An interview with Kerem Suer

By Ed Vinicombe on Jan 22nd, 2015

Hey Kerem, tell us about your role with Omada Health. What are the challenges you face and what are you trying to accomplish over there?

My story with Omada Health actually goes back to very early stages of the company when they were only 5 guys in a shared working space in 2011. Omada Health was one of my first freelance clients. After 2 years of freelancing, I recently joined Omada Health full-time. And I work with a really talented team, trying to redefine healthcare delivery and pioneer digital therapeutics. As we do that, my part is to oversee our design language and create a unique and accessible experience regardless of the platform. It’s a unique challenge and I learn a new thing every day from my team members who have been spending their lives and careers in Health industry.

Going freelance is a big risk. What were the motivations to take the leap?

I think I made an educated decision when I decided to take the leap to freelancing. I was consistently getting project inquiries at my last full-time job. One day I sat down with my wife, weighed my options and decided that the time was right. A Major motivation was the amount of freedom— I worked from anywhere I desired to work from, made my own schedule, made more money and got exposed to new industries as I wanted.

Almost every month there is a new mobile device on the market. Heck, the wearable device industry is really starting taking off now too! From a design perspective, how do you ensure your designs are flexible and optimised for a complete experience?

First of all, I’m loving this new phase of technology focusing on devices that affect our day to day life so much and making an entry to our personal life. It’s great! I think regardless the device, we’re all using simple design principles to communicate our message to people through technology. These same principles have so far provided me more than enough to create device agnostic experiences. But as always, understanding platforms, reading through the guidelines to understand certain paradigms is essential as we mostly try to stay true to platforms at Omada Health.

This is an awesome inspirational video from Stefan Sagmeister about taking time off to re-charge the creative batteries. You’re career suggests you’re a busy guy! Do you make sure you take time off to get a fresh perspective on work/life?

A UI Pattern library Kerem developed for Omada Health

I love the video! Stefan Sagmeister is an inspirational human being! I’m definitely a big fan of taking time off as probably all of us are. I actually call these times the “alignment” time. You zoom out from your day, and get to think about the bigger picture and align yourself with your longer term goals. It’s a funny balance though for us designers. Yes, we are creatives, but we’re not “artists”. Even though we need to recharge our creative batteries, the time at the office is also very very valuable. So for me, finding that balance has been a fun challenge.

Tell us about San Francisco, what makes this place special?

Oh man, great question. So many things. I feel like I’ve been trying to move out of San Francisco for at least 3 years now. It has invisible hand cuffs on me though. I think what drives me into San Francisco the most is the maker culture. That energy where you can question everything, where you try to make things better, where you realize your stupid ideas are not actually stupid. It can get overwhelming quick, but at the same rate, it’s so engaging and it sucks you in.

Please tell me you’ve seen this South Park episode, ‘Go Fund Yourself’? It’s a great episode which really highlights something unique here and that is coming up with an idea that is original. What are some recent start ups you’ve either come across or worked with that you feel have a cracking/original idea?

A recent project of Kerem's was to design a nursery. Here are some early experiments

I haven’t seen the episode just yet. There are awesome startups out there that are focusing on bunch of cool stuff, hover boards, APIs, watches, hardware. I’m personally interested in behavior change, and how you can form positive habits using technology. Omada Health, the startup I work at, focuses specifically on digital therapeutics. We try to inspire behavior change to form positive habits, and improve outcomes.

Is there an idea or start up you’re interested in doing yourself in the future?

The Anemometer screen for the Notus iOS app which gives you wind direction, speed, temperature & tide times

Absolutely. I have an idea bank that I keep to myself. However, I gotta say, starting my own company (start up) doesn’t sound super enticing at the moment. More time with family however sounds much better :)

Tell us about any inspiring mentors along the way, either personally or professionally that have helped guide your career into what it is today

Some iconography exploration for the Notus iOS app

I think a funny breakpoint in my early career/life happened when I was still in college. I started as a Computer Science major and realized that my brain didn’t work the way I thought it would. And my academic advisor directed me towards a major that was still pretty new, Interactive Digital Media. So maybe not a mentor, but a huge impact was made by Craig Warner, by advisor. Later on, my art director at Fitbit, Mark Bult had a lot of impact on my growth as a designer. I can’t thank him enough for all he has done.

Any last words of wisdom for fellow young designers who are looking for a break into the industry?

Question everything. Because a big part of our job is to understand, observe, break, improve and innovate. Without questioning the current state, you would be shooting in the dark.

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