, user experience (UX), human computer interaction (HCI), human machine interface (HMI), information architecture, data visualization, car infotainment system, augmented reality and product design. Experiences in these fields have given him a unique perspective on front and back-end product development. Currently, he is looking forward to design Human-Machine Interface for car manufacturers to help driver gain effective information while keeping their hand on the wheel, eyes on the road. Read on to learn more about his journey and vision,


TechieTonics: How did your career in designing begin? Where did you grow up and how far is the environment responsible for shaping up of your profession.

Janus Yuan: I am a car enthusiast, I have collected car models for more than ten years. Even got a cabinet in my room to show all models I have. After graduated from high school, I selected Industrial Design (ID) as major without any hesitation. Really, I wanted to be a car exterior designer at that time. However, after four years of studying basic skills of ID (sketch, rendering, modeling, etc.), I realized that design have more depth into human behavior and user experience. That’s why I changed direction to User Experience (UX) design.

It’s hard to say how environment impacted my design philosophy and direction specifically. It is an integrative factor, which combine all knowledge and experience from others. For example, when I was studying in University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, I got lots of chance to take Human-Machine Interaction (HCI) classes and collaborate with programmers to design interface for different mobile platform (smartphone and tablet). I learnt a lot form others and realized how fascinating it is to combine my hardware design background (technically from previous ID degree) with software design implementation. However, there is nobody especially that showed me the possibility of design user interface for car infotainment system. But as I said, all those experience and knowledge played an incredible critical role in driving me into in-vehicle HMI design.


TechieTonics: MORI Folding Bike is indeed an interesting concept especially for urban dwellers like myself. When do we expect it to be hitting the shelves or what accordingly to you would be the huddles for reaching it to the production stage?

Janus Yuan: Yeah, actually many companies have contacted me to discuss production possibility for this urban folding bike concept. Also there are some filmmakers who have expressed interest in using the Moriin the film’s settings where we’ll see people going about their daily lives at work and at play in this futuristic environment. The filmmakers feel that the bike would be a perfect fit for this setting. The intention is simply to show someone riding the bike in the film.

There is no specific plan right now for production because of certain problems arising from mechanical engineering and business side. But with the development of technology especially the increasing maturity of 3D printing tech, I will definitely keep exploring the possible way for mass production.


TechieTonics: From where do you get your inspiration to spill out your creative genius? What is for you the best way to stay energized?

Janus Yuan: I heavily depend on social media to get newsfeed. Usually check several different websites for technology and design updates every day. Also follow different talented designers’ work online to trace the design pattern. I learn a lot not only from UX/UI field, but also from architecture, photography, and other creative media.

I strongly suggest refreshing yourself by sports activities. You know our designers are heavy brain-workers, which means, they spend most of their time in front of monitors or screens. So it becomes important for them to go for moderate amount of physical exercise that would definitely help in refreshing mind and energizing body.


TechieTonics: Do you agree with the notion, design will be the key feature in the next wave of sustainability?

Janus Yuan: I partially agree with that. It is really depends on how you define “design” in sustainability movements. In this case, design should have a wider boundary rather than simply understand it as ID or aesthetic styling. What I want to say is: design thinking and design method are important for sustainability movements, it is not necessary to limited it within designers’ responsibility. Everyone involve in sustainability could use this skill set to modify ordinary activities.


TechieTonics: How far I am correct in saying research and innovation are two sides of the same coin in designing. Do you believe both can be infused in every aspect of the design process?

Janus Yuan: It is suitable metaphor for relationship between research and innovation. For designers, research helps in acquiring a more profound understanding of the current market and product. Innovation is design deliverable, which provides new experience to target user. These two things combine closely and push design forward to better solution for current problem. I realize that, especially on UX/UI area, this design process is not linear── to the contrary, it always need to do lots of iteration and rework for design. For example, when designing UI for mobile device, designer always keep modifying concept based on feedback and suggestion from users. It is hard to distinguish which part is more important in design process, as a matter of fact, a good design should have a deep integration for both parts.


TechieTonics: From your perspective, what do you think the 3D technology will be in the next 5 years time?

Janus Yuan: I am a big fan into Augmented Reality (AR). To be honest, I think AR will be the ultimate solution for displaying and interaction. The one of the best illustration of this tech is car heads-up display. By projecting images and text on the windshield, driver do not need to check dashboard or screen on the console. It is the most intuitive information output for some tough scenario like driving. Also other IT giants are jumping into this area, Google Glass is one of the pioneering customer device which will totally change the ordinary way of interacting with mobile devices.

3D printing is another promising technology, which may blow up within next five years. As a designer, I realize how it changes the way we do prototype and more than that, customization. It will help designer to test the initial concept in an effective and cheap way.


TechieTonics: What are your future plans with respect to your designs? And presently, what are the interesting things that have hooked your attention?

Janus Yuan: I have decided to jump into automotive industry as an UX/HMI designer. I will design Human-Machine Interface for car manufacturers to help driver gain effective information while keeping their hand on the wheel, eyes on the road. As I said, it is a fantastic opportunity for me, which combine my personal interest in car with education background of UX and ID.


TechieTonics: What’s the most valuable lesson you’re learned during your career in designing?

Janus Yuan: Always keep your mind open. Interacting with people and watching new breakthroughs in other areas always inspire and motivate me to bring something new in my work.

TechieTonics: Before wrapping up would you like to share something with our readers?

Janus Yuan: As a new grad of UX/UI design, I really have lots of things need to learn. I’m open for any conversation who interested in HMI or car infotainment design.


Now time for some light stuff:

TechieTonics: What book did you last read? 

Janus Yuan: The Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures 

TechieTonics: One usability tool you could not live without? 

Janus Yuan: Of course Adobe Creative Suite

TechieTonics: Interfaces that improved human life? 

Janus Yuan: Apple IOS 

TechieTonics: Future technologies are you excited about? 

Janus Yuan: Everything about Augmented Reality 

TechieTonics: If given a chance, what would you like to change in the world?

Janus Yuan: Peace?


Janus, thank you so much. It’s been an absolute pleasure to talk to you today. Please know that you are welcome back any time and we look forward to visiting with you again and seeing much more of your work in the future. Wish you all the very best for all your future endeavors.

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