InterviewQ/A with Amy Oughton, CEO of Dream in Color

Amy Oughton is the Founder and CEO of Washington, D.C.-based UI/UX design and development agency Dream in Color. An award-winning UI/UX designer herself, Amy is passionate about improving user experience in the healthcare and nonprofit sectors. As a type 1 diabetic, she is dedicated to using technology to improve lives. She specializes in humanity-driven technology products, data visualizations and dashboards, and complex web applications. For the past eight years, Amy has worked with global brands to improve access to healthcare data and information on public health issues. She is a graduate of the Art Institute of Washington.

Amy Oughton, CEO Dream in Color

How are you using design to improve health outcomes for diverse populations?

Design is just the vehicle to improve health outcomes for diverse populations, it’s not the full solution. If the final healthtech app design is a racecar, its engine is my personal story, perspective, and view on the world; and the gas is empathy. I care enough to accept that there are problems in UX/UI design that need to be identified and changed. Design + Experiences + Empathy = better health outcomes for people like me.

 What is UI/UX design?

UI design is the design of user interfaces. Every website, mobile application, or high-tech device you use has an interface that you interact with to achieve a desired goal or outcome. In many cases, if you don’t notice the user design, it means the designer has done their job well. Successful UI design is led by an obsession over the ideal user experience, called UX.

What’s different about your design firm Dream in Color?

I founded Dream in Color eight years ago to focus on creating products and solutions for the healthtech and nonprofit sectors. As a type 1 diabetic, I am passionate about how people use technology to improve their lives on a daily basis and how the healthtech industry can better design those tools to impact users.

What’s the most important thing to know when designing for nonprofits and healthcare clients?

Without a doubt, empathy. This is really what we hang our hat on at Dream in Color. As a type 1 diabetic who uses healthtech products in my daily life, I’m literally designing products and solutions for people like me, who have autoimmune disorders or similar medical conditions and life experiences.

My personal experience with how good design can change lives makes me passionate about what I do and I have an unique understanding of how important it is to design products and applications with the user in mind. I also have a unique perspective on the importance of bringing diverse design teams to the table, because technology impacts diverse user populations differently and its personal experiences like mine that help companies create products that work for all user communities.

How has your own health experience shaped you as a designer?

Because of my personal experience, I always have the end-user in mind, which in most cases is the patient. I know what it feels like to be hospitalized, to be misdiagnosed, to have to advocate for better care, and to go through surgery and come out on the other end in worse shape. I know what it feels like when a doctor is just overwhelmed and disconnected. And I know firsthand how technology can help improve patient care.

 What’s your biggest tip for designers or companies looking to improve user experiences?

For designers, try your best to surround yourself with people from different walks of life who have different stories to tell. Embrace the differences in your own design team and work together to identify and solve challenges that diverse user groups experience every day. Allow time for brainstorming in a safe space that values different perspectives.

As a small business owner, I have experienced firsthand the amazing results that come from bringing together talent with different experiences, who are empathetic and driven to change outcomes for diverse user groups. Ensuring that diversity is encouraged throughout your organization is essential and as leaders, we must create safe spaces where conversations around diversity and inclusion are being supported on a regular basis.

In design, that means being open to new ideas and solutions and testing products with diverse groups.

Design teams are working towards the best-case user response that “this was designed for me by someone like me, who truly understands me and my situation.”

What’s your biggest lesson learned as a Black female entrepreneur?

My biggest lesson learned has nothing to do with being a great designer or a problem solver. Instead, it came from defeating the mindset that told me that I couldn’t make a difference because I was sick, less fortunate, or less educated (i.e. underrepresented, underfunded, and invisible). I was my own barrier until I trained myself to see myself as more.

What’s coming next in your field?

I really believe what’s coming up in telehealth is the ability to better monitor your own health with apps, smart devices, and customized health plans that take into account your social determinants of health, your environment, and your medical history. I think technology can help accelerate the practice of designing actual medical plans that are personalized for each patient.

What data visualization tools do you recommend?

Tableau, Power Bi, Google Charts, and the charting library HighCharts

Any useful book recommendations for designers?

One book I still reference to this day is Smashing Book Book 6 – New Frontier in Web Design.

Can you share a client outcome that shows the impact of UI/UX design?

For i2i Population Health, a pioneer in providing population health management and analytics solutions, we helped improve quality measurement with enhanced insights linked to deep, comprehensive patient-level data sets. Data from patient encounters, problems, lab results, and immunizations can help identify gaps in care before high-cost emergency events occur and connect patients with the quality care they deserve.

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