International Women's Day 2017 interview with Emily

In Focus: Emily Moyer, Lead Industrial Designer Aura Frames

Who: Emily Moyer
What: Industrial Designer
Where: Brooklyn, New York

Welcome to Aura Spotlight! To get started, please share a little bit about yourself.

I have lived and worked as an Industrial Designer in NYC for over 17 years, with small chapters of time working in Milan and San Francisco. I’ve worked with many kinds of companies, from old school ID consultancies, advertising and branding agencies, and startups. With each new design challenge, I can tailor my approach based on this range of experience.

In your own words, what does it mean to be an Industrial Designer? What is it that excites you most about it?

I love making things with my hands. Industrial design presents a unique opportunity to take a complex set of problems and resolve them into a solution in 3D form. I love the early design strategy, and exploration of possibilities, just as much as detailing the final result.

Aura Frame


How did you come up with the design for Aura? Were there any driving influences, design or otherwise?

With the Aura Smart Frame, I am very much the target consumer. I have two young boys, ages 3 and 6, and a smartphone that is full of adorable photos. It was an excellent challenge, because I’ve never had any positive associations with a digital photo frame prior, and had to really shift my perspective in order to create something new that I would like to have in my home. Also, I have rarely had the opportunity to design a user-centered product that is also ‘for me.’ The real driving influence, however, is to share photos of my kids with their grandparents. It is amazing to be able to do that in a simple way that requires zero time curating albums and managing files.

Emily with her older son, Isaac

What stage was Aura in when you began working on the project? How did the product evolve from concept to the final product? (For example, were there many iterations of Aura? How did you land on the final design?)

My work on the project began with a shared inclination with the company’s founders that there must be a better way to share photos in our homes. There were many iterations of the Aura Frame, driven by the same design objectives, yet remarkably distinct in their manifestation (form, materials, expression). Arriving at the final design was an exciting journey. The team (including myself) was provoked by the notion that instead of making something customizable with different frame trims, we could develop distinct, yet familiar, product architecture that can fit in with a range of environments.

An early rendering

What was the most difficult part of designing Aura?

Technical complexity aside, designing a single photo frame that aesthetically hits the mark for a large number of people is challenging. Home decor is very subjective.

What inspires you?

My dog, Lola. She is always next to me while I work. She is my muse.


Do you ever get stuck creatively? Is there a specific place, person, or routine you always turn to when you’re in need of a new idea?

Sure. Coffee helps, and cleaning off my desk. It’s a very artistic (i.e. messy) environment. Walking around New York is always inspiring too, taking in street fashion, architecture, and retail experiences.

Describe your creative process. What makes your approach unique? Has it matured over time or does your approach change based on the project?

My approach has really matured over time. I used to fall in love with 1 or 2 notions and burrow into working out the details. Over the years, I have found the process of creating rough thumbnail sketches and aligning them strategically with different objectives, with less initial attachment to any single concept, to be really fun. The goal is to explore broadly, cover a lot of ground, and perhaps create unexpected juxtapositions that lead to exciting innovation. I like to go into any project with a firm understanding of manufacturing capabilities and where they can be leveraged or challenged.

Designing the Aura gift box; reviewing color samples

Who is your favorite contemporary designer or artist right now? What are they doing that no one else is?

I follow comedy more than I follow art and design. I find there are a lot of similarities in the thinking. Since having kids, my references are a little dated, but I’ve been inspired by David Wain, Todd Barry, Louis CK, Demetri Martin, Amy Schumer, and so many others. I find inspiration in music too — all kinds. Lately a lot of hip hop and some innovative EDM music my 19 year old nephew (Louis the Child) is making. He is filling up performance venues internationally and the crowds are diverse and wonderfully positive and happy.

What is the most out-of-the-box design concept you’ve ever worked on that was successful?

A lot! I always try to bring innovation to a design challenge. Concepts that have gotten a lot of attention and accolades are the Target Clear Rx prescription bottle (IDSA Design of the Decade 2010) and the Paper Water bottle (International Next Big Thing award). Dog-shaped paper clips are fun too.

Paper Water Bottle

What is the most out-of-the-box design concept you’ve ever worked on that failed (or maybe didn’t come out as you envisioned but morphed into something great or led to a different idea that was great)?

Most concepts fail to see the light of day, but that is part of the process.

In honor of International Women’s Day: What advice do you have for aspiring female designers hoping to break into the field and pursue a career in Industrial Design?

I studied industrial design in Italy one summer in college. At a studio visit, I shared some of my work with an established Italian female industrial designer (a rarity). She said that my aesthetic was different than most: soft and beautiful. She encouraged me to stick with it and never conform, even when told it’s wrong.

I have always been one of the few women in my industry. I’m used to standing out — I don’t really think about it. I was the only woman in my undergrad ID program (1 of 11), and I once taught a college ID studio course to 10 men. So much of succeeding as a designer is bringing a unique perspective to any project you work on. Aside from that, work hard. You’ve got this.

Finally, in one sentence, describe what Aura means to you.

Innovative technology that seamlessly brings people joy. My kids love it.

Isaac and his brother, Arthur

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