Joanne Lee is an artist who experiments with the connections between technology and art in order to explore the relationship many of us have with digital technologies on a daily basis. Lee identifies as an interaction designer, as stated on her website, which involves graphic design elements with functionality. For many, the aesthetic experience of a digital app is as essential as the function of the app itself; an app designed for tracking calories, which is one such project Lee has worked on in the past, needs to not only provide relevant functionality and information, but it should be intuitive and aesthetically pleasing as well. Lee therefore focuses on aspects of design and the aesthetic values associated with digital interaction.
Lee was born in Seoul, South Korea, but emigrated to Orange County, California, when she was only two years old. Despite attending a high school that focused on art, and working within the industry for several years now, Lee self-identifies as a “lazy” person. However, rather than seeing this laziness as a barrier to creation, Lee uses it as a motivational tool. Laziness can imply letting the mind wander, or not scheduling each day with responsibilities to be worked through. Lee’s daily routine is to follow a list of things that need to be accomplished, but she finds value in the lazy moments when there are no tasks needed. To this end, she values the time she can spend indulging in hobbies, such as going to cafes and meeting people, or going to museums to see the latest exhibits. Although these may feel like lazy moments, they provide Lee with a chance to observe and speak with others, and increasingly, this includes discussions and observations regarding how people use various technologies. For instance, she can see how users engage with their smartphones, and she can discuss the functionality or lack of functionality within these apps. What Lee considers to be her laziest moments would therefore be her most productive, at least from an artistic stance.
Lee has always been surrounded with art, even as a child growing up in a suburban neighborhood. Her mother designed the house, which perhaps instilled in Lee the understanding of the relation between form and aesthetics; similarly, her father constructed much of the furniture used within the home. Her sister was a ballet dancer. All of these influences can be seen in Lee’s current artistic approach, as she seeks to blend aesthetic values with functionality in a similar manner to her parents; however, as a product of the modern era, Lee now incorporates these principles into her work with digital technologies and the interaction we have with our increasingly interactive technologies.
While she first began her career with an emphasis on illustration, Lee’s shift toward interaction design is where she has received the most attention. She can be perceived as a pioneer in this growing field, as there is a growing need for designers of digital products that understand the relationship between the function of digital software and the specific user interaction experience, which is often informed by the overall design of an app. As society grows increasingly dependent upon mobile and digital technologies, this is an area of art that will most likely continue to grow. Lee does not consider herself to be solely a graphic designer, which is relatively static, but instead has identified as an interaction designer because this emphasizes the interactivity used when handling an app. The following interview explores how Lee perceives her unique experiences, both in her personal and professional life, that have led the artist to where she is today.