FlatironCitizen Spotlight: Q&A with artist and UX designer Olivia Rado

We sat down with Launch's Olivia Rado - artist, curator and UX designer to hear about her artwork and speaking at Geekend.

Photo credit: Jerry Hudson

Tell us about yourself.

Well, I was born and raised in Atlanta. I’ve lived all over, but I always move back to this city because in terms of culture - it’s good: art, music, food, mixed drinks, and southern hospitality.

I received a BFA in printmaking from GSU, meaning I’m fairly process oriented from art to design. For the last few years, I’ve been into mark making and drawing processes. The processes relate to the limitations of the physical body and mental space of “flow” or happiness. Sometimes this means drawing with the body, using my breath as a mechanism, or observation drawings of light and shadows to induce meditative states.

As a user experience designer, the goal is usability and functionality. The worlds of art and design are very different, but conceptually hold synchronous standards of experimentation and exploration. The fields of art and design have a strong community presence in Atlanta, and it’s important for me to support and collaborate in both realms. (I’ll explain this later on.)

A sampling of Olivia's pieces. Clockwise from upper left: Drawing Light and Shadows, Cliff Jumper, Untitled Body, If/Then Statements.

How did you become a UX designer?

Because of my fascination with New Urbanism, I originally thought I’d be in the field of Landscape Architecture. After doing research I discovered UX, and my inner nerd was like, “I need that.” So I changed my career as a teacher and attended General Assembly’s UX Immersive Program. I started out as an intern which evolved into a full time UX position with Launch.

How does your work as an artist fit into your professional life?

I think about this often. In school one of my professors was talking about work ethic and quoted Picasso, “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.” Art and design have a lot in common because there’s a premise of discipline, which is invaluable to me. In art and design, I’m fortunate to be surrounded by great people and a good community. This has greatly influenced my ability to execute ideas, and enable creativity for others, and myself.

The company I work for, Launch, is owned by two artists who evolved from a similar place. Our office is in FlatironCity, who provided space for me to curate the group art show, Bodies of Thought. This was a multimedia show featuring women artists from Atlanta. The various bodies of thought focused on balance, relationships, and space, both mental and physical. Photo (right): Marking Meditation" Bilateral Stimulation i" by Emily Tomlinson, performance piece in the group show Bodies of Thought

Last year Katie Troisi and I collaborated in the ongoing performance, Rivalry of Your Elements with the Creative Hive art residency through Hambidge. The 2 month performance and installation focused on life philosophy supported by the elements air, water, fire, and earth. We used the potter’s wheels to create vessels from 1,000 pounds of locally sourced black and white clay. When a vessel was completed, it was smashed by the artists or audience members into a pile in the center of the room. Sam Gardner (@sub.mas) collaborated by painting the walls with clay in response to projected images of the smashing pile.

Portrait of Katie Troisi and Olivia Rado, Rivalry of Your Elements Residency, Photographed by Forest McMullin

What was your experience at Geekend like?

There was a good variety of presentations at Geekend: AI, medical technology, customer experience, AR/VR, and themes of entrepreneurship. My presentation was about a customer service chatbot leveraging the AI platform IBM Watson.

Overall, our ability to speak/communicate literally evolved from making hand tools. Today, our tools are digital, so the process has changed. This makes dialogue even more important because it’s part of our daily lives, and therefore will be inherited by future generations. At a higher level, Geekend was a refreshing cornerstone in designing for people and grounding the sense of “technology ADD”.

What do you like about working downtown and at FlatironCity?

Overall, Atlanta has grown a lot. Growth comes with a variety of pros and cons. But it feels like we’re on the way to becoming a real city, somewhere I’m not required to have a car to get around. My two cents, this is crucial.

I grew up in the downtown area and graduated from GSU. One of my favorite aspects in attending GSU was being in downtown. Like anywhere though, it definitely has its charms. I enjoy being downtown because it’s central to biking and walking. We’re social creatures, so it’s important to be out in the world. There’s also some good galleries downtown, too. These branch into Castleberry Hill and other intown galleries. Between all of this, there are regular design and tech events. FlatironCity is contributing to this momentum through collaborating with the community, City of Atlanta, start-ups and other events.

All photos courtesy of Olivia Rado.