Lauren Mae Celenza

The Creative Unconscious: What's your name, age, and professional title? Where are you currently employed?

LMC: Lauren Mae Celenza, 26, Senior Designer at WINTR, Seattle, WA. I'm currently uniting user research and empathy to create UX and visual design solutions for a variety of needs across industries, audiences and contexts.

TCU: What hobbies do you have outside of your professional field that keep you inspired and motivated to generate personal work? How do they inspire you?

LMC: I have an immensely hard time turning my brain off which can cause fear and anxiety for me. Because of that, I often need to immerse myself in a new environment to switch my thinking. Traveling to a foreign place, going to exhibitions, shows, learning from other creative people, meditation and nature hikes help me to see possibilities rather than fears. These activities empower me to shut off my anxiety, jump in and explore personal work. I also love hiking, cycling and swimming–any activity that throws me into a different environment completely. Being underwater or riding through the wind on my bike not only makes my heart race, but it forces me to look at my environment in a new context.

However, I’ve started to use my inability to shut my brain off to my advantage – I’ve always sort of collected data and thoughts about my surroundings, and I’m using this data in a couple of upcoming personal projects that I’m currently working on.

   Data Collages: Sometimes my collages take the form of data visualizations. The left image is the marking of a bumpy bus ride where the jolt of the ride controlled my hand holding the pen to the paper. In the right image, holes in a leaf represent the number of times I checked the weather in one week.


Data Collages: Sometimes my collages take the form of data visualizations. The left image is the marking of a bumpy bus ride where the jolt of the ride controlled my hand holding the pen to the paper. In the right image, holes in a leaf represent the number of times I checked the weather in one week.

TCU: Do you have a hard time balancing being a creative professional and generating personal work that you're proud of?

LMC: Balancing is all about tiny, everyday choices. In the creative world, I think we tend to put a lot of focus on talent or skill, when really talent is born from the choices we make and being carefully intentional with our time. It’s funny that this platform is called The Creative Unconscious, but I suppose it’s also about awakening our creative conscious. A powerful thing that I’ve learned this year is to be very deliberate and intentional with my time, so that I can make space in my life for personal work. It’s important to not let people take advantage of your time and if they are, let it go immediately. Time is the only resource we have, and once you understand this, you will find yourself fighting everyday battles to preserve it. Don’t worry about spending money on things, find ways to spend money on time.  

The great performance artist Marina Abramović teaches us that it is ourselves who create our own limits. Doing personal work and explorations allows us to enter this limitless space. We can break, fail, endlessly prototype, get excited and frustrated all at the same time, with no expectations or boundaries (although setting deadlines can help get shit done). Personal projects grant us a step deeper into being aware of who we are and how we want to spend our time.

   Left Brain, Right Brain: Left Brain, Right Brain is an experimental book that investigates my experience of living in Hong Kong through the two hemispheres of my brain. This overlap of type explains what the book is through Chinese and English languages coming together, reflecting the blended sound of hearing these two languages throughout the streets of Hong Kong.


Left Brain, Right Brain: Left Brain, Right Brain is an experimental book that investigates my experience of living in Hong Kong through the two hemispheres of my brain. This overlap of type explains what the book is through Chinese and English languages coming together, reflecting the blended sound of hearing these two languages throughout the streets of Hong Kong.

   Left Brain, Right Brain: The left brain part of the book displays these topics through a series of data visualizations, while the right brain part expresses the information through experimental collages. This spread examines data collected about methods of communication and connection.


Left Brain, Right Brain: The left brain part of the book displays these topics through a series of data visualizations, while the right brain part expresses the information through experimental collages. This spread examines data collected about methods of communication and connection.

   Left Brain, Right Brain: The book explores visualizations of data collected about distance, connection, population and consumption. 


Left Brain, Right Brain: The book explores visualizations of data collected about distance, connection, population and consumption. 

TCU: What time of day do you feel the most creative? What about the most productive?

LMC: Whenever it is quiet and still. Perhaps with a light breeze coming from a window nearby.

TCU: What are your creative goals for the future?

LMC: There are so many possibilities to explore in the realm of creative coding and interaction design. I just got back from Eyeo Festival and it was so inspiring to me. It felt like I had finally found my tribe. For the past few months, I’ve been experimenting with Processing, a programming language where you can draw with code. I’ve been creating data visualizations and collages with paper for a while, but I’m excited to explore this thinking through code. In the near future, I’d love to create an interactive, visual piece that responds to human movement. Also, there’s a school in New York called the School for Poetic Computation, and perhaps someday in the future I’d love to be a part of that. 

I also love the research part of design. I’m currently focusing on projects where I’m not only creating the visual components, but also conducting user interviews and strategizing on methods and approaches to better understand the needs of people and how the human brain works. Any way that I can merge design and technology to create an engaging and memorable experience for people–that’s my calling. It feels so good to finally identify this and refine my tiny, everyday choices to fulfill that calling.

   Apart Together: Using recycled materials and found objects, Apart, Together is a series of fast thinking collages. Each collage is created within a few short minutes to spark the process of rapid creativity, piecing together new associations of disparate objects. 


Apart Together: Using recycled materials and found objects, Apart, Together is a series of fast thinking collages. Each collage is created within a few short minutes to spark the process of rapid creativity, piecing together new associations of disparate objects. 

TCU: Are you working on any personal projects right now? If so, can you share a little bit about your inspiration and your creative process?

LMC: Yes! A lot of exploring, learning, testing and breaking at the moment. With personal projects, the phrase “it’s about the journey, not about the destination” has never been more true. I’ve been doing a lot of drawing through code and learning new programming languages as a possible medium for the ideas I’m exploring.

As of now, there's three projects in particular where I’m collecting three different types of data about my life. I’m in the process of thinking of ways to create an interactive experience where people can learn and explore the data in an interesting way. Perhaps I'll host a party soon where people can play and interact with the data prototypes for feedback and fun!

   Mobile Data for the Developing World: Data in the developing world remains scarce. How can we leverage the mobile phone revolution–while still respecting individuals' privacy–to better inform development efforts around the world? This connected experience of data stories show how mobile data's potential can revolutionize financial services, disaster response, and healthcare in the developing world. This was created for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.


Mobile Data for the Developing World: Data in the developing world remains scarce. How can we leverage the mobile phone revolution–while still respecting individuals' privacy–to better inform development efforts around the world? This connected experience of data stories show how mobile data's potential can revolutionize financial services, disaster response, and healthcare in the developing world. This was created for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

TCU: Anything else you want to add?

LMC: As designers, we get to explore amazing possibilities for a living and we should feel grateful for the time and space that we live in. We serve people by bringing truth, simplicity, beauty and connection to a complex world --so it's important to be a champion for your audience. Empathy is at the root of great design.


If you want to learn more about Lauren and her work, you can visit her website, www.lauren-mae.com, follow her on Twitter and Instagram @heylaurenmae, or check out WINTR's website www.wintr.us.