JOEL KRIEGER: HEAD OF DESIGN FOR MAGIC LEAP’S SOLUTIONS TEAM 

By: Dimitri Lykoudis ‘22





Q: Joel, you have been in the design industry for decades and have worked collaboratively  with hundreds of design professionals. What in your opinion are the most important traits  of a good designer? 

A: Great designers tend to be innately curious people. For them, creativity is a  lifestyle more than a job. They are always “filling their well” with new ideas and  experiences. Experimental in nature—they like to try things just to see what  happens. They tend to be very in tune with the process of thinking and making,  and less concentrated on the final outcome. The best designers I’ve known have a  very intimate relationship with their process and are always evolving it with every  new project. 

Q:  Physical vs digital. You have an awesome record of blending these two worlds, to create  multi sensory experiences for participants. What do you think is the right balance  between the two? In an age where most people are used to and are dependent on digital  media – especially during the pandemic – and digital media has shaped the way we  interact with our environment and each other, can one still imagine a meaningful  designed experience that is solely physical in nature?

A: Yes, absolutely. Most meaningful experiences are about designing for connections  between people. Or between people and place. You don’t need digital to achieve  this. During the pandemic, technology kept us somewhat connected. But I think  we all realized there is no substitute for truly being together. So I think we are  bound to see a beautiful renaissance in all kinds of analog gatherings.

As far as the right balance between them, I think it’s highly dependent on the  specifics of each project. Currently we tend to view physical / digital as two  separate things. In the future, I think it will be much more difficult to tease them  apart from one another. In a well designed interactive space, you don’t really  notice what’s digital and what’s physical. You just get lost in the experience.  “Musical Shadows” by Daily Tous Les Jours comes to mind as a beautiful  example of this.

Q: Innovation. For upcoming designers, who are still learning the ropes, so to speak, what  are the highlights of a good methodology to thinking innovatively? For exhibition  designers in particular, what do you think are the areas of knowledge that can best arm  us for becoming innovators? 

A: We live in a global culture that is obsessed with the new. Always future focused.  But new is not necessarily better. Let’s forget about trying to be innovative. I think  this is a word that has lost much of its meaning due to overuse. Young designers  should focus instead on developing a strong foundation. And think of innovation  only from the standpoint of personal growth. What can i do that is new for me?  How might I push my boundaries? 

Instead of trying to be innovative, try to uncover insights. An “innovative” idea  reeks of Silicon Valley PR. An insightful idea is a powerful one because it grows  from some core truth that has been glimpsed. Hone your strategic skills to make  sure you really understand the problem you’re trying to solve. And develop your  skills of perception to ensure you can consistently uncover insights. These two  areas will give you a solid foundation from which to design. 

For exhibition designers specifically, study up on psychology and behavioral  science. If you want to create meaningful experiences for people, you really need  to understand how they think and feel.

Q: Where do you see the role of the designer in formulating the character of a project?  Does the client/higher-up always know best what the nature of the design should be, or  is the place of a designer to question those assumptions and steer a project to where it  best aligns with the client’s true mission and needs? 

A: Great design always results from a healthy partnership between the design team  and the client. Everyone should be questioning assumptions, but I think designers  that approach work with an “I know better than you” mindset don’t last very long.  Approach the work with a sense of humility — you don’t know what you don’t  know. Often, the client may know way more than we do about the problem we’re  solving. They also understand the dynamics of their organization in a way we  never will. This is critical to gaining stakeholder alignment and moving a design  through the gauntlet of approvals.



So your ability to realize excellent work will depend largely upon your ability to  develop strong relationships with your clients. Think in terms of co-creation and  partnership. Value your client’s opinion and be inclusive of them in the design  process. Help them feel ownership of the work by highlighting their contributions  to it.

Q: I know you are passionate about the environment and the critical need for design  professionals to practice sustainability, by emphasizing the reduction of waste in  materials and processes, the practice of re-use/recycling, etc. . In a system where profit  and the forces of the marketplace usually define what gets built, where and how, what is  or should be the role of the world-wide design community in advocating for this all important issue, in making sustainability a top factor in all aspects of design going  forward?

