Instructor Spotlight: Sean Van Tyne On Making the Most Out of UX

By David Washburn

Sean Van Tyne
Course: UX Metrics

Every time you turn on your television, thumb through your iPhone or go to the mallyou are, in essence, having an experience. And though you’re probably not thinking about it in those terms, there is someone who has spent a lot of time and effort designing the experience you’re having.

Sean Van Tyne is one of those people. A self-described “customer experience architect,” Van Tyne helps organizations define, develop and deliver their experience to their customers. And business is brisk as companies have come to realize that paying attention to user experience (or UX as it’s called in the industry) is vital to creating long-term customer loyalty and advocacy.

Van Tyne says things are getting even more interesting these days with artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality beginning to play a big role in how we experience our lives. In his latest UC San Diego Extension course, Van Tyne will show students how to measure the impact of efforts to enhance user experiences.

For the uninitiated, can you provide an overall sense of what user experience, or UX, is?
User experience is everything that a consumer can experience with a company’s products, services and brand. When most people think about UX, they think of technology companies like Apple, Netflix or Amazonthey are thinking about buying a book, picking out a movie, or their experience with their iPhone. But it goes far beyond technology–Disney delivers a good experience; Four Seasons Hotels deliver a special user experience.

Talk about your evolution into a customer experience architect.
I have a BFA in painting and an MA in education and was a fine artist and teacher for most of my early life. I came out to San Diego in 1989 and got involved in the local art scene–I was one of the founding members and first chair of the San Diego Art Council.

My wife and I had a kid in the 1990s and I decided to make a career change from art to technology– so I hitched my wagon to this thing called the internet. I went from being an information architect to interaction designer, and then finally to user experience. In UX, I went from designer to director to VP to advisor, which is what I do now.

This wasn’t even a profession a couple decades ago, so most old-timers like me came up through art, education, writing, design, library science, or even anthropology.

What did you most enjoy about your profession?
It brings me joy when I help others, I have a passion for making life better. Life for me in this context is about experiences. We have experiences, relationships with our families, friends, co-workers and customers. We interact with people and technology, internet, devices, etcetera…I love creating great experiences and helping others create great experiences.

How is your field changing?
There are a lot of factors. To me the biggest factor is AI (artificial intelligence) and machine learning, which are tied to things like big data. Because of the internet and Moore’s Law, we have larger sets of data and humans can no longer put that data in spreadsheets….so we’re reliant on predictive analytics to search through large sets of data and find insights. Another thing to keep in mind is that advances in AI and machine learning are happening in real time, so if you are an experience designer you need to be aware of the latest innovations.

Another thing you need to know is virtual reality and augmented reality (like Pokémon Go) are become real things these days. You could be at your favorite mall, and you could use augmented reality (like a yellow line on the floor) to create a path to the store you want go to.

What advice would you give someone looking to enter this career field?
I’ll answer this question with a story. I was doing a talk at the Rady School of Management on user experience and agile development. A guy came up to me and said: “I came to your talk because I didn’t know anything about user experience or agile development. But now that I’ve heard about it, this is what I want to do with my life.”

User experience is very, very broad. It encompasses research, design and there are many types of design. If you are designing an experience for Disney, they have “imagineers.” If you are designing a medical device, then you need a background in industrial design. Saying I want to go into user experience is pretty broad–you need to decide specifically what you want to do.

Interested in learning more about user experience and other related programs? Find out more on our website, or contact the department at or (858) 534-9352.

art or technology - two ways to conceive the reality we surround with - good ideas for user experience in web
1/30/2018 12:11:13 PM

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