I absolutely love collaborative process with other great talent. Exchanging knowledge and tossing around ideas is the most fun part. On the other hand, the most challenging part is actually solidifying and concreting an idea.
My name is Akiko Rokube. I moved to NYC 10 years ago from Tokyo to study interactive and graphic design at Hofstra. Then, I started getting really interested in computers and the Internet, so I went into the interaction design and technology program at Parsons for grad school.
I started off working for a non-profit, and now I work at ROKKAN, a digital ad agency, as a senior experience architect. Exploring the various aspects of design, usability, and aesthetics landed me in information architecture and user experience design, where I like to create intuitive, elegant digital experiences.
What do you do for inspiration?
I believe that good ideas come from everyday life, the seemingly mundane or routine. Looking at everyday objects and human interactions through a UX lens is how I stay fresh: people-watching, looking at buildings and streets in the city, books, electronics or interactive installations, etc.
I really like to observe mass-transit systems, too. Here, in NYC, or in Tokyo when I’m back home seeing my family—thinking about the infrastructure and how it’s (ideally) so seamlessly ingrained into a city. And, I love seeing the kiosks and ticket counters, how that physical exchange happens, and thinking about how to apply and pseudo-replicate that behavior to the online space.
Please list 3 of your favourite sites.
What do you regard as being your biggest achievement?
I’m actually kind of amazed by how I ended up here in New York, and so far along in my career. It all seemed a happy accident of meeting the right people in the right places at the right time. I’m grateful to the people and opportunities that I’ve been able to take part in that have helped put me here.
How do you relax or unwind?
I love juicing. Any fresh veg or fruit, really—I love experimenting with different combinations, flavors, etc. Though, so far, my favorite is apple, spinach, parsley, ginger, and honey with a hint of lemon. It’s good! I also love observing French bulldog puppies (I’ll get one eventually), and am getting back into tennis.
If you weren't working on the internet what would you be doing?
I would love to be an interior designer!
What's your favourite part of your job? What's the hardest part of your job? What do you do when you get stuck?
I absolutely love collaborative process with other great talent. Exchanging knowledge and tossing around ideas is the most fun part. On the other hand, the most challenging part is actually solidifying and concreting an idea. Once that core concept is finally in place, putting the pieces together is usually pretty straightforward. When I’m really stuck or having design block, I take a nap, or go to bed, then come back to the computer with a refreshed brain and eyes. And, sometimes, sleeping just lets my subconscious sort and puzzle through everything, and I wake up with an answer. R & R always helps.
If there are any pivotal experiences/decisions you could point to that helped shape your career, what would they be?
There are two things that I’m happy I walked into about 4 years ago: Parsons’ Design and Technology graduate program, and my internship at Tokyo-based interactive agency IMGSRC/NON-GRID. It was an incredibly interesting time where gesture-based interface design was just barely emerging as the iPhone/iPad and other touch tablets first came out. I was able to gain a deep understanding of touch-based screen design, tracking technology and hardware in general. That’s really where my interest in app design began: where the physical affected and controlled the digital.
What area of web design lacks the most?
Cohesive, consistent design across all platforms (desktop, mobile, tablet, etc.) Responsive web is wonderful but there is definitely a capacity for growth in this area.
Has winning FWA awards helped you in any way?
Absolutely! It is very encouraging to receive an award for all the hard work, and be and given an opportunity to share my work with the creative community.
Of all the websites you/your company have produced, which one are you most proud of?
The JetBlue iPhone app. The app features "travel modes" which track users throughout their travel cycle, and provide relevant and timely information for their trip. The app allows users to book, check in, see flight status, share flight info, etc. There are also fun components such as destination and in-flight entertainment guides, as well as a fun photo postcard generator. We’ve been finalizing the Android version, which we should be rolling out very soon.
Mobile was a big part of larger JetBlue digital initiative in 2011, and will continue to a big focus going forward. Rokkan worked very closely with JetBlue crew members to create a smooth and rich design for both JetBlue.com and the iPhone app. It was a great team effort.
I’m really happy to be sharing the FWA honor with the JetBlue crew members and the JetBlue team at ROKKAN, including: Chung Ng, John Noe, Charles Bae, Lorraine Tobias, Jenna Robles, Heather Ricciardi, Sara Kirkmyer, Quintin Lodge, Andrew Rindfleisch, and Roger Ruiz. Special big thanks to Double Encore, our development partner, and Lucas Hearl who, art directed the app project.
Are there things you do OUTSIDE of work to ensure that you are in the right mindset to be creative and/or successful in whatever you are doing?
Skype-ing with my family and friends who’re back in Tokyo. Cooking and enjoying the easy simplicity of life.
What was the last digital effort you saw (or were a part of) that used social media in a way that really made sense. Why?
Wantful.com and the LINE mobile app are my recent favorites. Both apps use social media for personalization but more interestingly they both bring people together in different ways. I believe that’s what makes them successful.
The web is getting out of the web. Do you find that thinking in digital solutions alone hinders you? Do you feel the urge to solve the problem using all mediums necessary?
This is the most exciting aspect of this industry to me. In terms of the digital output, hardware and software evolution provides designers more options to choose from – from mobile web, a native app or even projections, which is a great thing. I think that it’s our responsibility to choose the right format/home to best fit the content and audience. But the convergence of the physical and the digital is exciting.
What would be your ultimate vehicle to travel in?
How have you learned so many Flash/design skills and techniques and can you offer any advice for newbies?
I’ve learned from studying the pros, and keeping a bead on new projects coming out that I can look at and learn from. It’s also important to analyze any example that catches your attention and note both the strengths and weaknesses in a design.
How do you keep your finger on the pulse of the latest web trends?
The tech sections of news sites and blogs are always insightful. I typically read TNW, TechCrunch, Mashable, NYT, WSJ, etc.
There must be a project that you have always dreamed of doing, what is it?
A mobile/tablet app for my favorite clothing brand – sorry can’t tell you the name! It’s just around the corner from ROKKAN’s SoHo office, and a favorite among the ladies here.
What is the most expensive thing you have bought in the last week?
An Amtrak ticket to Philadelphia.
Any parting shots or pearls of wisdom?
Listen to others’ advice, then follow your gut and intuition.
It has been a privilege, thanks very much
My pleasure! Thanks to Rob and everyone at the FWA, and the creative community. I hope we continue to honor and inspire one another to better and better work.