A: Great question. As you noted, we are swimming against a strong current of profit  over people and an insane quest for infinite growth. Although the scale of the  problem seems daunting, I am very hopeful by what is emerging — and the design  community has a central role to play. If you’re a designer who deals with systems  of physical production (industrial design, architecture, exhibition design, fashion  design, etc.) get familiar with the concept of The Circular Economy and Circular  Design. There are some wonderful resources over at the Circular Design Guide.  This is all about influencing the system at the fulcrum point of the design process  itself—designing out waste and pollution, and keeping products (or their  materials) in use. Regenerative design goes even further, by asking not just how  do we sustainably harvest and produce zero waste, but how do we live in a way  that renews and replenishes our environment.

Human activity can be more than  just zero-impact. Our existence can actually be restorative to the world. These  concepts are very empowering to anyone practicing design. In the future, I believe  this perspective will totally reframe our role as designers.  
When it comes to our environmental predicament, the time for talk is over. Learn  about these two exciting frontiers of design. Then act. And do so on a project  level. Always be on the lookout for opportunities to influence a project to align  more with these principles. It could be as simple as working with a fabricator to  suggest alternative materials. Or it could be influencing a client to make a  wholesale pivot. I think most clients want to head in this direction, they just don’t  know where to start.

By now, most everyone is aware of the scale and complexity  of the environmental problem we’re facing. It will take actors like this working  across every sector, from finance to agriculture, to make the shift. The exciting  thing is it’s already happening. There is a decentralized and globally distributed  movement happening from the ground up. For designers, it’s so important to  realize we are in a key position to influence this change.

Q: What are the three most important things you look for in a portfolio, when you are hiring  a new designer?

A: It can vary somewhat depending on the type of design role we’re looking to fill  (eg. Visual vs XD). But for the most part, when reviewing portfolios I find myself  mentally checking three boxes: 

1. Do they know how to think? 

What is their proficiency in understanding a problem, uncovering insights,  and creating designs that build upon those insights? How well do they  articulate their ideas? 

2. Do they know how to see? 

Are they a perpetual student of human behavior? How developed are their  powers of observation? What is their aptitude for further development  here? 

3. Can they execute? 

Here we examine their craft and attention to detail in the final output. For  entry-level positions, have they refined their craft to the point of 

professional grade output? 

As a general rule, portfolio projects should be curated to be as relevant as  possible to the job being applied for. In most cases, fewer, stronger projects  creates a better impression.


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Joel Krieger Bio

Joel Krieger is Head of Design for Magic Leap's solutions team. Their work seeks to amplify human ability via wearable technology. The studio explores the frontiers of augmented reality, spatial computing, and the future of remote collaboration. 

Prior to his current role, Joel served as Chief Creative Officer of Second Story — a pioneering  group in blending physical and digital environments. Joel also previously held design leadershi roles at Razorfish (Physical x Digital practice lead), SapientNitro (Creative Director for Mobile  & Emerging Experiences, and IQ Agency (Executive Creative Director). 

A veteran creative executive with over two decades in the design field, Joel is both an  orchestrator and a doer. Endlessly fascinated by the art of collaboration, his interdisciplinary  practice brings together radically different ideas and people. Joel has led teams in international  work across Europe, Australia, the U.S. and Canada. His work has been recognized for design  excellence by the likes of One Show, The Webby Awards, HOW International Design, SEGD  Global Design awards , IxDA, and The American Alliance of Museums. He was named top 20  people to watch in 2020 by Graphic Design USA. His work has been featured by premier  publications including Fast Company, Wired, Forbes, and Adweek. He is a regular speaker on  experience design at forums like Experiential Marketing Summit, Museum Next, SEGD, and  AIGA. Joel is a member of the advisory board of The Ocean Experience Project, an immersive  entertainment attraction for ocean conservation.
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