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Ben Gifford

Ben Gifford is a Seattle native and user experience designer at Array Health, a Seattle-based company that makes modern e-commerce technology for health insurers. A self-described “provocateur,” he’s our new Geek of the Week. Continue reading for his answers to our questionnaire.

What do you do, and why do you do it? I make insurance suck less. Because it’s deeply needed. People by their nature want to spend as little time as possible doing painful things. Insurance is painful. Complicated, difficult to understand, countless hoops to jump through. It’s something that people just want to be over with… just like taxes.

However, people deeply want and need the tools to drive their health—they want to be engaged, but understanding insurance is like asking someone to learn Klingon: only a select few will really want to and take to it. So, the short of it is: I work to create an environment where people can feel confident and empowered to make choices about their health.

What’s the single most important thing people should know about your field? As for design, design is facilitation. It’s not production, it’s not process, it’s about knowing who to talk to, what about, and knowing how to interpret what they tell you. It’s reading between the lines of someone else’s book.

And as for health care: the world of healthcare genuinely wants to help people, it just doesn’t know how to catch up. There are a few of us out there intensely passionate about bridging that gap.

Where do you find your inspiration? Hospitality. The world of hospitality has been dealing for centuries with some of the same challenges business faces now: how do you create an experience that empowers somewhere that’s unfamiliar and totally foreign to you? The architecture is designed in a way to be comforting and accessible, the doorman is designed to make you feel welcome and like you belong, and the desk manager grants you control.

Physical analogs: the world is full of amazing, inspiring things that are immensely more complicated than the measly experiences us humans are grappling with. Whenever I’m stuck on a problem, I can almost always find a real-world analog that elegantly solves the problem.

What’s the one piece of technology you couldn’t live without, and why? The pen. Nothing communicates as well with as little effort as ink on paper.

What’s your workspace like, and why does it work for you? My workspace goes in phases: From spartan to covered in limitless amounts of papers, pens, and sticky notes, and back again.

IMG_4980Your best tip or trick for managing everyday work and life. (Help us out, we need it.) Become ruthless with what you care about. Stop doing everything, even the stuff that seems important. As soon as you do, everything becomes very clear.

Mac, Windows or Linux? Mac.

Kirk, Picard, or Janeway? Patrick Stewart is a saint. Actually, he’s probably knighted knowing the way England just hands those things out.

Transporter, Time Machine or Cloak of Invisibility? I was torn between the transporter and time machine, but then I thought about the time machine: the burden of a time machine would be too great — humans are linear and limited in scope, and becoming freely unstuck in time, as it were, would simply be more than we could handle gracefully. We’d either mess things up royally (knowing what we know now) or become basket cases. As such, I vote transporter.* *Assuming these conditions: instant transportation, low cost operation, high reliability and redundancy.

If someone gave me $1 million to launch a startup, I would: Create a wearable bigger than your wearable.

I once waited in line for: A Cuban Press at Paseo. RIP Paseo v1.

Your role models: Hartmut Esslinger, founder of frog. Fierce and unrelenting focus on good design driving the product, not the other way around. [cue Esslinger/Jobs quote]

Jesper Kouthoofd, founder of teenage engineering. Ad Industry creative who taught himself engineering then opened a studio with like-minded people — they’re doing some of the best design+engineering products around. Very influential to me, both in aesthetic and product philosophy.”

Greatest Game in History Goldeneye, and anyone who says otherwise has no soul.

Best Gadget Ever: I like my Teenage Engineering pocket operator. Look it up—your wallet will be $60 lighter immediately.

First Computer: Compaq something. Upgraded to 3.1 and a 500gb HDD.

Current Phone: iPhone 3G.

Favorite App: New York Times cooking app is really good.

Favorite Cause: A just one.

Most important technology of 2015 Not wearables. I’d say battery technology: getting smaller, more energy dense. Eventually, this will enable us to do more than we can currently imagine. It would be appropriate to tack graphene on to this discussion as well.

Most important technology of 2017: A universal input mechanism that makes creation of complex, dense content less cumbersome… whatever that content may be.

Final words of advice for your fellow geeks: Serve people, not technology.

Website: bengifford.com

Twitter: hellogifford

LinkedIn: Ben Gifford

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